LMS Guide: Communities of Practice

Collaborative informal learning can be called all sorts of names. Community of practice is one term that has been around for a long time and many people know generally what a community of practice is and what it is for.  When we install our Percepium LMS for a client the ‘out of the box’ name for the module is ‘Expert Area.’ This can of course be changed but we thought this name was a good alternative that simplified the concept a bit.                                                     Expert Areas
We designed the Expert Area to be fully integrated with all of the learning and development features in the LMS environment. This ensures that the community of people engaging with an Expert Area may find social collaboration as well as published learning courses, articles and development pathways.
There is really nothing you cannot do with Expert Areas. The subject matter experts may publish to the LMS and offer both elective and mandatory learning activities. The learning activities may be instructor led or online.
When the Expert Areas module is used across an extended enterprise it becomes a powerful tool to engage prospects, customers, resellers and partners with subject matter experts in your business. The usefulness of this scenario is enormous and here are some ways we have implemented this for our clients:
  • Support a culture of excellence by identifying and encouraging people to connect and interact with subject matter experts.
  • Training resellers and retailers in new products and services.
  • Delivering sales training to people who sell your products and services.
  • Encourage prospective clients to engage with subject matter experts and their published collateral to engage in educational marketing and begin the process of relationship development.
  • Establish communities of practice that include both internal and external experts. This has had a profound impact on innovation and speed to market for one of  our clients in particular.
  • Prevent ‘brain drain’ when people leave your organisation for any reason. The Expert Areas encourage the capture of best practices and knowledge.
One of our recent clients have adapted the Expert Area module to support an enterprise wide coaching program. Managers were provided training in conducting and managing coaching and mentoring skills using blended learning delivery. The Expert Areas Module was rebranded to Coaching Portal and users now have access to their coaches and mentors in the learning environment.
We dovetailed this with the Development Plans module and now the coaches have line of sight to both the learning activities of the people they are coaching as well as being able to add new development activities as the coaching process advances.
As we upgrade our existing clients and add new clients to our community, we will learn more innovative ways to use this module in organisations. Expert Areas is an example of how uniquely designed DOTS Percepium LMS is to provide maximum configurability without software bloat.
If you would like to learn more about Communities of Practice, Expert Areas and our latest third generation Learning Management System, please get in touch.

Guide to choosing your LMS

alternativesA step by step guide to choosing the best LMS for your needs

How many times have you walked into a store with something specific in mind only to get home and realize that you blew your budget and now are the proud owner of 10 items that you didnt need? Over the years, various LMS systems have tried to be all things to all people;  the more bells and whistles the better. With all these added features, choosing your LMS can be overwhelming and confusing which can lead to the above example.

According to a survey conducted by The eLearning Guild, nearly one-third of respondents said they were not satisfied with the LMS product they were using. There could be a variety of reasons for this but one thing is for certain, in order for a successful outcome to happen, a company must know what is most important to them and make sure the LMS performs those requirements well.

This short guide will help clarify how to choose the best learning management system software and avoid the exhaustive and costly mistake of selecting an LMS that is poorly matched to your company needs.

The Wrong LMS Wastes Time and Money

The investment of time and money that organizations make in learning management systems is significant and lets face it, nobody likes to lose time or money.

With over 600+ LMSs on the market, it can be quite daunting to choose the right LMS let alone face the consequences that can set you back months or even years in missed learning opportunities.

Having a well thought out plan ahead of time when considering an LMS is a sure way to avoid buyers remorse. It also is a great way to position yourself for optimal success when choosing a learning management system software.

Choosing the Right LMS

In 2004, American psychologist Barry Schwartz published a book called The Paradox of Choice  Why More is Less. It argued that by eliminating the amount of consumer choices will greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers. The following guidelines will set a path for success by eliminating the LMS playing field from 600 to 1.  The LMS that best fits your needs and goals.

Preparation 

One of the most important parts of the entire LMS selection process is in preparation. This is the time to really focus on the details.

  • Choosing an LMS is not a one person job. Its important to create a team made up of a variety of departments in your company. These folks will be using the LMS in different ways and their feedback is critical. The features an information technology person deem important may be quite different then the HR perspective, right?
  • Do you have a leader? This person needs to drive the team, an LMS champion. They should be well versed in your company s learning needs, has the backing of management and controls the budget. They should also be able to bridge the various needs of the LMS team and come to a consensus.
  • Who will be using the LMS? Its important to define your customers and the ways in which theyll be utilizing the LMS. Come up with a variety of scenarios or initiatives with the customers in mind. Map out exactly what needs to be done and what tools are needed to implement the initiative. One example would be onboarding. If you know that in the next year that your company will be hiring a lot more staff and/or expect changes in user information, it will be particularly useful to have real-time integration features with your selected LMS.
  • Make a priority list. Your team of decision makers will be a big help in narrowing down the list. Think about what your company goals are as well as some big projects coming up. Tough decisions will need to be made as needs will not be the same across the organization.
Requirements

Once a priority list has been drafted, it should be fairly easy to translate that into requirements. One of the biggest traps when shopping for an LMS is asking for every feature that is available that may or may not be needed. Follow your list of priorities to stay focused and on task. An easy way to do this is with the 80/20 rule  take care of 80 percent of your needs then see how successfully you can fulfill the rest of the 20 percent. Make everything not on your list of priorities to nice to have.

