'Must Haves' For Your Next LMS

'Must Haves' For Your Next LMS

Poll Responses, Corporate Needs, Commonsense Dictate Priorities

In 2011, it’s estimated that more than 40 percent of learning organizations plan to acquire, replace or change their current talent or learning management systems (TMSs/LMSs). That’s a lot of activity, so it begs the question, “why?”

Below are “generally accepted” definitions, although you should be prepared to see these definitions blurred when you look at specific software offerings:

>> Learning Management System (LMS) – The earliest and often the most robust system that we use to control the learning process. Its primary focus has been to provide us with technology that tracks and administers learning programs, whether they are classroom, e-learning or virtual learning modalities. As part of its functionality, we usually expect that it can help us plan and track a learner’s progress and activities, as well as help us manage the varied activities that surround the learning modalities such as registration, classroom and instructor planning, multiple catalogs, multiple calendars, certification tracking, and a host of other activities. Depending on the clients serviced, this system will take on additional feature sets that were driven by usage in either a specific enterprise, industry or government environment.

>> Talent Management System (TMS) – Evolved within or alongside the
LMS, so it may include much of the same functionality as an LMS, but with additional HR-, peer- and performance- type functions. These functions include features like applicant tracking, 360-degree feedback, peer review and ratings, expert directory/locator functions, succession planning, workforce planning/
staffing functions (driven fromemployee profiles), social networking, compensation planning, and more. Sometimes these features have been implemented within an LMS, while in other cases they have evolved as separate modules or systems. In many cases, they can interoperate with an LMS.

>> Learning Content Management System(LCMS) –

Can be standalone or part of an LMS. Its primary purpose is to allow
multiple authors to collaborate with one another in order to create, review, edit, manage, and store content for learning programs.When this functionality is part of an LMS, the features are usually highlighted as authoring tools or rapid development tools. The LCMS has evolved as a standalone entity, but many have developed features that can track and administer the learning process for their type of supported content. And of course,many can interoperate with an LMS or a TMS.


Elearning! Magazine Group (EMG) conducted a study across corporate and government enterprise learning audiences. Top findings:

Top findings:
>> 40% of the respondents planned to add, change or replace their current LMSs or TMSs

>> 41% of the current LMS/TMS owners planned to purchase a new system.
Correspondingly, 39% of “non-owners” had plans to purchase a TMS/LMS. In
total, as a group of buyers, 40% said that they planned to make this purchase
within the next 24 months.

>> Of the current owners of a TMS/LMS, 45% use an enterprise-based LMS,
41% use a hosted or SaaS-based (software as a service) LMS, and 12% relied on open source LMS.

>>What are the “must-have” features in their next LMS/TMS, we collected the following data points (See Table 1).

All of these data proved to be somewhat telling. There was a stronger move to SaaS based systems. Social networking tools made a strong appearance along with more of the talent management feature sets.


While trying to guess an enterprise’s future learning needs and styles will be at best imprecise, there are some growing trends that we can use to extrapolate where education and training might be headed. To that end, we thought Elearning! could act as a “straw man” and suggest a list of 20 possible learning trends.

How did we come up with the list? We used our unique perspective and our seasoned editorial staff to look back a decade to see what had dominated the landscape. We then compared it to current practices to see if there was any
movement — either up or down. We then projected that movement forward to come up with the initial list.

You are invited to rigorously defend, challenge or add to the list on our Elearning! and Government Elearning! magazine blogs (http://blogs.2elearning.com/):

The harder part of this exercise, assuming that you agree with one or more of these trends, will be to express the trend(s) as features and functionality within an RFP for an LMS/TMS/LCMS. Although space doesn’t permit us to go into each trend, we thought we’d cover five examples of how to translate these trends into a list of features. We encourage you to use them as talking points when you get together with your LMS project team and potential vendors:

>> Supporting learning in the workplace –
As more learning moves from the classroom into the workplace, the types of delivery modalities can conjure up an interesting set of features. In its earliest form, training in the workplace took the form of simple keyboard templates and job aids. But now that the workplace is more complex and applications are Web- or computer-based, these tools have evolved.

