Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Desperately Seeking a Mind Shift

When we get to a point where learning activities are anchored around people, and systems deliver a personalized learning experience in both academic and corporate worlds, we are all going to be much better off.
In my previous article, "Shifting from the Traditional LMS" (Training magazine, November/December 2014), I pointed out that learning management systems (LMSs) should be in the business of managing "learning," but sadly the LMS domain remains largely centered on authoring, managing, and delivering courses and content.
As that article was being published, the results from a survey titled Study of Students and Information Technology 2014, conducted by Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR), were just being released on technology experiences and expectations in higher education. The study revealed some startling statistics on the status and future of learning management systems in higher education. I also was amazed to see the number of parallel themes emerge--particularly those I had just written about--facing industry-centered training and development.

We're All in the Same Boat Now

In my previous article, I noted that the obsessive focus vendors place on adding new "bells and whistles" to learning management systems simply to maintain market relevance has come at the expense of the learner.
More bells and whistles do not necessarily make for a better, or more useful, LMS.
Results of the Educause study show that few users are taking full advantage of their systems or using them to their full capacity. At a time when LMSs are used so widely, but at the same time so widely underused, the continued focus on novel features and functions is absurd.
It seems the academic domain shares the same issues we do in industry, and it comes back to the same underlying problem: These systems are not designed to manage "learning"; they manage courses and content.

Don't believe me?

  • 66 percent reported that the focus of their LMS is less on engaging students and more on sharing content.
  • 58 percent of faculty members surveyed said they use their LMS to disseminate information; however, only 41 percent reported using them to promote interaction outside the classroom.

Shifting the Focus

Like industry, higher education institutions have made significant financial investments in learning management systems. But what are we getting for our investment? Better yet, have we improved the learning experience?
The majority of educators in this study clearly are not taking advantage of their systems' advanced capabilities that have the potential to improve student outcomes. And while the focus remains on content and courses, most students state that they want faculty to make greater use of their LMS, but don't.
I think it should be evident at this point that there is a massive misalignment with respect to expectations. The study brings to light some of the major gaps on what students and learners want, and what they are getting.

A Shifting Landscape

Change is coming, and, in my opinion, it can't happen soon enough. Some 20 percent of institutions surveyed plan to replace their LMS in the next three years. This, coupled with the demand for more personalized and relevant learning systems, and learning organizations looking to deliver training and education in a way that enables learners to demonstrate competency and capability, is going to shake things up. The LMS landscape likely will play out in two ways:
  1. Those vendors stuck in the paradigm of content and courses will have to move quickly to redevelop their systems to meet user needs and expectations.
  2. The "new breed" of learning and skills development platforms that are designed around learners and learning outcomes will be tremendously disruptive and truly transform the LMS domain.
When we get to a point where learning activities are anchored around people, and systems deliver a personalized learning experience in both academic and corporate worlds, we are all going to be much better off.
Hopefully, more and more vendors will follow the lead of companies like Shift iQ and see that providing personalized operational functions and analytics is actually a good thing.

About the Author

Don Keller is a member of the Training Top 10 Hall of Fame. See the original article published in Training Magazine here.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Shifting from the Traditional LMS

Learning management systems should be in the business of managing learning; however, the LMS domain remains largely centered on authoring, managing, and delivering courses and content.
As leaders in adult training and development, there shouldn't be any room for complacency. But the fact is, we're all prone to complacency, and it can manifest itself in many areas.
One area where I believe complacency has settled is the learning management system (LMS) domain. I've been thinking about this critically for some time now, and my conclusion is that the traditional LMS is in need of a serious shift. Over my career, I've witnessed the commercialization of the first LMS and since then have seen a parade of vendors come and go. Ironically, though, nothing really has changed over the last 20-plus years. Sure, a lot of bells and whistles have been added along the way, but fundamentally, it's all still built around the same concept--it just comes in a different wrapper.
When you think about it, learning management systems should be in the business of managing "learning"; however, the LMS domain remains largely centered on authoring, managing, and delivering courses and content. (The irony isn't lost on me, either.) The problem is that these systems don't manage learning. They manage courses. This is a very important distinction everyone seems to overlook, and is the paradigm the LMS domain has been stuck in from the beginning.

What's Changed?

The short answer is demographics. We see news stories daily of how the world's changing demographics are intensifying demand for skilled workforces. Simply put, there are not enough people to fill the gaps left by older workers exiting the workplace. Learning organizations of every stripe desperately are seeking another model as so many are going broke at a time when the industry is screaming for skilled labor.
Finding competent and skilled people will be our single most important challenge, regardless of industry. As leaders in training and development, we cannot afford to be complacent. We need to make a serious mind shift--and quickly--as it is incumbent upon us to deliver training in a way that enables learners to demonstrate competency and capability. If not, we're hardly leaders ourselves.

Time to Try Something Different

One thing is certain, the LMSs we are accustomed to cannot keep up with the current global disruption to learning and the demand for skills. What is needed is a new way of delivering learning, along with systems that will scale and empower skills development (SD). More precisely, what is needed are skills development solutions that are tightly connected to concrete workforce requirements. Without this match between learning and the "right" learning (i.e., skills), we will get what we're getting today: a training and development crisis.
The new breed of SD solutions comes with a much more responsive set of tools designed to connect the industry with the right skills and with the right analytical tools. Leaders in our community have accepted and acknowledge the fact that "industry-defined skills development" is one of the best ways to create system/sector-level productivity and employment.
The mind shift starts when we realize that the traditional LMS is dead. Learning is about skills, abilities, and knowledge that can be demonstrated, measured, and tracked. Best-in-class organizations are shaking off their complacency and looking at tightly connecting skills development with industry needs using SD software such as Shift iQ, for example.

