A learning management system is a tool for those that manage the training function. Review articles on the “death” or “future” of learning management systems, and you’ll find it striking how many different opinions exist covering what an LMS is supposed to be or do. You can find a position paper supporting just about any stand you choose to take. There are far fewer articles that explain to potential LMS users what a learning management system won’t do.
A Learning Management System:
…Doesn’t Create Content
Curt Bonk postulated that “most course management systems fail to provide creative sparks to learning because they only track or map it after it occurs.” Well, in one sense he’s right – systems do fail because of the content. But there is not a single system on the market that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to create training content. So, the course management system doesn’t fail to provide the spark – the content itself fails. A learning management system promotes access to content, facilitates delivery of content, tracks interaction with content, and assists in evaluating outcomes. The responsibility for creating educational spark lies with the individuals creating the content within the learning management system. Well-created content is time-consuming and difficult to produce, and should be tracking and mapping interaction throughout delivery. That’s part of the reason the SCORM standards exist. A good learning management system is a tool for the content creation team, not their replacement. A learning management system should support delivery of content in a manner that supports the educational need.
Beware of systems that restrict you to specific forms of content – SCORM, PDF, video, etc. A learning management system is a framework for content delivery and use. Don’t handcuff your content creation team to a singular format, development tool or standard.
…Doesn’t Ensure Training Success
More than one training center has invested heavily in a learning management system, only to continue struggling with training and development issues. Purchasing a learning management system is not a “magic bullet” and doesn’t guarantee success, just like purchasing an expensive lawn mower doesn’t guarantee a beautiful yard. The training center must spend time creating content of interest and value, then market that content to the stakeholders. A good learning management system should have excellent marketing and branding tools even if all the training is conducted for free.
Rarely addressed areas are the “low tech” and “no tech” users. A web-based LMS does nothing for the individual that doesn’t have internet access. The needs of those users are just as important. A learning management system will not be successful if it doesn’t track traditional (classroom) or on-the-job (skills-based) learning.
…Won’t Replace Instructors
A learning management system delivers content; it has the advantage that it delivers the content at any time, consistently. In that respect, it does replace some of the instructor’s duties. A learning management system does not respond to student questions, moderate discussions, interact with students via social media, or return voice mail messages. A learning management system may grade an exam, but cannot assign grades to discussion board posts or research papers. Instructors are still needed to teach the previously mentioned “low tech” or “no tech” users. A learning management system can’t visit a work site or conduct a learning lab session to assess skill performance, although it should be able to capture data on these activities.
…Doesn’t Run Itself
Purchase of a learning managent system doesn’t replace the individuals with responsibility for training. Just like other tools, the learning management system requires maintenance and attention to detail. There will always be maintenance operations – updating class schedules, assisting students with their accounts, merging duplicate accounts, et cetera. A learning management system automates many functions and multiplies what your existing training staff can accomplish, but can’t be purchased, installed, and forgotten.
Understanding what an LMS will not do for you is an important step in evaluating whether a system is appropriate for your training center. Certainly, a well-configured and maintained learning management system can yield an excellent return on your investment and allow your staff to automate many daily functions.