Instructional Tools and Platforms

>> New workplace Learning

Over the last 10-15 years the e-learning industry has developed a wide range of tools, systems and platforms to support the development and management of e-learning, i.e. tools to create, hosted, manage and track training, and even provide a formal course learning environment.

Web meeting/conferencing systems have also become part of the L&D instructional toolset to support live e-learning. However, in the main these are NOT dedicated instructional tools as they are used throughout the organization.

Learning management systems, however, began to emerge in the late 90s and now are commonplace in most L&D departments in order to manage learning in the organization. But, their name is a misnomer as they don’t actually manage learning, they only track a user’s access to a course and their progress in it, e.g. tests, course completions etc. In essence, they are training management systems.

A number of LMS providers are now adding in the ability to track more informal ways of learning and social activity as part of a blended learning solution (see (SOCIAL) TRAINING), and are marketing themselves as “Social Learning Platforms”.  However, once again these systens should really be termed “Social Training Platforms” as they can only deal with the social learning that takes place within “organized learning” activities –  rather than supporting the real social and collaborative learning that takes place IN THE FLOW OF WORK.

There is a continuing debate as to the value of  having separate learning technologies, as Harold Jarche explains in Instruments of Restraint (28 June 2010):

“First, the notion of learning technologies as separate from working technologies continues to keep learning separate from work. This makes little sense in a networked workplace. Second, learning technologies become a special class of tools that only learning experts understand or care to learn about. Third, they create a class of vendors focused on the training & development department and not the overall organization. My experience is that the only organizations that benefit from learning technologies are those whose core business is learning with a focus on formal, structured delivery – schools.”
Dan Pontefract, Director of Learning at TELUS, in The standalone LMS is dead (brave new org, 24 October 2009, believes there is no need for separate LMS
“Those organizations (and frankly public learning institutions) that are clinging to their standalone learning management systems as a way in which to serve up formal ILT course schedules and eLearning are absolutely missing the big picture.  … The LMS should no longer be thought of as a destination for the learner. This is the nuclear fault of the LMS itself and of antiquated thinking from our learning leaders; it encourages standalone learning by driving people to register for an event … be it an ILT class or an eLearning module. … Blow up your LMS. Find a way to integrate it into your collaboration platform.”
The problem lies, I believe, in the organizational definition of the word learning as TRAINING ie “studying, memorization, instruction” etc, OR as something that has to be “organized and managed” for people, whereas in fact most workplace learning  - in the widest sense of the word of meaning acquiring knowledge and skills in many different ways, often organized by themselves, as happens in the IN THE FLOW OF WORK..

However, as ENTERPRISE COLLABORATION PLATFORMS (aka social intranets) are being introduced to power the work in organizations to underpin SOCIAL COLLABORATION, these systems are being seen as also useful to support the (SOCIAL) TRAINING needs of an organization, meaning there will be a reduced need for separate, instructional systems. [In fact, if there is a defined need to track and manage learning (as for compliance and regulatory training) a LMS/tracking module will become available as a plugin.] This will mean learning will be finally seen as a integral part of working, not a separate activity.

Selected quotes from selected reading

“As the web rapidly transforms the way we consume knowledge, here’s a quick look at innovative tools, programs, and startups that are rapidly changing how we learn.”

 “I don’t even need to look at Learnist to make my point and ask you this question. Why can we not use Pinterest as a learning tool? Why do we need to copy what’s popular and then spin it as “…for learning”?  This probably wouldn’t bother me so much if this was the first time this has happened. Sadly, this is amazingly common in the Internet world. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe what we really need is Loogle? Ya know, it’s like google for learning!”

“While we’re at it, let’s transform LMS-style records of training into portfolios of our learning, work samples, capabilities, and endorsements that can help firms hire us when we’re a good fit with their needs and share our expertise once we’re hired.”

“As business is becoming more social and we are using new social tools to work collaboratively with one another as we work, do we really need another set of social tools specifically for learning?”

“Use of social media (externally) for the (co)-creation and sharing of CONTENT/information and collaborationas well as the building of trusted networks of friends and colleagues for PEOPLE/interaction is now impacting the way we both work and learn within organisations, and means that existing internal systems (intranet, LMS and email) are being surpassed by new social and collaboration tools with more appropriate functionality for today’s world.  As a consequence of this we are also seeing the convergence of working and learning.”

“The LMS debate isn’t about whether or not we should have LMSs. Rather, the issue is whether the LMS merits the fixation of the training community. Managers of learning need to focus on all the other important apps available to them.”

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