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What is Learning Management System (LMS)?

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Scientia potentia est!

‘Knowledge is Power’ is a popular adage attributed to Francis Bacon. But that man pioneered inductive learning, as against Aristotle’s deductive theory. Ipsa scientia potestas est was, therefore an observation, not a commandment. It talked more about the end. While the means, historically, have always evolved with time.

Education, the life force of civilizations since inception, was never static in its design or approach. It should never have been. Which is why different modes of learning continue to spring up till today. Knowledge transfer is the goal, whichever way it works. Before you go on to realize what’s happening latest in the field of knowledge, learning and development, know that it’s gone on to become a $10 billion industry as we speak.

Two things are clear. That everything could turn into an industry these days (a potential market..nothing wrong!) and that, the industry can be ‘managed’ through a system. In topical relevance, we call such a system ‘software’ and in that context, better to accelerate the domain of learning into eLearning!

What is Learning Management System (LMS)?

One of the most talked about acronyms in recent years, LMS expands as Learning Management System. Think about a company that wants to give a hands-on training to its employees on a product which is about to be launched. One way would be to make them all assemble for a town-hall session, and educate them. Alternatively, they could make use of a specially deployed LMS where chunks of information could be dispersed to employees in the form of bite-sized documentations and interactive infographic, with games and quizzes to assess their performance and track the extent to which employees have understood the product.

Employees can thus train themselves based on their own time suitability, and also motivate themselves to learn it better because there’ll be certifications based on the ‘quizzes’ that arrive! Clearing the certification means you are qualified enough to sell the product to external clients.

Each employee can start eLearning by logging into the learning management system software with their own personalized credentials, and go for the certification tests when they feel ready to take the quiz. The LMS can thus track or monitor the progress of all employees, and managers (with admin rights) can see how far the employees have mastered the learning material, and that who all have qualified for or failed the certification test.

So, LMS is essentially a software program for continuous learning and development (mark the word ‘continuous’ in the increasingly agile landscape). Just like Powerpoint helps you create content in the form of slides and Yahoomail lets you manage your emails, a learning content management system is a platform to create, manage and deliver eLearning training courses, either to your internal business stakeholders or to the external internet audience.

So who all are using LMS and what are they using it for?

If you think it’s only the traditional educational institutions that are using LMS, you are mistaken. Practically anyone who is dealing with eLearning is using such a platform. That includes schools and universities; the large MNCs who want to train their employees with self-paced, microlearning courses tracking their grades and milestones; the small and mid-cap businesses who want to go digital with their employee training; or, for that matter, even the non-profit NGOs who are using e-Course materials for the targeted skill development of non-privileged sections of society. The government agencies use it; the United Nations use it.

The invention of LMS has come as a blessing in disguise for the dissemination of learning. It’s a marked shift from the earlier curriculum based push-approach learning to a highly interactive mobile approach learning with continuous process of improvement and progress in skills, as the platform tracks learner’s performance with readily available metrics.

So while tech industries are obviously high at it, healthcare and pharma too rely heavily on such a software, as much as the sales department of blue collar companies who would like to stay abreast of the latest developments in their industry.

It has gone beyond learning, development and knowledge

Surely the very essence of a learning management system (LMS) revolves around the pedagogy of knowledge, but let’s dig deeper. There is more to it than an engaging, gamified learning methodology. To start with, an LMS is centralizing your training and development content, isn’t it?

Until now, the HR department has been conducting periodic knowledge enhancement sessions or rolling out cross functionality courses out of their own roasters (and often they’ve been manual). But a software is a software, any day – it is specialized, customized and value added in its built-in approach. With LMS, organizations can store, update, delete, and manage the learning & training data within the same software platform. This ensures things are streamlined, manageable and up-to-date.

