Continuing my Friday series featuring LMSs that kick-ass, I’m pleased to profile Latitude. Latitude is a pure LMS so you may be wondering why the heck are they featured here. Well, because they kick-ass for their view of the role of the LMS. They feel the best way to address social, informal learning (powered by social media) is not to integrate it into an LMS. Instead, they bolt the LMS on an existing CMS. (An example of a CMS would be a website like iGoogle which can be personalized and widgetized). So the CMS is the front end, not the LMS.
I spoke with Kurt Crisman at Latitude about this.
Q: What ( if any) social media tools is Latitude incorporating into their LMS?
A: Kurt Crisman – Incorporating social media tools directly into the an LMS assumes that is the best way to achieve the benefits of these tools for both formal and informal learning. However, LMSs are really better at managing prescribed learning, either mandated or suggested from the top of the organization. The benefit of informal learning thrives in a peer-to-peer environment. Tacking on social media tools to an LMS might not create this environment. Investing in LMS development to repurpose it into something it is not–a flexible web portal–might not be the most cost-effective either.
Latitude’s approach to developing a learning portal that creates a peer-to-peer, individual-driven learning environment depends on current existing technology, such as the Ektron 400 content management system. With features like WYSIWYG editors, Content Management Systems (CMSs) provide content management and rapid content update capabilities with a minimum of effort or technical expertise required. Many CMS solutions offer portal capabilities like personalization or the ability for users to customize their portal with content of interest to them. This content usually comes in the form of off-the-shelf widgets, including Web 2.0 gadgets (blogs, wikis, forums, chat, etc.) that can be used to build out your web site.
In other words, the software application to create the ideal learning portal is the CMS and LMS. The flexible CMS with the existing off-the-shelf technology should be the front-end, not the LMS. While the LMS might still be used by administrators to manage prescribed learning and as the delivery mechanism for web-based training content, the user should meet their learning, both formal and informal, through the CMS based learning portal. Access to LMS content through the portal can occur by using web services to integrate the LMS with the CMS.
Another advantage of this approach is that it does not require scrapping an existing LMS investment to implement social media for learning or being unable to use those tools if scrapping an existing LMS is unpalatable. Basically, Latitude’s delivers a learning portal solution that makes all of the social media tools available.
Q: What drove your decision to include social media tools as part of your LMS solution?
A: Kurt Crisman – The need to include social media tools in a learning management solution has been market-driven. Informal learning is being seen as a more effective way for individuals to find out what they need to know when they need to know it. The success of Google and the adoption of the social media tools makes them a familiar vehicle to acquire and transfer informal knowledge. As a result, customers are looking for these tools in their learning management solution to solve the learning challenges that their formal training has not.
Q: If you could predict what LMSs will look like in three years, what do you see?
A: Kurt Crisman – Just as people now tend to talk about Human Capital Management systems, of which the LMS is only one part, learning portals will be the consolidating factor for formal and informal learning. Some vendors will integrate LMS and CMS functions. Some LMS vendors will add CMS functionality to their offering. CMS vendors may develop modules with basic LMS functionality for their platforms.
Q: What difficulties are you seeing in the incorporation of social media among your current customers/potential customers?
A: Kurt Crisman – It’s a new approach for customers, so a more phased approach is required. For example, we have one customer where phase one is linking from the LMS that users are familiar with to the CMS where they can personalize their dashboard, use a Google search tool, and participate in forum discussions to exchange knowledge. A tighter CMS/LMS integration is scheduled for the next phase with more social media tools, like a Wiki.
Great stuff Kurt! Thanks. As with other LMSs featured in this series, you’ve given readers another interesting way to view learning, the LMS, and social media.