#thelmsdebate with Saba (event)

A really impressive venue (my first trip within ‘The Shard’) for this breakfast briefing hosted by Saba.

View from 31st floor of The Shard

A morning of reflection and blue sky thinking

The event was basically made up of three parts: a presentation on the old chestnut of “Is the LMS Dead?” from Donald Taylor, a presentation from Saba on the evolution of the Learning Management System market and some networking.

Is the LMS Dead?

@donaldhtaylor ran through some of the core arguments in the whole debate, a week before the launch of his new book (attendees getting their mits on a copy ahead of the inevitable bank holiday bad weather).

Learning Technologies book from Donald H Taylor

Learning technologies in the workplace 101

Particular points that jumped out for me are below, as tends to be the case with Don it was difficult to disagree with the key messages, some comments/thoughts in square brackets:

  1. The purpose of L&D has to come first – not the tech.
  2. LMSs are evolving with new ways to support learning and supporting the workplace move to digital.
  3. Expectations are changing [e.g. consumerisation of workplace tech – I’d say this has been one of the major challenges for those of who have worked closely with learning tech: evolution keeping pace with expectations.  The point was made that perceptions of LMS lag behind actual system development – this is true in-part but also points to the issue of how tricky corporate systems have been to update].
  4. Whilst growing expectations to learn elsewhere (not in LMS – which you can) there remains a need sometimes for the LMS, especially for compliance in heavily regulated industries [yes, certainly my current workplace would effectively be forced to close without the reporting the LMS provides.  However, your learning culture should make it clear that sharing learning makes sense].
  5. Referenced an article from Saba “the-lms-is-dead-long-live-the-lms” [worth a read].
  6. Always really just been part of the landscape [again, yes, but the challenge here for me is that there are many ‘competing’ systems – for example LMS, Intranet, ESN, email, Office365, etc and how you balance these.  Whilst they might not always be obviously competing they are competing for people’s time, often the most precious resource in an organization].
  7. A reminder of the 5 moments of learning need…push is still needed for unconscious incompetent [‘people dont know what they dont know’].
  8. Users dislike their LMS often due to compliance topics.  However, often needed and L&D can make that better – not always the LMS’s fault [obviously good instructional design should minimize this].
  9. Another criticism is the ‘clunky’ nature but many systems moving away with better UI [some anyway] and change from the classroom information distribution model to better more engaging [and personalized] systems.
  10. LMS often really a “workforce working tool” and Saba’s own first use of their tool was as a social platform [this is one of my main issues with modern LMS – you could use it as intranet, ESN, learning, VC and many more things but it depends on the nature of work and where your people spend their time].
  11. Before any of the tech though – what is the role of L&D?  Too tactical view leads to tactical LMS.  Should be about what you make possible – individuals and organizations fulfilling their potential [this is the “empowerment” piece I bang on about].  Nod to the St Pauls and NASA stories for everyone contributing to vision and organizational goals.


@dipak1p followed up with some of what Saba are doing…20 years after basically kicking off the LMS market:

  1. The system continues to lead and evolve [some nice ‘then and now’ screenshots to show how things have changed].
  2. LMS needs to be at center of engagement model.  Can not be in isolation – needs to be core of talent strategy.  Use it to have people feel they are moving forward in a way aligned to the company strategy.
  3. Can be part of a single vendor suite but also, with cloud and other changes, easier to integrate with other things.
  4. Compliance is big part of the picture for many clients.  Needs to be friction-less, for example automatically dealing with requirements when people’s role changes [to an extent we’ve got this in place with a non-Saba system and I’d agree it is 100% essential].  Just show user what have to do [I agree and we do this but it should also be explaining how it fits and what the expected behaviors are] as “consumption isn’t competence” [which is a great phrase I’m stealing from now on].  Real-time analytics and dashboard [looked good – again an example where lots of systems will do it but fine detail and UI all important].
  5. Mobile interface – think about your content again, for example target mobile learners with video, esign tracking of policies on the go, etc.
  6. Peer to peer – capture and use that data: comments, ratings, likes, etc.  Grow out into Communities of Practice [again I’d say this is a challenge depending on how and where people work and what other systems are in play].
  7. Crowd source and social – follow people in system [e.g. people, not topic, first focus].  Socially driven machine learning takes this and other data for more personalized recommendations [some of this similar to what Library Management Systems [[the other LMS]] introduced c.10 years ago – e.g. ‘people like you have liked this’].
  8. Systems becoming more intelligent via interaction data, not based on organizational structures or expansive competency frameworks as they change regularly [this is always a tricky one and I really feel is based on the nature of the organization].
  9. LRS – emerging as the answer to some issues but not going to capture everything.  Create a record of when you recognize you learn something and another source of data for the the LMS [but why bother if you’re an individual?  I’m still really not sure on LRS – it is an L&D solution for a problem learners do not recognize].
  10. “Battle for profile” – what holds your data and what they do [again my worry would be multiple systems compete for the data and our colleagues time – how much you can integrate everything is realistically questionable].

