Speed to Proficiency     Creating a sustainable competitive advantage

CAT | Learning technology



LMS Bolt-ons

bolt-onBolting on social media or content management to an LMS is vastly different than integrating these features.

If an LMS says it supports informal learning, social learning, content or knowledge management, or performance support, these features need to be integrated, not bolted on. Why – and how can you tell the difference?

An integrated feature has the same user experience. The screen has the same standard features in the same standard places, enabling the user to use the feature without learning a new interface.

Features work across the platform, when a feature is integrated. There is one help system that addresses all features, and the search function looks through all content on the system (i.e. courses, discussions, and content).

Features interact with one another. Courses may have attached forums. Content can be attached to communities or courses. Users can start discussions with other users about how to best use information found in a performance support or knowledge base document.

There is a single point of user management. When adding a new user to a group, or identifying a user’s role, the user’s permissions to communities and content should all be granted in the same way that their permissions to courses are.

There is a single point of reporting. Completion of courses, participation in communities, and resource utilization should all be tracked and displayed on integrated dashboards.

If an LMS simply bolts on these features with simple APIs, the user experience is disjointed, and administrator’s experience can resemble the Dante’s seventh circle of hell. The end result is that the features are not used.

(If you’re interested in more information on this, sign up for the free webinar: Beyond the LMS: 21st Century Learning Systems, October 6 at 2:00 eastern.)

Your thoughts?

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Learning Technology or Training Technology

Most learning management systems (LMS’s) are great at helping instructors replicate the worst practices of education electronically: lecture and multiple choice tests. When LMS’s go beyond this, there are still factors that cause us to think within a very short and narrow box called “learning equals content-based courses.” In other words, LMS’s support training (narrowly defined), not learning more broadly defined. Why?

  1. Focus on content. While the Experience API holds the promise of getting us out of the SCORM trap some day, the vast majority of courses contained within today’s LMS’s are SCORM 1.2 or SCORM 2004. These standards have learning professionals busy creating content objects, not learning objects.
  2. Focus on events. While the primary object creating by authoring tools is a SCO, the primary object maintained in the LMS is a course. Courses are almost always time-bound training events related to the mastery of content. However, most on-the-job proficiency is not created in an event, whether it’s a 30-minute eLearning module or a one-week face-to-face sales training.
  3. The sage on the stage. When you think about it, the courses in the LMS are all about the sage on the stage. The sage creates the eLearning modules. The sage teaches the classroom-based classes listed in the LMS. In web meetings, there is a presenter (sage) and audience.
  4. Assessing the unimportant. The bad news is that LMS’s make it easy to assess that which is pretty much trivial and unimportant – i.e. Level 2 evaluations using “objective tests,” where there’s a right and wrong answer. Critical thinking? Complex decision making? Ability to write effectively? Ignored.
  5. MIA: Informal learning. If you’re lucky, your LMS will have a rudimentary comment system or bolted on discussion forums. However, software to support informal learning that is integrated with other learning activities at the user experience and administration level is simply missing in action. That’s 75% of the learning that our technology doesn’t really address very well.
  6. MIA: Coaching and mentoring. I suspect that most learning professionals would agree that we are not done when the class ends; we also be in the business of supporting the reinforcement of training on the job. Most learning technology simply doesn’t do this. And that’s a shame.
  7. MIA: Knowledge management. Over the past several years, there have been many articles written on the convergence of learning and knowledge management (KM). I’m a great believer in this. It seems that if we are in the business of ensuring that people are ready to do their jobs, our learning systems should also be knowledge management systems.

I believe that LMS’s need to support the learning process, not simply eLearning and classes. Unfortunately, most LMS’s started life as content management systems. Content is in their bones and in their DNA. Later additions – such as those to support social learning – often feel bolted on and not an integral part of the system. As we start thinking about effective approaches to learning, we also need to start thinking about the functional requirements of learning technologies that can support them.


Excerpted from Speed to Proficiency: Creating a Sustainable Competitive Advantage. (c) Bill Bruck, Ph.D., 2015 (paperback and Kindle)

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21c-Learning-System-300As L&D moves from being a training department to a learning organization, LMS’s will need to support the new types of learning required. To support this we need new types of learning systems.

In my view, a 21st century learning system needs the following characteristics, as shown in the picture above.

  • Social learning must be at its heart. The learning system should have the functionality required to effectively support informal learning; to integrate social activities into learning paths; and to integrate comments and peer questions and answers into knowledge bases.
  • The learner must be at the center. The user experience is key. I agree with an observation Elliott Masie and Cushing Anderson made a few years back when they advocated for changing the term we use from Learning Management System to Learning System. Personally, I think if we started thinking of it as a learning delivery system it might refocus many of our efforts.
  • It should support formal learning, including training, reinforcement, and process-based learning paths.
  • It should support informal learning, with communities, informal learning activity calendars, and social media.
  • It should support performance on the job with knowledge bases.
  • It should support a full range of learning activities, including courses, coaching, communities, knowledge sharing, performance support, and action learning.

Excerpted from Speed to Proficiency: Creating a Sustainable Competitive Advantage. In press.   (c) Bill Bruck, Ph.D., 2015

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