While the objectives and recognized value of corporate learning programs have changed in the last decade, the “traditional LMS” (learning management system) has not. Mired in technical debt, LMS solutions — built for a different purpose than the one facing learning organizations today — have not kept pace.
Among the first human resource online technology offerings in the 1990s, the LMS was intended to create an online classroom experience. This objective shifted quickly away from solutions that focus on improving learning to a focus on proving compliance. As a “learning system of record,” the LMS is still good at keeping compliance records but to the people who have to learn key job skills, it’s the very definition of workplace technology frustration.
This frustration comes from the core product design elements of learning for compliance: making sure someone took a course (and when) and the assumption that by doing so, they learned and retained the knowledge included in that online course. Even so, LMS solutions continue to become more sophisticated in tracking the “who, what, where, when” aspects of corporate learning. And, because compliance and regulation aren’t going anywhere, neither is the LMS.
Nevertheless, tracking that content reaches its audience (and ensuring they attend the training) is different than engaging an audience. Even when the content is essential for success on the job or for attaining a new career level, learners tend to begrudgingly interact with the LMS. And, even if care is taken in creating great content, information risks disappearing into the digital junk drawer: no matter how relevant, the content is just another digital artifact, an administrative burden taking people away from their jobs.
Companies can prove that someone went through the motions of training using these methods from the 1990s, but they can’t prove people learned anything or remembered what they learned over time.
The LMS, built for compliance, has struggled for two decades and will continue to evolve as a learning experience. It also struggles to achieve an adequate return on investment in both learning budget and resources. A staggering estimation of $200 billion is spent on corporate training annually, but it’s also a proven learning theory that 79% of that learning is forgotten within 30 days.
Preventing the negative corporate learning ROI and wasted investment is at the heart of the microlearning knowledge reinforcement value proposition. Organizations risk continuing to squander their learning investments if they don’t present learners with a better learning experience. Knowledge reinforcement is an absolutely critical part of that experience for those who wish to focus on more than just tick-box compliance and course completion.
This leads me to the purpose of this microlearning myth: too many solutions claim to have “microlearning” simply because they have the ability to “shrink content,” including the LMS. The LMS was built for detailed compliance, and this is not microlearning. Microlearning — at least best practice microlearning versus “shrunken content” — just simply isn’t in the LMS.
The Difference Between Microlearning and the LMS
Introduced in the mid to late 1990s and refined with deeper features and the technical debt that accumulates along with those features, the legacy LMS is a compliance necessity.
But the LMS hasn’t proven to help people learn. It’s more suited to prove that someone took a class. Most learners and managers have a notoriously bad user experience and get frustrated using the system. eLearning via the LMS becomes something to get done, not “something that helps me do my job better.” It’s rarely viewed as “something that helps me grow in my career.”
Microlearning and the LMS: Both (Not Either/Or)
The difference between microlearning and the LMS isn’t an “either/or” proposition because the traditional LMS isn’t going away. I’m not recommending that. But how exciting is another year on the LMS treadmill?
It’s time to admit that, at a minimum, the LMS isn’t a consumer quality learner experience. It’s actually the antithesis of consumer experience; it’s a compliance tool that’s going to turn the audience off. It turns off employees, managers, even the HR professionals who rely on it to share knowledge, prove learning is happening and foster a learning culture with the organization. The LMS is almost legendary in its power to alienate.
Best practice microlearning starts with a better learner experience that engages employees, respects their busy workday and personal lives and is scientifically proven to help people retain knowledge longer.
Microlearning applications don’t seek to replace the LMS, they simply intersect it by applying spaced learning principles and an engaging learning experience to reinforce critical business knowledge and skills. What microlearning does seek to replace is the first-generation learner experience that leads people to not engage fully with learning content in the first place and then quickly risk forgetting what they tried to learn in the first place.
Best practice microlearning is based on delivering micro-content periodically until they have proven mastery of that information, or where there are knowledge gaps that need intervention. Although there are many definitions of microlearning out there, best practice microlearning is an opportunity to make a meaningful impact at your organization. My hope is that this blog series debunked all of the most common myths about microlearning and, in turn, helps you identify the areas where this innovative learning and development approach can have a demonstrable impact on performance.
For more on these microlearning myths, download our webcast. To learn more about how Qstream’s mobile microlearning platform can help learning and business leaders improve their employees’ performance, contact us.