“Learning analytics”: a red herring?

A key message from my recent Kirkpatrick program was to start with the “top of the mountain”.  In this metaphor the top, the peak, the target to reach, is the organizational vision.  Strategic learning programs are, therefore, helping the org reach this vision and should be evaluated as such.

My reflection during the program was that this, of course, is common sense.  We should be working to support the organizational goals.  The challenge then becomes prioritizing multiple needs – so only by forecasting potential impact up front can prioritization be done correctly.   And this is one of the areas where there is misconception with KirkP – it should be about starting with the end in mind and working backwards (not just dealing with level 1 in a standard way and then carrying on from there).

In terms of evaluation of success, LEO have recently discussed the role of learning analytics (LA).  Now, like a lot of things in L&D, I would say the problem with LA is that it has meant multiple things to different people.  One of the earliest examples I saw, sold as LA, was Starfish Solutions (SS) who had a clear solution and goal – use existing LMS/VLE data to improve student retention.  SS makes perfect sense for organizations where educational outcomes and student retention are the organization’s objectives.  I liked SS’s solution (in part discussed with them at the BBWorld Conference back in ’09) but it also faced the challenge that, for many university courses, there was/is less need for ‘big’ data solutions – lecturers know their students in traditional models.  It only made really sense when talking about large scale education – the problem then, again, is that ‘large scale’ means multiple things to different people 😉

The LEO article does a good job at articulating the problems I have always had with L&D impact – especially how to assess when there are so many other uncontrolled variables.  As mentioned in my previous post on the KirkP Cert, this was my main challenge I wanted clarity on from the course.  The recommended KirkP approach of identifying multiple ‘indicators’ (suggesting behaviors are on track for the desired result[s]) that can show a correlation – a key learning point for me.  In this model, therefore, we are building a ‘chain of evidence’ akin to a court of law – “data, information and testimonies at each of the four levels that, when presented in sequence, demonstrate the value obtained from a business partnership initiative”.

What I really liked about this is the clarity of the evidence/steps up the ladder/mountain, from bottom to top:

  1. Individual Outcomes
  2. Team Outcomes
  3. Departmental/Divisional/Unit Outcomes
  4. Customer/Client Response
  5. Organizational Outcomes
  6. Customer Satisfaction
  7. Market/Industry Response

It is this breakdown, of benefit chain, that I will likely adopt in my existing project planning documents.

Let L&D then be clear, as the KirkP course made clear: stop trying to tackle issues through limited/impossible direct causation but instead correlations.  I would say this is a much better approach than simply seeing “measuring learning impact as a waste of time and money” as the LEO article mentions many people argue.

Therefore, I would argue, let us (i.e. L&D professionals) not worry about learning analytics but instead organizational analytics (i.e. goals and metrics) that can be seen as trending over time and aim to see where our investments have an impact.   As recommended in the KirkP programme, do not reinvent the wheel, borrow metrics from elsewhere as they will already be used by stakeholders and those same stakeholders (should) understand the logic.  This should then allow us to, as I’ve hinted at before, not worry about ROI but instead (as recommended by KirkP) Return on Expectations.

So what do I think of KirkP following the course and certification?  Well I’d have to agree with the LEO suggestions:

  1. It’s better than doing nothing… which is what most organisations are doing.

  2. Think about what level of evidence will be good enough for you. As the Kirkpatricks have pointed out, a chain of evidence that would not stand up to scientific rigour may be enough to convict someone in a court of law. If a level of evidence is good enough for a court then it’s probably good enough to convince your board to invest in L&D.

