With the global expenditure on learning management systems (LMSs) still rising from its level of over $2.5 billion in 2014 (a year that saw growth of 15% in the training industry as a whole – its highest rate in more than 15 years), and no stopping the continuing evolution of technologies impacting all fields of endeavour, corporate, governmental and public-sector institutions are fuelling the need for ongoing training.
A learning management system can be the ideal medium for organisations to deliver this training, but it’s often a challenge to get the most out of these learning platforms. In this article, we’ll consider some strategies that empower users to exploit the full potential of an LMS, and achieve the maximum returns on their investments.
You should begin by having a clear picture of the objectives within your organisation that you want a learning management system to support. Is it the recruitment of new talent? Introducing new products or processes? Preparing candidates for a professional examination, or regulatory compliance audit?
Decide on your goals, and consider the methods that might be used to achieve them.
Look at Your Operating Conditions
Every organisation is unique, and will have its own characteristic way of working, communicating, and presenting information. Size and strength will also vary, with different institutions having access to different levels of funding, technology, resources, and time. These factors will all affect the demands that your learning management system will be called upon to meet.
- Establish a realistic time-frame, for putting your LMS into action. Consider which constraints or issues might cause delays, and increase your overall costs.
- Determine how the LMS will be required to integrate with your existing archives and systems.
- Look at your existing data, and decide which formats it will need to be presented in – and whether any records need to be amended or cleaned up.
- Determine the composition of the team you’ll need to implement, manage, administer, and support your LMS operations – and which of your existing departments these staff will be pulled from.
Shop around, before deciding on an LMS service provider or system vendor. Draw up some alternative specifications for the tools and resources you expect from an LMS that meets your training needs. Then go to the market, and compare these specs with what’s on offer from the suppliers in your budget range. Get some quotations and consultations from likely candidates, to narrow down your options.
You may also contact partners or others in your sector, to find out what LMS solutions they have used, and what was found to work best for them.
Chart Your Learner’s Journey
Your training efforts will go that much further, if you begin with an awareness of the skills and weaknesses of the people you’re trying to educate. As part of the course design process, you should conduct an assessment of the trainees. Beyond their talents and deficiencies, this will also reveal information about their educational and cultural backgrounds, demographic set-up, and preferred methods of learning.
So when it comes time to conduct the training programme, your course designers will have had the opportunity to tailor personal learning experiences in keeping with the needs of those actually involved. And your learning management system should provide facilities to assess the learners’ progress as they continue through the course, drawing on this store of personal knowledge to suggest reference materials, additional exercises or tips in real time, to assist them.
The Importance of Engagement
Video or podcasts, interactive notifications, virtual simulations or game-play; whichever method you choose should be in line with the material that you wish to communicate – and the nature and needs of the people who will be receiving that information.
But you should strive to go beyond this, by making your courses immersive, interactive, and fun. There’s no denying the truth that people learn more quickly and retain the knowledge they’ve gained for longer periods, when they’re invested and engaged in what they’re doing. So provide incentives for your learners to see the course through, rewards and positive reinforcement when they do well, and encouragement if they need help and support.
Optimise and Update Your System
Educating and enlightening your people isn’t a one-off process. New discoveries, techniques and technologies are always emerging, and the operational and statutory requirements of working in your sector will change as a result. So it’s important to refresh your training materials, to keep them up to date.
Your learning management system itself is a software-based platform, and will also require periodic updates as new modules and additional tools become available. Feedback and success rates from previous training exercises may in turn throw up issues that require your LMS to be customised or tweaked, to smooth over rough patches in a course or to increase user engagement and optimise their interactions with the software.
Some Tips on Content
- Deliver your content in short, self-contained modules. These are easier to remember, and may be assembled in series, to break a complicated topic into digestible bits.
- Use a mixture of media and delivery methods, to maintain learner interest and increase the level of engagement.
- Begin a course with the high-priority issues that need to be addressed – the ones most critical to what the learners should know in a specific subject area or compliance regime.
- Include opportunities for feedback and discussion within the course. These may provide valuable information for future course design and the optimisation of your LMS.
- Don’t forget to tailor your content for delivery via mobile devices, as many organisations have their members stationed at remote locations, or in the field.