There are around 700 hundred Learning Management Systems (LMS’s) on the market. And yet, innovative learning solutions keep coming up. You’ve probably heard or even invested in new systems such as Learning Experience Platforms, Microlearning platforms, Collaborative Learning tools and Gamification tools…
Why is that? Companies are increasingly recognizing that the LMS is not enough to meet today’s learning challenges and they need new collaborative learning platform options. While the LMS was built around a core idea of delivering e-learning to internal employees, training today must consider a variety of audiences, new training delivery methods, and innovative ways to manage training and provide a cohesive learning experience.
These challenges are giving rise to what many analysts are calling a “Learning Technologies Ecosystem”. The good? These new, complementary specialized solutions give you the freedom and advanced features to exactly answer your needs. On the other hand, gone are the days where you could simply just “shop for an LMS”. Navigating this ecosystem and collaborative learning platforms entails a certain knowledge of the market and the need for questions of integration between solutions.
In this two part-series, you’ll learn how to recognize the characteristics and main players of the new Learning Technology Ecosystem, how to leverage complementary solutions to augment your existing technology, and understand the Training Resource Management System’s position and added value within this ecosystem.
What is a Learning Technology Ecosystem?
The term “Learning Technology Ecosystem” is increasingly being used by experts, such as in Josh Bersin’s famous “Continuous Learning Technology Stack”, or in Talented Learning’s analysis of the trend of “LMS augmentation”.
We define it as strategic investments in multiple complementary technologies to build a seamless and scalable architecture which addresses all your learning needs.
More simply, the idea is to recognize that no technology “does-it-all” and that there exists a wealth of solutions on the market and that different training activities require different solutions. Thus, we must recognize the benefits of specialization, complementarity, and seamless integration to support a holistic learning strategy.
Why a Learning Technology Ecosystem? 4 areas of LMS augmentation
The main reason that we are witnessing an emergence of diversified solutions to complement the LMS, is because the LMS has been lagging behind in specific areas. This isn’t surprising: it emerged in an e-learning and HR-centric world, one which has since then become much more complex.
Consider these 4 areas for LMS augmentation, where complementary systems can help:
The problem: The LMS was built around the idea of the internal “knowledge worker” i.e. internal employees who have a desk and office. But other types of audiences, who are just as crucial for a company’s success, need to be trained and cannot necessarily be reached or engaged by an LMS. Specific technologies have been developed to do just that. We dive deeper into this question in our article for Training Industry: “Beyond the LMS: integrating all learning audiences through technology”.
Gaps in the LMS:
- Technical Workers – for example, field workers in manufacturing, medical or transportation profession, who might form the bulk of the workforce but often don’t have learning portal access
- Channel partners and clients – distributors, suppliers, clients and other external audiences represent 53% of training dollars.They have different needs than employees, and their training often entails commercial processe
- Country-specific audiences – requiring management of local regulations and currencies
- Emerging leaders – who are generally not engaged by the typical e-learning experience and want more collaborative learning (Instructor-Led Training is still the preferred method for leadership training, see our article on the Training industry for more details)
The problem: The LMS was made to deliver formal top-down e-learning: not to support and optimize Instructor-Led Training, Mobile, or Informal learning, all of which are crucial to an integrated learning strategy. As a result, many organizations either fall back on e-learning as an easier or cheaper method when ILT or informal could be more effective, or manage ILT through inefficient manual processes and excel spreadsheets.
Gaps in the LMS:
- Instructor-Led Training – which represents 65% of formal training in the US, and holds the highest knowledge retention rate, by enabling engaging collaborative learning, yet relies on complex logistics processes which LMS’s cannot manage. Consider the key processes in managing ILT in our checklist: they are a far cry for typical LMS capabilities.
- Informal Training – which is a crucial part of the 70/20/10 model but cannot be delivered nor tracked in an LMS
- Mobile – which is supported by few LMS’s and is yet crucial to reach technical or remote audiences, deliver bite-sized learning and provide an integrated experience
Learning Experience & Collaborative Learning
The problem: Because LMS’s were initially designed to deliver a standardized learning approach, they have always suffered from a lack of flexibility, ease-of-use and intuitiveness, which makes engaging learners extremely difficult. On the contrary, today’s workforce craves a collaborative, personalized and integrated learning experience; on an easy-to-use, multi-device, single-touchpoint platform.
Gaps in the LMS:
- Ease-of-use – intuitive interfaces, workflows and overall experience
- Integrated journey – content curation, integrated experience along desktop and mobile, adaptive learning paths, etc.
- Dynamic content – personalized content, suggestions, etc.
- Social & Collaborative Learning – enabling peer-to-peer, collaborative learning as well as bottom-up interaction and suggestions
The problem: The data that LMS’s provide is often not pertinent, reliable or complete enough to improve the learning strategy and business processes. While they do provide data regarding completion, assessment and learner satisfaction, this is not enough to make key business decision, and visualization or forecasting tools are lacking.
Gaps in the LMS:
- Reporting – consolidated, reliable, real-time data and tools to monitor the activity
- Budget management – budget planning, real-time cost-tracking and budget monitoring to arbitrate and prioritize investments
- Strategic Forecasting – anticipating training volumes and budgets to make decisions
- ROI Calculation – accessing both results from training and precise information about financial investments. Training ROI and Learning Technologies ROI is another topic we dive in our dedicated White Paper.
In our next article, we dive into our mapping of the learning technologies ecosystem, and the role of the Training Resource Management System within it.
Training Orchestra is a leader in Course Management System and provides an integrated full web solution dedicated to the entire training ecosystem: Training Departments, Corporate Universities, Extended Enterprises and Training Companies. Covering the whole training process: finance, logistics, administration, sales and portal, Training Orchestra has proven its efficiency with over 300 satisfied clients and $5 billion of training budgets managed. Training Orchestra allows its users to drive their training activities, track and optimize forecasts, enhance productivity, ensure employee satisfaction and customer loyalty.
 ATD State of the Industry 2016
 Brandon Hall Group, “Brandon Hall Group’s 2015 Training Survey”, Four of the Most Effective Training Delivery Methods, © 2015 Brandon Hall Group.