The learning technologies term refers to the growing array of software tools, applications, systems and platforms that are used for the purpose of administering, authoring and delivering learning, as well as tools used for learning through social collaboration.

Training professionals typically divide learning technologies into five distinct technology categories, or market segments: administration, authoring, delivery, social collaboration and digital content repository platforms. Each represents a robust segment of the fast-growing e-learning field, and is often incorporated as a distinct function within the modern learning management system.

The following is a brief summary of each learning technology and how it has evolved:

Administration

Training administration technologies perform the many activities involved with administering online training programs including registering, tracking and monitoring formal training. Doing so for the benefit of administrators and learners alike is the heart of LMS and learning content management systems (LCMS).

These feature-rich and highly functional applications have evolved from the first stand alone systems in the early 1980s that were designed exclusively for training administrators. Along with registering individuals into specific courses, they also monitor course completions, test results and learner transcripts, as well as track tuition expenses and/or reimbursement.

In addition, LMS catalog management systems can update and manage content in a single location, and help learners locate available courses and register for classes. e-Learning providers benefit from features that enable them to align learning management strategies and resources to meet budget and business priorities.

Authoring

Content authoring technology was introduced in the 1990s and quickly became a training market niche. The software and applications support the development of e-learning with functions that enable content authors to create, edit, review and configure content, and conduct testing of e-learning courseware.

In addition, modern authoring systems provide a highly flexible environment that enables content creators to employ any authoring tool, or mix of tools, of their preference.

Authors can create interactive, media rich e-learning courses and online training materials easily. They can also access video and internet content and can enrich courses with social, video and other material. They can also record and publish meetings as well as virtual classroom and screen sharing sessions.

Delivery

With the emergence of cloud technology, modern LMS/LCMS portals have evolved from stand-alone platforms to highly scalable cloud-based systems delivered under a hosted software as a service (SaaS) model. Cloud-based delivery ensures that upgrades and innovations are instantly available to customers, while also enabling students to enjoy greater mobility and freedom to learn from any location. There are various types of delivery platforms including WebEx, GotoTraining, e-books, etc.

Collaboration

Modern learning portals are also beginning to feature social and collaboration tools that enable learners to assert greater control over their own learning experiences, a trend known as action learning. Also known as personal learning, the development is expected to become the next generational advance of the LMS.

LMS providers are embracing the collaboration technologies so that learners can move seamlessly from formal learning courseware to informal, personally-directed continuous learning opportunities. The array of available social and collaborative learning outlets and devices includes communities, discussions, blogs, video channels, mobile, knowledge repositories, mentors and more. Other elements include advanced filtering technologies that can create a highly customized personal learning experience.

Digital Content Repository

Digital content repositories are content management systems that capture, organize and categorize knowledge-based information. They enable corporate training departments, academic institutions and other learning organizations to store and organize learning objects and other digital content for easy retrieval by learners, instructors, content developers and others.

Also known as knowledge repositories, they serve the burgeoning demand for convenient cloud-based platforms that enable organizations to create, store and share a broad array of content. That can include learning, media and library content such as courseware, research, images, videos, press clips, lectures and YouTube. Repositories also support collaborative learning discussion forums and other social learning activities by facilitating joint and independent research.

Digital content repositories are typically provided either as a separate platform or as an optional feature within an LMS. Customizable platforms feature a single file format that enables users to easily submit, delete and locate material. User-friendly interfaces enable non-experts to insert necessary descriptive data about content.

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