Being a learning specialist requires knowing a lot more than how to design and deliver training, whether online or face to face. You also have to be familiar with a lot of acronyms and new ones seem to pop up almost every day. It’s a relief that Google is so helpful and readily available or any conference on the subject of learning could turn into a complete mystery anthology for a lot of participants.
There are, however, three letters that ring a bell to everyone even remotely connected to L&D – LMS. The Learning Management System appeared once online instruction became preferred in organizations and though it has seen tremendous transformations due to changes in user demand and in technology, it basically still does what its name says – it manages organizational learning in as systemic way.
Moving from platform to ecosystem
With the creation of numerous apps, tools and e-learning options, the possibilities L&D specialists have are enormous. Yet as it often happens, too many alternatives can turn out to be confusing and make the process harder instead of smoother.
A lot of attention is being given to the concept of learning ecosystem – the connection of various platforms where formal or informal learning takes place. Making these work as a whole seems like the sensible thing to do. An LMS will undoubtedly keep acting as the main hub of learning activity (at least for now) but making xAPI and a Learning Record Store (LRS) part of the learning environment, helps collect data from across the tools and technologies that are used and translate it into a single, standardized data form.
Taking it one step forward, all that xAPI can be brought into the LRS which serves as a database. It can generate real-time data dashboards and reporting tools that will allow L&D specialists to get a comprehensive image of the whole learning experience.
Harnessing the potential of informal learning
Learning occurs in many instances every day. Recent technological developments lead to individuals holding the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, Webster Thesaurus and every other possible piece of information in their pockets, available with only one click.
Formal learning is still the main focus of corporate L&D departments. A structured, programmatic learning path is generally prescribed from onboarding and throughout the professional development of employees. However, this typically represents only a small percentage of the learning happening within an organization.
Read more: How technology can change formal learning
The informal or experience based learning represents a much bigger part of personal and professional development. Working in a team, receiving feed-back and coaching as projects unfold, watching videos and reading articles that are shared by superiors or peers all add up to knowledge that is acquired outside the LMS.
It’s exactly this that xAPI and LRS were designed to capture and track so that the image of organizational learning is complete.
All the data can be used to improve results
The coming together of a number of xAPI-powered technologies has opened a world of opportunities for all L&D professionals. They offer an entirely new and superior manner of understanding everything having to do with employee development and performance. All the valuable data and the useful reports and insights that are generated from it give learning specialists the possibility to design and deploy programs that bring qualitative outcomes that are relevant both to the individual but also to the organization as a whole.
Having real-time insight of skill gaps as well as opportunities is a real game changer for improving efficiency and productivity. It’s wisest to build a strategy around this learning ecosystem in order to get the best results – increased profit and lower training costs across the organization. It is a question of turning human capital management into a critical factor for organizational success.
To sum up
So to sum it up, if the question is “what does a company need an LMS, an LRS and xApi for?” the simple answer would be ‘to stay competitive”.
If the LMS is still the central platform for all having to do with corporate formal learning, an LRS and xApi are basically the intertwined tools that can harness the potential of all informal learning people do while at work or in their spare time. If an LRS can extract and store a lot of valuable data, xApi can turn all that into comprehensive reports and personalized recommendation for future action.
By building the system in a way that it focuses on getting information for finding deficiencies in performance, it can easily also provide the options for mitigating them thus leading to improved results.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.