Learning management systems providers are looking to bring a little more to the training table – probably in the form of ‘richer media’.
Video may have killed the radio star, but according to Justin Skelton, the managing director of Apex Training and Development, film streamed over the internet has a key role to play in the future of training.
“It will never replace people sitting in a classroom situation discussing an issue or situation,” he says, “but it works well at reinforcing learning, or for organisations that are pushed for time and budget, and can’t send all delegates on a day course.”
Skelton says Apex has expanded its training video production team in the past year to meet this demand and that the footage can be streamed to users of the company’s learning management system (LMS) – Love Learning.
“With the likes of YouTube now widely accessible, video is the one of the main ways we learn and pick up information,” he adds.
Apex, which not only supplies an LMS, but is also a leading training provider, is engaged in a long-term project to create training films that can be mapped against its catalogue of classroom-delivered courses.
A typical video, says Skelton, is around eight minutes long, has subtitles and picks out the key learning points in any given course.
“If, for example, someone is dealing with a disillusioned member of the team, they can look up the ‘situational leader’ video and watch the relevant clip to refresh their learning,” he explains.
The company has also started filming bespoke training courses, so it can produce an edited version of the highlights of the day that can be downloaded from the LMS and act as a reminder to delegates – just as notes taken from a training day have traditionally done.
Skelton says he hopes the inclusion of a growing number of video clips will make the LMS more engaging, so it becomes a portal that users interact with almost on a daily basis.
He also says the company has started collaborating with suppliers of “mainframe style” LMS’s and HR systems, so the Love Learning functionality can be integrated into these larger systems. The company will be making some announcements in this area soon, according to Skelton.
Collaboration of another kind seems to be all the rage on the LMS scene at the moment, but this time it is around the concept of Web2.0 and the sharing of informal knowledge.
Enterprise LMS provider Saba, for example, recently announced new functionality that allows users to create and publish their own rich media content as well as schedule and start real-time meetings from business applications including Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Windows Live Messenger and Microsoft Office 2007.
Saba says these new features enable rapid knowledge transfer and help ensure that knowledge shared – formally, informally or on-demand by an individual – is captured and made available across an entire organisation
“As our customers move toward unifying formal and informal learning processes, Saba is focused on delivering collaboration solutions that enable organisations to capture impromptu knowledge sharing and use that to accelerate learning effectiveness to improve business performance,” said Amar Dhaliwal, senior vice-president of the company’s product operations group.
At LMS provider e2train, sales and marketing director Martin Belton is also talking about the new Web 2.0 functionality now available from the company’s LMS product called Kallidus.
He cites improved e-mail and chat room functionality, so that users can give feedback about a course they have been on or discuss an issue to arise out of some training as new innovations. The company has also introduced the ability to link to wikis and blogs – both informal Internet-based knowledge sources – that might contain useful information and be of interest to groups of learners.
Belton says: “Web 2.0 is not just about technology, it’s about the way people do things and an increasingly open approach to sharing information.”
But in recognition that some organisations might be slightly wary of allowing their employees unfettered access to corporate forums, Belton says a profanity checker has also been incorporated to prevent any of the language in the forums becoming “too industrial”.
At Learn LMS, consultant Tony Wardle says this move by LMS providers to embrace Web 2.0 activities is a reflection of what people are already doing on the internet at home in their own free time.
Learn LMS, which Wardle says serves the small to medium-sized business space, has also introduced collaborative tools, such as WebX, which allows a virtual classroom to be set up where users can correspond remotely via e-mail of video cameras. Provision has also been made for users who want to capture knowledge from forum-based conversations.
Wardle say while many organisations don’t allow their staff open access to the most popular Web 2.0 social networking sites, such as Facebook, Secondlife or YouTube, because of concerns about security or their staff being distracted from their work.
“But an LMS provides a safe collaborative environment for staff to share knowledge around work issues,” he adds.
Changing trends in the wider society are also behind the latest innovation from Perspective, a UK-based LMS provider.
In the wake of prime minister Gordon Brown saying earlier this year that he wanted to see one in five young people on apprenticeships within 10 years the company has launched an Apprenticeship Management System (AMS), which does just that.
Based on the company’s Collaborative Learning Manager (see box) and developed to give managers of vocational and other distributed learning schemes greater control, AMS provides a central point from which to track all the different elements required to complete an apprenticeship, according to director Gary Harlock.
“People going through an apprenticeship have a number of collaborative partnerships – with their employer, training provider and contract holder, such as a learning and skills council,” he explains. “The AMS manages the learner journey as they move between these scenarios and maps it against a framework they have to follow.”
Harlock, who previous to joining Perspective organised apprenticeship schemes for 20 year with automobile manufacturer Toyota, says just over half of people of who start an apprenticeship actually finish it, He says part of this drop-out is due to the fact that many apprenticeship schemes are monitored manually – resulting in a lack of awareness regarding the apprentice’s progress at any particular point, which means the trainer is unable to recognise and resolve any potential issues as they arise.
But, he says, because AMS is remotely accessible by all parties, it not only eliminates the headache of paperwork, “it keeps apprentices focused and motivated by allowing them to see how they are developing with the scheme, while at the same time giving the apprenticeship provider a clear and concise insight into the learner’s progress and whether certain issues need to be raised to improve the course or indeed the learner”.
The Stafford 14-16 Partnership was established to provide local schools access to vocational curriculum by linking up with training providers and employers in the area to provide training for teenagers nearing school-leaving age.
Schools are offered three programmes of study to suit the many different types of learners, but with this increased flexibility comes an increase in the difficulty of effectively tracking and monitoring the learners.
In response to this issue, the Perspective Collaborative Learning Manager software was introduced across the partnership in September 2007. CLM allows qualifications to be entered onto the system by downloading all unit information directly from the National Database of Accredited Qualifications (NDAQ) website.
Central to the system is an online class register, which allows schools, training providers and partnerships to quickly identify non-attendance and promptly take the appropriate action. As students enrol on courses, CLM creates an individual development record where progress can be entered and stored. The system can also create reports showing attendance and progress by pupil, course or school over a selected time period.
And it seems the system has been welcomed by many of the stakeholders involved in the partnership.
Jayne Elsby, a consultant at Indigo Training Solutions says: “It has provided an easy way for our staff to give instant feedback to our school partners and has allowed us to streamline our communications systems.
Sylvia Stenson, executive director at the Francesco Group, another Stafford Partnership training provider, adds: “[The system] has cut out the need for phone calls and we have increased monitoring.”
By Ross Bentley
Web links –
• Apex Training and Development – www.apextraining.co.uk
• Saba – www.saba.com
• e2train – www.e2train.com
• Learn LMS – www.learnlms.com
• Perspective – www.perspective-uk.com