Learning Management Systems: On the leading edge

IT has revolutionised the way we work. What can it do for the way we train?

Justin Skelton, managing director of Apex Training, is passionate about the role technology can play in helping learning and development professionals plan and track the learning needs and accomplishments of employees.

He says all his 16 years of training industry experience have gone into developing an online system, which takes delegates through the whole life­cycle of any training event.

Loving learning

Called Love-learning, the system is used by companies such as Future Publishing and Orange, and allows trainees to research courses they plan to attend and to enter personal course objectives.

These written aspirations are collected by the trainer, who can then tailor the course with the delegates’ objectives in mind and, at least in theory, better deliver the training required by the business and delegates.

The system is web-based and can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection and a password. It allows each learner to set up their own learning page, which can also be accessed by line managers to help guide development plans.

Another innovative aspect of this system, which Skelton says costs around £100 to 200 per user, is its functionality. This enables PowerPoint presentations used on any course to be uploaded onto the system along with scans of flipcharts and any ideas and action points.

Of course, Love-learning is only one of many learning management systems (LMSs) available to training professionals today. But the inventive thinking behind the technology is indicative of a newer breed of system that allows training managers to do a lot more than merely automate the registration of learners for courses, book hotel rooms or charge expenses to an appropriate cost centre.

SumTotal Systems’ LMS provides the capability to cascade corporate objectives to different levels within an organisation. If, for example, the board wants to see improved customer service, a manager’s objective may be to train their customer-facing staff and improve successful complaint resolution by 10%. Staff will then have the relevant training requirements entered into their personal profiles within the system, which they can use to monitor their learning activities and the success of the outcomes.

“With each person having a unique learning page, employees only get the training they need and aren’t sheep-dipped,” says Keith Smith, vice-president of European sales at SumTotal.

Innovative training

Innovation at learning management company Cobent comes in the form of a number of modules that plug into its standard LMS. One such module concentrates on managing and recording the throughput of compliance training that employees undergo.

“It’s a niche market but one that is growing in importance,” says managing director Howard Sears.

“In many sectors, ranging from oil and finance to transport and pharmaceuticals, there are requirements for staff to undergo certain regulatory training and to conform to standard operating procedures.”

Sears says as well as monitoring compliance training, the module also acts as an audit tool – it can prove, in the event of an accident or investigation, that staff received the necessary training and that a company has met its responsibilities.

Another module developed by Cobent brings e-commerce capabilities to its LMS, enabling training departments that have developed courses in-house to sell them online and potentially generate additional revenue streams.

Global systems

Communication-wise, technology has made the world a smaller a place. No where is this truer than in the world of LMSs, according to Alun Cope-Morgan, vice-president for Europe Middle East and Africa at human capital management company Saba.

He says many global enterprises, such as DaimlerChrysler and Standard Charter Bank, are consolidating multiple smaller LMSs, historically created for each country, into one large global system, where training requirements and job descriptions are standardised worldwide. “With staff more mobile and moving from region to region, there’s a need to deliver training worldwide,” he says.

To further enable this trend towards to globalisation, Saba’s LMS system can be integrated with its Centra products that allow up to 500 staff based all around the world to come together in a virtual classroom, using video, data and audio communications for group learning. “The internet is truly revolutionising the way learning and development is managed and delivered,” says Cope-Morgan.

Case study: Inmarsat

Inmarsat operates a constellation of satellites that extend mobile phone, fax and data communications to the four corners of the world.

To sell its services, the company has to train a global network of distribution partners and sales teams in the use of its computerised antenna system, so they, in turn, can sell the system to customers.

But with only a small training department at Inmarsat’s main office in London, head of training, Clayton Littlewood, and his colleagues, soon became bogged down with admin. “There comes a point when an Excel spreadsheet just doesn’t do the job,” he says.

In its place, Littlewood adopted a learning management system from SumTotal Systems. This allows distribution partners to view available training slots and put their name down for forthcoming courses. It also automates the sending out of joining instructions and course information.

Inmarsat also uses the system to store and send oute-learning modules developed for refresher training.

“Now we can spend more time on course design and delivery,” adds Littlewood.

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