Is the LMS Dead?
Posted by Ellen on April 20, 2011
Every now and then the blogosphere buzzes about whether the LMS (Learning Management System) is still the best way to manage training.
Some say yes, we still need a way to track learners’ progress, especially for compliance training or grades tracking (for those in higher education).
Others say the LMS is quickly being supplanted by the proliferation of PLEs (personal learning environments — where individuals construct their own mashup of Web sites, blogs, social network contacts, e-books and magazines, asynchronous courses, and other resources) which support informal learning.
Though I missed the November Webinar (being on the road can do that, as you all know), NetDimensions released a white paper summarizing what they consider the highlights of the session. (You can access a summary or view the archived session here. )
NetDimensions’ CEO Jay Shaw moderated a panel consisting of the following industry leaders:
- Charles Jennings, Managing Director, Duntroon Associates
- Craig Weiss, Analyst and Blogger at E-Learning 24/7
- David Wilson, Managing Director and Founder of Elearnity
- Richard Natel, CEO of Brandon Hall Research
Several key factors surfaced; remember, these are from the corporate perspective. We’ll get to what this means for membership associations a bit later in this post.
- Does the LMS, “in its present state… indeed help us manage learning or is it just a course vending machine”?
- “The social learning versus LMS debate merely reflects the tension between the ‘course curriculum’ model and the ‘social learning’ model.”
- Most LMS customers “seem dissatisfied and jump from one LMS to another.”
- Despite dissatisfaction, the demand for LMSes is up.
- “…[T]he majority of people do not access an LMS in their workplace,” so an objection to including social media within an LMS because it violates social media governance policy isn’t valid.
- The increasing mobility of workers (35% of workers worldwide, by 2013, says IDC) “increases the need for organizations to have an LMS” which can manage “learning content through thumb drives, smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices.”
- “LMSes must shift from the ‘push’ mentality (traditionally advertising, marketing, etc.) to the ‘pull’mentality (people want to pull in information and what they need themselves, i.e., from the internet or some knowledge source…).”
- “Another necessary shift is to move away from the traditional learning function (i.e., catalogue-centric, content-centric view) and shift towards viewing learning as being embedded within a work context… a key requisite of performance support.”
- “An LMS should be able to support the ‘5-ables’: it’s got to be linkable, searchable, taggable, editable, and feedable.”
- “Today, increasingly, the LMS is being used as an information portal which pulls information from different sources (RSS newsfeeds, embedded videos) for a richer, more stimulating learning experience.”
- Rather than focusing on staff, employees, and HR systems, LMSes now need to focus on “external partners and customer performance.” LMSes are currently “ugly and user-unfriendly,” and this has to change.
- LMSes need to be leveraged for use in talent management for improved succession planning. The opportunities afforded by SaaS apps already exist with online storage (Google Docs, for example).
What Will the New LMS Be?
- “…[A] widget which can be plugged into other interfaces, deployed on a memory stick, on an iPhone, etc. [where it can become] a ‘wallpaper’ or background map that measures what needs to be measured, where measurement will add value.”
- “It will no longer be just the ‘shop window’ or interface for learning but should act as a ‘transactor’ pf learning, facilitating exchanges between different sources.”
- Small, midsized, and large company configurations will evolve to meet the individual needs of organizations of various sizes.
- It will be “much more social [and enable] collaboration between people and systems,” so it will look more like a social network system than current LMSes.
- New configurations will mean finding subject matter experts will be easier.
- “The LMS will become a dashboard that can report on measured results of learning initiatives.”
Whew! What are we to make of all this for associations and nonprofits?
The good news is that LMS vendors are working to integrate the three key components most of us want:
- A way to provide access to learning across our state, nation, and world that’s right-sized for our organization.
- A way to measure that learning, for certification or maybe just to keep watch on what’s effective elearning and what isn’t so we can pull that offering and do something else.
- A way to connect our members (and maybe non-members) as learners within the context of elearning and across the social learning spectrum.
On this last point: It’s one thing to have learners from a session swap e-mail addresses or create an e-mail list or online forum so everyone can continue learning from each other. It’s another thing to open that out even further to include everyone who takes that course every time it’s offered or has an interest in the topic.
Right now we can do that if we can effectively move the dialoge from the session (wether it’s online or face-to-face) to an online forum space. But there’s the attrition issue, plus it takes additional effort to set the forum up, get the word out, etc etc….
Ah… pardon me while I daydream about what the world will be someday…
Okay, I’m back… Here are some other things we can look forward to, based on these experts’ predictions:
- Talent management systems could provide us with the opportunity to identify potential leaders for our organizations from our membership base. Maybe your organization has a method in place, but the trade associations I’m familiar with struggle to find the best content leaders, committee members, and board of directors. Wouldn’t it be great to have a system that helped us to identify our best candidates because we know which learning events they’ve participated in, their certification level(s), and other information that our membership database system doesn’t include?!?
- A movement toward “customer performance” and “external partners” as learner groups is exactly what we’ve needed all along. Our members ARE our customers; our “external partners” are all of those potential members, vendors, sponsors, and others who are outside our core membership focus but whom we want to involve. A system built to provide us with these membership variables would make it easier to offer targeted learning to the appropriate groups.
- Integrating social learning with formal, asynchronous sessions and/or Webinars means we could leverage the value of “networking” through learning in an online environment in ways that are still awkward at best with current offerings. We won’t replace face-to-face networking, but if we can create an environment for relationships to bud and flourish, what’s not to love?!?
- Our members (and non-members) won’t be accessing our LMS via their workplace, so LMSes that incorporate social learning opportunities won’t encounter the same governance hurdles as corporate systems. Hooray for that!
- Associations and non-profits are much more successful “pulling” learners than corporations have been. Our members are already accustomed to coming to us to fill for their learning needs — so an increased “pull” strategy within LMSes will strengthen our capacity even more.
- Though a good number of our members access our learning offerings from their workplace, some (many? has anyone done a study on this?) are likely unable to do so, perhaps due to bandwidth or policy issues that prevent them. Our members, therefore, have been “on the move” ever since they became members: they are remote learners, and are becoming more mobile all the time. Anything that LMS vendors do to make their systems more accessible from more points of access, the better for us.
Even though all of the LMS morphing can be confusing and intimidating, this dynamic means better possibilities for finding the right fit for us among the LMS and its companion systems — Learning Creation Management Systems (LCMSes) and Course Management Systems (CMSes) [See the aLearning Fundamentals Tutorial, “eLearing Alphabet Soup” for more detail on the various systems and their distinctions].
The LMS hasn’t passed into the realm of obsolete yet. It isn’t even on its deathbed. But we might agree that it’s being prepped for major surgery — and if the operation is a success, it will come out of it healthier for all of us.