I just completed the successful implementation of a Virtual Learning Environment/Learning Management System for one of the largest distance learning providers in the UK. But with many stories, with captivating titles like - Is the LMS dead?, Standalone LMS is dead!, The VLE/LMS is dead! - the question I got asked was - have we just put in place something that is dead/dying?
The answer is a simple NO - NO, the LMS is not dead ... nor is it going to die anytime soon. The fact of the matter is, as with all technologies - The LMS is evolving (maybe the editor had only 4 character spaces and chose Dead - 4 chars - over Evolving - 8 chars).
In the past the LMS has always been a course repository. Anyone in the organisation who wants to do a course will look through the LMS (hundreds or thousands of courses for large organisation), find the course, register and complete it. The completion status is recorded in the LMS, and HR is informed of the updated status. It is a very dry process and I will go through the motions only if it is mandated (health and safety training is a good example). It is push-based learning. There is nothing pulling me/attracting me to learn/do the course.
Newer versions of the LMS tried to implement a level of interactivity with forums and groups ... but many times as an afterthought rather than being planned as a part of the pedagogy or the delivery methodology of the course.
With evolution in technology and new findings in the learning space, some of the questions being asked are:
- how can we customise learning?
- how can we make learning an enjoyable experience?
- how can we make learning a community/social experience?
- how can we enable the learner to contribute back to the organisational knowledge base?
this is where the concept of a learning system is evolving into portals.
One of the good examples of a portal is iGoogle (www.google.com/ig). You can customise the interface, add the gadgets that you like (the gadgets can give you info, or you can input info), change/update the layout to meet your requirements (colors/fonts etc), and overall have a better experience.
A learning portal can provide you with a similar experience in the learnng space such as:
- Provide you with courses which are applicable to your role, team, department
- Link you up with mentors for that course and enable you to have an online/offline discussion with them.
- Enable documenting the discussion to be captured into an organisational knowledge-base
- Enable 'courselets' (small topic level courses that deal with a particular aspect of your work/project), which provide you with knowledge/information for our current task/project - Just in Time.
- Enable you to add RSS feeds from external sources to enable linked learning
- Enable you to tap into a media stream or educational resources to add a new dimension to your learning
... and many more possibilities. Learning portals focus on a 'learning experience' than 'doing a course'.
Learning portals are the next level - if you have a working LMS or a VLE.
There are many technologies which you can use to implement a learning portal. For the Microsoft camp, SharePoint is one of the good tools you can use for the purpose. For the non-microsoft camp, one of the good options is Liferay.
Evolve or die!