Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

7 August 2010

The LMS Debate rides again

Clark @ 10:00 AM

Well, Saba called me out in an semi-anonymous (there’s a picture, but I don’t know who of, and there’s no name – in social media?) blog post on the LMS debate (a bit late to join the fray, no?).  I was surprised by the way they referred to me, but there you go(ng).  I made a comment which is awaiting moderation, but I’ll give it to you here in the interim:

I don’t know who to thank for this post, but glad to see it.  I would like to point you to a subsequent postWhen to LMS about why I don’t have a problem with the functionality, I have a problem with the philosophical stance.

Formal learning is necessary, and tracking it can be required, but it’s a small picture. When you look at the larger picture, as you talk about: user-generated content, etc, the notion that you can *manage* this activity becomes somewhat ludicrous.  And you don’t want to manage it so much as support it.  It’s the move from being an ‘instructor’ to a mentor, a facilitator.

I look at your list of capabilities, and I see support, and facilitation. Hear hear!  Great stuff.  It’s not management.  If you’re doing it task-centric, and community-centric, you’re doing it right, but then it’s not course-centric, and really you’re no longer coming from the perspective of where LMS emerged from.

Yes, Dave Wilkins of Learn.com and Tom Stone of Element K have already argued that the label is still needed in the marketplace, but I’m really trying to shift the way people think about what their role is, and to me using the label LMS is a major barrier to shifting out of the comfort zone.  And to me, that’s not just a game of semantics, it’s a fundamental perspective shift that’s necessary and desirable.

Yes, kudos to your customers who are getting much broader leverage from it than I’m worried about. But despite your claim that my concerns are ‘old news’, the results my colleagues saw at a recent elearning event in the UK, Allison Rossett’s recent survey results, and my own client experience suggest that way too many organizations are still seeing things in the old way.

So, what do you think?


  1. Decent points on both sides, but deciding the bout, the judges would have to side with you and your colleagues.

    One just has to look at the discussions on groups like ASTD or ElearningGuild to see how quickly the discussions of transitioning or launching elearning or a new learning department transitions into a search for an LMS.

    And, at each one of my clients with an installed LMS, the push to leverage more to keep folks IN the LMS versus using other tools for sharing (Web2.0 or Sharepoint portals) is for training departments to attempt at keeping the LMS at the center of the equation for workforce learning (as well as justify year-over-year licensing fees for the tool).

    I agree with the assessment that I first heard David Wilkins, my former, and highly respected, coworker express- “this is not an EITHER/OR discussion, it is an AND”. However, the challenge I see is that most companies exploring or continuing LMS usage have the percentage mix exactly backward from what Jay Cross has been expressing for some time. 80% of the learning is embedded in the work experience, not the LMS tool (even the “infrormal learning” widgets that have been added to these tools).

    If the LMS tool is well integrated into a workflow, it may be a viable design, but every experience I have seen is that the LMS is a side-dish application “for training” that isn’t integrated directly into an employee’s workflow with transparency.

    With the tools that offer many Web2.0 features and components, I feel this is the one element that they seem to be missing; they provide fantastic options and services, but I think the placement behind the “LMS wall” the missing link between the two positions on this discussion.

    And, I suspect that it is very possible, and vendors would be willing to provide this design, but changing the customer’s minds may actually point to a larger challenge.

    Comment by David Glow — 7 August 2010 @ 6:56 PM

  2. […] am growing weary of the shouting match termed the Great LMS Debate and don’t plan to waste any more breath on it. Others are articulating the issues well. Check […]

    Pingback by LMS – Enough already — 16 August 2010 @ 11:30 AM

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