Learning Management Systems

I’ve read a lot about Learning Management Systems, or LMS’s, of late, mainly to do with the implementation of a leading LMS system within our workplace and my addition to the project team. What has become apparent is the divide between technology and learning, and that although the divide is not necessarily with the systems and content themselves, it certainly is with the people involved. Educationalists hate the constrictive and failing technology, and technologists hate the open ended and touchiness of the Educationalists.

Both the Learning and the Technology sides share the same goals. Recordable, trackable, accessible learning within the organisation. Learning that can be delivered in a variety of methods but enable self learning, in effect empowering the Learner to choose which learning and method they wish to.

The whole idea fits perfectly with where an organisation should be looking at the moment. Pushing the responsibility of HR information onto the employee for example, and offering them every means for education and advancement, while pulling that education and learning into succession management and enabling people to rise through the organisation rather than loosing their talents and knowledge to the marketplace.

With this model fits the idea of an LMS, centrally offering blended learning solutions to the individual employees, wherever they may be located, and giving them the choice of what, how and where they learn. Recording their individual learning and monitoring their progress and educational history.

So why the need for the divide? I can’t see any. Not on the general idea of an LMS system, it’s perfect for an organisation that has some form of disparate employee base. However, I think the problem is clear when an organisation moves towards an LMS solution, this is where the technology and learning areas can begin to clash heads, when learning and technology meet.

One of the most apparent problems when looking for an LMS is the fact that the majority of the marketplace leaders are created by technology teams. It’s apparent by the look and feel, the operation, sales, implementation, all the way through the chain. Using the system can be where the learning teams find it clunky and user unfriendly, often because it is modelled on the structure of a website or computer application, much as technologists would and not on how a learner would expect to learn or intuitively use a learning system.

An area where the LMS company do themselves no favours is in the selling and marketing of the product. It can do everything, how you want it, when you need it and can be customised in any way conceivable. Brilliant. Then you buy it and there’s a whole different ball game. The sales teams are out and in are the support and maintenance teams. Whatever the Sales guys have offered you, it’s not necessarily what their technology colleagues can actually deliver. Customisations are a bonus for these companies, and if you can’t nail all these down beforehand, then you’re in a lot of trouble once the system is implemented. For it can be here that the companies really make their money.

That leads us nicely to the topic of implementation, and the reality of what you’ve actually purchased. Finding the limits of the system, and working with the technology teams that you’ve probably never met before now are big difficulties for an organisation. At some point around the start of this process there’s a real weight of change from Learning to Technology, and this change can, I feel, bring about a lot of issues that become problems and the feeling of the divide between the two camps.

This is also the stage where the expectations of the organisation are brought down to meet the actual deliverables of the LM

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