Why the LMS Should Be Part of a Learning Technology Stack

The balance of power in corporate learning is shifting. Most eLearning still occurs in an LMS, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon. At the same time, less digital learning consists of eLearning courses. More and more digital learning takes place in spaces that are beyond the reach of the LMS.

To capture and track that learning—and to improve learner experience—more flexibility is needed than an LMS alone can provide. That’s why the digital learning ecosystem is expanding into what is referred to as a learning technology stack.

While the role of the LMS is definitely shifting, the LMS is not going away: In his eLearning Guild research report, “Trends in Learning Technology,” Steve Foreman found that 86 percent of all organizations surveyed use an LMS. That climbs to 98 percent for the largest organizations.

But, as the nature of learning changes, Foreman wrote, the role of the LMS is less central: “The key features of an LMS—course scheduling, delivery, and tracking—are irrelevant for non-course solutions such as microlearning, expert networks, social networking and collaboration, performance support systems, and curated knowledge bases.”

More organizations are using a learning technology stack—multiple learning platforms—to deliver and track training, performance support, and informal learning among employees. Some use an LXP, a learning experience platform, or a talent management system to consolidate external content. Yet others use a combination of platforms. More than half of the respondents to Foreman’s survey include one or more social platforms in the learning technology stack. Other popular choices are learning record stores (LRSs) and microlearning platforms.

Benefits of a learning technology stack

An obvious benefit to adding social media, knowledge management, or microlearning platforms to corporate digital learning is the ability to offer content in new formats. But the benefits extend beyond growing the catalog of eLearning and training options.

Adding an LRS, for example, makes it possible to gather and track data from an enormous variety of xAPI-enabled tools and software, which can aid managers in tracking learners’ participation, performance, and progress. This can turn a social media conversation, a practice session on a simulator, or drills using a piece of work-related equipment—anything from a CPR dummy to a forklift—into an measurable learning experience.

An LRS or other tool that can aggregate and analyze data from multiple platforms allows managers to get a big-picture view of all learning and collaboration activities, whether they occur in eLearning courses in the LMS, social media platforms, or learning and performance support options that use apps, chatbots, and curated content. These data can then be used to tailor learning paths to individual employees’ needs. The data can also drive improvement in training.

“Pulling multi-platform data together into an LRS or data warehouse allows L&D to analyze how its solutions are used, continually improve them, and provide evidence of their impact across the entire learning and performance ecosystem,” Foreman wrote.

The larger and more flexible the learning technology stack is, the greater the potential for personalized training. This, in turn, can increase engagement and boost performance. A learning technology stack also affords learners greater choice in the content they consume; as well as when, where, and how they consume it.

Getting started

Companies venturing beyond the LMS should think about the learner experience (LX). Adding too many platforms too quickly can be confusing. Beyond that, L&D teams should plan for a coherent LX. This can mean building the system to allow a single sign-on to multiple tools and developing search functionality that allows learners to discover content easily—wherever it resides.

The benefits of this advance planning extend beyond learners; managers can more easily track progress and make recommendations when the entire learning technology stack functions as an integrated system.

Learn more about extending eLearning and performance support beyond the LMS in “Trends in Learning Technology,” an eLearning Guild research report.

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