Exploring the Need for a Change from Traditional Learning Management Systems

Benjamin Franklin knew a thing or two about learning. Revered as one of the founding fathers of America, a consummate politician, scientist, inventor, and philosopher, Franklin is quoted as saying: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

This fundamental truth that real learning comes from involving and engaging the mind underscores the importance of developing a system of engaging education that speaks directly to the mind and heart of the learner. This sounds simple, but in practical application, it can be much more difficult than it seems.

Traditional learning management systems (LMS), while marginally effective, do not focus on reaching the mind and heart of the modern learner. Thus, for true employee engagement in the modern world, something more than the traditional LMS model is needed.

Why the Traditional LMS Model is Broken

As originally conceived, learning management systems are basically designed to deliver, manage, track, and assess learning activities in a formal learning environment. Applied to corporate settings, learning management in the early years was based on traditional learning environments such as classroom instruction or instructor-led training sessions in a corporate setting.

Of course, as technology advanced, corporate instruction moved online, in the form of web seminars, podcasts, instructional videos, and the like. This natural evolution reflected the changing demographic of the workplace, in which employee onboarding was no longer about filling a conference room with new recruits and walking them through a pre-defined set of learning exercises.

Commenting in 2014 on the continuing evolution of LMS, Chapter 56 of the Handbook of Research on Education and Technology in a Changing Society noted: “Corporate training has also been through a change driven by the technology. U.S. organizations spent approximately $156.2 billion on employee learning in 2011 (ASTD, 2012). Corporations deliver training in multiple formats including instructor led training sessions, online courses, mobile delivery, videos, self-paced materials, as well as external contracts for training delivery. According to the ASTD, 39 percent of formal learning hours are now delivered via technology-based methods…”

“Mobile delivery of instruction is a direction that many corporations are considering for future training efforts”

“Social media for the purpose of sharing knowledge about the organization and to connect internal experts to needed areas are also promising developments. Learning Management Systems are under pressure to incorporate features found in a wide range of industries and technology providers. Just as in education institutions, corporations are demanding reporting and analytics capabilities for the measurement of their training programs. System integration of LMS products with existing human resources and other enterprise systems continues to be a requirement for LMS selection.

Despite these advances in modern LMS, many organizations still struggle with challenges such as troublingly low employee engagement levels, high rates of attrition, and their corresponding debilitating effects on the organization as a whole.

It is clear that something beyond the traditional LMS model is now needed. Factors leading to this need include:

  • An increasingly distributed workforce.
  • Widespread adoption of mobile technologies.
  • A changing workforce demographic which includes millennial workers who are both accustomed to and desirous of increased learning opportunities via digital means.

When considered objectively, LMS as it now exists falls significantly short of its original intended objectives. While LMS has in times past provided a reasonable answer for organizations looking to improve their onboarding process, the simple truth that many companies have come to realize is that a new learning model is needed today.

Seeking A Modern Solution to Employee Training

Ideally, a new learning model must address the needs of the modern learner in a new and engaging way. Unlike traditional LMS, such a model must be built with a strong understanding of the way in which modern employees learn and engage with their organizations. Therefore, it must adhere to the following basic principles of modern learning:

Learning Must be Participatory

Realistically, you can order people to attend onboarding and training sessions using an LMS, but you cannot ensure that those people actually learn. How many of such training sessions have you attended? How much did you really learn from them? Have you ever found yourself much more interested in the ticking clock than in the subject matter you were supposed to be absorbing?

As Franklin said, true learning comes from involvement, not just attendance. Therefore, true learning includes active participation, not just passive compliance. Modern learners must be allowed to work at their own selected pace and with their own self-directed choice of learning modules and fun exercises. Rather than lengthy training modules that end with quizzes, training modules should be designed based on the personalized microlearning principles: in small, digestible informational bites that encourage engagement. 

By giving the learner ample opportunities for self-direction and self-choice, modern learning systems encourage interaction and participation at an enhanced level. In this way, your employee engagement ideas and initiatives become the property of the learner, resulting in better onboarding and training outcomes.

Optimally, engagement programs should start with simple tasks and progress to more advanced activities. This learning method keeps new hires energized, as they accumulate quick wins and grow skills and confidence to take on more challenging tasks.

Learning Cannot be Forced

Traditional LMS solutions force participation through a specific delivery mechanism in highly structured environments and learning pathways.

