“The LMS is dead.” “Kill the LMS.” “The LMS is a dinosaur nearing extinction.”
Every L&D professional has heard some variation of these doomsday statements. For years, we have been told that the LMS is no longer relevant for today’s learners. However, it’s important to take a moment to consider what is really important to successful learning and development, without becoming distracted by the next big thing.
Here are five key statements that most L&D professionals would agree with. Each of them uncovers why learning management systems remain a central and powerful component of your current and future learning infrastructure.
1. Effective learning transfer is complex and difficult.
Many L&D investments, including the LMS, fail to have a lasting impact because they underestimate and oversimplify the massive challenge posed by changing existing behaviors. Launching and tracking e-learning modules or implementing an online classroom booking system from an LMS may improve processes and delivery, but too often, it has little impact on actual outcomes.
The impact of technology in the workplace is often to expose and accelerate the existing working practices and culture, be they good or bad. The LMS is often unfairly blamed, when a good hard look at existing design practices and organizational alignment around clear business objectives would serve the organization better. It’s easy to point the finger at the technology. It’s more productive to tackle your fundamental issues and then leverage your technology more effectively.
2. Blending formal and informal learning is the best approach.
Taking a holistic design approach that delivers a collaborative, just-in-time learning experience can significantly improve learning outcomes. Our personal interaction with technology, increasingly dominated by our smartphones, has outpaced the learning experience in the workplace, with people expecting immediate answers to questions. While new trends in microlearning, video-driven learning and workflow tools are all helpful developments, we must bring them together with an underlying learning platform to provide a coherent method of recording and reporting on progress. A flexible, extensible LMS empowers an organization to inform its resourcing, development and recruitment decisions.
3. Personalized learning is the most effective.
The era of one-size-fits-all training is in decline. Good learning design practice should now consider adaptive learning pathways that take into account the prior knowledge and context of each learner. Typically, time pressures for rapid deployment and a lack of skilled design expertise have been a barrier to creating great personalized learning. However, an LMS that supports the design, delivery and reporting of personalized learning experiences will help generate the positive momentum to overcome those hurdles. For instance, simply configuring the LMS to more efficiently guide individuals to the learning they really need and not just to a standardized catalog will be a big step forward for many organizations.
4. Technology is only part of the answer.
While technology can offer a lot of potential benefits, weak learning design, poorly managed implementation and lackluster user engagement mean it often fails to deliver on its promises. Without a solid understanding of how to build and deploy an effective learning experience and the skills needed to engage an often reluctant audience, there is little chance of sustainable success. There needs to be a universal “leveling up” of L&D professionals, giving them the skills and knowledge to make best use of the available learning technologies – including harnessing some of the powerful functionality that can lie hidden within an existing learning management system.
5. Moving first is not necessarily advantageous.
The pace and breadth of technology adoption is, without doubt, accelerating. This blog post from BlackRock gives a useful snapshot of the exponential speed at which we are adopting new technologies. This speed is having an impact on the learning technology market, where new platforms jostle to replace old ones, sometimes purely based on their novelty factor.
The fact is that many organizations are struggling to draw real value from these platforms, as they often have narrow areas of application. Broader, more functional learning platforms are still a critical part of the ecosystem. Indeed, an integrated blend of systems is likely to be more common in the future, rather than an oversimplistic “out with old, in with the new” approach to procurement.
So, is the LMS dead? No. It is an essential component of a more sophisticated learning infrastructure.
Does the LMS need to change? Yes, and indeed the sector remains innovative, if you look away from the status quo.
To thrive in a business climate that is unpredictable, uncertain and demanding differentiation, the future will favor organizations that adopt open, flexible and integrated technology solutions over one-size-fits-none proprietary platforms that typically come with long commercial lock-ins. Furthermore, it’s up to L&D professionals to keep on top of the skills they need to make the most of the technology tools they have available. There is a lot to learn, and it’s hard and complex. But it’s also what makes our industry so rewarding.
Just remember not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The LMS, when used correctly, can be transformational in its impact.