October 24, 2009
learning 2.0

The Standalone LMS is Dead

This past week, I attended the SharePoint 2009conference in Las Vegas. I’ll provide some feedback on that particular release in another blog posting (read Bill Simser for now) but what the conference itself got me thinking about was that, thankfully, the standalone LMS is definitely going to become redundant. Dinosaur. Soviet Union. Saturn Car. Hierarchy. (you get the picture)

Those organizations (and frankly public learning institutions) that are clinging to their standalone learning management systems as a way in which to serve up formal ILT course schedules and eLearning are absolutely missing the big picture. Sadly, there are too many organizations like this out there.

The LMS should no longer be thought of as a destination for the learner. This is the nuclear fault of the LMS itself and of antiquated thinking from our learning leaders; it encourages standalone learning by driving people to register for an event … be it an ILT class or an eLearning module.

Sure, clever instructors, faculty and learning administration management/leadership teams may find unique, albeit independent, ways in which to embed some form of informal and/or social learning before as well as after the event, but this is merely triage as opposed to a lobotomy.

When you hear people say ‘we need Facebook for the organization’ … I don’t think that’s exactly what they mean. Jon Husband does a good job of illustrating this over here.

Facebook for the organization implies three things:

  • A development platform that serves up formal, informal and social content & connection for all
  • A single ‘window into the org’ versus many separate applications and systems (I wrote about this here)
  • Learning happens naturally, by osmosis, and without care for how it happens

The LMS insinuates the notion that you ‘go to training’. This is asinine in today’s world.

If you want to change the culture (as Will Kelly describes here) it’s surely not just about the technology. But … to change the culture, you also need to drive an organization to believe that training does not only happen in an event (ILT and eLearning) and thus, by keeping the standalone LMS alive and kicking, you exacerbate the issue.

Employees need to constantly connect, they need to constantly share, and they need to learn from one another. This cannot happen solely in an ILT class and it surely does not happen in an eLearning module.

Set up your ‘Facebook for the organization’ by embedding an LMS (or LMS like features) into your enterprise-wide collaboration platform. Coaches, mentors, online buddies need to coexist within the wiki’s, blogs, discussion forums, webcam meetings, online presence, etc. which needs to coexist within the list of formal classroom and eLearning offerings which needs to coexist with your documents, knowledge management, videos, podcasts, which needs to coexist with the profiles, skills, and recent activity-feed happenings of all employees.

Blow up your LMS. Find a way to integrate it into your collaboration platform.

This is where the future is taking us.


19 Replies to “The Standalone LMS is Dead”

  1. Dan – fantastic post. I agree with most all of what you are saying. There does need to be tracking for many organizations which is not what’s provided by SharePoint or similar systems. But that can be done behind the scenes as opposed to how it’s accessed. Of course, that’s not there today.

    I’m curious if you are seeing anything in particular in SharePoint 2010 that sparked part of this?

  2. At the risk of sounding like a shill, this is exactly why we built the SCORM Cloud stuff we did. For some, a destination LMS is the way to go. But for others, it’s dead wrong.

    In my book, though, there’s still a place for a standard like SCORM. SCORM content libraries still include piles of useful material. We built the SCORM Cloud so that that material could be easily accessed and tracked in whatever system is at the learners’ fingertips.

  3. Hey Tony – thanks for stopping by.

    Related to the ‘tracking’ comment … my argument is that any analytics engine (Google Analytics, Piwik, Lyris, even some BI companies like Business Objects, Cognos, etc.) should be able to accomodate when embedded into any collaboration platform – SharePoint or otherwise.

    That stated, in the SP2010 platform, there is now a built-in web analytics tool, so I think the issue has been solved. Check out a short blog post here – http://blog.webworldtechnologies.com/?p=34

  4. Hi Tim – thanks for your comment.

    True – if you are clinging to the LMS, then SCORM Cloud (and the theory) does make sense.

    I do have a premonition though, and that is the formal eLearning course is going to become extinct and that short bursts of knowledge (learning nuggets) will be the standard when delivered over the web. This is because users will want a short blast, then discussion, then opinion, then application, then evaluation, then another short blast, repeat the process.

    Sitting through anything longer than 30 minutes of one-way content will no longer cut it. But, there’s probably still a market for SCORM Cloud and the LMS because not everyone thinks like me yet. 😉

  5. Dan, thanks for ideas you posted. In my large university, there is a huge need for “formal” training (typically mandated by the government through funding regulations) in such areas as biosafety training, animal handling, IT security, etc. These cases need a formal system that tracks how a person met certain learning standards (tests). I think the current LMS is perfect for these cases. Certainly ongoing informal learning will take place after the exam or certification process, and that could be done through collaborative tools. However, the process by which we measure and report staff training and compliance seems to need a more formal technology like the LMS.