In fact, LMS has suddenly arrived as a savior of human resource department all across the world. It has infused a new lease of life into the otherwise diminishing job importance of HRs. With LMS software, they can assess, track and report on employees’ learning performance in form of scores, charts and leaderboards. Plus, the manual reporting has given way to advanced reports and performance tracking features. So as a whole, you have better evaluation of your employees’ standing (which you call as your ‘human resource’) and that the resulting insights can be used to make tangible business impact with increased ROI. Companies are therefore integrating LMS with CRM systems, business reporting, onboarding, talent management, and supply chain to leverage the big data.

Then comes the most important factor: Cost. LMS saves you huge amount of money, as you don’t have to incur extra costs on seminars, travel, and training-related stationary expenses. Again, don’t think cost-cutting is always in terms of money. In business language, it’s the time that is your biggest asset – learning management system saves you considerable man-hours!

Common use cases for LMS

1. Education

What Byju’s and Khan Academy have done is a wonder. More than pioneering the concept of “Ed-Tech” they have actually made students fall in love with learning all over again. One thing is definite – eLearning is here to stay. It is the future of learning.

2. Employee training and development

Just imagine how much time, effort and money HR personnel invest in arranging for training sessions to teach existing employees new skills so that they stay up-to-date with the changing market. With LMS, you can eliminate all these. You just let your employees study the training material online (or even offline at times, when the content can be downloaded) at their own pace and convenience of time and availability.

In contrast, bringing in specialized instructors to train employees is way too costly, and with the ever-increasing attrition rates, doesn’t seem to be a wise idea. Even a free learning management system gives a good oversight as there is quite a bit of data science angle to it – you track an employee’s performance with integrated performance monitoring and reporting tools using new age, gamified interfaces that talk of obtained scores and pending milestones.

3. Employee orientation

Sometimes the induction and onboarding sessions can be painfully boring to bear with, as slides after slides are thrown at you with the company’s vision & mission, CEO’s message, and more. Why not automate the entire process through an LMS! Of course, you still have to greet them with a formal introduction and a tour around the office, but all those ‘push content’ regarding company’s history and chairman’s message.. employees can study at their own pace and time, right? Only if they do, they would really be able to retain the material.

4. KT (Knowledge Transfer) sessions

When employees leave an organization, or some of them get internally shuffled across departments, the change should not bring business disruption. The transition has to be smooth, and the valuable skills and information should be readily available to the substitute resource. LMS is again helpful here as new employees can be seamlessly trained with self-paced learning materials with interactive interfaces.

The Future of LMS

By 2025, the LMS market is expected to become worth $25 billion. This is both a challenge and an opportunity in itself. With eLearning virtually being touted as the future, and millennials preferring mobile, gamified interfaces over conventional content, the LMS market is booming for sure. What we will possibly see with learning management systems is their tighter integrations with collaborative platforms like Salesforce, and more migration of data on to the cloud.

‘Anytime learning’ is going to be the taste of future, with smart technology integrations wherever there are possibilities that add business value. It will be interesting (and engaging, of course)!

It’s about the ROI

Return on investment is a tricky concept. Before investing, you are thinking about returns. And it’s market sentiments, calculated risks, conjectures all rolled into one. Having said that, there is no denying eLearning is the future of learning. It has to—it’s the natural culmination of the dot-com boom that started revolutionizing every single industry at the start of this millennium. How can learning and development stay aloof? What was offline yesterday is bound to go online tomorrow,

Learning management systems have emerged out of Scientia requirements. They sell because the demand is high. And organizations must cache in on the opportunity. Adding LMS will bring a definite upshot in the overall market value as skills and training are, therefore, at learner’s own comfort and pace. As employees keep themselves trained in new age skills in a format that engages them, they tend to graduate every week.

So on one hand, while an LMS saves organizations considerable time and money, it improves employee’s skills manifold, leading to a tangible business impact overall. Much in synergy with what Benjamin Franklin said over two centuries back: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Co-founder & COO of Disprz – Mobile Learning Company of the year 2017

A serial entrepreneur with a track record of taking category-defining products across media, formal education and enterprise learning to both emerging and developed markets across the world.