Managed learning offers an important lesson for L&D: don’t replace your LMS, add a new user interface, says Joanne Casson of Hemsley Fraser.
Learning Management Systems get implemented with great fanfare – and at significant expense – to help improve the way organisations train their staff. So why do so many employees around the world struggle to find learning content that meets their needs?
The principal role of an LMS is to make your learning easily available to your employees. But sometimes the functionality of these systems is so complex or the catalogue so cluttered – that it puts learners off. If your LMS is too complicated, people won’t use it.
Another issue is the content that’s actually available. Your LMS will invariably fail if your learning content is not targeted, engaging and memorable. As well as face-to-face programmes, your content should include articles, blogposts, virtual courses, audio and video files.
These could include: TED Talks and YouTube videos and other self-directed learning resources that will support a 70:20:10 approach to learning. Part of the problem here, with an LMS, is that L&D teams get bogged down in reporting, data tracking, integration, security and dealing with technical issues, which makes it difficult for them to keep the system uploaded and fully up-to-date with engaging learning content.
This combination of cumbersome LMS functionality and too much, too little or unappealing content makes it challenging for learners to find the right resources for their needs.
All this matters because if employees cannot find the learning they are looking for on your LMS, they will be tempted to ‘go around’ your system and to find and book their own learning course elsewhere.
This is not only a frustrating hassle for them, it’s also very expensive for your organisation because you will lose the benefit of any discounts you may have negotiated with your preferred suppliers and you will lose any value from bringing people from across the business together for training.
Put simply, if employees do not use your LMS, then the investment you have made in the system and the time and effort you’ve put into finding and uploading content has all been in vain.
A lesson from managed learning
Fortunately, there is a way out of this that does not involve scrapping your LMS and starting again. It’s a lesson that comes from ‘managed learning’, in which a specialist provider manages learning on behalf of a client organisation. The idea is simply to showcase your learning assets in an engaging way that encourages people to use them.
Essentially, an LMS is a system that does the ‘heavy lifting’ in the background. What is needed is a more engaging interface into your learning content. Some managed learning companies offer this by providing a fully-branded ‘digital learning hub.’ They can also supply hundreds of digital learning assets as well as curate yours, so that you have only the best quality assets available to your learners.
A digital learning hub is simply a ‘shop window’ that attracts people in. It is an easy and intuitive interface that offers an enhanced learner experience by making the learning content easier to find, access and use. It also encourages self-directed learning and ensures ‘just-in-time’ solutions are at learners’ fingertips whenever they need them.
There is no reason why you cannot learn from this model and replicate the same experience in your organisation.
Typically a digital learning is hosted in the cloud and as assets are added/updated and enhanced, learners have access to the most up-to-date materials.
Importantly, you do not have to replace your LMS. A digital learning hub complements your LMS – it sits on top of it and it creates a ‘learning search experience’ which is very different to that of a typical LMS.
In fact it is very similar to consumer interfaces that we are all familiar with, such as Netflix, Amazon or BBC iPlayer. These portals offer consumers a rich visual interface and an easy and engaging way to search for, find and access content on-demand.
Digital learning hubs do the same thing. They enable learners to search for content by topic (such as resilience) or ‘type’ (for example a video, digital book, article or a face-to-face course).
If you want to download a digital book (that you can ‘consume’ where and when you want), watch a video or read an article, you can. If you see a course you want to attend, you can click into it, see the dates and details and if you want to book, the hub’s functionality will take you seamlessly into the LMS.
The key advantage of a digital learning hub is that your content, from within your LMS and from the web – becomes more accessible for everyone. In fact it can be immediately available anytime via any device. Plus, holding all of your learning assets in one place means that employees can avoid time-wasting web searches.
You can also collate and curate your learning assets and give people more autonomy in how they select learning to meet their needs. For example, if someone is about to undertake a performance review or have a difficult conversation, they won’t want to book a two-day course, they will just want some quick, just-in-time refresher tips.
So they might look for a digital book or a PDF covering the points they need. If they can get the specific help they need, they’re likely to have a successful review or conversation as a result. That not only benefits the business, it also helps that person to feel more engaged. Consequently, they’re more likely to speak favourably, rather than negatively, to others about the available learning assets.
As well as the standard analytics you get from your LMS, a digital learning hub can provide additional data to help you better understand when your content is accessed, by whom, which assets are the most popular and which devices learners prefer to use.
In managed learning, digital learning hubs have proved very successful because they are not a static tool. Instead, they offer an ongoing, live environment, where fresh learning content is added every week.
Learners find this approach very engaging because they can more easily find learning that meets their need and suits their learning style, when and where they want it.
Also because the hubs are easily configurable and they integrate with multiple systems, clients can create different interfaces for different departments, functions or groups in their organisation, to make it even easier for people to find specific learning content.
So consider the option of supplementing your LMS with a digital learning hub. When you put high quality learning content all in one place and make it easy to find, easy to access and easy to use – you’ll significantly enhance the employee learning experience, promote 70:20:10 and ensure your organisation benefits from every penny invested in L&D.
About the author
Joanne Casson is a managed learning services expert at learning and development specialist Hemsley Fraser.