Workplace learning is evolving quickly. Ten years ago, a cutting-edge L&D department looking to train its people would buy or develop a learning management system (LMS), author some first-class SCORM content, and watch the feedback metrics limp in. This was life in the mid-2000s. Fo shizzle!
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Unfortunately, this approach wasn’t “hella effective” for very long. For one thing, people still didn’t enjoy the training experience. It wasn’t very customized, didn’t meet learners where they were, and was even drier than the PowerPoint presentations it replaced. The LMS was better at letting admins check items off a to-do list than at engaging learners. In a changing tech environment, the tides that drove so many other digital tools forward left learning software behind.
Today, L&D is narrowing that technological gap. Learning solutions are becoming more holistic and engaging, and they’re eclipsing the old-fashioned LMS in business impact. Here are the five biggest developments pushing learning technology forward, and away from the LMS as we know it:
1. Faster production cycles
Technology’s evolution itself has sped up, introducing the need for continuous learning. That requires training content that updates instantly and a learning experience people engage in habitually, not just when it’s assigned. LMSes weren’t designed to operate on that schedule. They’re fine for delivering specific lessons at a specific frequency, but they have trouble when the required frequency compounds to “all the time.” Engineering learner engagement is a crucial requirement of next-generation learning solutions.
2. Mobile consumerization
The first LMSes were developed at a time when the White House’s website looked like this. Unfortunately, some of them never grew up. That old UX is a problem for modern learners. Technology these days has to tango inside an ecosystem of silky, on-demand software that is as good on mobile devices as desktops. In order to effectively engage users, learning technology has to be sexy and mobile, like the apps we use every day.
3. Search power
No digital user in the last two decades has wanted for information. Every time you open an Internet browser, you have the human race’s collected knowledge at your fingertips. Modern learners don’t need better access to content. They need access to the right content, at the right time, in a way that maximizes their productivity. LMSes have traditionally done a poor job of making a curated library of content available at the point of need. Robust L&D technology does.
With so much technology competing for users’ attention, the apps that get used the most are the ones with which people feel they have the closest personal connection. Modern learning technology has to show us something about ourselves. It has to inform us where we’ve come from, what we’re good at, who we are, and where we can go. An LMS is good for none of that. You might get a benchmark metric spit out at you, but you’ll miss out on the deeper learning insights that lay the groundwork for true personal development. A 21st century learning solution, for example, will help learners understand their existing strengths so they don’t have to repeat material they already know. Learning technology has to be reflective and intimate in order to engage people.
5. Social media
There’s a lot of talk about how social media is going to impact L&D. (Few answers, but definitely a lot of talk.) No one’s positive how peer-to-peer learning will eventually work best, but one thing is certain: it is jarring for digital natives to go from a radically open arena of Likes and upvotes to an LMS that keeps them in solitary confinement.
If you’re trying to bring social media into your L&D program, a good place to start is to think of all of those shares and favorites as feedback loops. The typical LMS has primitive feedback mechanisms; it tells learners if they completed a course or not and gives them a “grade” that has little to do with learning. What it doesn’t do is let the user share what worked and what didn’t. It doesn’t let them tell their managers and admins what they’d prefer to learn. A next-generation learning solution doesn’t need to be the L&D version of Facebook in order to introduce these enriching feedback loops. It just needs to build the learning experience around better feedback loops.
Beyond the LMS
Learning management systems are so two-thousand-and-late. It’s time to move past them. You wouldn’t use Windows 95 to run your business, and you wouldn’t expect remote employees to make do with flip phones. Learning is too important to an organization and its people to remain on old technology. Look for a better option—one that makes use of modern tech realities, not one that resists them.
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