The LMS Is Dead, Long Live The eLMS
Most of us in Learning and Development (L&D) have our horror stories about Learning Management Systems (LMSs). Many of these stories usually stem from poor implementation practices and the inability for LMS vendors to meet dynamic business needs. However, the reality is that you can't return valuable actionable data in Learning and Development without having a Learning Management System. Why? Well, running around with paper quizzes and 300-page binders is not very effective, is it? Let's admit it; we need an LMS, but not just any LMS: We need an eLMS! The "e" stands for enhanced and that means the eLMS comes with amazing enhancements which make a traditional LMS obsolete. Let's take a look at the traditional LMS versus the enhancements of an eLMS.
The traditional LMS is a repository of static courses, exams, surveys, and documents. It's a complex and unimaginative launching ramp for compliance courses. It's an electronic museum of poorly crafted PowerPoints, PDFs, and SCORM eLearning. You have to set up courses, attached some tests, and hope for the best. Reporting is insufficient, clunky, and mostly consists of a Excel spreadsheet export. So, after spending tens of thousands of dollars during implementation, you would still have to use Excel to massage your data into something decent for your boss.
The eLMS Experience
There are a few things every LMS should have. An eLMS has all the basics and lots more; the enhance aspects of an eLMS include social platform capabilities, gamification elements, and the ability to foster a community of experts. Additionally, eLMSs support internal communications and customizable graphic analytics displays to quickly identify learning performance. These systems dramatically improve turnaround times from training deployment to completion with all the associated metrics involved.
The eLMS adds social interaction components to every learning object (or course) in the system. For example; participants can engage one another in discussion threads about their learning experience as they go through a course. This feature also allows trainers, managers, and other colleagues to practice informal learning without even being aware of doing so. The best part of all is every interaction gets logged and remains available for others to view and learn from. Imagine having searching capabilities on questions and answers about learning content that perhaps was not clearly understood while in a training session. Participants can always “reach out” through the eLMS internal social platform and receive just-in-time learning support.
The eLMS is gamified with engaging game mechanics like badges, leaderboards, “like” buttons, and reward systems. It's great to keep in mind that gamification applies well here because it engages users either by extrinsic and\or intrinsic motivators. The reward systems increase user engagement and profile status based on how often the user interacts with the LMS. The more learners use the system the more perks and bragging rights they get.
Community Of Experts
This is perhaps the most revolutionary and important advantage of the eLMS. The Community of Experts is the concept of having your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) available to answer any questions that may arise about work knowledge and processes. This may already happen at your workplace but, it's not recorded anywhere and no one else gets the benefit of those original interactions with Subject Matter Experts. Therefore, having the capability of engaging your Subject Matter Experts to answer questions in threaded discussions is invaluable in the short and long term. After all, they are considered Subject Matter Experts due to their amazing knowledge and skills in their particular field of employment.
The eLMS is a robust communication solution as well. Most eLMSs are capable of fostering internal chats and messaging mechanisms which keep your email box free of pesky LMS notifications. This is an excellent feature which streamlines communications between Learning and Development staff and users. For eLMS administrators this means direct and responsive feedback in case are not functioning as they should. From the user's perspective, it keeps all learning related communications outside of the business email application.
Detailed Graphic Reporting And Analytics
One of my biggest pet peeves is having to use an LMS and then suffer with the lack of actionable data provided by the interface. Sadly enough, most folks around me did not seem to care and remained complacent with this fact. My main question is why we are paying so much money to this LMS vendor when the application cannot event provide a visual graphic of its reporting data. Well friends, thanks to the recent adoption of HTML5 and CSS3 coding; most eLMSs have the bandwidth to provide you with graph charts on every reporting element that matters i.e. test performance, SCORM and xAPI values, evaluation surveys, and observational task results.
Wrapping It Up
In summary, we know that we have experienced terrible LMS implementations but, yet we have a significant need for actionable Learning and Development data. Based on this premise we know that the Learning Management System is central to all Learning and Development efforts and life would be very hard without it. LMSs are doomed because they are electronic museums of learning artifacts in most organizations. Courses are launched and completed with all interactions being lost due to the lack of electronic logs. eLMSs promise and deliver on the ability to get users engage in communication about learning experiences and share knowledge between participants and Learning and Development staff. Finally, eLMS are enhanced with the right blend of social, gamified, and engaging user interactions which can benefit the whole organization as collaboration and informal learning are increased by these mechanisms.