Are you wondering if your organization needs a learning management system (LMS)? Remember that an LMS doesn’t solve every problem. The primary purposes of an LMS include controlling access (enrollment, payment, authentication), providing structure to learning programs, delivering consistent and cohesive content, and allowing tracking and reporting of completion of a variety of learning activities. Let’s walk through these one at a time.
Do you need to control access to your learning content? If so, you need a mechanism that will only allow approved individuals the rights to login to your site (and to protect it from malicious internet people set upon damaging the content in your site). We call this authentication. Usually, this is handled by the use of a username and password. You may need to take this step further – allowing only certain people in your organization access to certain learning materials. Think of it like you would a large office building. The building manager and perhaps some very high level people have a key to the front door and all the rooms inside. Some Managers have a little less access – they can open the doors to the building, but only enter certain offices and restricted areas. Others are just workers – they have a key to their personal office and the washroom, but no more. The same is true for access to online learning sites. If you need to control who goes where, you may need an LMS. Perhaps you need to make sure someone has paid before they can be allowed into a certain course of study – in this case controlling access is linked with proof of payment.
Do you need an online tool that organizes your courses or content in a logical way? Do you need it to allow users to move through learning materials by topic or by competencies? Then an LMS may meet this need. In organizations, LMS tools are most commonly used to meet the needs of Human Resources, Health and Safety Departments, and other divisions with specific training and performance needs. These teams or divisions are typically responsible for onboarding new employees, ensuring that risk management issues of an organization are addressed, tracking health and safety requirements that require completion, and making efforts to make certain that individual employees or teams with specific training needs have what they need to do their jobs.
The nature of your content is a critical element in evaluating e-learning for business. While most content will translate well online, some issues should be considered. Do you have courses or content that many people need to participate in or see? For example, are you training 1000 waiters a month over the North American continent in food handling? Then LMS-based e-learning may be the best way to accomplish this. Even if creating the training is expensive, the sheer volume will improve your return on investment (ROI). Is employee turnover an issue for you? For example, do many of your workers on-board and exit within a 6-12 month period? Then getting them trained and working fast is imperative and you need to do this in a cost effective manner. Elearning may work. Can your content be delivered effectively online? Imagine you are teaching public speaking. While it is possible to use web technologies and virtual classrooms to critique learner presentations, the whole course may simply be better delivered in a face-to-face venue.
Tracking and Reporting
Do you need to audit your learners and get reporting on how your training initiatives are being used? Then you need a tool that will track an individual’s movement and activities within the LMS. You may need grading functionality. Perhaps you need to see if John Doe logged in on Monday, and if he went to a specific course and viewed certain information. An LMS can help you do this. Maybe you need to prove to an accrediting or regulatory agency that all your employees have been trained in Fire Safety. LMSs help you do the training and keep the records.
In terms of organizational types with high compliance needs, these are good candidates for the use of the tracking functions offered by an LMS:
- Educational institutions (as opposed to colleges and schools)
- Industrial (manufacturing, energy, mining)
- Public Health (FDA, emergency response, food handling)
If your organization must report to any of the following compliance agencies (these are US agencies only), an LMS should be considered in helping you create standardized learning offerings and track/record completions:
- ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act)
- Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLB)
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
- Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA)
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
- ISC (Homeland Security)
- International Organization for Standardization (ISO 9001)
- Joint Commision (JCAHO (TJC))
- Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 (Sarbox)
- SSAE 16 (ACCOUNTING)
Finally, LMS-based e-learning should be part of the dialogue for any company interested in the following:
- Proof of compliance
- Employee accountability
- Cost containment
- Updating content
- Employee retention
- Knowledge transfer
- Career paths/ladders
- Talent management
- Succession planning
It is in this last category that companies can really stretch an LMS to full capacity. By creating engaging, dynamic, and highly interactive content and resources that naturally drive employees to want to expand their knowledge, organizations grow stronger and better able to compete in the marketplace. And no matter how many tracking or compliance needs you have, providing opportunities for ongoing professional development will help you attract and retain talent.