LMSs that kick ass: Meridian KSI

December 19, 2008

Continuing on with the Friday series that – each week – features an LMS that kicks ass, I’m pleased to feature Meridian KSI. I spoke with Roy Haythorn, Vice President of Operations for Meridian Knowledge Solutions, LLC. Let’s find out what’s new at Meridian KSI.

Q: Hi Roy. I know you’ve been incorporating some social media tools into your LMS. What is Meridian KSI doing with social media?

A: Roy Haythorn – Online communities and blogs are two of the biggest social media tools that Meridian has made a part of its LMS. One of our customers, which serves a statewide audience of K-12 educators has used our LMS to teach grade-school teachers how to be better instructors. To do that, they’ve set up more than 134 online community rooms in our LMS. Science teachers from across the state will, for instance, create and use a community room as part of an online or face-to-face course they’ve taken. At last count, I think 30,000 teachers had access to the system. The size of the online community rooms range from two people to an entire school district. It’s great stuff, and it brings teachers together on their own schedule to swap what works and what doesn’t, or just reinforce what they’ve learned.

Q: What drove your decision to incorporate social media tools into your LMS?

A: Roy Haythorn – We’re careful watchers of the marketplace. We watch trends; we have a lot of technophiles on the team who play with the latest tools. Some of these tools make sense for our customers, others are simply interesting. When social media tools caught our attention, we asked: How can we make use of this stuff with LMS technology in order to push the evolution of learning? That said, there are a lot of products, features and functions coming into the LMS market that, honestly, have no value to a learning and development pro. Instead, we take a “learning-first” approach to LMS development. And by that I mean every new technology Meridian looks at has to promise real value for training and development, or we don’t waste R&D dollars on it.

Q: It’s the time of year for predictions. If you could predict what LMSs will look like in three years, what do you see?

A: Roy Haythorn –  No guarantee it’ll happen in three years, but I’d like to see all LMSs tightly integrated with portals. That way, users can grab pieces of LMS functionality, such as ROI for learning, from their portal while the LMS simply operates in the background. In other words, end users have no idea they’re even using an LMS. People won’t have to sign on to an LMS in the future and stay within that system to do their learning. Instead, the LMS will be launched by way of a portal, and users will interact with the LMS from other applications.

Q: Do you have any examples of your vision?

A: Roy Haythorn –  One example would be a plant manager tapping a materials planning tool inside SAP or Oracle. Once there, he finds he doesn’t remember how to run the program. So he clicks on a link that’s labeled “Learn More,” and from behind the scenes the LMS launches a three-minute course on the topic via a simulation.

Or, perhaps, an engineer is performing a safety audit. As she’s performing the audit, she demonstrates her proficiency and it is tracked by the LMS via her hand-held device, which then delivers an online assessment. Depending on how she does on the test, the LMS either records a passing grade or prescribes learning for a gap in her skill.

Q: Are you seeing any difficulties in the incorporation of social media among your current customers/potential customers?

A: Roy Haythorn – These tools aren’t always used to the fullest by our customers. Frankly, some buyers fear that social software makes it more difficult to communicate, not less. They see social software as the purview of co-eds, gamers and nerds. Many potential buyers balk at the value of exchanging know-how in this way. In fact, they believe social software makes controlling a message or providing a consistent set of instructions impossible. They may believe the flood gates of information will open if you give everyone in a company an equal voice. When you look at tools like Facebook, Twitter, Yammer and an array of other social networking software for exchanging know-how, our challenge is to prove the success that businesspeople are having with these and other social networking tools. And, if we do that, then we’ll pique the interest of customers.

Thanks Roy, well said. I especially can relate to your last answer. It seems one of the greatest barriers we face today in the L&D field is change management.

Readers, feel free to ask Roy any questions you may have.

Prior LMSs in series:
Cornerstone OnDemand

(Meridian KSI was a sponsor at our IiL08 conference in September)

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