Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cigarettes & LMS'

Your LMS will not cause cardiovascular disease. Each time you use your LMS is will not shorten your life by 11 minutes. Still, I believe a traditional LMS is similar to cigarette. A Learning Management System is supposed to be about tracking a user’s learning. What progress have they made, what courses have they taken what are their scores? In reality I think this is not quite true. An LMS is about pushing information. Let me elaborate.

Cigarettes are a means of delivering nicotine. Big Tobacco has fought this, but that’s the truth of it. There’s a certain image perpetuated, but that’s just the sales pitch. Cigarettes deliver nicotine and all of its “benefits” to your body. It’s a somewhat acceptable means to get a fix (versus chewing tobacco).

Learning Management Systems deliver content to users. What about all the other new functionality? Those are how vendors stay relevant and sell new versions. It’s similar to how Microsoft has to keep “improving” the word processor (read: extra features that I have to learn just to complete basic tasks). I’ve been in discussions about our online learning strategy. I think our strategy is two-fold, Content & LMS software. I believe the emphasis has been incorrectly weighted towards software. Our LMS’ primary purpose is to support the training and rollout of our main solution. The best way to do this is to provide a large catalog of high-quality content. The goal of a learning solution is to bring about change. Content is what delivers a change in performance the LMS is more about the project management.

So what went wrong? When working on online learning content, and software development, where should the resources go? One might think that software is more important. Functionality is King! Making software is cool, we’re providing more capabilities to customers! In reality The primary value to clients is content. That’s the value proposal, that should be the primary focus.

The tide is turning as large corporations are consolidating technology. It’s much less likely to have LMS for a single department within a company. Instead they will subscribe to an online course, or purchase content to use within their existing corporate system. You can’t really argue with it, having a central learning repository is important. LMS functionality is becoming commoditized. It’s becoming a value-add on an HRMS, CMS etc.

So when given the choice for development remember that clients will always need a content fix. Whether it’s through your LMS or not.


Dave said...

Amen brutha. This is true for marketing as well. So often the marketing department puts internal politics or what the marketing decision makers boss cares about (show me the leads!) ahead of all else. The problem with this is it usually results in really boring/cliche marketing efforts that your (would be) customers don't respond to.

The solution is to product quality content always!

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