Over the past (easily!) 25 years, watching learning and professional development evolve has been amazing to see. There has been a great shift from lecture and trainer styles to facilitator and coaching styles that enables learning professionals a chance to meet the needs and preferences of learners where they are. One such way that this occurs is through Learning Management Systems (LMS'). LMS' can offer self-paced opportunities for learners to pause, reflect and retain what they learn. Learning Management Systems have seen unprecedented growth over the last several years, and will only continue to grow in popularity. This article explores best practices in using an LMS for your organization, including common misconceptions and tips for successful implementation!
One of my professional mantras has been to “start small and end big.” Like personal development goals, if you start with a huge goal in mind, it may become too overwhelming and likely the goal won’t be achieved. With an LMS, start small with showcasing an association learning niche. You may be the only association that works with a particular group, and what is it that you can add to your LMS that helps keeps this group remain current in their profession? What type of learning can help this group aspire to the next level? And how are you helping individuals new to this profession through your learning methods?
LMS Relevance in Today's Association Community
In my profession, it’s important to emphasize the importance of “continuing the conversation” when hosting an event, especially those that are hosted yearly. Of course, events constitute a major component of a thriving association. The question to ask when planning your event is this: After this conference, webinar, or specialty event, what is the attendee taking away from the event and what will actually be put into practice? With hybrid learning and LMS’ in general, there is an opportunity for an association and its broader community audiences to discuss issues and continue the discussion well beyond the event. These groups can follow up the conversations by attending online discussion groups or other events for the sole purpose of learning more and putting that learning into action.
LMS’ offer space to generate live or recorded discussions, online course learning, virtual discussion groups and more. If LMS offerings are executed properly, engagement with the association grows beyond utilizing the LMS, and the demand to be a part of the association’s community grows, too. When done improperly, it can dissuade individuals to use the LMS services and look elsewhere. What’s important to remember is allowing your teams the time and bandwidth to experiment, beta test with a few users, and get feedback on how best to utilize your LMS in the most influential and rewarding ways.
Common Misconceptions & Important Questions
The most common misconception is that once the LMS implementation is complete, the hard part is over. What about maintaining, auditing and sustaining the systems and the events that are associated (pun intended!) with it? Who will maintain the system? What is the short- and long-term strategy of supporting the system? Did the off-the-shelf system meet your association needs and preferences? If not, are you prepared to now customize it? Are you prepared for additional costs associated with maintaining, updating, and potentially customizing it? These are all questions that must be asked to ensure LMS success beyond implementation.
Type in “learning management systems” in a search engine and you will find more than you need to know about a LMS! My advice is to find out from peer association leaders their lessons learned in acquiring a LMS. What would they do different with the knowledge they know now?
A primary conversation in association use of LMS is not really new at all. The importance of syncing and integrating the LMS to other association management systems is continually growing as technology and connectivity grow. Be sure to consider this when planning your LMS implementation.
A trend that is currently taking off is the integration of LMS and social platforms, which is pretty cool! Such connectivity allows associations to share live and up-to-date information with individuals within and outside the association.
Some trends to keep an eye out for in ’22 and beyond? I would say more interactivity components that help with polling, testing and assignments for learners. And more robust LMS reports to gauge the LMS effectiveness. What should an association with or looking to acquire a LMS be prepared to offer? Ongoing gamification methods and, more importantly, badging and certification opportunities.
A Final Word of Advice
Do your homework. Be patient. Be sure to research all LMS platforms to ensure the right or close-to-right fit. LMS’ can take months to set up, so I would take advantage of that time to have LMS subject matter experts (SME) on hand to properly implement the LMS while at the same time have content SMEs on hand building the content. When the LMS is ready to launch, you have not only a working LMS, but also content to showcase!
About the Author
At AMC Source, Dr. Sissy Meredith leads professional development and learning management system implementations. Dr. Meredith has served on various national committees that address learning; professional and organizational development; public policy affecting college campuses; DEI; HR transformation; leadership; mentoring; and faculty models that support student success. Career accomplishments within varied industries include executive leadership for strategic workforce and organizational development; professional leadership development; performance coaching' policy design; and cultural intelligence. In addition, she has founded several competency frameworks and numerous original learning resources; and knows what it takes to build virtual presence in the form of online courses and knowledge centers, and conferences, webinars, and virtual workshops. She earned her Ph.D. in Communications focused on learning behavior and is currently pursuing an education in artificial intelligence, beekeeping and bourbon studies.
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