Learning management systems (LMS) are evolving. It’s time to rethink how they can work for you.
Your LMS is how your learners interact with your learning. It’s the best chance you have to get them interested, measure their progress and engage with them in their personal development.
Let’s look at some of the ways you can shift your perspective on your LMS and see how it can benefit your employees.
Spend time on your LMS
On average it takes over 6 months for a company to choose and deploy an LMS. This setup period is just the start of administering the platform.
Don’t panic though, once you know what you need, a modern cloud-based LMS can be set up quickly and easily.
Administering a modern LMS is as easy as using any other web application, like Evernote or Google Docs. Taking the time to learn the features allows you to build a more useful platform for your learners.
It won’t be effective if you take it for granted, but you’ll get great results if you invest time and effort into learning how it works.
The more you put into the LMS the more your learners will get out. Many of your everyday tasks can be automated or made much easier by the LMS, leaving you more time to focus on your learners.
Automate the right things
There are some tasks that are best handled by the system. Automate what you can, but don’t forget the human touch.
Crunching numbers for reports is something that can be set up and forgotten. Once your reports are generated, it’s important to relate them back to individual learners and courses.
Check in personally with learners who are highlighted as performing above or below expectations. This follow-up can be part of the normal review process of a company.
Reminders for refresher courses can be sent out automatically at intervals depending on when a learner has completed a course. Useful for keeping employees up to date on compliance training.
Giving learners access to different courses based on completion of others is possible in most LMSs but you should consider opening up what you have for all employees.
Popular language learning application DuoLingo does this well by allowing you to take a test to open sections of courses that would normally have to be completed linearly.
Once the courses are open you can revisit them anytime and review your knowledge, perfect for ‘just in time learning’ and taking advantage of spaced practice.
By allowing automatic access to advanced courses some retailers have been able to help identify talented employees who seek out the extra knowledge outside their current role.
Give your learners what they’re used to
User experience (UX) will have a big impact on how your LMS is used. Before you commit to an LMS you should make sure it’s suitable for your audience or can be customised appropriately for your needs.
One of Jakob Nielsen’s 10 principles for user interface design is consistency. Make your LMS work in a familiar way to your learners by following conventions set by the websites they use most.
Alexa is a ranking website that tracks traffic to any popular website. They publish a list of the most visited websites on the web. This is a good place to start to see how your learners use the sites they visit most.
Of the top 5 visited websites in the world (in 2016), two are search engines and three are social platforms or portals.
Why do people visit these sites so much? To find the information they need and to see what’s new in their circle of contacts.
It’s no surprise that LMSs are evolving into a combination of these types of websites. People need to be able to find training that’s relevant to them when they need it.
Think of your LMS as a window to a shop that contains all the content that a learner could need to do their job better. Picking out the items that will bring your employees in through the door is a very important part of the process.
Your elearning courses are a part of that content, but they’re not necessarily the main part. Study the front pages of popular websites and you’ll find prominent search boxes, the latest highlights and personalised content.
Introduce these elements to your LMS to make sure your learners see what they expect from a useful online platform. No one wants to have to learn how a system works to get the most out of it, so make it easier for everyone by making it work in a familiar way.
Host more than digital learning
A modern LMS should be a hub for your learners - the first places they look for information on improving their skills and knowledge.
There’s one thing all huge websites have in common – they don’t leave the most important curation choices down to a machine.
Even with the advances in artificial intelligence and algorithm-based tools like chatbots, there’s a need for manual updates by a skilled person.
Take a cue from Facebook’s trending news team. They work to make sure the most relevant stories are pushed to the most visible part of the site.
Make sure there’s fresh content for your learners to see when they log in to the LMS. Think about how a marketing approach could help, getting eyeballs onto the page is one of the biggest tasks you have.
Research from Towards Maturity shows that employees use sites like YouTube to find training materials.
Why not integrate YouTube links into the LMS?
Ask for suggestions or submissions from other learners who have taken the training or have relevant experience. They could even create their own video content and upload it to your LMS.
Your LMS is competing with all these sites and more to get your learners’ attention. The more useful you can make it, the more likely they are to return to it again and again when they want to develop their skills.
We know that learners value advice and help from colleagues above any other form of on the job training. You can help to make that happen by integrating social elements into your LMS.
One of the popular ways to encourage learning from colleagues is based on the theory of communities of practice. Etienne Wenger describes communities of practice as “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”
And the perfect place for a community to grow is within your LMS. One of the easiest ways to get learners talking about your courses is to integrate existing platforms that they’re using.
Your LMS can be the place this community is based. Create a forum within the LMS itself or integrate an existing communication platform like Slack or Yammer and you have a ready-made community.
Pull in the latest posts from the forum or relevant chat groups to the front page of your LMS to bring attention to how people are using these services.
Karen O’Leonard spells it out in The changing social learning landscape – Why you need a social LMS by Bersin:
“By implementing a social LMS, social learning can be carried out right alongside core learning strategies.”
Your LMS should be the delivery tool for all your digital training. Spend time making sure there’s a clear route to the learning content that employees need.
A great LMS requires time and effort to get right. Every day more content appears that is useful to your learners, so make sure you’re providing them access to the best content you can.