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Written by Bob Little on 1 September 2014 in Features
Features

LCMSs and LMSs, when used together, form a powerful combination for a robust learning platform, Bob Little says

Over the years, the e-learning world has resounded to the oft-repeated mantra that ‘content is king’. Today, content is highly distributable. That’s just as well because, thanks to continuing changes in laws and procedures, technical product specifications and compliance regulations – especially in highly regulated industry sectors – there’s a huge demand for the rapid distribution of up-to-date content, via a number of delivery technologies, both within and between organisations.

Increasingly, these delivery technologies are enabling both social and personalised learning. Again, this is a boon to learning and development professionals because people now need fast and ubiquitous access to up-to-date material, on demand, for all sorts of reasons, not least L&D purposes. At the same time, their organisation needs to control the consistency and quality of all the material it circulates. This produces the need for a single-source, centralised content strategy. 

In recent years, corporate learning content-centric strategies have emerged to address various converging business pressures. Adopting a content-centric strategy is key for those organisations that rely heavily on content within their L&D processes. They’re likely to include organisations operating in highly-regulated sectors or that have global, multi-language, multi-cultural workforces and geographically dispersed operations.

Dynamic publishing is an approach which adapts learning content to the user’s device, platform and skills. It’s made possible through a learning content management system (LCMS) – which focuses on content and all the processes around it – co-operating with a delivery portal, such as a learning management system (LMS).

Different but complementary

While LCMSs and LMSs are different but similar, they can also be complementary. Together, they form a powerful combination for a robust learning platform. An ideal learning architecture should separate content production, storage and delivery sub-architectures from those dedicated to the management of learning processes. It should allow for interfacing modules and exchanging content packages in standard and shared formats.

Static – rather than dynamic – publishing is about producing and storing learning content source data in the LCMS and moving a copy of the final learning materials to the LMS for delivery to end users. End users never access the LCMS, and no LMS users need to be registered in the LCMS. However, there may be problems because duplicate copies of the same content items are located in two separate places – and the content publishers have no control over the content being delivered.

On the other hand, in a dynamic publishing framework, content is held in the LCMS repositories. Consequently, learners access the learning materials directly from the LCMS. So no duplication of learning materials occurs (in terms of course structure or content files). The LMS activates links to contents at run time, giving learners direct access to content. It also monitors learners’ usage of that content – to produce the management reports and return on investment analysis which are increasingly being demanded of today’s L&D professionals.

One of the advantages of dynamic publishing is that it separates the content from any delivery platform. So, under this arrangement, should you want to change to a new LMS platform, you already have the content separately.

Combining for gems

One company which is combining an LCMS with an LMS is the Copenhagen-based jeweller, PANDORA, whose products are sold in more than 80 countries on six continents through some 10,000 points of sale. The company employs more than 9,000 people worldwide of whom 6,800 are located in Gemopolis, Thailand, where the company manufactures its jewellery.

Per Ferdinandsen, PANDORA’s e-learning manager, explained: “PANDORA needs to make sure that its sales teams around the world sell the right products to the right people. We also need to ensure that the customers return to buy more PANDORA products. We’ve learned that e-learning, allied to other aspects of blended learning, is an effective method of providing our global salesforce with guidance on how to sell in-store most effectively. It’s also an effective method of distributing the up-to-date product knowledge that our employees – particularly the salespeople – need.”

PANDORA began using e-learning in 2011 and swiftly realised that its e-learning content needed to be available in many languages. Its existing e-learning platform wasn’t able to cope. Pandora chose the eXact LCMS, from eXact learning solutions as it supports content localisation, workflows addressing different languages and any accompanying cultural sensitivities. It produces an XLIFF (XML) document for translation; allows proof reading and checks the script for translation accuracy, and deals with quality assurance issues such as checking for text overruns. All content produced via this LCMS authoring tool is automatically produced to an XLIFF – which is the best known XML format international standard where translating files is concerned. The XLIFF file is sent for translation and the resulting XLIFF file is uploaded to the LCMS – producing identical content in two (or more) languages.

PANDORA, which uses the Cornerstone OnDemand LMS to track usage of its e-learning materials, would like to gain information beyond who has started and finished an e-learning course – and what assessment scores they obtained. So Ferdinandsen and his team are discussing ways in which their LCMS can contribute to providing this additional – and valuable – information. This is connected with an initiative, known as the Watershed Learning Record Store (LRS) which uses the Tin Can API to identify correlations between learning activities and the effects that they have on people’s job performance. By collecting and connecting these different user activities, companies can now correlate training initiatives to drive improved performance.

Public acknowledgement

Global companies espousing the value of a state-of-the-art LMS recently include Veeam® Software, Sealed Air Corporation and the 3D design, engineering, and entertainment software and services giant, Autodesk. All three companies have publicly acknowledged the value to their businesses of using the LMS produced by Docebo, the global e-learning solutions provider.

Having previously used a mix of self-hosted LMS solutions, supported by its own programmers, the global information technology and software company Veeam Software® experienced challenges with functionality, scalability and productivity. In particular, Veeam realised that it needed a more flexible application programming interface (API) that could be used from both PHP and .NET platforms. Anton Mamichev, Veeam’s senior manager of global education services, explained: “Veeam has moved all of its partner-targeted global content to the Docebo LMS and is in the process of internal course migration. This project brought the unexpected benefit that we were able to identify a number of outdated and unused courses in the old LMS – so this process will improve the internal education overall.”

Based in Baar, Switzerland – with regional offices in Paris; Columbus Ohio in the USA, and Sydney in Australia – and employing some 1,250 people around the world, Veeam chose their software-as-a-service (SaaS), cloud-based, e-learning platform because it beat competing LMSs in terms of functionality; extensibility; cost; documentation, and market share.

Tangible business benefits

According to Sealed Air, a US-based global company specialising in food safety and security, facility hygiene and product protection, their LMS provides both the option to customise the system to any specific needs and/or target audiences and, thus, achieve tangible business goals through e-learning.

“Our industry is defined by subject matter expertise and compliance in a global marketplace,” said Marc Robitzkat, Sealed Air’s global customer and application learning leader. “So it’s crucial for us to share the right know-how with our customers so that they can operate safely, increase their productivity and ensure operational sustainability. Our LMS has given us the opportunity to reach our global audiences and manage our resources centrally in a consistent manner, adding performance cloud technology to our blended learning approach.”

Producing and distributing a range of products and services, as well as providing its customers with key industry knowledge and expertise in the field of sustainability, safety and operational compliance, Sealed Air wanted to provide a learning solution for its customers that also allows its customers access to a state-of-the-art learning tool to help them use and customise their own learning materials.

Sealed Air needed an LMS which could cope with large numbers of users globally and allow a delegation approach – enabling its customers to give their employees access to the relevant learning materials, allow certain members of these companies administrator rights and prevent customers’ administrators being able to see both what other Sealed Air customers were learning and also how they were performing.

Used in isolation, an LCMS and LMS, especially state-of-the-art ones, can bring both learning and business benefits to the organisations that use them. However, to borrow a phrase that’s been much used in the political sphere in recent months, there are many people in the L&D world who believe these two potentially complementary technologies are even ‘better together’.

About the author

Bob Little is an author and communication specialist and can be contacted at bob.little@boblittlepr.com

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