Gary is a trainer and technology consultant based in Sydney, Australia. Contact Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance in selecting and implementing Learning Management Systems.
Learning and development (L&D) makes business sense for most organizations. The significant advantages include increased employee motivation and improved employee skills and capabilities in addition to satisfying the various legal and stakeholder requirements to develop staff. Keeping records in relation to L&D is necessary (in Australia electronic records often need to be kept for 30 years) as is making L&D accessible and relevant for employees. A significant portion of L&D involves training and this is the focus of this article.
The needs of learners have changed markedly over the past decade. With the proliferation of technology in business as well as in everyday life, learning is increasingly becoming decentralised and varied in content and method. Whereas ‘classroom’ teaching alone may have satisfied most learners a few years ago, combinations of media and extension of geographic reach are becoming necessary (increasingly video, wikis, blogs and the like are being combined to form successful training materials).
The solution to the changing training landscape has been in the form of software suites called Learning Management Systems (LMS). These software systems combine course content (for online education for example), assignments and records of attendance and attainment making them a single solution for managing most aspects of training in organizations, both educational and in other industries. The uptake of LMS has been rapid, particularly with the widespread use of Internet connectivity. The first widespread ‘wave’ of LMS use began in the late 1990s with the adoption of learning software systems in large corporate enterprises, government departments and larger educational institutions such as universities. We are however on the cusp of a new wave of LMS implementations.
Due to the improving capabilities along with increased support and reliability of General Public License (GPL i.e. free to implement and use) Learning Management Systems, the Return on Investment (ROI) of implementing and maintaining a LMS is proving attractive to medium and even some small size organizations. Whereas in the past LMS cost a fortune to license, implement and maintain, the costs have become affordable to smaller organizations particularly when weighed against the benefits that may be attained. This is resulting in a new wave in rapid uptake and implementation of Learning Management Systems.
The major proprietary Learning Management System developers and vendors had a very valid argument for persuading potential customers to ignore GPL systems; GPL systems lacked support, were short on features and were unreliable. Unfortunately for the major proprietary LMS vendors, the tables have turned; GPL systems are now often more reliable, have more features, have a far broader support based (such as documentation and online forums) and are simpler to implement than the propriety systems.
If your organization is thinking of implementing or updating a LMS it is thoroughly advisable to consider some of the GPL alternatives such as Moodle, Ilias and Claroline. Nowadays a strong case needs to be made to implement a non-GPL LMS.