Why an LMS Is an Integral Part of Your Organization's Future
Is your organization doing just fine - flourishing, in fact - without a Learning Management System (LMS)? Many organizations are. But what if you could be doing even better? If you've got (or ought to have) a training program, you need an LMS. This article will review eight of the ways an LMS can enhance organizational training and help you achieve your goals.
What Does an LMS Do?
If you don't have one yet, you might be wondering just what an LMS does. A Learning Management System is a software application that supports learning in an organization. It's used to:
- Manage curriculum, including webinars, online courses, in-person workshops, downloaded or physical materials
- Deliver eLearning
- Deliver and manage evaluations
- Track and report on the progress and performance of learners and use of curriculum
You've probably noticed that there's nothing in this list that can't be accomplished without an LMS. So what makes an LMS so essential to your training program? The automation, standardization and exceptional performance offered by the right LMS will help you meet your training goals more quickly, more efficiently and at a lower cost.
The LMS: An Effective Solution to Your Training Trials
The LMS is key to a well-managed training program. Without one, you may find yourself with:
- Ineffective training courses
- Low participation
- Lack of consistency in training
- Unnecessarily high costs for preparing and delivering training
- Difficulty updating courses
- Spending excessive time and effort administering your program
- Lack of metrics and accountability
Let's take a look at what an LMS can do to resolve these issues.
1. Deliver eLearning
A core feature of the LMS is eLearning delivery. eLearning offers several benefits and substantial cost savings over traditional training. While it isn't right for every training scenario - certain physical tasks should be practiced in person, for example - most or all of the training curriculum in most organizations can be converted to eLearning.
What are the benefits of eLearning? Consider the differences you will see versus traditional learning when you look at:
- Travel: With instructor-led training, either the instructor or the trainees often have to travel to the training site. Costs for travel, accommodation and food are eliminated when training occurs online.
- Infrastructure: eLearning eliminates the need for classroom facility rental and the purchase of classroom supplies.
- Training time: Traditional training requires time away from work, while eLearning is often completed in short spells during travel or other downtime, especially if you're using mobile learning. Additionally, eLearning is self-paced, so advanced and faster learners spend less time completing the learning.
- Disruption: When training is completed during downtime without time away from regular tasks, there's no need to leave tasks undone or hire extra employees for cover. Rescheduling regular activities during training times is another cost that can be avoided.
- Reduction in missed learning opportunities: eLearning tends to be easier to implement - no classrooms to book, or days off to schedule - and to complete, and organizations can take advantage of this to increase learning opportunities.
As an eLearning delivery tool, the LMS will help you maximize the cost and time savings potential of eLearning.
2. Help Your Organization Keep up with the Latest Training Developments
Are you familiar with the latest eLearning trends? Ready to jump on board with the developments that fit your training program? The right LMS will make it easy to keep up with the changes that suit you. Many LMSs are constantly updating. LMS providers identify the developments with good potential and add those features to the LMS.
New features can be a great way to engage your trainees. An up-to-date LMS should be able to offer:
- Microlearning - With microlearning, learning is broken down into bite-sized segments covering one or two learning objectives. Trainees can work through a microlearning segment whenever they have a spare moment, or they can easily find necessary information while they're on-the-job.
- Gamification and game-based learning - Gamification means adding game elements like leaderboards, points and awards to standard learning programs. Game-based learning is learning through actual game play.
- Open Badges - Open Badges are a common component of gamification. They're a recognition of learner accomplishments that can be displayed within the LMS and on other social networking platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook.
- Social learning - Even with a well-developed training program, much of what people learn and remember comes from other people: a conversation with co-workers or a discussion of a work problem with friends outside of work, a suggestion or reprimand from a supervisor, asking a colleague the best way to accomplish something. An LMS should provide a way to facilitate, track and even influence these exchanges.
Keeping up with training developments not only helps you provide the most effective training possible, it engages trainees and encourages active participation in training.
