Is An LMS Still Relevant?  Panel at Learning 3.0 this week in Chicago!

I want to start this post by stating how much I enjoy participating in conferences.  Discussions and presentations specifically allow (and sometimes force) me to explore areas that I wouldn’t necessarily have time to consider during my normal workday.  This is one reason why I encourage everyone to get away and attend conferences.  Not only are you able to network and become more educated on topics you have been following, but you are also given the opportunity to expand your knowledge about subjects you don’t regularly monitor, which brings me to the content of this article.

Training MagazineI have mentioned in a previous post discussing the future of the LMS that this coming Wednesday, October 24th, I have been asked to participate on a panel at Training Magazine’s Learning 3.0 Conference held this week in Chicago.  I am very excited for this discussion and in preparation for my five minutes of fame, I have been reflecting on not only my appreciation for conferences and what they bring to life long learning, but also my thoughts about the LMS.  Since my team at Web Courseworks built our first LMS in 1999, I have over a decade to reflect about.

In preparation for any speaking event, it is important to define and recognize who you are speaking to.  It is my understanding that this specific event will bring readers of Training Magazine, including a large percentage of people who are currently part of associations and corporations with an LMS in place.  I believe there will also be a good share of people from corporations that may be frustrated with their legacy Learning Management Systems or people from small corporations looking to install their first LMS.  Now that we know the audience, let me define Learning Management System.

The primary purpose of a Learning Management System is to complete tasks associated with registering, training, and tracking records of learners.  This furthers to include giving users certifications of completions and allowing for report generation for managers.  One of the biggest uses of a Learning Management System is then, finally, the actual loading of and access to courses that associations/corporations/governments/schools want their users to have access to.  Large LMS providers generally empower corporate human resources departments to assist with Talent Management (job skill development, career paths and suggested personal development).  A certain sector of companies uses an LMS to ensure basic compliance and knowledge of being a good employee, i.e. sexual harassment training, safety training, team building etc.  This last area is where LMSs have found the most success.

The next generation of the LMS is being required to integrate social media, social learning, dashboard and mobile learning or performance support features.  The question is…will your next LMS support the growing interest in Personal Learning Environments, and general informal learning support?  The Internet and access to instant information has been a driver towards the acceptance of informal learning.  The success of bite size learning nuggets like Kahn Academy increases “just in time learning.”  There has also been a lot of talk about a “personal learning environment” that could potentially hold people’s transcripts of previous work experience, current work experience, and every seminar and class they’ve attended, along with every valuable PDF that they have read.  Then the question becomes not what can be included in this personal learning environment, but what should be included.

So the Learning Management System is not dead or not relevant; the LMS is just changing to accommodate the realities of learner access to knowledge and peoples’ tendencies to want to learn (socially) from each other and through new delivery methods that don’t look much like the old compliance course.
So as proprietary Learning Management Systems rapidly install new features, more corporations and associations are considering Open Source programs to meet these new needs.  Using an open source program like Moodle, gives you the opportunity to use what you need of the platform and then add in features that are specific to what you want it to do.  I would caution people that I have yet to find an open source system that is “good enough” out of the box.  It is best to hire developers or a software development company (or Moodle Partner) that will help you build out a system that works for your specific needs.   What is encouraging is that systems like Moodle were designed with social learning in mind, and they often present solutions that bring together the best of corporate and higher education systems.

(Full Disclosure: my company, Web Courseworks, Ltd., markets a SaaS based Learning Management System for associations and non-profits– built using Open Source).

Managing eLearning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson and Jillian Bichanich.  Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.