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.

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