  3. Good enough develops into great.

Microsoft Teams: The platform we’ve been waiting for?

What is a ‘learning platform’?

We can perhaps agree it needs be a platform that supports behaviour change and knowledge sharing?


It has been good to try out this week what Microsoft have launched with Teams and think how it might be used as such a platform.

Now, it could be used for the Team(s) communication and sharing.  However, my mind has wandered to how it might work as more of an ESN/LMS if you went for a topic focus – creating open/public teams per topic where the business feels it has needs.

Now there are possible problems – not least that the rather unhelpful banner prompts you download a desktop app.  Hi Microsoft – its 2017 calling, where is the mobile app prompt!

Microsoft Teams Desktop Download Prompt

As for Microsoft – this might be the way to add structure to your sharing of documents and conversations.  However, there are clearly the problems with how this should work between Delve, Yammer and other options.

So what about the LMS?  Well there has, of course, been the “LMS/VLE is dead” narrative for a while, add to this a renewed discussion around disruption.  Therefore, can Teams act in place of the LMS – for example as a “learning experience platform“.  Whilst you could argue with a lot of that article this piece certainly resonates:

A disruptive change has occurred. Companies no longer look at their LMS as the core of their learning infrastructure. It’s now the back-end, and they are searching for a new employee experience, which demands a new set of tools.

There are many exciting things happening in the learning technology space: tools like Workplace by Facebook, Slack, and Skype are becoming enterprise-class, and these tools will likely become primary destinations for learners too. Now we need a new class of learning platforms that bring all this content together, deliver it in a compelling way, and give us the social and mobile experience we use every day throughout our life at home.


Kineo Connect: progress with purpose (event)

Well, I’ve finally had my first go on a HoloLens – after failing at BETT – thanks to MakeReal at the latest Kineo client event.

It really confirmed to me the potential value of HoloLens for multiple solutions.  The example available to try out was an interactive site map (i.e. building complex not website) – great for not having to carry around scale models with you!  For learning there are some great examples starting to emerge – such as this one for healthcare.  Cost, of course, remains an issue – with the development edition currently a tasty £2719.  It was also an opportunity to try an activity via SteamVR OS – building a reactor in VR.

The presentations/workshops, away from MakeReal’s demo space, focused on:

  1. Kineo’s Learning Insights report: Move for L&D to “facilitators of career development” from “deliverers of training”.
    1. I would agree with this.  I tend to describe my role as creating scaffolds for the organization to succeed and its people to be empowered.
    2. Report here.
  2. Social Learning.
    1. This was a nice recap of some of the logic and reminded me of the need to continue to encourage people to share and shift cultures – for example, the value in people sharing their ‘bibles’.
    2. Ideas included “find an expert”, something we are trying to do via badges for people at the top of our competency model.
    3. Slides here. White paper.
  3. Content Curation.
    1. I’m always torn on this topic as whilst I agree there is information overload I’m also conscious that information teams have fallen away in industries like law – in part as the WWW has made a lot of information free and thus the ‘value add’ from a professional team is tricky to identify/articulate.
    2. The challenge, as I see it, is how you combine a world of personal information management (the presentation mentioned bookmarking as example most people would do) and PLNs with opportunities to add value (context, metadata, write descriptions, etc.) centrally.
    3. Recommendation for a search > aggregate > filter > add value > promote model (akin to Jarche’s seek > sense > share).
    4. Couple of examples were run through – use of existing content to support BDO’s competency model (i.e. not needing to author new content) and Anders Pink as a tech solution (which I’ve trialed and like but raises questions over how it fits into your wider ecosystem).
    5. Slides here.
  4. Interactive Video.
    1. Have to agree there is a lot of value in interactive video where you can find the right use case, authoring and deployment approach.
    2. It was interesting to see/hear the Kineo approach – including the blended of ‘learning’ content with existing promotional video, for example, with Rolls Royce.
    3. Some nice ideas – like weighting questions where there is ambiguity (no true/false), gopro cameras of POV style, setting up secured YouTube channels for UG content submission and the oft shared Australian Deloitte video.
    4. Some of this could be done in Storyline – advantage of their authoring is multi-device SCORM publishing.
    5. Slides here. Guide here.