In Part 1 of this article, I explored some of the newest features of the learning management system (LMS) which have led to changes in the way we think and utilise this powerful platform. In this final part, I begin to delve more deeply into what we could be seeing from a future LMS, focusing on social learning and even wearable tech.
So, what's already becoming the norm in the LMS, and what can we expect to come?
Getting Personal With Adaptive Learning
Typically LMSs enable learners to access learning and resources in two ways:
- They are prescribed learning by virtue of their role, competencies or objectives
- They choose learning, based on their aspirations, needs or likes
A third route to content is emerging: recommended learning based on the learners preferences and experience – this is known as dynamic content or Adaptive Learning, i.e. learning that adapts to the learner’s profile.
Adaptive Learning is characterised by diagnostics, data and algorithms that are able to predict and recommend a learning path based on tasks the learner has performed and other information collated about that learner. You’ll have seen algorithms in action when Google recommends the right content for you based on your previous searches and viewing profile, or when Amazon makes product recommendations based on your viewing and buying habits. It’s early days but we’ve seen learning environments that have started to use the same principles, and businesses are starting to ask for them in their LMSs.
Playing the LMS Game
With the current popularity of game-based learning it was perhaps inevitable that LMSs themselves would start to feature game based-features such as leader boards. Games don’t have to be trite and can offer genuine motivational and credible rewards for learners. Take for instance Open Badges, which we have seen used to provide formal digital rewards for achieving learning goals in City & Guilds’ Tech Bac platform, and as informal rewards in other client’s product knowledge platforms to incentivise completion of learning modules. Below is an example of how we've used badging as part of our EssentialsPlus, ready-to-go learning.
Time to Get Social
Online social tools have made a prolific impact on our lives. If LMSs are to support the widely accepted 70:20:10 learning model, in which social learning plays the significant part, then they need the tools to do so or at least the ability to integrate with those tools.
We seem to be on a journey where this has yet to become the mainstream. In the same way as mobile learning had a buzz about it a long time before smartphones and tablets made it a reality, so online social learning is much more talked about than executed in the business space. There are however a good number of emerging examples and an appetite to embrace social media in the learning space:
- Online communities of practice forming around a specific need
- Integrations with Yammer, which has become an increasingly popular social environment since it was packaged with Office 365
- Some forward thinking organisations adopting platforms that lead with social learning, such as Fuse and Totara Social, rather than have it bolted on
Totara Social provides a LinkedIn style social environment in which learners can create and join groups, upload and share content and much more.
We’ve talked before about the many advantages social learning can bring, such as sharing expertise, user generated content and promoting learning communities. It is also less straightforward to create an effective social learning environment than it is to bring in the technology to support one – which is a topic worthy of its own report. In any case it is highly likely that next generation LMS will be a social space.
Learning You Can Wear
The wearable technology market is predicted to grow rapidly over the next 10 years to reach a predicted $70 billion by 2024. At CG Kineo we’re always interested to see how technology advances can create opportunities for learning. So what could this mean for the LMS? How about:
- Learning reminder alerts via smart watches
- How-to video guides on demand, delivered via smart devices
- System diagnostics and other performance aids delivered via heads-up display – see Daqri’s Smart Helmet or Microsoft’s HoloLens for cutting edge examples
- Capturing and sharing real-life experiences for other to learn from via networked wearable cameras.
Whilst it is likely to appear in a different form, or be hidden behind the scenes, the LMS or LRS may still play a role here in organising learning content and tracking use.
Deliverer or Enabler?
In discussion with our friends at Elearnity we have been questioning whether the next generation of LMSs can genuinely better enable organisations to meet their goals. This is as much about how we think about the LMS as it is about what it is technically capable of.
In our view rather than simply delivering training, your LMS could be enabling your goals, by being embedded into your organisation’s learning and development strategy. Think for instance about how skills are developed over a period of time, rather than through one-off training interventions – is this how you develop your learning plans?
And when designing learning does your organisation take a proactive or reactive approach? Are you thinking about how you tackle the issues you have today or how you develop your workforce to be ready to cope with the changes that tomorrow will bring?
How about performance improvement? Can your LMS enable your sales team to improve sales by 20% through better engagement around product awareness and selling skills?
Thinking about learning and development in the wider context of business enablement vs. immediate training need can enable a more strategic approach, focused on longer term gain. The LMS could be the framework to hang that strategy on.
The Future of the LMS, In Summary
As we find more ways to learn through the advancement of technology and its impact on how we learn, having the right platform to enable that bend of learning becomes increasing important.
Games, video, social, multi-device delivery, great UX, on-the-job support, personalised content and seamless system integration are just some of the features that are shaping what is possible with systems that were once solely used to manage training. And as we’ve indicated, it’s not just about exciting technology advances, but the way in which we think of the LMS as an intrinsic system for delivering business improvement alongside L&D strategy.
Thought learning management systems were boring? Think again.
At City & Guilds Kineo, we’re privileged to be working with some great clients on a range of exciting projects that benefit from new ways of delivering learning. We've shared some of these stories recently, including Samsung’s gamified approach which transformed their engagement with learners.