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Do we need management systems?
Bob Little reports on the in-depth discussions on learning management systems, skills management systems and virtual classrooms that took place at the March 2004 meeting of the eLearning Network.
Part 2: Learning Management Systems
Stuart Hornsey, of LMS producer Pathlore Software, pointed out that an LMS is about learning, not necessarily e-learning. He commented: "Although e-learning is an important part of our market, it is important not to forget about classroom-delivered learning. Don't just think about linking delivering learning content over a network to a web browser to an LMS. In many ways, that is the easiest part of the process. The greatest challenge for any LMS is how it manages and monitors business processes."
Turning to the question of why invest in an LMS, Hornsey said: "An LMS is not always 'right' for every organisation."
In his view, an LMS has most to offer organisations that are:
"You can use an LMS, in its simplest form, to control and manage training," said Hornsey. "It can provide a big benefit for an organisation when it is used to push learning out to employees - especially if the organisation needs to stress the value of learning to its employees and built its image as an organisation that promotes learning opportunities for its staff."
Hornsey suggested six areas where an LMS can be of value:
"LMSs automate these processes and, so, streamline them," said Hornsey. "These processes include:
In terms of the 'real difference' that can be brought about by using an LMS, Hornsey commented: "That depends - on who you are."
He added that a number of factors have an effect upon an organisation and each of them are affected, to some degree, by the use of an LMS. These factors are:
"Of these, the major one at the moment appears to be 'regulatory compliance'," he said. "But whichever one of these factors is important to you and your organisation will influence what you see as the benefits of using an LMS."
Combining courses with an LMS, said Hornsey:
"From a strategic perspective, an organisation wants to align its training and development with its goals," Hornsey said. "It wants to analyse and close skills gaps in order to meet its business plan. It also wants to foster an atmosphere where employees believe that they are important to the organisation where the organisation is seen to have a commitment to develop the knowledge and skills of its employees.
"Where it achieves these things, performance improves and the organisation gains a competitive advantage.
"From an operational point of view, managers want to do and achieve more with less - working faster, better and/or quicker," Hornsey continued. "They want to retain and develop their employees and also address any regulatory requirements. Doing this results in increasing efficiency and productivity, reduced risk and increased customer satisfaction."
Hornsey's answer to question three was, again, 'it depends' - this time, on what the organisation is doing. He said that chief executive officers want:
"You're on to a winner if you can align the LMS to one or more of these factors," smiled Hornsey. "For example, you could show that 'doing things better' because the staff are better trained will help retain customers and, by spending less time away from their desks doing the training, the staff will be able to serve more customers and increase their satisfaction with the organisation and its products.
"The key is to align the e-learning business plan to the business' goals - otherwise the business won't put any money into an LMS."
Hornsey agreed that question four - agreeing an ROI from an LMS - was difficult, principally because it is impossible to measure the ROI of the LMS in isolation from every other factor. Hornsey said: "An LMS is part of the solution. It is not the solution. However, if you take any one of the seven factors that impact on a business - salesforce productivity; customer and partner training; developing and retaining employees; regulatory compliance; enterprise software implementations; quality initiatives, and strategic communications - an LMS can be shown to pay for itself within a year."
Hornsey concluded his presentation by looking at three case studies:
© 2004 e-Learning Network. Reproduced with permission. Any opinions or views contained in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Training Reference.
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