Back in the day, Learning Management Systems (LMS) were implemented to streamline the ability to report on learning, particularly for compliance and regulatory content. And as a tool, the LMS does precisely as its name suggests: manages learning. This means tracking course completions, test scores, and attendance, to name a few and, in fairness, it did save L&D professionals countless hours and headaches dealing with spreadsheets and sign-in sheets. But its success in managing learning is also its downfall. It is a tool built for administrators, instead of actual learners and with clunky interfaces and subpar search capabilities, it is a tolerated, but often despised, relic technology.
The simple solution, it would seem, would be to turn off the LMS and start over. Unfortunately, this is often not a viable solution for most organisations, particularly large or within highly regulated industries. The LMS is likely to be wired deep within other HR and talent management tools which are near impossible to untangle. For smaller, perhaps more agile, companies, it may be easier to take the leap off an LMS, but there can be cost implications.
What is a forward-thinking company to do when they need to build an engaged learning culture to stay competitive?
Consider the following example: a few decades ago, the banking experience was very different. To conduct a transaction, you needed to know your account number and your signature had to be validated. The cashier managed the exchange via a calculator and general ledgers. This, as an experience, is akin to most LMS user experiences today. There is often no single sign-on, so passwords are required. For some systems, it can take a dozen clicks to reach a piece of desired content. Without a course number, a search will only scan course titles, instead of content, and often returns them in alphabetical format, rather than relevance. Likewise, to ensure a course tracks as complete, one must click exit rather than close, lest all progress be lost.
Fast forward and consider the state of banking in 2018: financial transactions are done with the click of a mouse and validated with a fingerprint scan. The language and terminology used now makes sense, e.g. “Pay Bills” as opposed to “Debit.” Now, the principles of banking have not changed; instead, there is a front end which makes the experience simple. This is akin to what a Next Gen Learning Platform (NGLP) can do for the learning experience: remove the administrative barriers to content, predict and promote learning requirements, facilitate collaboration and engagement, and basically, be easy and enticing to use.
The barriers to creating a similar user-centric tool for learners are cost, resources, and time. If an LMS has all the necessary functionality to deliver digital content, why purchase an additional tool which will take an effort to implement? It is a tough sell for any L&D department to present to stakeholders, especially when budgets are shrinking. The reality is, not investing in a NGLP could be costing your company more than the LMS. Here are some reasons why:
Content Thrown in the Digital Dustbin
Companies invest copious amounts in developing bespoke eLearning courses or purchasing large content libraries. Whilst well-intentioned, once these assets are uploaded to an LMS, they are essentially caged on the platform. First, the lack of robust search capabilities means content is difficult to find and secondly, it is not possible to bookmark a piece of content, or even a specific page in a SCORM module. This means a user must remember the navigation path to a piece of learning to locate it again. No matter how enticing the content, these barriers prevent it from being readily accessible at the time of need, or even interest. This means costly L&D investments in content have a significantly short shelf-life and efforts are wasted on learning assets that are not seen or used. Basically, it is money thrown in the garbage.
User Experience Matters
Amazon’s success is primarily driven by the user experience across their website and mobile apps. The interaction is both a pull and a push and instead of relying on a passive inventory search, consumers are presented with continually updated feeds of recommended products based on previous purchases and search histories. Amazon algorithms adapt and configure to the unique needs of the individual. Contrast this with the typical LMS which offers a course catalogue, but beyond that, very little personalisation based on user behaviour. Of course, a manager or administrator can assign content, but this is still a static, one-way, relationship.
NGLPs, like Amazon and other retailers, are focused on engagement, rather than management. With dynamic and personalised curated content feeds, users are provided with learning assets that truly match their immediate requirements, as well as predict to solve for future knowledge gaps. This increased speed to match a user to relevant content creates a higher performing individual (watch a video on how learning experiences are transforming learning here)
Engagement Does Equal Performance
Engagement is not a buzzword. Adult learners learn by placing new knowledge against previous experiences. This is a vast oversimplification of a lot of complex pedagogical theory, but in general, the more this can be incorporated into a learning experience, the better the retention and application of a new skill. On a traditional LMS, the interaction is flat; a course is opened, click next to continue, pass a quiz, then close. The primary goal is the completion, with a loose assumption this will lead to retention.
A NGLP creates a robust engagement loop for users. In addition to curated feeds and trending content, there is the ability to discuss learning, share articles and videos, upload user-generated content, and more. The sobering fact is, your audiences are already going to Google long before they consider the LMS as a source of knowledge. The NGLP can help to stop this gap by offering an enticing user experience, alongside tools and capabilities, to deepen the learning experience.
Since Vodafone implemented Fuse in 2015, consumption has reached record levels of 10,000 content views per day across a learning population of 4,000 employees, with 50% of those employees choosing to do their learning outside of work hours and 90% on their own devices. These statistics correlate to a steady increase in the Vodafone Customer Net Promoter Score (watch the full Vodafone case study here).
Preventing Corporate Amnesia
It is highly unusual for an employee to stay in one company, let alone one industry, over the course of their career. This means the need to upskill new and contract workers is at a critical point (yet another argument for a NGLP). The flipside to this climate can be referred to as Corporate Amnesia – when trained employees vacate positions at a rapid pace, leaving gaps which can be as basic as undocumented project history (i.e. “anyone remember why we chose this software? Anyone?”) to no tacit knowledge transfer. These leave companies vulnerable, negatively impact the ability to scale and cost time and resources.
It is not enough to just track what people are learning. We already know most of learning is not even happening on your LMS. A NGLP can capture the minute-by-minute knowledge sharing, akin to the water cooler conversations, simply in digital format. This ensures that the wisdom of the team is not lost when a project squad is dispersed to new project work.
Because the LMS was designed in an era to capture completions and test scores, the data collected is generally quite binary; pass or fail, complete or incomplete. Whilst these metrics appease regulators, engagement scores are far more important to building a learning culture. NGLPs are inherently designed for engagement. Measure everything from the type of content consumed, where, how, and by whom. The Weekly Engaged Users (WEU) metric tracks the percentage of learners who complete and action on the platform at least once a week. It is no coincidence companies who are seeing high WEUs are also experiencing revenue and performance upticks (explore our client case study here). Likewise, this type of data gives you insights into how to increase engagement (watch a video on Digital Body Language in Design here).
One would be very hard-pressed to find a user who will put their hand up to express their love for their LMS. Whilst many providers are trying to address the deficiencies with better search engines or improved algorithms, it is simply not enough. Users are expecting the same consumer-grade digital experience they encounter when they visit their favorite website or app. This is what keeps attention, engagement, and ultimately results.If you are still not convinced on a NGLP, take the following challenge: pull a completion report from your LMS for the past quarter. Eliminate all mandatory courses, as these are not self-selected by the audience. What percentage of your audience has voluntarily engaged in your content? You just might be surprised.
About the author – Lori Niles-Hofmann:
Senior Learning Strategist:Positive Disruptor
With my strategic leadership and deep technical knowledge, Lori elevate’s solutions from average, to ingenious. She doesn’t settle for page-turner learning. She design strategies that combine the formal and informal, social and collaborative, that impact and transform people and organisations.
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Meet Lori at Learning Live on the 05th and 06th September.