Over the past 20 years, I have had the opportunity to play a number of roles within the eLearning industry including LMS implementer, LMS administrator, instructional developer, instructional designer, and learning team manager. This has given me a unique perspective and one I’d like to share; if your corporate learning team takes a holistic view of your learning technologies, the team will operate far more efficiently and effectively than if each function operates in a silo.
- In order to effectively manage the team, the team manager needs to understand the Learning Management System (LMS) technology at least enough to know that the team members are using it properly and to its full capabilities. Team managers must understand everyone’s roles, where roles and responsibilities may overlap, how to ensure proper handoffs, and what the technology parameters are.
- The instructional developer needs to know what technology works within the given system in order to make sure that the modules developed will integrate seamlessly. The constraints and settings of each LMS can vary significantly, and knowing the specifications of a given LMS is crucial to the success of each project. I can offer a good example of how costly it can be to operate without knowledge of the technical specifications of an LMS. While contracting at a pharmaceutical company not long ago, I became aware of a project that had been contracted out to another external vendor. While that vendor offered exceptional design capabilities, it had not never been sent LMS specifications by the instructional designer and wasn’t even aware that SCORM was to be used. The sales training developed, while interesting and, on a stand-alone basis, sound from a training perspective, was not tested on the LMS prior to one day before it was released. Once tested it quickly became apparent that the module had to go back to the vendor so that the SCORM protocol could be implemented in order for it to function. Unfortunately, the module was required training for sales representatives prior to a major new pharmaceutical product launch. The sales force training was held up for two days while SCORM compatibility was being tested and fixed which in turn delayed to product launch costing millions of dollars to the company. In this case, had the Instructional Designer, been familiar with basic LMS technologies and included a LMS system administrator in the while gathering requirnments, compatibility could have been developed into the solution up front, saving a costly delay in launching the training.
- Having the instructional designer up to speed on the limits of a given LMS will prevent costly rework from being done to modules that might not work within the constraints of certain learning management systems. In contrast, to get the most of your LMS functionality, it is important that instructional designers be aware of the LMS capabilities so they can design accordingly. For example, there was a company that needed to have 23 separate compliance documents in the form of PDFs assigned to learners, but wanted to ensure that they would always be assigned together. The company asked a vendor to put these documents into a format that would have them all come into a learner’s assignment queue under one menu. The external vendor – for nearly $20k – designed a solution and sent back a SCORM package. However, what could have been done instead was to simply group the PDFs together in a Program Item within their SuccessFactors LMS with an appropriate description under each. The new Program feature gives the administrator the ability to create and maintain new eLearning modules by recombining existing content objects without having to spend on costly software development. In this case, had the company fully understood the capabilities of the their LMS they could have save $20K on this project alone.
Figure 1: An Example SuccessFactors Program
- Conversely it is just as important that LMS administrators be looped in on the learning objectives for courses by the instructional designer. As the ones who are typically responsible for assignments, understanding the objectives as well as such details as the target audience is important to efficient and effective training management. For example, if training is designated for lab workers, the assignment of the course may not be accurate if the real learning objective is that the lab safety course is required for all who enter the lab at a particular company. The lack of complete understanding of the target audience could result in downtime or even fines and penalties.
- Learning management system implementers should understand the full scope of options available within the system they are implementing and be able to fully explain them. The LMS implementer needs to understand how you are going to use system up front and whom you are educating in order to be most efficient and effective.
In summary, it is critical that corporate learning teams refrain from operating in silos. Despite how busy teams can be, it is important that the full team be given every opportunity to take a holistic view of learning – from objectives through the technological implementation. This will save costly mistakes from being made and, as learning management systems become more robust and dynamic, will allow your team to take advantage of the full range of capabilities.
Prime Lead Consultant