Vet available Learning Management Systems

At this point, you have slowly narrowed your priority list down to only the most important features along with some nice to haves. Now, the next step is to narrow your choices of LMS providers. Your list of top 10 requirements will rule out non qualifying products. For instance, if you would like an LMS that will leverage your investment in SharePoint, then this would be a good vetting criterion. There are many different pricing ranges for products. Ballpark licensing costs are another good vetting criteria.

Product Evaluation 
  • Request for information. An RFI contains a list of all your requirements with a few questions per requirement for vendors to answer. Evaluate the vendor responses with a scorecard that allows scorers to rate how well the vendor meets each requirement on a 5-point scale. After scoring the responses to the RFI, you can rule out some of the lower-scoring vendors and continue evaluating the top contenders.
  • In use demonstrations. Invite each of the top contenders to visit your organization for a half day to demonstrate their product. A good approach is to give them all the same use case ahead of time so you can compare them equally. Again, you can use a scorecard to evaluate the vendor demonstration and rule out those vendors whose products did not perform well.
  • Trial version. As you continue to evaluate the finalists, you may ask for a trial version of the LMS software where you can explore the finalist products. Hands-on exploration will give you a better sense of the user-interface design, features and capabilities of the product.
LMS Selection  yes or no

The final step is to select an LMS. Send a Request for Proposal (RFP) to each of your finalists asking for pricing quotes, implementation timeframes and support options. If you followed the above guidelines, you should feel very confident in your choice of learning management system software.

Leverage the Benefits of Your LMS

You should take the opportunity during your LMS implementation project to review your current business workflows and amend them as desired. You want to gain productivity and automation with your LMS and not be messing around with your LMS to get it do the things you need. There are so many benefits you will gain with an LMS, among these are:

  • More engaged workforce with self serve learning and development.
  • Reduced training costs.
  • Track and report easily to manage compliance and regulatory requirements.
  • Engage with new hires and offer consistent high quality on-boarding.
  • Use the LMS for resource planning, succession planning and skills gap analysis.

In today s business environment, an LMS is the backbone for training and development and continues to gain in popularity. One of the biggest advantages of an LMS is efficiency. In fact, many companies report a 50-70% cost savings just by switching from instructor-based training to eLearning. Your LMS should be able to manage online, instructor led and blended learning delivery to gain efficiencies in all learning modalities.

People Join Organizations and Quit Managers

We have heard this statement over and over “People join organizations and quit managers.”  But is there any truth to it?  According to two different research reports, one reason people leave organizations is due to the boss.  Kenexa research shows that 30% of turnover is due to the boss.  Forbes completed a study titled, “Why Your Top Talent is Leaving in 2014 & What It’ll Take to Retain Them” and they cite that 37% of top talent is leaving due to Boss’ Performance.

Research conducted by Gallup, Inc. supports the statistics from Kenexa and Forbes.  They go on to quantify the qualities employees want in a manager. The top four are:

  1. Managers who show care, interest and concern for their staff
  2. To know what is expected of them
  3. A role which fits their abilities
  4. Positive feedback and recognition regularly for work done well

One of the reasons employees leave is because of their boss.  So, to improve retention, we need to improve boss’ performance.  How do organizations improve management performance?  Here are a few ideas:

  1. Set clear performance expectations.  Your leaders need to know that you expect them to be good leaders and that you want them to show their employees that they care, are interested in them, provide feedback and recognition, to provide employees with a job that fits their abilities and that employees understand what is expected of them.
  2. Train your leaders. Offer your leaders management development opportunities on the qualities and capabilities you want your leaders to demonstrate.  Ensure that the courseware helps your leaders apply the training on the job. Remember – your leaders will only become good at being a leader if they practice the content in the courses they completed.
  3. Be a good role model.  Model the qualities you expect of your leaders.

Author: Cindy Pascale
Cindy Pascale is the CEO and co-founder of Vado and has 16+ years of HR, Training & Development and OD leadership experience and 12 years running talent management, development and assessment companies.  Vado is the e-learning courseware provider ‘changing the face of learning’.