3. Streamline Learning
We've already mentioned how eLearning can improve training efficiency by allowing learners to progress at their own pace, but the full administrative power of an LMS can do even more to streamline the process.
With an LMS, you can break down training material into single skills and topics, and then assign each learner to an individualized pathway so they only get the material that's strictly relevant to them. With traditional learning, and even some eLearning delivery methods, there's a tendency to develop only larger courses. Seminars and workshops usually last at least half a day. Then, of course, you need to send everyone who needs to learn at least part of that course even if they don't need the full three hours of material.
Breaking an instructor-led course into 5 or 15 minute segments would create its own inefficiencies. But, with an LMS, you can not only make your segments as long or as short as you like, you can assign each learner or group of learners to only the parts they need to know.
And with an LMS that allows adaptive or personalized learning, you can make training even more efficient by enabling learners to skip the segments they already know. This isn't the same as challenging an exam or testing out of a course. With those, a learner who has some knowledge of the area completes the final test. If they pass, they skip the training. If they fail, no matter how close they came, they take the same course as everyone else.
With adaptive learning, trainees also start with a final test, but instead of passing or failing the whole thing, they can be presented with only those training segments they need to learn more about. If they've already mastered certain topics, there's no need to review that material again.
4. Facilitate Training Standardization
Although individualization can be great, it's not the right choice for every situation. Some aspects of a training program need the opposite: standardization. An LMS can facilitate the standardization of both the learning material delivered to trainees and the processes involved in training.
With eLearning, you can be sure that every trainee receives the same training. No one suffers from a problematic instructor; no classes miss key topics because they got sidelined and ran out of time; every trainee, even those in remote locations, receives the same opportunities.
But not all training does or should occur online. LMS support for blended learning, learning with both online and offline components, will help you standardize the whole training process. An LMS can track skills demonstrations, meetings, practical assessment requirements and results, workshops, external training and any other element that is part of your training program. You can ensure consistency, guaranteeing that the same elements and the same processes are used at all locations for all employees.
5. Automate Tracking and Record-Keeping
You can always do your tracking and record-keeping manually, but do you really want to? An LMS will be happy to:
- Track trainee progress
- Assign compliance training and record results
- Provide reminders for required training - both newly-assigned training and any training that expires
- Generate certificates and any other required documentation
- Generate reports that help you track the performance of both your trainees and your learning programs
- Record and manage registrations and results of workshops, seminars and other offline training elements
A good LMS will make record-keeping even easier by integrating with your:
- Talent management system
- Workforce management system (e.g. Human Resource Information System (HRIS))
- Compliance platform
- Almost any other system you need to integrate
6. Improve your Training Programs and Assessments
An LMS not only helps with the tracking and reporting you need to do, it provides the opportunity to do more. For example, are learners dropping out of a particular course? An LMS can tell you where they might have slowed down and where they stopped. If you find a pattern, you've likely found where your training material needs improvement.
Tracking will also help to identify problems with assessments. If trainees are struggling with a certain assessment or a specific topic in an assessment, you'll know where to look for materials that aren't preparing trainees properly or for problems in the assessment itself.
Do you want good metrics and accountability in your training program? Then you need an LMS.
An LMS is an excellent way to deliver eLearning but, more than that, it provides a foundation for standardizing and improving your training systems. It offers solutions to both the problems you know you have and the ones you haven't identified yet. With an LMS's efficient delivery and management of eLearning and offline training, automated tracking and record-keeping and diverse reporting abilities, it can help you provide a better training program while lowering your costs.
Now you know why you need an LMS, the next step is to bring the rest of your organization onboard. You can start by calculating your LMS ROI so you can build a business case for your investment. When you look at your ROI, remember that the question isn't so much "can you afford an LMS?" as "can you afford not to have one?"
Jill is an Instructional Designer at BaseCorp Learning Systems with more than 10 years of experience researching, writing and designing effective learning materials. She is fascinated by the English language and enjoys the challenge of adapting her work for different audiences. After work, Jill continues to leverage her professional experience as she works toward the development of a training program for her cats. So far, success has not been apparent.