A “learning organization,” a now-classic term first popularized by Peter Senge, refers to a business or other corporate entity which actively ‘learns’ — that is, adapts and grows — based on lessons acquired through its ongoing experience in the marketplace. The suggestion is that innovation is fostered in organizations that embrace continuous learning. As we move past the one-year anniversary of the relocation of millions of knowledge workers from office to home, the challenge to sustain an active learning model to drive innovation has never been greater.

This is the first post in a short series on Enabling the Active Learning Organization. Over the past several years, I’ve worked with a number of organizations to help them leverage technology to adapt to an increasingly dynamic operational environment, and I’ll share what I’ve learned here. Ultimately, what each organization wants to achieve with its learning system is the same: to foster innovation. This requires a system that will help everyone achieve his or her fullest potential through meaningful learning experience while scaling with the ever-expanding needs of the business. Yet I’ve spoken with Learning and Development (L&D) professionals, CEOs, and HR leaders who are frustrated with the limitations of their learning systems. This often comes down to a simple truth: people learn from a rich panoply of learning experiences, not just ‘vanilla’ courseware. Focusing solely on what you see can lead to outdated or inaccurate course content, unclear learning paths, a poor user experience, and an unplanned and costly overhaul.

A learning system is a multifaceted organism, where the LCMS ‘back end’ feeds a number of front ends where content is consumed, one of which obviously is one or more LMSs. Let’s look at how that LCMS to LMS relationship works: a Learning Management System, or LMS, is a standard software package that allows learning professionals to store courseware, regulate access via logins, and track progress, and offers access to the course content for authorized learners. Most LMS’s can manage storage and basic retrieval of L&D content regardless of media type (live, remote-live, digital/on-demand, etc.). They are also sometimes conflated with Course Management Systems or even Content Management Systems.

Learning Content Management Solutions (LCMS), on the other hand, are best thought of as a layer sitting below LMS’s, adding advanced course development and authoring functionality, as well as powerful workflow and content search capability. In other words, the core difference between an LMS and an LCMS is the target user. LMS platforms are designed with the learners in mind, whereas LCMS users are learning content creators, instructional designers and other learning professionals. LCMS can produce slide decks, course manuals, job aids, learner manuals and any number of other formats for curriculum materials. When integrated effectively, LCMS and LMS comprise a learning delivery platform.

While the LMS provides the “front end” student experience of enrolling in and taking a course, the greater value to the student and the organization as a whole lies in the “backend” – the LCMS. Investing in the former delivers a positive initial user experience with smart selection of course content and UI. However, the greater impact to the organization is in the latter. The LCMS delivers the core value at the heart of any strategic active learning initiative, enabling the organization and its employees to adapt, learn and grow at scale. Uniquely, with an LCMS, the “course” stops being the minimally reusable unit, and instead you have a system that’s fundamentally more granular —and intrinsically, structurally reusable.

At bottom, the LCMS enables the organization to:

  • Improve the quality and accuracy of course content
  • Ensure compliance with copyright and confidentiality  policies while adhering to quality standards
  • Enhance content discovery with semantic enrichment for easy search across all content assets
  • Streamline the content creation process with enhanced authoring, revision and review workflows
  • Enrich, link, and “chunk” content to make it easier to find and reuse
  • Distribute content in multiple formats across its preferred channels

In this series, I’ll share some examples of organizations seeking to strengthen their adaptive learning strategies with the power of an LCMS.


Author: Ian Synge

Ian Synge is a Principal Consultant at Copyright Clearance Center with particular specialisation in knowledge management, taxonomies, and categorisation. He has delivered projects for major international organisations in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia focusing on helping them dynamically make sense of large datasets. Ian has a longstanding enthusiasm for knowledge organization; his Ph.D. thesis (Aberystwyth, 2002) focused on the taxonomic interpretation of naval diplomacy during the late cold war.
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