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eLearning Guild Research: Is Your LMS Social Enough?

by Patti Shank

July 11, 2013

Research

by Patti Shank

July 11, 2013

“There was also a lot of interest in using the LMS to manage social and informal learning! The key enabler for tracking and reporting on social and informal learning is the Experience API. Want to understand more? Because of the changes in tracking, Steve has included an appendix within the report on the Experience API (Tin Can) to help readers understand how that will be changing the future role of the LMS.”

How important is social learning to eLearning Guild members? It seems to be close to crossing the tipping point. The eLearning Guild’s recent research report, Evaluating and Selecting a Learning Management System, asks a few questions related to social learning that give us some insights about how respondents were feeling in September 2012, when they completed the survey about their learning management systems experiences and insights.

How important are social media features to users?

It wasn’t too long ago that social learning wasn’t even a part of LMSs. Now many LMSs support one or more social media features. In the survey, we asked respondents to tell us how important these features were to them; Figure 1 shows their responses.


Figure 1:
Importance of social media features

The author of the report, Steve Foreman, analyzed the results and found that, on average, just under half of the respondents rated the individual social media features as very important or extremely important. The social media features are most important to respondents using academic LMS products. Knowledgebases, discussions, online communities, and user ratings are the most important of the social media features, followed by wikis and blogs. Foreman found that those using academic LMSs were more interested in social media features than those with corporate LMSs and wondered if that was because of the security challenges in corporate environments. This challenge is discussed in more detail in the research report.

The future role(s) of the LMS

Social learning comes up again when looking at the future role of the LMS. Many things are changing in learning, including informal and social learning, mobile learning, and performance support. Many of us are talking about the changing role of formal learning and therefore the changing role for learning management systems. Some are even questioning the need for learning management systems.

With that in mind, we asked respondents to select a statement that best describes their view of the role of the LMS in their organization in the 2013 – 2015 timeframe (Figure 2).


Figure 2:
The future role of the LMS in the 2013 – 2015 timeframe

Most respondents agreed on the need to continue using the LMS to manage traditional course delivery. Formal learning programs, at least in the next few years, will continue to be important, especially for compliance, onboarding, and certification, and for academic courses.

The Experience API

But notice there was also a lot of interest in using the LMS to manage social and informal learning! The key enabler for tracking and reporting on social and informal learning is the Experience API. Want to understand more? Because of the changes in tracking, Steve has included an appendix within the report (Figure 3) on the Experience API (Tin Can) to help readers understand how that will be changing the future role of the LMS. You’ll definitely want to download and read this.


Figure 3:
Appendix: The Experience API

To understand why social and informal learning is so important to your organization’s learning, take advantage of your eLearning Guild membership and download the research reports on informal learning and social learning as well as this LMS report.


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Interesting highlight from the report – thanks for this Patti.

It is true that social learning has been more prevalent in LMSs used in the academic world and much less so in the corporate world. However there are many sectors that don’t fit in either category (e.g. NGOs) and it would be interesting to have a closer look at the uptake of collaborative learning in these sectors. These are the sectors that embrace social constructivist learning models.

In most LMSs it is almost impossible to develop social constructivist learning events. The focus tends to be on webinars, which is only one of the many ways (and not a very good one) in which organisations can support collaborative/social online learning. The social features are often an add-on rather than central to the online learning experience.

As e-learning professionals increasingly recognise that the social aspect is important in online training, it will be interesting to watch the rise of LMSs that truly embrace adult learning principles (by supporting social constructivist designs).

Anouk Janssens-Bevernage
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