3 Ways To Make Your LMS More Relevant With External Content

How To Make Your LMS More Relevant With External Content

Got a Learning Management System or Learning Platform? Of course you do.

Go there to complete and track your mandatory eLearning? Of course you do.

Go there to stay updated and find the latest content from around the web on the topics you’re interested in?

Of course you...don’t.

Nice Shop Window - Shame About The Stock

As an industry, we invest vast amounts in our Learning Management Systems and Learning Platforms, and in the courses we load into them. They’re a major purchasing decision for most enterprises. Then we spend more configuring, branding them, gamifying, marketing and promoting them. The shop window often looks great.

But when you get inside? For the main part, they’re just lists of courses or discussion forums with very little conversation. So our relationship with them is transactional. We go there, or send learners there to complete a course. When you complete it, that’s it. Quit out, back to work. And if that’s all you want your Learning Management System to be, a way to deliver and track formal courses, then that’s fine. But that seems like a missed opportunity given the investment we make in these platforms. Could we do more to make them stickier?

"The LMS for most organisations is like a dungeon. Things go into it and nobody likes going there. Why? the problem is that most of the LMSs are just lists of courses. That’s all that’s in them. The LMS is the enemy of innovation, they’re just big course-based cul de sacs.” - Donald Clark

Learning Professionals know that we need to offer audiences more than formal training. We understand 70:20:10. We know that most knowledge doesn’t reside in courses, it’s in the informal, social and real life experiences we accumulate.

"Courses are like stock, they go out of date – knowledge is more like flow.” - Harold Jarche

Learners know this too. In the recent Towards Maturity Benchmark Report 70% of learners said that they found external content from the web useful in staying up to date, rising to 81% for senior leaders (vs 47% finding elearning useful). So your learners are already on the curation case.

Time For A Refresh: Bring The Outside Into The LMS

Every day there are new developments, research, case studies which take place outside your organisations. Learners need access to this information and may currently get it in an unstructured way. There are things you can do to bring this content into your Learning Platform.

Here are three steps to make your Learning Management System more relevant with fresh, external content:

1. Take Charge Of Curation

Enterprising L&D teams are reinventing themselves as content curators. Content curators find, filter the most recent and most relevant content from the outside world, bring it into the organisation, and share it in the right place and the right channels for their audiences.

Sounds easy. But it isn’t:

  • The Washington Post publishes 1,200 articles a day (yes, a day)
  • The amount of content on the web is expected to increase by 500% in the next 5 years.
  • Google indexed 1 trillion articles in 2007, today it has indexed over 30 trillion.

So curators, acting for themselves or for learners, need to apply some filters to find the relevant content.

You could attempt to manually filter. Let’s say you’re trying to keep on top of Trends in Big Data for your developer audience to complement your formal learning. You could

  • Create a Twitter List that includes key influencers on Big Data, monitor it for relevant content (though bear in mind you’ll see everything those influencers share, not just content on Big Data, so that’s a noisy list)
  • Do a Google Search for the latest content (though Google has indexed 266 million articles on Big Data and counting
  • Monitor RSS feeds from key industry blogs and publications using an RSS Reader
  • Do a daily check of your preferred websites
  • Check influencers on LinkedIn and find relevant posts

Then once you’ve reviewed all of that content:

  • Choose the most relevant content from all of these sources
  • Copy and paste those into your LMS as a resource or reading list

And repeat that task, every day, for every audience you plan to support. It’s easy to see how quickly manual filtering of the web can spiral out of control. You need tools to help you. Which leads us to the next step:

2. Use Tools To Make Filtering Easier

There are tools that enable you to set rules and filters to find relevant content. The main task they perform is automation of filtering. Some examples of these are

  • Scoop.it - set filters and create curated newsletters
  • Feedly - select and combine RSS feeds from multiple sites
  • Google Alerts - get alerts based on keywords from the web
  • Anders Pink - set filters using any keywords, domains, twitter influencers, and RSS feeds

Check these tools out and find the ones give you the most flexibility to find, filter and handpick relevant content. Some have free versions.

Then you need to get it into your Learning Management System...

3. Choose An LMS That’s Open And Uses APIs To Embed Content

Your Learning Management System should be able to take in a feed from an external source. One way of doing this is by importing an RSS feed, though bear in mind you’ll only see what’s in the feed, and won’t be able to customise it for your audiences. Or you could copy and paste it in. But really, do you want to be maintaining reading lists manually, every day?

A better way is to pull content in dynamically from another tool or set of sources. An API is the best way of doing this. An API is just a means of transferring data between two applications, such as showing a Google Map on a website. There are content curation APIs that will let you plug in a feed of the most recent and relevant content into your Learning Management System.

Ask your LMS vendor what their approach is to integrating content and external sources using APIs.

  • Is their platform open? Does it take content from other sources and apps?
  • Does it have plugins and APIs available to bring in external content?
  • Does it work well with other APIs?

There’s a new breed of Learning Platform that do just this. They go well beyond the traditional course list and plug in content, social and other tools using APIs. They’re a better long-term bet.

A good content curation API will let you

  • Embed live content on any topic you want, directly alongside any course, blended programme or on in an academy / zone, for example latest content from best sales blogs in a sales area, or as a follow up to a course on sales skills.
  • See a feed of constantly updating content for curation, so you don't have to check multiple sites
  • Handpick content you want to share, and display that into the LMS
  • Display it without logins or single sign-on complications

APIs are the building blocks of the web and are simple and cost-effective to work with. Any outlay is quickly offset when you compare it to the cost of maintaining your courses, what you spend driving people to the Learning Management System, and that hidden, but very real cost for all of us: risk of obsolescence if we don’t keep up with the latest developments.

Here's an example of curated content from around the web displayed inside a modern Learning Platform, alongside courses and social learning:

Example platform with embedded curated content

Get a better return on your Learning Management System. Make it a go-to rather than an oh-no platform by adding recent, relevant curated content. It’s what your learners want.

Want to go further? Find more tips, tools and techniques for content curation in this free 93 page book.

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