By providing an online framework to deliver educational content, identify learning goals and track progress, learning management systems (LMS) benefit a wide range of organizations, including educational institutions, non-profit organizations and businesses of all sizes.
Studies have shown that e-learning is both cost-effective and convenient, attributes that have led to its quick acceptance by a variety of organizations.1 Training can be provided to large numbers of learners who can access courses according to their schedules.
With the integration of a sophisticated learning management system into its online training, a business can custom design its training program to meet specific needs, set standards and timelines for the learning process, integrate existing materials into courses and monitor the progress and achievements of individual learners.
The flexibility offered by the best learning management systems and the opportunities to customize courses are in contrast to the limitations of buying pre-prepared content. Although such pre-prepared corporate training content may meet the broad needs of some audiences, superior learning management systems provide the ability for businesses to hone in on exactly what employees need to know specific to their products and services to boost productivity and revenue.
The systemic nature of learning management systems makes them different from other approaches to electronic learning. A learning management system delivers and manages educational content, identifies and assesses the learning and training goals of the individual or organization, tracks progress towards these goals and presents data to guide the organization’s learning process.
Typically, a learning management system will incorporate: course content delivery, student registration and administration, training event management, curriculum and certification management, skills and competencies management, skills gap analysis, individual development plans, reporting, training record management and the ability to author software for courses. 2
The development of learning management systems has taken place in the context a general national and global adoption of e-learning – the digital delivery of interactive educational material that is adaptive and therefore experienced differently by each learner.
The impacts are being felt in workplaces throughout America where, for the past three years, the percentage of traditional, instructor-led training has been in a slow decline, accounting for 55 percent of training hours used in 2012, a 6 percent drop from 2010.
During that same time technology-based methods, such as instructor-led online, instructor-led remote, and mobile learning were increasingly being used in workplaces. As an example, instructor-led online training accounted for 10 percent of hours used in 2012, compared to 8 percent in 2010. 3
The benefits of a learning management system go beyond the bottom line of a business spread sheet. E-learning is a powerful tool for training because it is embraced by employees who see that it enhances their work life, especially as more people work remotely and even those in the same departments can seem isolated from each other due to travel or physical location of offices. Rather than having to try to find answers on their own, or email questions and hope to get a timely response from a manager, employees have access to a shared community that can greatly enhance far more than their job skills.
Following are the top 10 ways e-learning can improve a work environment:
- By providing an online community for shared learning in the workplace. Transferring information learned through training to the actual job is one of the most important objectives of any training program.4 By creating an online community, learning management systems offer employees an opportunity to share information and its application to their work on a day-to-day basis.
- Through the quick and efficient creation of discussion forums and assignments related to the real-time learning needs of business. Such forums help support the sense of online community in a workplace environment where learners can give feedback on training and its effectiveness. This, in turn, allows managers and training administrators to respond immediately and adapt training according to feedback.
- By incorporating a variety of text- and image-based learning tools to convey important information. A training program is not successful unless learning is applied to the workplace, with a corresponding positive impact. Learning management systems allow training designers to reinforce application through workplace-specific program design. It also allows the incorporation of different types of content to provide the best learning experience. For instance, storytelling can be an effective means of transferring information. A study comparing the same information in bullet points versus that in story form found recall was better when information was presented in a narrative.5
- E-learning can be provided in a hybrid format to meet the needs of all learners in organizational development. Different learners can have different learning styles. A hybrid course incorporates both face-to-face and online learning. According to the University of Washington, having some in-person sessions retains a sense of connection among learners and leaders. The University of Washington also noted that an online environment provided increased technical skills and greater autonomy towards self-directed learning. 6 Another e-learning option is a ‘virtual classroom’ in which trainers and learners can connect without being in the same physical space. Although the trainer is not physically present, the learner benefits from the knowledge that instructors are easy to access and will respond to queries.
- By highlighting the achievements of employees, departments and the total organization. Learning management systems offer organizations a number of learning metrics and statistical information which are easy-to-access for everyone. As learners progress through training and apply it to their work, these metrics provide a positive feedback loop about both training activities and the organization’s success.
- E-learning helps companies notice and react to knowledge gaps in real time so they can respond and in turn assist employees. When e-learning is interactive, and managers are participants in the process, questions and comments from learners are an opportunity for companies to respond quickly and to a large group.
- Learning management systems can integrate skills to be learned by employees and staff in multiple departments by offering common core modules and department and position-specific modules. Here again, the ability of a learning management system to allow for the customization of content for a particular organization, and departments and positions within that organization, highlights its advantages over pre-prepared corporate training content.
- E-learning is one of the fastest ways to create an internet savvy and technologically confident workforce in this technology era. A report from the Waikato Institute of Technology in New Zealand found that most students enjoy the experience when e-learning applications were used in their training. One of the reasons was that they found the use of personal devices and communication tools such as the internet, computers, digital cameras and e-mail enhanced their learning environment.7
- Managers can also use e-learning to help employees by studying course metrics to help serve them better. Most research highlights the importance of manager participation in achieving results. This is particularly important in electronic learning where a participant might take training on their own time, without his or her manager knowing about it. An organization is wise to provide some activities to encourage manager involvement in training, both before participants become involved in a program and after completion. 8
- E-learning offers opportunity for a continuous learning experience. While traditional training approaches are often a one-off event, e-learning allows employees to learn continuously. This concept can be referred to as the ability to learn in time, because the process continues on a daily basis on a timeline which is not defined. Some types of interactive, self-guided learning allow workers to learn how to do their daily tasks while they are actually working. This allows employers to monitor worker performance and enables employees to do their work efficiently and free of error.9
1 Phillips, R, & Phillips, P, (2014)
2 Ellis, R, (2009)
3 Miller, L (2013)
4 Phillips, R, & Phillips, P, (2014)
5 Shank, P, (2014)
6 University of Washington website (n.d)
7 Clayton, J, Elliott, R., 2008
8 Phillips, R, & Phillips, P, (2014)
9 e-learning Industry website (2013)
Phillips, R, & Phillips, P, (2014) The Elusive ROI for Learning Through Technology. Retrieved from: http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/1343/the-elusive-roi-for-learning-through-technology
Ellis, R, (2009) A Field Guide to Learning Management Systems. Retrieved from: http://www.astd.org/~/media/Files/Publications/LMS_fieldguide_20091
Miller, L, (2013) 2013 State of the Industry, American Society for Training and Development
Shank, P, (2014), e-Learning Guild Research: Karl Kapp on Using Stories. Retrieved from: http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/1335/elearning-guild-research-karl-kapp-on-using-stories
University of Washington/Bothell (n.d.). Benefits of Hybrid Courses. Retrieved from:
Clayton, J, & Elliott, R., (2008) Using e-learning to build workplace capability: A Summary of Activities. Retrieved from: http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/58308/TeLRF_Final.pdf
Silverman, J, (2013) How Continuous Employee Learning Helps Boost Performance. Retrieved from: http://elearningindustry.com/how-continuous-employee-learning-helps-boost-performance