Learning Management System
(LMS, for short, so you are hip to the industry lingo). In theory, this sounds distinct, a management system for learning - that makes sense, right? Why would you want a system to manage learning?
Making the move to a learning management system can be an overwhelming task. In addition to the features that you decide you need, you also are faced with the decisions of the platform itself. Your finance group is telling you to choose an open-source solution, so you can save money because it is “free.” Your training team is telling you to find a platform that allows you to upload SCORM and xApi content – your head is spinning, what do those terms even mean and your senior leadership just wants something, so you can track compliance training and make it easy for remote and on-site employees to have the same learning experiences. What’s a decision maker to do?
Let’s take a closer look at some of the basics...
Do I Need an LMS?
If you are unfamiliar with newer learning management systems, it may be useful to think of an LMS as an online classroom, break room, group file cabinet for all your employees - with the added benefit of it being almost impenetrable to outside sources.
Let’s start by talking about the online education or classroom element, with an LMS you will be able to build out full curriculums for your employees, with as many ‘subjects’ or ‘departments’ as you need to fulfill your workplace needs. These departments can be categorized in the way that best fits your company with departments ranging from broad-based concepts such as “Leadership” or “H.R. Training” or departments that quite literally mirror the departments in your organization chart.
In the (corporate) classroom
When looking for an LMS, look for one that provides flexibility in setting up departments (user groups) and allows for courses to be cross-listed.
Once you've found a platform that allows you to create the structure you need, it is time to look at how to build individual “classes”. Look for a content area where you can put all of the content that you are expecting your employees to access. There may include an area to build out quizzes, tests, or other types of knowledge checks. A section for online discussion boards (online guided chat topics), file upload (if you want assignments submitted) and reporting to track progress. As you think about what type of system you desire, remember to also think to the future and not just immediate needs.
Employee’s today expect the online work environment to provide many of the same social elements they are used to using outside of work and removing social features such as discussion boards may provide a less positive experience.
A corporate classroom enabled by an LMS (often called Instructor Led Training or ILT) makes managing, tracking, and reporting on completion much easier. It can automate much of any mandatory trainings that all employees must complete at specific intervals. The classroom is also a place to provide opportunities for continued growth on the job, and to rapidly share changes in procedure or other job critical elements.
If you wish to provide a more informal area for employees to chat with guided topics, or knowledge share, an LMS is a tool that may suit your needs. Being able to use the file hosting and content areas will give employees a way to access any documentation needed for their jobs. They can add comments and discuss questions or concerns. If there are multiple company policies or forms that employees are expected to sign, an LMS gives a place to host that documentation, and an online ‘dropbox’ where employees submit forms once they have been completed.
Adding gaming elements is another method for building employee engagement, tracking progress, and using the power of the LMS to record and share this data within the organization. Gamification is a powerful tool for building employee engagement and we’ll talk about that in an upcoming post. For now, let’s just say that adding elements such as leaderboards, social interaction, and recognition can go a long way in building employee loyalty.
Security and Permissions
Learning Management Systems also provide a level of built-in security that can give you the peace of mind that your employee information and data will not be leaked. Most systems require an administrator to create unique usernames and passwords that the employee will be responsible for, allowing only those with login credentials access to the system.
Depending on the LMS you select, your system administrator may also have the ability to create and set role permissions. Setting permissions is useful as it allows employees a ‘student’ role limiting their site access to read and interact with assigned content, take quizzes or other knowledge checks, respond to discussion boards and upload documentation to specific areas.
Another role could be ‘manager’ role which would allow select managers permission to determine which content is viewable by which role. This is where you can be creative and decide which roles and access levels best suit the needs of your company. Having the ability to create roles and set user permissions can go a long way in making the user experience more productive.
Choosing a Learning Management System takes time and there are many variables to weigh out before making a final decision. The first step is to determine the needs of your organization and look at what are the “must-have” features and the “nice to haves.” Once you have that list, start setting up some demonstrations so you can see what each LMS has to offer.
Watch an interactive video demo of Torch LMS