Friday, November 06, 2009

Working around the LMS

I was at a local learning/technology conference yesterday and one of my peers (who I'll keep anonymous) did a great presentation on some short, just-in-time videos/screencasts that her department had done. I thought one of the most interesting points she made was that at this time, they aren't bothering to put them in their LMS, because they're just interested in people getting the training (which they want to make as easy as possible)... they aren't interested in tracking it.

We have done some similar projects and we have taken the same approach... the LMS just takes too much time for people to get into and find what they need.
- Judy Unrein

This really is the crux of the issue with LMSs. Sometimes, it just seems like a PITA to get to the material.

My take - there is no rule that says I can't have the same object in two places if I don't need the reporting. For the immediate "they need access now and I don't need the reports" issue - I just give them the direct link. I also give them the SkillPort location since we are training our end users to look there first for materials in the long-term.

I am making extensive use of a feature in SkillPort that allows me to link to what they call "External Learning Objects." I can't see who clicked the "Play" button (still complaining to my SkillSoft reps about that every chance I get since all indicators in the program appear like you SHOULD be able to see who looked at the tutorial) - but the end-user can find it much later - when they actually need it.

The other advantage of the external learning objects is that it doesn't force me to go through the amazingly cumbersome and ugly 5 step conversion. It's gotten to the point where the first question out of my mouth when someone wants to put a tutorial in SkillPort is...

Do you need reporting?

If not - we use the above process. If so - I tack on a week and send the request to my bosses so they can begin the extortion process collect funding for the slots the tutorial will require. 9 times out of 10, suddenly - they don't need reporting.

And reporting, in my mind, is the key advantage and reason for implementing an LMS in the first place.


John said...


I agree with everything you've said. Almost.

As I posted to the LMS Wave you've got going, people (learners) don't want to have to go through all of the formality involved with most LMSs. they simply want to learn, or in many business contexts just find the information that is going to help them complete the job at hand. So why make it difficult for them to do that?

LMS companies need to wake up to this fact or the function they serve will soon be absorbed (assimilated?) into other HRP products. (And this coming from a guy who used to work for an LMS provider.)

The thing that concerns me about "having the same object in two places" is that you begin to have multiple points of maintenance. Even if you are only figuratively suggesting storing the object in two file systems, you end up with several TOC type pages with duplicative information.

One team started down this path at my last employer because it was so cumbersome for people to access the LMS. In the end we had to stop people because we ended up with half a dozen different access points (all with slight variations on course titles, descriptions, objectives, etc.), and in some cases course objects saved 2-3 times on different servers.

What I would really like LMS companies to do is figure out a way for me to store all of the objects in a common file server. Then, provide me with a number of services that allow the learner to find and access the content - with the choice of doing so for credit, or not. I would then embed these services into the learner's workflow - any time they had an issue or question they could quickly locate information or a learning activity and go from there. Common data is stored only in one place, objects are stored in one place, and everyone is happy.

The one slight disagreement I have with your post is I don't think reporting is the primary reason for an LMS, I think it becomes the ability to analyze the data you collect.

Enrollment reports, completion reports, pass/fail reports - those are the most basic things you should be able to get from your data.

But the ability to identify low performers, target specific groups of people for a particular learning intervention, or see patterns in access to certain learning objects, is ultimately where the value is (IMHO).


John (@J_Schulz)

Susan said...

This is part of where we're going with our SCORM Cloud product - moving things outside the LMS. We see a world where you could deliver training/learning via a widget on your Wordpress blog or through your Facebook page and still be able to get the reporting element. Nice to see confirmation that we're thinking down the right path!

Wendy said...

John - you are dead right. And the duplication was something I have feared. Essentially - I'm using the linking tool in SkillPort to link to the original destination. There is only 1 object. Still - you have the multiple maintenance issue. What if I move it? Change the name?

I want the solution you describe.
I currently don't have it.

In regards to reporting - though it is not reflected in this post, I do see reporting from an LMS as a piece of the puzzle - not the whole. ( and you are right to call me on it..analysis is the important part, not the actual reports)

LMSs show enrollments, course completions etc. We need that info. We currently don't have anything even that basic.

More powerful will be this info in combination with info from our business systems through a data warehouse so we can run REAL reports on performance and analyze them. It's baby steps.

(John...'fraid you are going to force me to write another blog post. sigh....)