However, modern employees cannot be forced to learn. With the advent of a distributed workforce, motivation must come not from management but from the employee. While management can mandate compliance with learning initiatives, true engagement cannot be mandated. True employee engagement comes from within the individual employee as a response to educational opportunities that allow for growth and foster a strong corporate culture.

Thus, rather than herding employees through a rigidly organized schedule of onboarding and continuing training, a better learning system enables organizations to create customizable learning environments consisting of personalized microlearning activities and opportunities for employees with an emphasis on individual employee development and achievement rather than on simply ticking off the completion of mandatory coursework.

Learning is a Collaborative Process

Traditional LMS solutions tend to follow the same educational track; they provide a lengthy tutorial, followed by a quiz to test understanding. But does this model truly engage employees?

A far better learning method focuses on a collaborative learning process that involves much more than simply filling out a multiple choice questionnaire at the end of a training module. It facilitates collaboration through continual feedback and mentorship. 

Such a learning model enables trainers and managers to build relationships with learners through a system of constructive feedback and collaborative experiences that resonate with employees on a personal level. In other words, you can say goodbye to the outmoded method of multiple-choices quizzes to gauge comprehension. Instead, you can focus on building true experiences that facilitate real-world learning and team building for your employees.

Learning Cannot be Standardized

Realistically, all of your employees do not need the same exact training modules to accomplish their work with your organization. Yet, for the most part, LMS provides only a one-size-fits-all approach to employee onboarding and continuing education.

What is the better way? A better learning system facilitates segmentation of your learning modules for different employee groups within your organization. For instance, such a system enables you to create separate learning programs based on such differentiators as functional teams, geographical locations, job title, various company projects or initiatives, personal and/or professional interests, and so on.

Thus, the modules your employees access are those that are most relevant to them personally and professionally. This increases employee engagement significantly. Why? Simply put, providing only relevant learning opportunities for your employees means that no one needs to ever sit through another training session that has no practical application to his or her job. The employees also feel that company has created a personalized journey of success for each of them.

The end result of this highly targeted approach to employee learning is that, rather than dreading a lengthy training session that serves no purpose other than to make the employee jump through certain pre-determined hoops, employees can look forward to receiving highly relevant, engaging information that actually facilitates their work in real-world situations. Isn’t this supposed to be the goal of employee training in the first place?

Measuring the Effectiveness of Personalized Microlearning 

An important aspect of any learning system you implement for your employees must be the ability to measure its success over time. Management of the learning experience and environment is about much more than simply ticking off items on a compliance checklist.

It must measure actual employee engagement, including analytics like employee satisfaction over time, employee knowledge of company goals, and individual progress made with learning and development curriculum. It needs to also capture how the completion of those modules by the employees affect the critical business company KPIs. Only through accurate measurement can you ascertain which employee engagement ideas and initiatives are actually paying off for your company in terms of increased employee productivity, satisfaction, and retention.

Managers and trainers must be able to track performance and ROI for every engagement initiative and be able to easily adjust the course of action as needed. With such data-driven insights, managers and trainers can tweak engagement programs to more closely match actual employee preferences in your own organization.

Rallyware Delivers Personalized Microlearning at Scale

While it is true that learning management systems have evolved over time, they do not fully address the needs of an increasingly distributed, diverse workforce. A truly advanced system of employee onboarding and engagement must take into account the way modern employees actually learn.

The best employee education initiatives include participatory learning, which actually immerses employees in the process of self-directed learning pathways. Rather than forcing employees through a series of potentially irrelevant training modules, the better choice is to provide short, digestible training bites that integrate into the workflow and learning preferences of the individual employee.

Likewise, providing a system of continuous feedback from a mentor, trainer, or manager to an employee as the training continues is a best practice for truly engaged learning. Involving the employee in a customized, personalized training experience leads to increased comprehension on the part of the employee. Enhanced employee satisfaction and improved employee retention rates result.

Traditional LMS cannot, unfortunately, fulfill the increasing needs of personalized microlearning delivery at scale. In order to solve this problem, companies can invest into manual processes to provide a consistent personalized learning environment for their employees. Such processes, however, are almost impossible to scale and halt the business growth potential. Proper technology that embraces and scales microlearning personalized training and engagement programs is the solution. We designed Rallyware to account specifically for that. Our customers enjoy tremendous growth of their incredible talents in various teams continuously with specific learning tracks and programs targeting right employees at the right time.

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