On Friday I presented this session at the Forward Government Learning conference, on the topic “The Future of the LMS in the Public Sector”.
It can be difficult to make meaning from slides alone, so here is some of the thinking and context behind these ideas.
Ideas & inspiration
It wasn’t a topic I chose directly (I don’t find LMSs in and of themselves particularly inspiring…and “LMS” and “Public Sector” together in one sentence even less so). However, as I started thinking about what I could possibly say that wouldn’t put people to sleep (especially on a Friday afternoon…), I started seeing some potentially interesting angles.
I wasn’t interested in looking at the capabilities of the LMS as a system from a technical perspective, so much as the drivers for change in how LMSs are viewed and used – and what this means for people. My initial thoughts were influenced by my own observations and experiences in the organisation I work for (Transport for NSW, a large state government agency responsible for the operation of public transport services – rail, buses, roads & maritime). During my (relatively short) time in the public sector, I’ve seen reforms like consolidation of agencies, moves toward shared services, and the increasing prevalence of holistic workplace learning models like 70:20:10 – all of which has an impact what we do in Organisational Development (OD), and the systems that we use (in OD/L&D, primarily the LMS).
Interested in other people’s views, I also put out a call on twitter to (ex)-Government peeps in my PLN (which I’ve Storified here), and collected ideas and examples from others in Transport OD. I am grateful to Con Sotidis and Vanessa North from my PLN who provided their thoughts; and Martin Caldwell and Helen Fullarton at Transport OD who gave me information and examples of portfolios of evidence and competency assessment initiatives they are involved in implementing.
4 key areas
I ended up structuring these ideas into 4 key areas:
- Shared services > shared systems – this is essentially a comment on the public sector trend towards consolidation of agencies and centralisation of services (L&D/OD/HR/Payroll/Procurement), and how this is driving the consolidation of systems (like LMSs). I’m interested in how this subsequently impacts people-process-workflow-behaviour…and potentially values – particularly when applied to the L&D/OD space. And additionally, what this might mean if / when this sharing & collaboration happens across different government agencies.
- Integrated systems > seamless employee experiences – within organisations (certainly mine) there seems to be a move towards integration of people systems (LMS/HR/Payroll/Performance Management/Devt). (A few government delegates at the conference mentioned the same was happening in their organisations). I’m interested in how this changes (improves) the employee experience – especially experiences like recruitment and induction. Ultimately (once the implementation issues are ironed out…) it should lead to much more seamless employee experiences than is currently the case.
- Holistic models and practices for workplace learning > moving beyond the LMS as sole delivery platform – I’m seeing an increasing maturation in thinking and practice in the use of the LMS as a delivery platform – driven by workplace learning models like 70:20:10 becoming more mainstream. There will always be a place for LMSs in highly regulated industries (like transport, health, finance etc). But most of the interesting stuff – the stuff that actually gets close to supporting people for better on-the-job performance – is happening outside of the LMS (at least perhaps until LMSs catch up and become more flexible and adaptable):
- There’s a much greater recognition of the limitations of the LMS for supporting the 70 and 20 components (e.g. performance support, coaching, mentoring), and appreciation that often, there is little or no value in tracking these activities in an LMS (particularly if ‘completion’ and ‘score’ is the only data that can be reported on). Subsequently there is increasing use of more dynamic, accessible and flexible platforms like the intranet, sharepoint, portals and mobile apps to support on-the-job, just-in-time workplace learning.
- Use of portfolios of evidence to collect a broad range of authentic and meaningful artifacts to demonstrate competency in actual task / job performance (vs ‘content completion’ or ‘score’), and also to promote more reflective practice.
- Greater blending of comms and learning – especially to support broad based organisational change initiatives. In Transport, our internal comms team is actually part of OD. This is leading to a more integrated and aligned messaging, and enabling more ‘campaign’-based approaches to supporting organisational change.
- Beyond SCORM and completion tracking > xAPI for more meaningful and integrated data – although xAPI (“tin can”) is still very much in an experimental phase, I don’t think any conversation about the “future of” LMSs can exclude mention of it. Here, I was interested in exploring conceptually how it could be used to ultimately help people to work better and improve performance – by gathering and using more meaningful data about how people work and learn – and developing tighter feedback loops between the two to inform training interventions (as one potential use for xAPI in the L&D/OD context). *NOTE: a comment from a delegate at the conference mentioned LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) as an alternative to xAPI for achieving similar outcomes. Sounds like something worth looking into.
Whilst there wasn’t quite as much discussion as I’d hoped from the session (last up on a Friday afternoon is not exactly the time to get a conversation going…), keen to hear any thoughts and perhaps start (or continue) a conversation here or elsewhere. Get in touch.