Learning Management Systems and Why They Top My 2015 Predictions

In December of 2014, my list of 2015 predictions was topped by the following statement: "Training management finally has its day." It's now March, and time to clarify something very important about that statement. The software vendors themselves need to move the first chess piece. That realization came to me at a celebration of Holi, the spring festival of colors and love.

First, let's back up. My prediction that Learning Management would finally have its day was based on 3 simple premises:

  1. The way people learn has evolved to the point where it doesn't align with traditional teaching methods and tools
  2. The employer had not sufficiently invested in training its workforce in the past decade, resulting in a knowledge gap
  3. The need for a talented and capable workforce is as imperative as ever as companies struggle to gain a competitive advantage

The connection I drew between Holi and Learning is color. People need color in their learning. I don’t just mean red, green and blue, but also in terms of learning presented in a vivid and distinctive manner. The traditional classroom-based learning is no longer as effective, and even the simple replacement of classroom learning with video-based learning is not going to get us all the way there. The future WorkSpace demands a more dynamic style of teaching and learning, and that starts with an infusion of color.

Why specifically do we need color in training?

  • To accommodate our increasingly short attention spans. That characteristic isn't only that of a millennial worker. Specifically, Dr. Deepak Phatak, Professor in Department of CSE, IIT Bombay says that the human attention span maxes out at 7.5 minutes. That was as of May of 2014. Perhaps we're down to 7 minutes by now?
  • To provide contextual learning…in other words provide real-life examples of what you're learning, delivered in interesting formats.
  • To help the learner visualize and categorize what specifically they are learning. With the overabundance of information, we need to help the learner to simply understand what they just spent time learning.

In helping clients identify the right Learning Management System, and in attending industry conferences, I've sat through countless demos of Learning Management Systems. I've never personally found the color that I'm describing. So, my colleague Vanessa and I decided to go on a brief quest. We weren’t looking simply for the ability to track what courses employees had taken, but more importantly the ability to deliver training that addresses the needs described above.

Here's what we found (please note that this is just a tiny sampling of the industry and that we don’t profit from listing those mentioned below).

A few of the big boys:

  • Sum Total - This vendor starts to crack the surface with the concept of "Talent expansion." They look to address actions that will improve performance through employee development, and accomplish this in a data-based way. They focus on visual learning and learning "in context."
  • Cornerstone on Demand (CSOD) - We really like the fact that CSOD talks about the fact that it's "time to take learning to a whole new level." They have a good approach to the new workforce with media rich content, mobile training and social collaboration (via Cornerstone Connect).
  • Saba - with Saba Classroom , this particular vendor attempts to mirror a real classroom, enhancing it with interaction, raising hands, breakout rooms, and other methods. Again, these are all positive steps in the right direction

And some of the other players:

  • Litmos - this vendor also does traditional Learning management but layers on some unique delivery mechanisms. It also has a fairly tight and simple to navigate UI.
  • Moodle - here's a unique one, as it offers a free online LMS, including an interesting course creation toolbox.
  • Brainshark - we really like how this company handles "content in context" as well easy to create on demand content.

And the one that really stood out:

  • 24x7Learning - this company is new to us, and we can't speak at all to the quality of their product. What I can tell you, though, is that their messaging and what they propose to do, aligns directly with what was described above. They talk about game based, 3d, simulation, HTML, scenario-based for the easily bored. They work on getting the message across without being overly serious, and encourage interaction for thinking on your feet. They work on disguising learning through the use of avatars and other creative teaching methods.

What's interesting, and not at all planned as part of this write up is that 24x7 Learning is an Indian company. In fact, it wasn't until we looked for them on YouTube that we stumbled upon the speech by Dr. Phatak delivered in the same city, Mumbai, that I'll be presenting at next month at the SHRM India HR Tech '15 Conference & Expo.

It was a nice way to wrap up our quest. Somebody out there gets it, which certainly means that they aren't the only ones. The days of colorful learning could be upon us, and only time will tell how fast we get there. The bottom line is that the traditional Learning Management Systems are only going to grow as fast as they can take out their bags of colored powder and toss them on their clients as is done during the Holi celebration.

Today's Tip For Becoming an HR Tech Pro

Learn about big data and workforce analytics. Don't assume that if you know reporting, you automatically know these concepts. Erase all the fluffy lectures you've listened to about them. The first time you discuss real-life talent management questions and determine how big data could provide predictive analytics for businesses to make informed decisions, that's when you realize the power. I credit David Bernstein, and a class he delivered as part of an IHRIM session called "Big Data: Beyond the Hype" for opening my eyes.


Add new comment

Please enter the text you see in the image below: