LMS Solutions Vs. Learning-As-A-Service
This article will explore the business case for an LMS solution, discuss its benefits, then analyze the disadvantages that are also experienced by organizations. Finally, Learning-as-a-Service, or LaaS, will be proposed as an alternative that navigates the pitfalls of LMSs.
The Business Case For LMS Solutions
1. Cost Reduction
First and foremost, an LMS is often cited to reduce costs. An LMS facilitates eLearning, which provides the same knowledge, insight, and skills as traditional classroom training but without the unnecessary additional costs. For example, in some large organizations, it’s estimated that up to 60% of total training costs are solely attributed to traveling. As LMSs eliminate the need for travel, costs are reduced. Moreover, there is no requirement for a physical location or catering. IBM managers could learn 5 times more content at one-third of the cost, saving the organization $200 million, accounting for 30% of its previous training budget.
2. Shorter Learning Cycles
IBM’s case story highlights another benefit: the reduction of learning time. Not only can an LMS save money, but it can also improve the quality or quantity of learning. Employees can spend the additional time reinforcing learning, learning new topics, or even implementing gained knowledge. eLearning reduces the learning cycles by cutting out the time-wasting attributes of traditional classroom learning, travel time, and setting up or downtime. For these reasons, eLearning typically takes 40-60% less time.
3. More Effective
Building upon this, employees will have various learning styles and paces in any organization. In traditional classroom teaching, one of two things can happen. Either slower learners who need more support hold up faster learners, meaning the entire learning cycle is decided by the slowest learner. Or the slower learners feel self-conscious about requiring more support and therefore do not speak up when confused. Neither option is optimal for efficiency or effectiveness. An LMS offers a risk-free environment where employees can learn at their own pace and fail in a safe, private environment, circumventing this pitfall. This is probably why eLearning platforms boost retention rates too. Research has shown that eLearning can significantly increase knowledge retention, with offline training reports having about 8-10% retention, whereas online can reach up to 60%. However, many of these benefits come from eLearning and are merely facilitated by LMSs.
4. Analytics And Records
Regarding LMS-specific benefits, the systems often produce analytic reports. This gives organizations a broad overview of how engaged their workforce is in learning and can guide future L&D decisions. Moreover, in a compliance context, the fact that LMSs can provide a record of training taking place makes it easier for organizations to ensure and prove compliance with health and safety requirements, for example. These systems can also act as reminders when training needs to be repeated, especially beneficial in the previous compliance example.
The Pitfalls Of LMS Solutions
Despite the benefits listed above, LMSs can become problematic, as illustrated by Brandon Hall Group research which found that 44% of organizations are dissatisfied with their LMS, and 48% are researching new or different learning technologies.
1. The Support System
Most LMS services do not come with advanced support services. One of the most prominent disadvantages is that many only include online FAQs and, perhaps, user communities/forums. Businesses, therefore, may have to solve IT issues alone, without an LMS vendor to refer to.
Business leaders may have to administer time and resources to resolve the issue, which adds costs. If an LMS system issue is not resolved, it can cause severe business delays. Not only is this an inconvenience, but it can also significantly disrupt employee development and lower overall engagement. Online forums have become the equivalent of putting a plaster on a bullet wound in the tech world. Where online systems fail to provide 24/7 support, online forums have been the go-to. Such forums often have mixed responses and need clarification; they are better suited to knowledge sharing than technical support. This lack of support is not unique to technical issues.
An LMS does not inherently provide learning support either. Whilst the benefits conferred by eLearning are vast, there is still research that supports the notion that eLearning works best when supplemented with traditional classroom learning in some circumstances. Unfortunately, an LMS is a piece of technology rather than an all-encompassing L&D solution; therefore, no such support is given.
2. User Experience
Using an LMS can often feel like a chore because, although employees can complete the learning material whenever, the material and its delivery can be dull due to a poor User Interface (UI). Generally, an LMS comprises an Admin Interface (AI) and a User Interface (UI). The AI is where the admin (typically a learning manager or trainer) executes all tasks to organize the company’s learning materials. The UI is what employees will experience throughout their learning journey. Employees must have a good User Experience because learning will take a back seat if employees are bored, confused, or aggravated by the technology. 35% of L&D professionals have stated that poor User Experience is a trigger for low employee engagement.
For a positive User Experience, the UI must be fast, simple, and trendy—it should not resemble a course catalog. The eLearning platform therefore should include interactive and animated courses. Each course should have a distinct feature so that all courses do not blend into one. For example, including quizzes, videos, and different formats of tests can lead to better memory retention, and boost employee emotional and educational development. Certification and recognition for completing a course can increase employees’ learning points, motivating them to learn more. Unfortunately, a lot of LMSs do not offer such User Interfaces, and engagement ultimately suffers.
3. Tunnel Vision Vs. Peripheral Vision
The analytical reports produced by an LMS are of undeniable value. Not only does it give an overview of the organization, the engagement levels, and the completion rate of courses, but the analytics can also be used to identify problems and opportunities in the organization. However, an LMS’s insights are inherently limited in many ways. These limitations narrow the parameters of knowledge that can be drawn from LMS analytics and should be acknowledged to avoid overstating conclusions. For starters, it fails to account for knowledge sharing between colleagues or personal development activities employees may be partaking in outside of work. It cannot, therefore, give a whole picture of which employees are genuinely excelling, progressing, or stunted in their learning journey.
Even within the platform, an LMS has blind spots; analytics data are always open to interpretation. For example, one employee may excel at eLearning courses but never implement the knowledge in their role. Others may struggle to demonstrate their expertise in these courses, but what they do learn translates into tangible results. Acknowledging the limitations of an LMS’s analytics is essential. Not doing so can lead organizations to a false sense of security. An organization may believe it has a well-rounded view of its culture and employee development when in reality it has half the picture.
4. Low Employee Engagement
Disengagement is at the heart of the practical problems with LMSs. A poll conducted across 229 professionals in the L&D space revealed that 46% felt low employee engagement was the biggest issue with LMSs. All the knowledge encapsulated within their chosen eLearning solution is useless unless employees actively engage with it. Many of the problems above either trigger or worsen employee engagement; for example, poor User Experience and the lack of a support system can disrupt learning massively. There is not one cause for disengagement. A multitude of factors contribute.
Firstly, employee engagement can be an organization-wide issue. If an employee is generally disengaged from their role, department, or the company, introducing an LMS solution will do little to change this. Secondly, the large number of courses that are often on such systems can overwhelm employees and have the opposite of the intended effect. This can be intensified by the “one-size-fits-all” approach, where organizations buy courses, many of which have no actual link to the employee development goals they’re trying to achieve. Thirdly, as discussed briefly above, poor User Experience can have a detrimental impact. If the technology is too complex, it can create confusion around how to use it, and technical problems, all of which distract from the core learning task. However, if the User Experience is dull and disengaging, it will unsurprisingly lower engagement. The key is to have a simple but interactive eLearning platform with gamification.
Learning-As-A-Service: The Actual Solution?
After years of watching our clients struggle to navigate the issues discussed above, we were inspired to create a new way of doing things. Instead of simply offering an organization an LMS, we wanted to create a more comprehensive alternative that embodies the best parts of both eLearning and traditional classroom training. The main points of difference are:
1. Discovery To Architecturally Design Your Solution
Facilitators will thoroughly assess your organization’s strategic objectives and use this information to guide the direction of eLearning. Each organization or department (depending on what’s required) will have its own bespoke learning glide path. This improves engagement by tackling elements of poor User Experience and the “one-size-fits-all” approach.
2. On-Tap Consultancy
Organizations can use consultancy days in whatever way is required. It’s really up to you. We offer various services, including but not limited to culture change, mindset growth, leadership development, and sales performance. Our on-tap consultancy is designed to tackle employee engagement, as you can target consultancy days at more challenging areas of the organization. Moreover, this also addresses the support system problem; as discussed, it’s not just technical support that’s required. As we already understand your business, we are able to respond more efficiently and effectively than an external consultancy partner could.
Unlike a lot of LMS providers, employee development is our area of expertise. Growing businesses through developing people is something we have excelled at for over 15 years. We are not theorists; we are practitioners. Collectively, we have over 200 years of experience and, therefore, a deep understanding of how to develop employees. Our solution, thus, goes beyond tackling the problems associated with LMSs, instead targeting the crux of the problem LMSs were trying to solve.
4. Openness To Change And Emotional Intelligence
Our digital tools will be made accessible to organizations who can use this to guide employee development, target specific courses at individuals/departments, or however else the organization sees fit. One of our solutions gives a broad overview of an organization’s openness to change, an essential attribute of that all-important growth mindset. Whereas one of our other solutions focuses on gauging the emotional intelligence of your organization, particularly useful when choosing future leaders. These tools are designed to tackle the tunnel vision issue. By giving organizations access to such tools, leaders can gain a peripheral view of employees and the essential skills required to succeed. In conjunction with our analytics, organizations can use this to inform future L&D strategies or recruitment.
We boast an interactive and engaging User Experience. Regardless of the plan selected, our courses include gamification, points, levels, badges, and leaderboards designed to improve User Experience. This is designed to target low employee engagement.
We have a live chat option depending on the package selected. We also have knowledge videos—every time one of our clients asks us a technical question, we create a bespoke informative video to guide them. This tackles the support system issues. Our on-tap consultancy targets learning support issues.
Whilst LMSs were a revolutionary, cost-effective, convenient L&D solution when first introduced, time has revealed flaws. If an LMS solution isn’t actually developing and increasing skills, then it’s not fulfilling its purpose. Any organization in the modern business world that’s failing to effectively upskill colleagues will undoubtedly pay the price through employee turnover, recruitment costs, and lower productivity and engagement. For some organizations, an LMS may actually be costing more than it saves. If an LMS is not actually a cost-effective solution, it loses one of its greatest advantages. This, alongside, the pitfalls discussed in this article is why Learning-as-a-Service is the future of L&D.