However, that evolution has actually made it easier to navigate to the learning needed by the knowledge worker. Perhaps it’s a click-through learning portal that will provide the training when it’s needed. Or perhaps it’s support of embedded training in an application or learning called up as context-sensitive learning snippets
that will serve your needs — especially in a heavy process-driven enterprise where claims and loans are processed or accounting functions are recorded. Perhaps in the mobile knowledge worker category these features will be defined as mobile access to learning portals and knowledge repositories.

>> Provide for social interconnections for informal learning – Perhaps the most interesting of the trends to watch is the impact of Gen-Y employees. Our predictions are that more social interactions will be expected by this new generation of employee, where the notion of sharing knowledge replaces the older value of “knowledge is power.” This interaction will allow peer collaboration, easy search for expert resources, or peer groups with similar problems. Typical functionality needed
would be expert locator functions, internet messaging with peers, peer ratings, wiki and blog functionality, as well as the ability to form learning communities. (Note: Our September ELCE11 Conference, Sept 27-29, 2011, at the Anaheim (Calif.) Hilton at the Convention Center will focus on these evolving trends.)

>> Make rapid searches easy – The new adage here is that the learning organization can’t expect to be a source for learning if it takes longer to find an answer than using Google.

The LMS is quickly becoming a non-destination for learners looking for quick answers to do their job. A Delphi Group study said that 25 percent of a “knowledge worker’s” day is spent searching for information to do their job. In polls of IT organizations on their preferred educational source, more than 96 percent said Google. Those two statistics together should tell you why a great search capability is a very important feature. And that feature should take you outside the proprietary LMS.

In our estimation, future search advancements should start to show federated search engines coming into vogue. These engines simply search multiple sites simultaneously – the LMS, the Internet, knowledge repositories, code repositories, and so forth. And extending that search capability to experts should also be in the realm of possible, as expert directories come on line.

>> Provide support of new learning modalities –
Because Gen-Y is here, we need to understand how to take advantage of games, simulations, augmented reality and other technologies in our learning delivery
systems. In order to give yourself the widest berth in this area, you will want to focus on interoperability with ad hoc programs. Expect that this will be difficult for many systems today. An example of a specific type of interoperability might be the ability to launch into a Second Life type virtual learning environment and track progress. (Note: See our editorial whitepaper: New Horizons: Virtual Learning Environments.)

>> Support project-based learning (a.k.a., experiential education) – This is really
a seductive forum for learning — especially in the leadership arena.
Some of the best examples take on a current company initiative by mobilizing a team of leaders from across the company, who in turn set out to solve a real company problem. What becomes unique in this format is that learning interventions are provided along the solution path and timeline. These learning projects can be a range of problems from implementing new network topographies in I.T., to taking a U.S.-based company global, where new rules, customs and business practices must be learned. Experts on these various aspects come in at specific times during the implementation, and overall, the project takes on a “Hollywood-style” of implementation: when the project is done, the team is then dissolved. Typical functions include workforce planning, expert locators, team assignments, and other functions within the talent management arena.


With employees being stretched and with change occurring at an ever increasing rate, perhaps the “holy grail” of learning might be the ability to deliver up that small pearl of learning, knowledge or wisdom just when it’s needed, in order to assist an employee in the performance of his or her job. What would this functionality look like? The G.P.S. in your car is a great example. Now imagine an LMS that can provide guidance to an employee when they needed directions, suggest better alternatives based upon current conditions, and could be turned off when the employee already knows the route—or is simply exploring.

Want To Learn More?

Join the Web seminar on May 19th hosted by Joe DiDonato (or view ondemand):www.2elearning.com/events/web-seminar-series.html. You can also join the on-going blog discussions around this topic at www.blogs.2elearning.com, as well as participate in an upcoming survey.

The Complete Study

The complete Learning and Talent Management Study can be downloaded at: www.2Elearning.com/ from the Resources area. Look in Research & Whitepapers for the Learning & Talent Management Systems Buyer Survey June 2010. Watch for the 2011 report in July.

A Sample RFP

A sample Request for Proposal accompanied an article in the Fall, 2005, issue of Elearning! magazine. To access it via computer, visit www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/b2bmediaco/elearning-fall05/

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