September 2011
Issue Map
TD Magazine

What’s Next for the LMS?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Enthusiasm about the learning management system (LMS) has mostly died since its heyday decades ago. So what do learning professionals think about the LMS in 2011, and what does the future hold? Human performance software and services provider Expertus set out to answer those questions in its recent survey, “The Current and Future State of Learning Management Systems.”


“People think that the LMS does a good job today for what it was originally intended to do when it was created 20 years ago—that is, to track training,” says Gordon Johnson, vice president of marketing at Expertus. “Unfortunately, people aren’t using it for that anymore. They expect it to be the solution to their learning problems.”

Fifty-five percent of survey respondents graded their level of satisfaction with their LMS an A or B, and 45 percent gave their LMS a C, D, or F rating—with an overall LMS satisfaction of a B- average. Respondents identified usability as the top challenge when using their LMS, followed by reporting and integration. Surveyed learning professionals also ranked usability as the number one challenge for their learners, with 26 percent of respondents agreeing that their learners have difficulty with general LMS functionality.

According to Johnson, the LMS was not designed to be customer-facing, but now that learning is becoming more user-centered and self-service- oriented, more learners are accessing the LMS themselves and are having difficulty doing so.

Respondents identified personalized learning plans as the most popular advanced feature of the LMS, with 62 percent currently using them, and 44 percent citing them as the most essential feature for the future LMS. “Learning professionals want their employees to follow a learning plan that adjusts based on how company structure, employee needs, and job roles change,” Johnson explains.

Expertus followed up the study with a think-tank dialogue between 13 learning executives who discussed answers to the question, “How has the LMS evolved in your organization in recent years, and what do you believe to be its future?” The participants identified three major action steps that learning professionals should take to ready their LMS strategy for the future: accept the LMS for what it is and what it was designed to do; integrate the LMS with new systems to get the job done; and continue to track and measure.


According to one think tank participant, “Learning executives are looking for ways to complement their systems with additional methods to provide a more robust learning experience.” They are using additional platforms or tools to satisfy learners’ career development, user-generated content, and direct communication needs and wants.  

“The question is whether or not this trend will last,” notes Johnson. “Everyone wants to integrate all of their systems to support the future (and even current) generation in the workforce…What technology will overpower the LMS, or will the LMS add enough new technology to overcome these challenges?”



T+D SEPTEMBER 11 // headlines //

Green Jobs Gaining Ground

By Ann Pace Jobs for the Future expands green sector training for workers in seven major U.S. cities.

Funded by an $8 million U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) grant, Jobs for the Future (JFF)—a not-for-profit education and workforce development organization—will provide resources to train green industry workers in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. DOL’s Green Jobs Innovation Fund grant, authorized by the Workforce Investment Act, awarded a total of $38 million to six organizations, including JFF.

Using pre-established industry partnerships, JFF creates sector-based career pathways and tools for lower-skilled adults, while targeting local employer needs. One of its primary strategies is to nurture partnerships with a variety of professional and social services providers, such as adult literacy, occupational training, and case management agencies.

“Often these services don’t collaborate, and people get lost in the shuffle,” says Maria Flynn, vice president of Building Economic Opportunity, Jobs for the Future. “Our role is to get organizations that perform these different functions to form a partnership with each other and with employers who have particular occupational needs.”

JFF’s newest project—called The GreenWays Initiative—will launch green skills programs for approximately two years beginning in 2012, including training for repair and maintenance of alternative fuel vehicles, machine operation for green manufacturing, and green construction. JFF will also provide post-training job retention services such as career management workshops and employer follow-up.

DOL requires grant recipients to create sustainability plans that show
evidence of their programs’ longstanding value. Flynn says that JFF has already begun to ask the recipient communities what they think needs to be sustained as a result of the program, be it relationships with employers or the partnership between industry agencies.

“Those who have received the resources are quite enthusiastic about what they can do with them,” notes Flynn. “This is truly causing a lot of excitement within the communities.”



T+D SEPTEMBER 11 // Now You Know //


Proof Is in the Performance

By Phaedra Brotherton

For learning to stick, training needs to be designed to give employees a chance to practice concepts directly related to their jobs.

How much of what employees learn do they actually apply on the job? About 25 percent, according to two out of three learning professionals who participated in a recent ESI International study on learning transfer. And what evidence do they have that this is true? Nearly 60 percent admit that their estimates are “simply a guess” or based on informal or anecdotal feedback.

“The study points out some striking contradictions in how well organizations think they transfer learning and the lack of proof to back up their estimate of learning transfer or on-the-job application,” says Raed S. Haddad, senior vice president, global delivery services, ESI International.

Participants in the March 2011 study, “Applying Training and Transferring Learning in the Workplace,” included more than 3,000 government and commercial training-related managers from around the world. The study explored three areas: program design, employee motivation, and back-on-the-job application.

The top three strategies indicated as the most important for learning transfer were: give trainees the time, resources, and responsibility to apply learning (30 percent); secure manager support (24 percent); and ensure the instruction approach simulates the actual work environment (22 percent).

During the design or pre-training phase, the study found that little time was spent on preparing employees for training or on defining expectations.

“Companies are not sitting down and explaining why a trainee is going to class and what’s expected,” says Haddad. “It’s important to explain that the company wants you to apply what you learned and will be measuring [application].”

As for motivation, the study found that very little was done in terms of providing employee incentives to apply the learning. Nearly 60 percent of respondents noted that the primary incentive was the “possibility of more responsibility,” followed closely by affecting HR performance reviews. Only 20 percent indicated any financial reward or other incentives.

