What is a learning management system?
We’ve all experienced learning in one form or another, haven’t we? But what is a learning management system and what it’s supposed to do, especially in the field of corporate training? A Learning Management System (LMS) is defined as a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of electronic educational technology (also called e-learning) courses or training programs.
We know, it might sound like a series of administrative tasks, but it is actually the opposite: a way of making the administrative process easier, while focusing more on the actual outcome of the learning. This is one of the major learning goals, don’t you think?
However, even if it is a software application, you might want to know that not any computer education system is a LMS. Providing structured instructional content or tutorials is merely a form of e-learning and many systems are doing just that, while a LMS is much more than that: it is a framework that handles all aspects of the learning process, not just delivering the actual content. Here you can have a quick look at its basic functions:
- delivering a learning content to learners;
- tools for creating a learning content for instructors/teacher;
- course management;
- study administration;
- monitoring learner’s results, records keeping;
- social tools
Who uses a LMS?
In general, LMSs are web-based solutions to facilitate the access to learning content and administration and they are used by a series of economical entities. Check out the list and see if you find yourself here:
- educational institutions (college, universities, schools, etc.) to support classroom teaching, to offer courses to a larger populations of learners, to enhance the learning experience or even to replace completely the conventional way of teaching;
- companies functioning in regulated industries where there is a need for compliance training (like financial services);
- companies to enhance their employees' knowledge and expertise in specific technical areas present in the company’s activities.
As previously mentioned, besides the content dimension of a LMS, there is also a process dimension. In the general terms, a process is a sequence of steps (tasks, actions) with a clear beginning and end, that transforms a set of inputs into an output while using the available resources.
To simplify this definition, imagine that learning is such a process and the participants are learners and instructors/teachers. A teacher as a process owner creates course content, a time plan and directs students to course goal and the support processes (user registration, learning monitoring, etc.) provide an additional functionality while managing the learning process.
A process produces an added value at the end; in case of learning this can be gained knowledge, but also grades, certificates, etc. Therefore, it comes naturally to implement an e-learning course using a workflow technology. Why? Because, as you might think, in order to automatise the learning process, you need a set of techniques and tools to analyse, model, implement, execute, control, measure and optimise the processes involved.
This is in essence BPM – Business Process Management. To give it a more formal definition, according to www.bpm.com, it “is a discipline involving any combination of modelling, automation, execution, control, measurement and optimisation of business activity flows, in support of enterprise goals, spanning systems, employees, customers and partners within and beyond the enterprise boundaries”.
Well, this is the theory, but what would be the reasons that could motivate you to implement the learning process thought the application of BPM? As we know, a series of affects can be noticed, as it follows:
- direct effects – clearly defined study tasks and duties including deadlines; easier information sharing and a knowledge base; sophisticated services and utilities;
- non-direct effects – reducing number of administrative tasks by their automation; instant overview of the situation status, completed and uncompleted tasks; possibility of continuous evaluation of the effectiveness and further learning process improvement. Because we all strive for efficiency, aren’t we?
One of the direct effects, which we mention here apart from the list above, is the integration of time management into the learning process. Activities in a workflow are executed at specific moments in time, when some predefined conditions are met (i.e. a context is created). This is very important.
How? A teacher creates some learning resource and publishes it to the students without considering a context (students must meet some prerequisites, other courses must be completed first, etc.) and this is not helping the learning process. The content should be made available at the right time, when, according to the process flow, the student is in the context of receiving it.
What do you expect from a workflow? We can tell you that it enables various opportunities of choosing a learning path due to a didactical strategy, personal objectives and results of each student. Moreover, integration of a workflow technology into a learning process has the following advantages:
- it eliminates administrative tasks by automatising them;
- it increases the motivation to study for learners (they are studying according to their preferences, pace, etc.);
- it offers guidance for learners and instructors/teachers;
- it has the possibility of tracking business process instances; each learner has its own instance of the business process, which follows different paths of execution depending on the context and the student;
- it straightforwardly reuses of the processes and their optimisation;
- formalisation of educational principles.
Keep in mind!
Are you interested in seeing how theses theoretical notions are practically applied on a LMS? Check out our website for more info.
This article is part of a bigger topic called Interactive learning.