Is the LMS dead?
When talking to companies about their learning needs we’re often told “yes we have a Learning Management System (LMS)” before they go on to explain all the problems they suffer from. If an LMS is the answer then why are there still so many questions? The truth is we’re not sure an LMS is the answer any more, are you? Below, we have detailed the frustrations and problems various companies are suffering from, read and see what you think.
- It’s really old tech
The reference standard for an LMS remains the Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM), specifically SCORM 1.2. Which was agreed in October 2001?
2001? That was six years before the first smartphone was released. In technology terms this is ancient and a design for a working environment very different to that we find today.
- Not agile enough
Companies move faster these days, can you wait to commission a new course to meet a company product launch or a change in operating procedures? One company we spoke to required a tender process with at least three suppliers for every course to be written, that with the writing process itself means at least six months to make any training available, let alone actually deployed and completed.
If you need training for a product launch every two weeks or to support agile project developments how can you do this if the training material preparation process is so long? What if you need to do small incremental training updates on a weekly basis? Is this feasible?
- Too expensive
You have to buy and maintain the LMS service, then commission every course, then pay someone internally to explain to the external party what the course has to cover. Then review, amend, return and re-test before it’s ready. Now repeat for every need.
That doesn’t come cheap.
4. Duplication of content
So you need to produce materials for your LMS course, wrapped into a SCORM package. Finished? No, you still need to create operating manuals or promotional material to support the actual operational teams. Unfortunately, the training materials are so expensively created they can’t be used as they’re likely in the wrong format and unsuitable for quick reference.
So a duplicate set of materials needs to be created, to support the actual work. Likely you’ll need to prepare both a training course and operational manuals working in parallel, with plenty of scope for errors and omissions and an overhead of coordination to keep the independent writers in sync.
- Too big a bite
How long does it take to complete a course? One hour? Fours hours? A week? A month?
If you only have to do a course once or repeat once a year how much will you remember a day, week or month after completion? According to the Forgetting Curve, by learning this way you’ll likely have forgotten the information long before you need it.
People these days are used to consuming small bites of information when they need them, not long in advance. When you can search in an instant why remember facts you may not need in a year? This change makes it far less likely that an LMS course will be of use these days.
- To easy to cheat
Speaking to another company about their mandatory training which staff needed to complete every year; the course never changed and neither did the questions. Staff were used to printing off their answers and simply entering them each year without reading the materials. According to the training dept they had 100% completion, in fact, they had almost zero adherence. We’ve also seen occasions when a team will sit together and have someone shout out the answers to get a quick finish, do you have any way of policing this with an LMS?
- They’re unloved
It’s rare to find a group of employees who say ‘yes we love our LMS, just what we wanted’. In our experience, it’s far more likely to hear ‘oh dear, I have to do a course, I really don’t have time, please can I put it off until later’.
There’s no getting away from the fact that LMS’ are generally unloved and where possible unvisited. Is it the very structure itself? Is it that the content is unappealing? Perhaps it’s simply that with mature open source offerings and old standards there’s no money or thought given to investing and improving the experience. Organisations teams frequently say ‘we use LMS ‘x’, it came for free with our ‘y’ service’, how is that a recipe for improvement?
- Doesn’t suit the new company workforce
The nature of work is changing, has your learning environment kept up?
Have you got a flexible workforce?
Do you have agency workers?
Do you have shift workers?
Zero hours contract staff?
‘Gig economy’ workers?
3rd party workers?
Geographically distributed workers?
How does an LMS support such a team? If you’ve come in for a 48-hour shift in a hospital can you really do four hours of on-boarding before you start? You do weekend shifts in a store having to start on the shop floor at 8 am, when do you catch up with new product releases? The truth is you can’t with an LMS and customer service suffers because of it.
- Sits in a silo
We tend to see the LMS sitting under the Learning & Development department, out on its own. With this setup, it’s not easy to integrate the results of courses into a broader staff development plan or operational team set up. If you’re responsible for a call centre team or retail store and you can’t see your team’s training results how do you know who needs what support? Do you even know who was scheduled for training? How do you know they did it? How do you combine practical tasks on the shop floor with learning elements?
Not only is it hard to use the results how do you advertise that course are even available? Send internal emails? How do you know these emails are being read and paid attention to? How do you keep nudging people or schedule time for training when the scheduling systems are on another platform? When all of your systems are fragmented you lose a lot of unnecessary time just doing simple admin.
- Can’t reference
Once you’ve completed a training course can you easily use these materials again to reinforce your learning or to act as an ongoing reference source? Not usually; a course opens, you complete it, the material is locked again.
Convinced? Maybe, maybe not. Ok then you ask, what do you suggest? Here’s my wish list for a learning solution:
- Use the same content as both training materials and operational guidance. Make once, make in a standard way, and make searchable so that staff can use it in their daily routines whenever they need assistance. This will save you money, time and effort while increasing the value of the content created.
- Don’t put training in a silo, integrate into your digital operational platform. This way you can integrate training into your daily routine to make it more adaptable and relevant. It allows learning to complement every other element in your business such as operations, sales, compliance and HR so they can ALL drive change in behaviour for a bigger transformation in overall business performance.
- Break training into small chunks so that staff can fit it flexibly into their busy schedules. Learn a little, learn fast, learn often. Create playlists so that staff can jump back into learning where they left off at any time, no more having to restart the whole course if they didn’t have time to finish it. Keep it out there for re-use whenever needed and introduce new chunks rapidly as circumstances and needs change.
- Make these small training modules available flexibly to combine into tailored learning modules, to suit different roles and locations. Agile working needs agile training.
- Keep reinforcing your learning. Introduce daily, weekly, monthly quizzes to reinforce learning and identify gaps in team knowledge, then plug these quickly. Make it fun, not a chore. Incentivise, reward, congratulate.
Remarkably all of these features are available through Oplift our digital operations platform. Discover more here.