Hooboy, do people like to complain about their LMS (Learning Management System). As evidenced by this conversation on #chat2lrn that I was a part of, L&D folk would like to wish away this beast of a software program. The thing is though, that no one ever really does get rid of their LMS. Why is that?
I believe that the root cause of this contradiction lies in two conflicting drivers: 1) It is important to the business to track training. 2) The way we track training now gets in the way of learning. Many people including myself have argued the first point so I’ll focus now on the second point. In the current process of using an LMS, in order to track training, you must control access to content. But we live in the Internet age now and we all know that content wants to be free. If we cannot resolve this disconnect, there is no hope for improving our relationship with our learning architecture.
The Flipped Classroom is a concept that breathed life into the disconnects of the education world. Perhaps the idea of a Flipped LMS can bring us to a solution. In the Flipped Classroom, instruction and experimentation (homework) were separated and switched, where the instruction was provided by video at home and the teacher supported the experimentation in the classroom. Imagine if we separated the content from the assessment. Put the assessment in the LMS where it can track whether someone learned, and let the content exist outside the LMS where it is always accessible for anyone. The assessment can have a landing page (most assessment tools can do this) that provides context for the information being assessed: why it’s important, how it is assessed, where to learn what you need to improve your score. Here would be the link to the content. There could be three assessments per program, all orchestrated by the LMS: A pre-test; the post-assesment and a follow-up assessment to reinforce the learning.
This way you are using the LMS for what it does best. By allowing multiple attempts and multiple sources of learning, you are letting the learner be more flexible and you are tracking improvement over time with less complexity.
But how do we know who accessed the content? This is the beauty of the idea. By splitting up access and assessment you also split up what you have to measure. For assessment, you must track individuals and so you need the LMS, but to track the reach of your content, you only need numbers of users and visits, not individuals. This can be done by any web analytics tool like Google Analytics.
Hopefully the clarity produced by this split in efforts will help L&D folk move on to more important conversations than how much they hate their LMS. That is, until they get the next bill from the LMS vendor.