    How would you address this need in a collaborative platform?

  6. Hey there Jeff, thanks for the comment and question.

    Here’s my take on things for you – grain of salt feedback.

    I’m not suggesting that the LMS is dead, rather, the stand-alone LMS is a relic. Whether you’re in a private or public organization (and I’ve worked in both scenarios) we need to start first with a ‘collaboration’ system rather than a ‘learning’ system, and build out from there.

    I truly believe the LMS needs to become part of the collaboration system, because our societal norm is that ‘you go to training’.

    The stand-alone LMS does nothing to help with erasing this falsehood, thus, if we were to federate the LMS into the collaboration system, you would have both in the same place, and formal, informal and social learning could reside in the same ‘end-user’ system/application.

    The reporting (and thus BI) would be built into the collaboration system because it will have the capability to report on formal aspects (like registrations, scores, etc.), informal aspects (like video/webinar uploads, coaching/mentoring instances, etc.) and social aspects (like colleague network numbers, comments, posts, etc.)

  7. I love this: “The LMS insinuates the notion that you ‘go to training’. This is asinine in today’s world.” So how do move away from that if you need the LMS to prove the learning organization’s ROI?

  8. Hey there Gina – thanks for the comment and question.

    I believe we need to move from ROI to ROP … return on performance. Rather than stating a company had 500,000+ formal training enrolments, and trying to sort out some ridiculous Kirkpatrick clone level 5 metric … we need to simply ask ourselves how formal, informal and social learning (along with other knowledge and interaction pieces) play a part in the Return of Performance of an organization and individuals.

    Eg. the organization’s metrics could and should be but not limited to retention, attraction, time on support calls, time to gain new clients, engagement scores, company awards, etc etc etc.

    Eg. the individual’s metrics could and should be but not limited to personal engagement, size of colleague network, time to perform in new role/new task/new ask/new project, time to access answers, contributions back to the ecosystem, etc.

    We need to establish new metrics for both the company and the individual, and they have to be based on performance, not on the antiquated link of investment to training events.

  9. Hey Peter – great question.

    SharePoint (particularly 2010) as well as many other solid collaboration systems just as Jive, Saba (if it includes Saba Social), Blogtronix, Liferay, SocialText, BrainPark, MindTouch, amongst a few others … can provide this view into the organization, and with customization and other existing (or future) pieces federating into the platform.

    SharePoint 2010 in particular has a real leg up on the new entrants in my opinion.

    SharePoint itself is deployed in 55% of organizations (http://www.netjmc.net/intranet-trends/global-intranet-trends-2009-report-jmc.html) and to me, it’s just easier to start with something you know and then to build off of it.

    SharePoint 2010 has really closed the gap between E1.0 and E2.0, and I personally can no longer look at the platform as merely a document management system. It is much more than that, and once a company sorts out how to federate their LMS into the SharePoint 2010 (or similar) collaboration system, it will create that seamless window into the org for all things knowledge, learning, collaboration, etc.

  10. Thanks for writing this. I got on the train really late (mid 2009) and I think I have my late adoption to thank for because I benefited from the information of early adopters. I set up Moodle and after 2 months realized, “This isn’t going to work for what my students need.” This week I announced we’re abandoning a platform where students “come to” and instead I’m starting to presentations using content to think about but showing tools I use to seed my own learning. I hope that the contents will make them think and they would get interested to produce their own learning through collaborations, SDL.

    Thanks for confirming my doubts about standalone LMS.

  11. Dan, fantastic post and spot-on assessment. Unfortunately, it seems to be falling on deaf ears at most learning vendors. This refusal to connect with enterprise social collaboration platforms I believe will end up further margenilizing L&D – you can’t be a silo in a social world. I’m commenting now because I had a great discussion with George Siemens about Connectivism for a Xyleme Voices podcast and this subject came up. Of course I felt compelled to blog about it and in doing so, referenced your post. Hope it adds some additional insight on the matter. http://bit.ly/9aoA2h

  12. Dan,
    Perfect. In a chapter for Michael Allen’s new book coming out I argues against ‘event’ based training and campaign instead for ‘performance based’ training. Training or content embedded into the natural work environment within corporations, accessed at the time of need.

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