Time to balance Learning and Management in LMS using Open Learning

There are hundreds of Learning Management Systems in market and almost all focus more on Management than Learning. This is resulted from LMS vendors primarily selling their systems to HR or L&D managers who focus heavily on Management aspect of the LMS to simplify their job and showcase the ROI on L&D investment. Thus products get shaped according to the needs of Management more and learning / learner’s needs take a back seat in the whole LMS procurement discussions. If we look at any RFI or RFP for LMS, its full of requirements related to trainers and managers who are mainly concerned about access controls and analytics. In fact most LMS vendors rarely get chance to talk to end learners, who use their product 99% of the time.

Learning_ManagingDue to this limited or no interaction with end learners, vendors often participate in the industry events to get chance to meet with their available audience, i.e. e-learning / curriculum developers, trainers and managers who do share some of their learner’s experiences (that they know about) with the vendors, but its not highlighted enough in those conversations. Majority of sessions / discussions still revolve around need for more automation, notification, tracking and reporting; and vendors keep producing more and more features aligned to these requirements. Many LMS products can also be traced back to their founder’s background in e-learning industry, who used their e-learning design and/or training management experience to start a new LMS product.

Organizations have used M(anagement) centric Learning Management Systems for a long time without much difference in the outcome of learners and overall effect on the organizations in general. Trainers and managers like to measure everything from enrollment counts, completion counts, time spent, scores etc. They focus on finding the best LMS that can be used to micromanage the entire training operations effectively and put necessary access controls to block the access to courses in many different ways. This style of micromanaged training operations works well in some use cases, like compliance and HR centric trainings, but LMSs aren’t supposed to be just the Training Management Systems only, isn’t?

In this decade, we observed many new LMSs coming up with “simplicity” and “ease of use” as their core pitch. But what was not very apparent is, “ease of use” for whom? Is it for 1% of the users (trainers and managers) or for 99% of the users (learners). Our analysis suggests, most of the time “simplicity” is exclusively targeted to attract content creators, trainers and managers who are the decision makers, or act as an influencer in LMS purchase decisions. If you talk to learners (or play that role yourself by taking online courses) you will realize how closed and boring today’s LMS systems are from their perspective. They are mostly used as a platform to deliver SCORM content and to enroll in Instructor led classes.

When we started EduBrite, we had no background in e-learning/training industry. We only knew one side of the LMS in our imagination, the Learner’s side. We took inspiration from open web and created the foundation of EduBrite to support “Open Learning” from day one. But we had to go thru validation by the customers and due to established definition of LMS where M is the most significant part for potential buyers; we realized we had missed to fully analyze the buyer’s persona. Every interaction we did with prospects and customers, made us realize what additional M(anagement) feature we didn’t have. We kept adding those features to support the complex training operations, that grew the platform to a level where we could not only match but also outperform many established M focussed LMSs. Although this proved successful in growing the business, but our passion was (is) still to develop a “Open Learning” system and not only a “Training Management” System, hence we kept building Learner centric features and put whatever we built to field test by using it for our own support site / user community (support.edubrite.com) that offers our platform education to our customers. It worked well and was a self-validation of our belief that open platforms are needed for online self-paced learning. It was surprising to see not many other LMS vendors use their own product to educate their customers.

We announced “Open Learning” sometime in mid 2016, as an add-on to EduBrite LMS, but still demand for it from traditional buyers was not there, as at the moment most internal employee centric education still revolves around HR/onboarding/compliance stuff, which limits the amount of time learners have to use the LMS. On the other hand, we found many different use cases (and buyer persona) that were a better fit for Open Learning, e.g. VMware’s customer education site – vmwarelearningzone.vmware.com which uses EduBrite Open Learning to a great extent similar to how we used it ourselves on support.edubrite.com .

Open Learning helps both marketing as well as customer success teams (besides trainers and managers) by offering engaging content to all users (even anonymous), and allowing learners to easily find the bite-size lessons and build their knowledge bit by bit. Once learners have more time, they can enroll in larger units like Courses and Programs (learning plans) or even instructor led classes that are related to their interest and needs. They get ability to engage in meaningful conversation with the community, self claim mastery points and create their own curated Playlists, rather than going thru pre-built courses which are laid out in a specific sequence. While learners get their share of tools, Trainers are also not left behind. They can use EduBrite’s powerful features to offer instructor led trainings and advanced certifications.

EduBrite’s Open Learning combines the power of traditional LMS, fun of Learner centric Microlearning, freedom of Community and wisdom of Knowledgebase to offer a full suite of tools needed for customer as well as employee education. This approach finally finds a balance between L and M in the LMS platform.

About Ajay Upadhyaya
Cofounder & CEO, EduBrite Systems

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