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.

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.

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.

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. 

Don Keller is vice president of Global Education and Marketing at SCC Soft Computer, a member of the Training Top 10 Hall of Fame.