What is a Learning Management System
An LMS is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, and reporting of training programs, classroom and online events, e-learning programs, and training content. A good LMS should help to
- centralise and automate administration
- provide self-guided services for learners
- deliver a variety of different kinds of learning materials rapidly
- consolidate training initiatives and allow them to be managed online
- support compliance with training standards and other legal or quality requirements
- personalise content and enable learning materials to be used for a variety of different purposes.
Clive Shepherd's article looks at the ways in which an LMS can support the full range of everyday functions of the training department - a metaphorical day in the life of a learning management system. You'll be able to see whether the support that is available at each hour of the day - or stage in the learning process - is important to you, or even necessary given the systems and processes that you already have in place.
A Business Case for LMS in small companies
Large companies can usually justify the business case for an LMS based on cost savings alone. By automating and centralising tedious manual processes, such companies can reap substantial rewards fairly quickly. Companies on average employ one training staff member for every 300 employees, and many of those engaged in routine training adminstration can be redeployed to more rewarding and profitable tasks.
Small companies without so many dedicated training staff may have instead to look at the intangible benefits of a good LMS, such as performance and productivity improvements, 24x7 access to training, better ability to produce auditable training records and to demonstrate compliance with with mandatory training requirements. An LMS also makes it easier to create and deliver e-learning - and an enhanced emphasis on training and skills updating should lead to increased revenue and market share, and better customer feedback.
An increasing number of LMS are now aimed at smaller companies, and many larger LMS vendors also supply lite or hosted versions of their systems. Companies without dedicated and competent IT staff in the training area might be better advised to seek a hosted solution in the first instance.
The best place to start is probably with Moodle, the most popular Open Source LMS around, used by thousands of universities and colleges around the world, and an increasing number of businesses too. The advantage of Open Source is that there is no charge for the software itself, which is continually being enhanced by a large user community. However, it is advisable to find a reliable support organisation to assist in implementation and maintenance of a Moodle based LMS - which may be hosted on your own server, or externally.
Social Networking and LMS
Traditionally, LMS would often include a communication module as an afterthought that might offer users a rudimentary text based conferencing system that was not really designed to engage or encourage them. Those who used it only did so under sufferance.
Today's learners are familar with multimedia enhanced social networking systems such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and expect something better. Fortunately, Moodle and an increasing number of other LMS are now able to offer some degree of integration with popular social networking systems so that users can communicate with each other using familar tools, while maintaining an appropriate balance between privacy, security and record keeping.
Examples include [list to follow]
Contact JME Associates for help in choosing an LMS, making better use of an existing LMS (including customised reporting), or advice on alternative strategies if implementing an LMS is not feasible for your company. For single eLearning courses, or small student cohorts, it is usually possible to report by email, or to simple data tables (spreadsheets) on a local server.