Tuesday, 31 March 2009

LMS and Social Learning

As a follow on to the discussion of social learning and formal learning in Long Live … great post by BJ Schone - Have LMSs Jumped The Shark?

I constantly hear people (across many organizations) complain about their learning management system (LMS). They complain that their LMS has a terrible interface that is nearly unusable. Upgrades are difficult and cumbersome. Their employees’ data is locked in to a proprietary system. Users hate the system. It’s ugly. (Did I miss anything?)

We’ve recently seen LMSs shift to include more functionality, such as wikis, blogs, social networking, etc. I think they’re heading in the wrong direction. I don’t really understand why LMS vendors are now thinking they need to build in every possible 2.0 tool. If I want a great blogging platform, I’m going to download WordPress (it’s free and has a huge support community). If I want a great wiki platform, I’m going to download MediaWiki or DokuWiki (also free and they have huge support communities). And when it comes to social networking, as a co-worker put it, “Do they really think I’m going to create a ‘friends’ list in the LMS? Seriously?”


I've wondered the same thing. Mzinga seems to have jumped out early with a strong social platform that also has an LMS capability. But there does seem to be a difference between what you expect with an LMS and what you expect from your social learning / work platform. Dave Wilkins from Mzinga talks about the two models of social learning as depicted by the diagram on the right.

There's social learning wrapped around the formal learning resources. He calls it the Amazon model with the learning being like a book. Lots of stuff wrapped around the book on Amazon. Then there's a model when the community is first and foremost and the formal learning is part of this overall model.

BJ's point is that trying to get people to spend enough time in the LMS so that you have a vibrant social learning community is problematic. We will see some level of social interaction going along with a formal learning event. But you really are much more likely to success when the social tools are the same tools that will exist beyond the formal learning. And I don't think that many of us expect our LMS vendor to provide the solution that organizations will adopt more broadly.

Thus, the question …

Why aren't the LMS vendors looking at deeper integration with other offerings?

In some ways they are. SharePoint and LMS seems to be a more common discussion:

Likely this is the beginning of a wave of this kind of approach.

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