A client recently asked if I could help him prepare a presentation he’ll be delivering to colleagues within his organization. The aim of the presentation is to provide an overview of workplace learning technology in 2012. So far, he has a very impressive slide deck that covers:
- An introduction to e-learning
- Learning modalities and content types (simulations, games, video, etc.)
- Formats (Flash vs HTML 5)
- Social learning
- Tools and technologies (authoring tools, learning management systems, etc.)
He asked if I could lend a hand in clarifying how learning management systems fit into all this. I sent along the following.
Learners today are presented with myriad opportunities to engage with learning content. They can turn to Blogs, Twitter, wikis, social networks, video sites, etc. to find valuable information about any subject.
The problem learners face today is not paucity of content, but rather that so much content exists that it can take significant time and effort to find the many gems in a world awash in funny cat videos, political memes, inspirational quotes, deliberate scams and inadvertent falsehoods, marketing copy pretending to be impartial content, and Justin Bieber (who, depending on your sources, may or may not have just broken up with Selena Gomez) musical covers.
How much stuff is out there? YouTube alone experiences 72 hours of video uploaded every minute. This source estimates that there have been 163 billion tweets since the dawn of Twitter. According to the American Library Association, by 2020, information on the Internet will be doubling every 15 minutes.
The bottom line is that, faced with so much content, learners can benefit from digital content curation. This means that the role of learning professionals such as instructional designers and instructors expands beyond creating and delivering courses to finding useful content and vetting potential authorities and subject matter experts.
A learning management system, then, provides a centralized on-ramp to relevant learning content located within the LMS but also found elsewhere on the Web. Learners can be encouraged to:
- Watch relevant YouTube videos embedded into courses or added to the system as resources
- Follow and participate in discussions with experts on Twitter and in forums
- Read and comment on blog posts written by authorities on specific topics
- Contribute ideas with colleagues using wikis
- Attend live virtual events such as Webinars
- And much much more
Some learning gurus are vehemently opposed to the very idea of curated content. The learner, they say, should be free to roam the Web and discover content he or she finds relevant. These gurus should learn to relax. A learning management system doesn’t restrict learners from discovering content. This is curation, not censorship. A LMS simply provides an on-ramp to content someone has concluded is potentially valuable in learning new skills or information.