What’s the matter with Learning Management Systems

Client Q&A

Question from client 1: What do we need to think about when choosing a LMS?

Another way this question may be phrased is “How can I avoid choosing the wrong LMS?” There are processes that we can go through to get to a good understanding of requirements and to understand the IT operating environment. However, a nagging uneasiness in the decision can remain.

This is understandable. More often than not the existing HR systems whose experience we compare are themselves under-performing to business needs – usability issues, data integrity issues, speed issues and so forth. And these systems are large investments. Why is there such a mismatch in expectations?

  1. Our expectations are being influenced by web-based platforms that we use personally – they have been well designed for usability, they perform well ‘in-the-cloud’, they look good.
  2. The sales people of LMS and other platforms oversell the features and ease of implementation.
  3. The life-cycle of LMS and other platforms are generally longer than the reality of technology improvements.
  4. The platforms have been designed from an over-complicated enterprise perspective rather than an an agile, specialised, rapid life-cycle perspective.

No longer can we chose a platform such as a LMS and expect it will meet our needs in 3 years time. Our learning and development needs and strategy evolves so rapidly. And the technology evolves so rapidly.

Fortunately, there does appear to be some newer LMS on the horizon that appear to be moving towards flexibility, agility, and short redundancy and renewal cycles. I haven’t tried these myself yet, so I can’t personally recommend these. But I would urge anyone planning to implement a LMS to look at both the traditional and new players, and examine how they think about their product. Simply asking a few questions around how easy/expensive it is to customise a report, button or name of a functionality or how ‘heuristic’ is the search function can give you a clue.

Client Q&A

Question from client 2: Is our LMS worth continuing our investment?

Before you know it, that LMS that was scoped to meet the requirements of 3 years ago can begin to impede your learning and business strategy. Often early LMS requirements are very operational in nature (e.g. “We have to push out compliance”). Newer LMS with social media and mobile capabilities can enable more strategic approaches to learning solutions – work-based, just-in-time, performance support, sharing and collaboration…just to name a few buzz words.

When is the right time to bite the bullet and upgrade or launch a different LMS? Well, often we can feel inhibited by the shear money we have already spent on the LMS over the last 3 years. Not to mention feeling burdened by the effort you know will be required to make the change. Effort/cost must less than the known return. This is perhaps the most difficult part of the review process – helping decision-makers to understand the ‘reward’ that a new LMS will enable. This is because the decision-makers need to know something about learning strategy, learning design and the adult learner in context.

As learning professionals, we need to keep influencing decision-makers subtly, frequently and constantly, so they they will understand the return when it comes time for you to influence.

As a consultant, I have a number of templates and processes to help clients through their learning strategy evolution and LMS decision-making. Courses are also available on the the E-Learning Academy. Please feel free to Contact Us anytime to talk through your needs and concerns.

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