What's the Bottom Line?

In a nutshell, it's all about relevant skills learning using new SD products to take old LMS thinking to the next level--to mastery-based learning. This skills learning model creates highly engaging, and perhaps most importantly, highly relevant, learning experiences that integrate hands-on training into every learning task.

About the Author

Don Keller is a member of the Training Top 10 Hall of Fame. See the original article published in Training Magazine here.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Lost and Found in SharePoint

All is not lost...

Yes, you can use SharePoint content in your Shift iQ skills development solution!

Lost in SharePoint

People in many organizations feel they have "gone down the rabbit hole" with SharePoint, and end up feeling hopelessly lost. SharePoint vendors have a strong tendency to oversell and over promise, leading organizations to believe SharePoint has capabilities which it really doesn't.
Let's be clear: SharePoint is not a bad product. It is a good product used by more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. But it isn't a panacea for all things related to content and document management.

What is SharePoint, really?

SharePoint is a web application framework developed by Microsoft to provide organizations with a platform for intranet portals and online repositories for Microsoft Office documents. In essence, it is a programmable content and document management system. Office 365 is a cloud-based service hosted by Microsoft, which is a good example of SharePoint online.
Because it is a web application framework, SharePoint can (in theory) be extended to do just about anything, given an unlimited budget and software development resources. All too often we see it is this theoretical capability that vendors sell to their customers, without fully explaining the practical considerations.
We have worked in countless organizations where SharePoint has been adopted without a clear understanding of the time and cost required to transform SharePoint's "out-of-the-box" functionality into a practical and usable business solution.

A content management system is NOT a learning management system.

Learning management systems (LMS) are an excellent case in point. SharePoint is often sold as an LMS, but (once again) let's be clear: SharePoint is NOT itself a learning management system. Out of the box, SharePoint does not have even the most basic features of an LMS.
Given unlimited resources one can build an LMS from SharePoint, but given unlimited resources one can also build an LMS from Excel. And we have worked with companies who have attempted both. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should, but as everyone knows: to the man with a hammer everything might look like a nail...
As an office document repository, SharePoint is a good solution, and we don't suggest that our customers discontinue using it for that purpose. Corporate Information Technology (IT) departments often want to see "everything" in SharePoint because consolidation is an intrinsically good thing (and we agree) and SharePoint is a good way to consolidate and manage content.
Many systems that bill themselves as "learning management systems" are in truth content management systems. Moodle, for example, is a popular open source project which started as a content management system, and it is still better (i.e. most accurate) to describe Moodle as "a content management system with some learning management features".
Neither SharePoint nor Moodle is a true learning management system because neither is designed to track and manage learning. SharePoint is designed to track and manage office document content; Moodle is designed to track and manage course content.
A true learning management system is a learning platform with an agnostic view to content.
Companies who have invested heavily in SharePoint (or Moodle, or any other content/course management system, for that matter) can continue to do so, then use Shift iQ to catalogue, track, and manage training programs, learning requirements, and learning activities -- the artifacts of learning -- wherever the content happens to be located, and whatever its nature happens to be.
Let's face it: content is everywhere. Shift iQ is the skills development system to index that content, incorporate it into training plans and education programs, then track all the associated learning outcomes: employee records, compliance reports, and so on.

Found in Shift iQ

The integration between Shift iQ and SharePoint can be made perfectly seamless for the people in your organization.
For example, suppose you have a training program that includes a technical competency which references an Adobe PDF stored in SharePoint. Shift iQ links the technical competency to your PDF in SharePoint and tracks the version of that document signed-off by staff members when they perform self-assessments on that competency.
Because Shift iQ tracks each artifact accessed from Shift iQ, document control is a natural added benefit. Users can find all the content they need from one central location, even when that content is stored in many different locations and in many different systems. Administrators have the ability to manage their content in logical, easy to use libraries, as well as view the history of changes for audit and document control purposes.
From the perspective of learners, the transition from Shift iQ to SharePoint (and back to Shift iQ) is so seamless they won't even notice it. From the perspective of administrators, having the ability to explore and manage SharePoint content through their own libraries and tables of content in Shift iQ is a huge time-saver.

Yes, you can do that!

With Shift iQ you don't need to be a SharePoint guru or a SQL programmer. Best of all, you won't be dependent on your IT department to handle simple requests for integrating SharePoint content into your training programs.
Can you replace SharePoint with Shift iQ and instead use Shift iQ to author and manage your content? Sure, but you don't have to, and that's the beauty of a solution based on Shift iQ.
Shift iQ customers are always delighted to discover all is not lost in SharePoint: they can leverage that content "as is" in a true skills development system to develop and manage a competent and capable workforce, all in one place.

About Shift iQ

Shift iQ offers an integrated solution that provides an intuitive, cost-effective way to deliver online learning, including competency-based training and performance support.