To LMS, or not to LMS. That is (or, is not) the Question

I get asked, occasionally, about how to plan for technology selection to support learning: LMS, authoring apps, etc. Much to my surprise I didn’t have a post immediately handy, so it seemed timely to do so in response to a recent Twitter query.

As nice as it would be to have a turn-key response, it’s not quite as easy as all that. Any major technology selection is one that will be made based on the specific needs of your organization. What frequently gets forgotten is the strategic look-ahead to where you want to be in 2-3-5 years’ time. So
A technology selection made today might not help you in a couple of years. In short. Try to solve tomorow’s problems, not just today’s.

The LMS question is a tough one, because the leading lights of our little Twitterverse suggest that the LMS is essentially dead and there are other mechanisms to use to support learning on a more consistent basis. However, there are those who feel a LMS is a good pillar for your corporate learning infrastructure, so you need to ask some questions about e-learning as a whole.

First and foremost, what business problem(s) are you trying to solve through learning? Are these problems identified as issues in a corporate strategy? Are your solutions, therefore, going to contribute to the organization’s goals? If you cannot answer those questions, then the timing might not be right for you.

If you do have answers to those questions, then you can look at some of the kinds of data you want to track through your system (whatever it is) and also whether or not the data ownership is tied to HR for performance tracking. You also need to know what kinds of loads will be on the system (e.g. Concurrent users and types of content). Also consider whether it not you want a complex system that can do content management or something that provides simple hosting and reporting.

My best framework for selection of any learning technology is from the work of Dr. Tony Bates at UBC. He developed a framework known as SECTIONS and you can probably Google up some examples of how it can be applied. I’ve used it quite successfully when assessing any technologies.

The other question is, of course, budget. If you have no baseline for usage, it would be inadviseable to spend a lot of coin when you’ve never tried this stuff before. You should also have an existing library of assets to host on the system. Otherwise you’ll have a lovely armoire with nothing I hang inside it. Consider hosted solutions with support options, but again, be wary of cost when you’re really only in the proof of concept phase. Also consider Open Source solutions if you don’t want a big capital outlay.

So, no easy answers, but hopefully these are question you can consider in your planning. Again, I encourage you to explore the SECTIONS framework and use it as a basis for your selections.

Whatever you choose, be it LMS or other internal learning solution, planning and business alignment are the cornerstones you can’t afford to short-circuit.

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Posted on February 9, 2012, in commentary, opinion, Technology. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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