LMS: What is it really?
A Learning Management System, or better known simply an LMS, is a very commonly used system for delivering packaged training content for various organizations.
An LMS does a few things quite well:
Ensures Compliance Training – Most organizations use an LMS to deliver their mandatory compliance training. The system can present some information and then test the user (employee). The system will then track all the various user training completed so that HR has a nice simple tool for demonstrating staff were adequately trained or at least had the necessary information in front of them.
Consistency – An LMS delivers the same repackaged training courses to each employee the same way. Employees complete assigned or optional training courses always delivered in the same manner so HR and management can be sure that every piece of important information was presented properly.
Pre-built Training Content/Courses – A nice benefit to an LMS is the ability to purchase training content and courses and deliver them directly to your staff. HR and operations can purchase already existing training courses that essentially plug and play directly into an LMS. This reduces and many times eliminates the need to create custom training programs that might better reflect your internal operations but require time and resources to develop. In a lot of ways, I feel the LMS was a crucial tool in delivering and managing training across large organizations. It is very difficult to manage training for large organization or lean companies with limited resources and LMS’s have aided in greatly expanding their capacity for training and development. Companies could finally train all of their employees on a specific subject with just a few clicks. The problem with the typical LMS though is that it’s far more of a training compliance tool then a learning tool. LMS are not really built around employee engagement and fostering deep learning, they’re created to ensure that training needs are met and staff development is easier to manage. I’ve always felt that an LMS is great at management and poor at learning.
For an LMS to truly be a learning-based product it needs a few major improvements:
Engagement – Learning is truly fostered when the learner is engaged in the content. LMS fall very short in delivering information in an attractive and engaging manner. Content is displayed directly and navigation is very basic so there are not many opportunities to get the user more involved. Without higher engagement information is less memorable and generally doesn’t stick as well so overall retention is typically lower.
Useful Metrics and Analytics – Information beyond simply tracking who’s completed what is crucial for determining long term development strategies and effectively measuring staff learning outcomes. LMS should be gathering and interpreting more useful data so that it can provide HR and managers very beneficial feedback allowing them to be proactive in staffs overall learning and development.
Reflecting Organization – LMS typically deliver prepackaged courses and occasionally allow companies to add their logo. This is not in any way adequately representing ones working environment. Certain compliance training courses don’t need to be specific to ones work environment to effectively deliver a message but when training on corporate specific procedures they should reflect your and operations. Custom training not only connects the dots better for employees between training and actual work it also does a great job of employer branding which is something many organizations lack.
Moving away from a traditional LMS will require an investment of time and a cost for implementation but it is well worth it. The potential ROI on modern training solutions is much higher than a typical LMS because its practicality allows for much more use in administrative applications, automation of tasks and improved employee retention rates. The marketplace for training solutions is so broad now that there is almost any custom solution to meet virtually any companies needs so if your organization stills uses an old LMS it’s time to see what else is out there!
I can’t recall where I first read this statement but a learning/education blogger once mentioned an interesting way to look at an LMS compared to a modern training solution: “Business as usual or business as optimal.” Which side is your organization on?