The survey also asked respondents to identify best practices that they were using for learning transfer. Although there were several ideas for actions that management should take, not many were actually being implemented. Suggested practices included

  • incorporating real projects in the training to make it more relevant
  • conducting more training or better marketing and communication on what exists
  • communicating a transparent measurement strategy
  • establishing change management guidelines
  • increasing managers’ involvement before and after training.

“Solving the manager questions is a challenge in most organizations,” Haddad says. “It is one of the most critical pieces for success.”
For managers to really help, they must do more than endorse learning programs. Notes the report, “Managers must be expected to have clear responsibilities and provide tactical support every step of the way.”







Face Time Is Still Most Beneficial for Job Seekers



Person-to-person networking remains the main source of new career opportunities for job candidates, according to a new study by talent and career management firm Right Management. The study shows that 41 percent of job candidates found new career opportunities through traditional networking, as opposed to the 25 percent who found such opportunities on Internet job boards. Other categories in the study include agency-search firm (11 percent), direct approach (8 percent), online network (4 percent), advertisement (2 percent), and other (10 percent).

Carly McVey, Right Management’s vice president of career management, points out that technology is unquestionably playing an ever-increasing role in networking, but that “from year to year the data say that traditional networking is nearly twice as successful as any other job search method. People tend to trust people they meet [in person].”

During the last three years, success using Internet job boards has increased by at least 6 percent. Of the growing role of technology in job searching, McVey notes that “online social networking may not always be separate from traditional networking since one so often leads to the other. A job seeker uses the Internet to track down former associates or acquaintances and then reaches out to them in person.”

While networking is an important factor in any job search, successful job candidates generally need to use a mix of different approaches to find what suits them, including conducting a variety of research, getting in touch with former contacts, and reaching out to those who may be in a position to help them.





Are You Ready to Go Global?

The Global Mindset Institute, aligned with the Thunderbird School of Global Marketing, has created an Internet-based assessment tool that helps employees succeed in global environments. The Global Mindset Inventory, according to the Institute, was created “to help determine a global leader’s ability to better influence individuals, groups, and organizations unlike themselves.”

The assessment is delivered in the form of a survey, containing 76 questions, and takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete. There are three versions of the survey—one for academic institutions, one for corporate businesses, and another for the not-for-profit and government sectors. The survey—based on scientific research and tested by more than 1,000 global managers—can help to determine the success of potential future hires or identify the candidate most suited to an international posting.

The results of the assessment are used to measure one’s global mindset in three areas: intellectual, psychological, and social. The institute defines intellectual capital as “your global business savvy, your cosmopolitan outlook, and your cognitive complexity,” citing such competencies as knowledge of global industry, knowledge of cultures in different parts of the world, and ability to grasp complex concepts quickly.

Psychological capital includes desire for diversity, quest for adventure, and self-assurance. Enjoying time spent in other parts of the world, an interest in dealing with challenging situations, and self-confidence are some of the key competencies of psychological capital.

Social capital indicates one’s intercultural empathy, interpersonal impact, and diplomacy. It is reflected in competencies, such as the ability to work well with people from other parts of the world, experience in negotiating contracts in other cultures, and willingness to collaborate. According to the institute, measuring strength in all three areas is indicative of one’s best chances for success in international assignments.

A short sample survey for those interested in learning the types of questions posed during the assessment is available on the Global Mindset Institute website (






5 Things Bosses Can Talk About to Help Transition New Management Hires

During the onboarding process, bosses can do a lot to help new management hires shorten their learning curve by sharing the best ways to work with them. Bosses can set up a transition meeting to explain how they:

1. Make decisions.

Who makes the call for various types of decisions?

2. Share information.

What kind of information is needed, how often, and in what format?

3. Conduct meetings.

When do they prefer staff meetings versus one-on-one meetings?

4. Manage disagreements and conflicts.

Is it best to discuss issues together or to work it out alone?

5. Respond to problems and issues.

Is the preference to bring well-developed solutions, bring options, or just bring the problem?

This month’s tip was adapted from the September 2011 Infoline, “Onboarding for Managers.” 




Jane Hart: Learning in the Social Workplace

Jane Hart, founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies, discusses the use of social media for learning and performance on her blog, Learning in the Social Workplace. The blog contains cutting-edge content and some unique features that may land it in your favorites list, reader platform, or RSS feed. Features include

  • a weekly Twitter Links Digest
  • references and links to popular news and discussions, such as e-learning solutions provider Epic’s Summer 2011 E-Learning Debate
  • Jane’s ongoing thoughts for learning managers about the state of learning in today’s social workplace
  • links to emerging communities, top tools, industry experts, and a library of resources for learning professionals.

Check out Hart’s blog today at



Critical Skills for Workforce 2020

The institute for the Future teamed up with the University of Phoenix Research institute to identity the following skills, in light of several current economic drivers, that will be needed to thrive in the workplace in the year 2020.



"What are your thoughts and responses to the mindset that training is easy and 'anyone' can train?"


About the Author

Ann Parker is Associate Director, Talent Leader Consortiums at ATD. In this role she drives strategy, product development, and content acquisition for ATD’s senior leader and executive audience. She also oversees business development and program management for ATD's senior leader consortiums, CTDO Next and ATD Forum.

Ann began her tenure at ATD in an editorial capacity, primarily writing for TD magazine as Senior Writer/Editor. In this role she had the privilege to talk to many training and development practitioners, hear from a variety of prominent industry thought leaders, and develop a rich understanding of the profession's content. She then became a Senior Content Manager for Senior Leaders & Executives, focusing on content and product development for the talent executive audience, before moving into her current role.

Ann is a native Pennsylvanian where she currently resides, marathoner, avid writer, baker and eater of sweets, wife to an Ironman, and mother of two.

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