The LMS and Me – Don’t let the tail wag the dog.

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Our Learning Management Systems (LMS) MUST work for learners first, and then administrators – not the other way around. In my experience, this is rarely the case. It’s a natural occurrence of course that features, the language of the LMS, such as buttons etc, dependencies and customisations, which all affect learners’ user experience are driven by administrators and LMS/IT/eLearning people. Decisions are often made without the end in mind i.e. the end I would argue is the user experience around whatever you are trying to achieve from an administration perspective.

An LMS is of course a business tool and its centre of gravity is compliance and the records it keeps which along with the high price tag, help mitigate for business regulatory risks in recording the workforce has been trained appropriately. To do this an LMS must, at the least:

  • Launch training successfully
  • Accurately record users’ interactions with courses – time in training and completions
  • Report on the above

And then all the bloat, which seems drastically important when looking at the options:

  • Competency mapping
  • Learning paths
  • Social learning features and plug-ins
  • Performance review
  • Career paths
  • Role definitions

I know calling the second list bloat could be offensive to some, and all these add-ons are truly awesome… when implemented. But it’s the business (you and your colleagues) that implements them – not the system. As this is the case, often by the time you have mapped competencies, the first half of them have changed in the business, HR has a new system which will no longer compute to the roles you have defined, and you just got a plum job with another company and there’s no one being hired to complete your fine work. As I said though, I do think their features are awesome, just ensure that whatever you buy, use it and be prepared to implement it or at least engage your vendor to make this happen – quickly, before the work is redundant.

Keep it simple I think, and make the dog wag the tail.

You can have the most amazing functioning LMS in the world, but if no one’s learning or enjoying the experience all the administrator and IT smiles in the world won’t change the fact that you’ve just blown a LOT of money and time. The return on investment is in the clicks; it’s in the ease of access and experience. If it’s no good, it’s the ‘world of mouth’ that will kill it, it’s the water cooler conversations that will tar your most amazing LMS for months, if not years to come.

So what do we do? I think it’s as simple as always keeping the end-users in mind and their experience – not the administrator. Take a fresh look at your LMS and question whether your mother would know what ‘courseware’ refers to? Would she appreciate clicking so many buttons just to play a course she’s meant to do? Or what does mandatory module compared to auto enrolment mean?

At The Learning Hook (, we’ve built our own that achieves exactly what we want – solely focussed with the end in mind. Both front and back ends of the system are completely user focussed (no, not Moodle!). We’re launching in the the New Year, but can demo today. But outside of selling our own! if you’re in the market with limited experience, take a good look around, there are so many alternatives on offer outside of enterprise solutions… and make sure you take your mother (or a buyers advocate you trust) with you for some legitmate user testing.

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