By now, you’re probably feeling the pressure. In the 21st Century, no self-respecting, aspiring e-business can consider itself worthy of the name without the support of an enterprise-wide, web-enabled, learning management system (LMS). We’re not quite sure what it is, but we know we’re going to be left behind if we don’t own one pretty damn soon. After all, we’re told by such luminaries as John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, that “the biggest growth in the Internet, and the area that will prove to be one of the biggest agents of change, will be e-learning”. We also know that ‘managing learning’ is what training managers are paid to do and that a learning management system should therefore be of more than passing interest. In this chapter, I look at what a learning management system can do and leave you to decide, in spite of all the hype, whether you really need one.
Every training manager thinks they know what a learning management system is. The problem is that they’re all thinking different things. It’s the same thing as a learning portal. No it’s not, it’s an authoring system. It’s another name for a training records system. No, no, no, it’s a way of managing skills and competencies. You’re all wrong, it’s a virtual classroom.
OK, so what is it then? The answer is that it could be all of these things, but rarely is. The term ‘learning management system’ embraces just about any use of web technology to plan, organise, implement and control aspects of the learning process. Hardly any system supports all these processes and hardly any organisation needs them to. Matching your needs to what’s available is incredibly complex and confusing, because you’re usually left comparing apples with pears.
So, in this chapter, we’re going to look at the ways in which an LMS can support the full range of everyday functions of the training department – a metaphorical day in the life of a learning management system. You’ll be able to see whether the support that is available at each hour of the day – or stage in the learning process – is important to you, or even necessary given the systems and processes that you already have in place.