Learning Management Systems: Do we need them?

LMS 1This week’s post comes from #chat2lrn crew member, Judith Christian-Carter. Judith is a Director of Effective Learning Solutions, a UK-based learning services company. You can find her on Twitter @judithELS


The LMS conundrum

Seldom in our community have I come across a topic anything more sharply bipolar than that of Learning Management Systems (LMS). ‘For’ and ‘Against’ camps are formed, with each side arguing passionately one way or the other. The LMS has become the ‘Marmite’ of the corporate learning world!


Some arguments for …

  • If learning isn’t tracked and measured via a LMS then it’s not learning
  • We need to know what people are learning, what content they are accessing and if they are completing their training courses
  • Saves on administrative and paperwork costs, as well as saving employees’ training time
  • If you aren’t using a LMS, you aren’t operating your business as efficiently as possible
  • You can control the content that your employees can access
  • “What you do not measure, you cannot control.” (Tom Peters)
  • You can consolidate all training content for all employees into one central location
  • Course content can be bundled with online tests, enabling administrators to gauge easily learning levels
  • A LMS facilitates learning and the retention of content
  • A LMS allows administrators to create a culture of compliance, promoting safety in all situations
  • Detailed reports such as course completion, regulatory compliance training and employee statistics, allow managers to identify and track easily the progress of a large group of employees or individuals when needed
  • A LMS delivers a secure exchange of learning data

Some arguments against …

  • The LMS no longer fits into the corporate learning model of the 21st Century
  • The old corporate learning world of command and control is changing to one of understanding and facilitation, and so with it the LMS becomes redundant
  • We have no choice, we have to use it for all courses and this imposes major constraints on us
  • I can’t use the learning tools I want to because the LMS does not support them
  • From an instructional design point of view they are a nightmare, as they so often dictate the learning design instead of the other way round
  • If formal learning, such as training, only accounts for around 10% of what people learn then why bother to spend so much money and time measuring such a very small part of the total – it doesn’t make sense
  • “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” (William Bruce Cameron)
  • Whilst our LMS captures so much data, very few people look at this and, if they do, then they don’t do anything with it
  • I want people to create their own personal learning environments, to exchange ideas and to build their own communities of practice, none of which is possible with a LMS
  • It’s only administrators who like and want a LMS, simply because it makes their lives easier
  • The LMS is the ‘Big Brother’ of learning in the corporate world
  • Employees are not in the driving seat when it comes their learning mainly due the power and control of the LMS
  • The only thing that counts is that people can apply their learning in the workplace so that their performance improves, and no LMS can measure or control that
  • Work = Learning and Learning = Work, so where does a LMS figure in this equation?

In other words …

“Prescriptive, governed, instructional approaches that drive cost reduction and competitive advantage through better productivity and compliance are the sweet spot for LMSs. But what organisations really need to do is nurture skills and activities that computers cannot yet master and link these not to productivity and compliance, but to innovation and intrapreneurship.” (David Becker, September 2014, of “Kill the LMS” workshop.)

What next?

Well, there is always Experience API (xAPI or Tin Can API) to consider, as this new learning-technology specification claims to overcome all the limitations of the existing LMS, by bringing ‘tracking’ into the 21st Century. That is, if you wish to track any digital interaction someone has with content or other people, for therein lies the rub.

So, where do you stand on the LMS question? Join in the debate and discuss these and other questions in #chat2lrn on 2nd October 2014 08.00PDT/11.00EDT/16.00BST

Kathy Kruse of Expertus has provided some additional reading which you can find on the Links and Resources page.  If you would also like to provide additional resources for this, or any other chat, please email a member of the #Chat2lrn crew.





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