This week on the Friday series, LMSs that kick ass, I’ m pleased to feature Learn.com‘s LearnCenter system. By way of background, Learn.com’s primary customer base is corporate universities and their total number of registered ‘learners’ is reported at over 2,000,000 worldwide at several hundred organizations. So, they’re one of the big players among commercial learning management systems. When reviewing systems, you’ll find that a key differentiator of this system is that it is homegrown and not an integration of several outside products.
I spoke via email with JW Ray, COO and Don Cook, Senior VP of Marketing about what’s up with Learn.com – specifically with social media.
Q: What social media tools is Learn.com incorporating into their LMS?
We have known since our inception that every user of an LMS is a SME of some kind and that capturing, sharing, cataloging, reusing and reporting on that information is the glue that keeps superior organizations together. Additionally we know that connecting these disparate SME’s is critical to organizational congruency and growth sustainability. We’ve taken major steps to bring the “at home” style of learning into the corporation without making it stereotypically “formal”.
The early incorporation of weblogs, forums, chat rooms and wikis into the LearnCenter platform was paramount in keeping pace with the informal way Americans are learning. We discovered early on that both prospects and clients were interested in this technology. Further, our LearnCenter platform has always had a ability to upload, launch and track audio files, both our clients and our company are currently using our LearnCenter software to launch and track Podcasts. Our LearnCenter even has the ability to upload RSS feeds.
We are currently in the final development stage of our WebPad® module for the LearnCenter platform. The WebPad will give employees the ability to have their own web portal that is completely customizable, much like a Facebook or MySpace account. The employee will not only be able to host a personal website, but also manage their profile, manage personal blogs, wikis, forums, chats, upload content including flash files, audio files, podcasts, RSS feeds, images, and documents. All while having the ability to keep their WebPad private or invite other team members. What’s even more impressive that that employees will, for the first time, be able to create a course and offer it to other employees. This will become useful for mentoring and rapid e-learning! All without need to understand programming code.
Learn.com is also introducing “Pull Learning Technology” (PLT) through a Module we are calling MyProfile. PLT is the converse of the more traditional learning method known as “push” or “assigned” learning. The MyProfile Module for the LearnCenter puts the power of self development and learning into the hands of the individual employee for the first time ever. Using the My Profile Module, end users will be able to; Compare a current skill set against the skill set needed for another job profile within the organization, quickly isolating gaps and areas of improvement. In addition, employees can view a graphical representation of skills gaps that would need to be filled before an individual would be qualified for a particular job or role. They can also request a job profile from their manager with a single click to allow the LearnCenter platform to auto-assign goals, skills, development plans, competencies, courses and assessments needed to be an exemplary performer in that job role or job profile and import requested job profiles into a current development plan.
Q: What drove your decision to incorporate social media tools into your LMS?
A: Learn.com: It has been part of the LearnCenter since the first launch in 1999. We have modified it and extended it based on practical application feedback from the clients and the desire to bring formal and informal learning together in one centralized learning portal.
Q: If you could predict what LMSs will look like in three years, what do you see?
A: Learn.com: Over the next 3 years the niche providers in both the HR and HCM space will merge to form complete products or suites. The LCMS market will be the first to become obsolete. Followed by the Performance Management providers. The market is beginning to discover that content and appraisals don’t mean anything if you cannot tie them to learning or employee development in some way. The LMS will become the database of record for the employee development lifecycle. Stand alone LMS that just do learning and not performance management, not handling social networking or content management will go the way of the Dodo bird. Many vendors are currently partnering to provides these suites but as mergers and acquisitions continue to clutter the industry, integration partnerships with Performance Management and Learning Content Management vendors may become a liability rather than a new revenue stream.
Q: What difficulties are you seeing in the incorporation of social media among your current customers/potential customers?
A: Learn.com: None since it is included in the base product and we are launching Webpad in Q1 2009.
Thanks so much JW and Don. I’m especially interested in your predictions and like the idea of more learner-generated content within the familiar LMS. I imagine the organizations you work with have overcome some culture issues associated with the social web.
(Learn.com was a sponsor of IiL08 and hosts a monthly webinar with Brandon Hall Research staff: Learning Technologies 101)