Does An LMS Actually Manage Learning?

Does An LMS Actually Manage Learning?

During the time I posted my last post – The LMS – Will it survive? and continuing after that, there have been some interesting discussions around LMS by Clark Quinn, Jane Hart, Harold Jarche, Dave Wilkins and others debating the need of an LMS, raising questions from why we need it, whether we need it, how it should be viewed, will it survive, etc. You can read some interesting posts around these questions here – LMS is no longer the center of the universe, What is the future of the LMS?, When to LMS, A case for the LMS?, Why bash the LMS?, A Defense of the LMS (and a case for the future of Social Learning).

In one of these posts, a question was raised whether an LMS can actually manage learning. Since it is called Learning Management System, it implies management of 'learning' or does it? There are suggestions of changing the name of the LMS to something more appropriate (of course, everything is still in an arguable and debatable state) it is actually doing more or less of what the name suggests. Also, due to the fact that some 'LMSs' are actually more of learning portals and, ideally should be called something like LCC (Learning, Content and Collaboration tools) as they offer functions around these main areas. There have been other suggestions as well. I think the arguments are fair and just, and that it's only in a limited context that they appear so. I attempt to clarify below.

Let me come back to the original question – does an LMS actually manage learning? In plain words – the answer is No. In fact, most systems termed management systems do not manage what the term suggests, including Performance Management, Talent Management, Training Management, Customer Relationship Management, and many others. Most of these systems manage processes related to these areas. So, a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system does not manage your customer relationships, but it only manages the information flow around how you manage your customer relationships. No CRM system can define a customer relationship, but it can only help you manage a relationship better (in terms of access to accurate and complete information in real-time) which enables the users to make informed decisions. Same is case for Performance Management – no Performance Management System can make a learner perform better, neither can a Talent Management System manage talent – but all these systems do one thing – manage information and processes which enable the relevant set of users to make better decisions which, in turn, lead to an overall improvement.

Same case stands for Learning Management System. It can NEVER manage learning and, as with other management systems, it manages the processes and information that leads the users to make better, informed decisions and take necessary actions which leads to learning eventually.

So, though a Learning Management System doesn't manage learning, it doesn't mean that it doesn't help you manage the processes around that. It does. So, a Learning Management System can be fairly called a Learning Management System.

I have no particular affinity for the term – LMS, but I think if we look at the LMS from a bigger perspective, the term works well. Yes, many LMS systems have their shortcomings, but it is also true that there are many LMS systems that are evolving rapidly to be able to support learners with not only conventional 'managed formal learning' tools but also offering them an environment to collaborate and share peer-to-peer. It may be too early to start giving different names to each variant of a system in this space and may only end up confusing the customers to some extent.

In the end, I would say that I am very much in the favor of the LMS being still called as LMS and, as long as the industry can keep information flowing about the ever growing capabilities of LMS systems, I think, there's not a big reason to start calling LMS by another name.

Well, these are my views and I would love to hear yours. Please leave a comment if you agree or disagree with me.