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Published: 16/10/2019

Kill the LMS Part 1 of 5: The LMS is dead. Long live the LMS

David Becker elearning, learning, LMS, MLS, performance, Rethinking Learning, training

Over this series of articles, I’ll examine the flaws in the learning management system and explore the ideas and technologies pointing the way to a superior approach. Then, in my final article, I’ll meld these ideas into a model and re-examine the LMS in light of these ideas to see if it can be reborn, or if it really is time to kill the LMS.

I believe that LMSs are a high friction, business centric experience, founded on a top down, server side, reductionist worldview that assumes humans are primarily rational beings needing to comply, follow procedures and achieve competencies. As such they fail to nurture higher order thinking skills and create prisons for content, experiences and learners, taking the immense complexity of a learning human and reducing it to the status of a competency achieved, a quiz passed, an activity ticked or a class attended. Sure your LMS might be designed responsively, hosted in the cloud, generate insightful analytics, be gamified and embed social features. But it’s still a gilded cage.

So the question is how do you break out of that cage? Before I answer that, I want to talk about my children. Sam is seven, he has learning difficulties and loves to test boundaries – by arguing, by seeking exceptions, by manipulating concepts and rules to fit his momentary desires. His flow is chaotic, emotive and self-involved. Riley on the other hand is five and he is unquenchably curious, he takes new information, creates connections, builds mental models and tests his ideas. His flow is sequential, analytical and reflective. Our youngest Sally is three. She loves to play and laugh, learning organically through experience and from what pleases her. Her flow is very experiential and joyful.

Sam, Riley and Sally all learn through the unique and natural lense of their personalities, using a vast grab bag of cognitive tools within the stream of their daily activity. They are not receivers of information, but agents of their own transformation. Most importantly, they are intrinsically motivated to learn - for argument, from curiosity or through pleasure.

The development of the LMS and an organisation’s decision to buy one, springs from constrained thinking about how we are supposed to learn, acquired from a school system developed to feed the industrial revolution. This worldview positions us as receivers of information and so it narrows our personal lense to a rational approach, supports only a small set of thinking tools and ignores most of the naturally occurring and richest learning opportunities we experience in our daily lives.

This generates unnecessary friction between the motivations and desires of the individual and the needs of the business. So people end up learning despite and outside the LMS, viewing it as a chore to be tolerated.

So what can you do right now to start the break out? Well our first step has been to establish an architecture founded on xAPI, a learning record store (LRS) and a repository. This has allowed us to eliminate the LMS, deliver content and record activity wherever the learner is, from out in the field, to updating a customer record in their CRM or watching a video on their phone.

But to more deeply break out of the cage we need to ask some deeper questions. How do you support learning of a higher order, through nurturing the emotional, egoic, cognitive, complex state that is human consciousness? How do you enable this, not as a thing to do, but as a state of being, a frictionless part of our flow? Most importantly, how do you make it a deeply meaningful, intrinsically motivated experience?

In my next article, I’ll discuss the potential for the LMS as a coach, not a manager and explore advances in adaptive learning, affective systems and psychometric analytics.

Click here to learn more about this workshop, or to book a free one hour phone conversation with David. You might also like to join David’s Linkedin group, exploring these issues in greater depth or follow the Obvious Choice page on linkedin for more great posts.

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About the Author
David Becker

David Becker

Award winning performance architect and instructional designer with over 20 years' experience in corporate EdTech. Expert in microlearning, design thinking for learning and data modelling performance.