In Learning Management Systems: Selection Overview, I suggested starting the process of selecting a new or replacement LMS by identifying some of the major requirements before you begin looking at the choices. In this article, I will expand the requirements to include support for features that can allow L&D to analyze learner experience at greater depth. This type of support has increasingly been sought by L&D managers in the past several years, and LMS providers have responded.

So-called traditional learning techniques (i.e., in-person lectures or online course modules) account for about 10% of the ways employees learn. About 20% of learning takes place during interactions with mentors and peers. Experience itself in the flow of work results in about 70% of learning on the job. These numbers are not exact and they are somewhat controversial, but research shows that businesses can track close to 100% of learning. You sometimes hear this referred to as the “70/20/10 Rule”, although calling it a “rule” is stretching things a bit. It isn’t that precise since a lot of factors are involved.

Two systems for tracking

Systems for tracking learning in business settings rely on one of two approaches. The older of these goes by the abbreviation SCORM, which stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model. This is the model around which many LMS products are built, and it enables eLearning courses to communicate directly with the LMS. The data SCORM collects is useful for recording traditional learning activities: course completion, the time an employee needed to complete the course, and the scores the employee made on the various tests.

SCORM can only assess these factors on the 10% of learning that formal learning supports. Yet 90% of learning on the job does not come from courses. A software standard called xAPI provides ways to obtain a comprehensive picture of what individuals learn from other employees and from actual experience. As a result, in searching for a system that supports L&D’s management needs, you will need to find:

  • One that supports the basic LMS tracking and reporting functions defined by SCORM; and
  • One that supports the additional functions that relate to xAPI capabilities.

What is XAPI?

xAPI allows for deeper tracking of learning, whether that happens through eLearning content provided from within the organization’s system, or from outside that system on the internet. xAPI also makes it possible for learning and development to track self-directed learning and learning from other sources including games, video, and other sources.

The “x” in xAPI stands for experience. This software is able to capture learning experiences which SCORM does not. “API” stands for “application programming interface” which means that xAPI can seamlessly integrate with your learning management system.

There is much more to learn about xAPI than I am able to cover in this brief article; my intent here is only to assist in selection of the appropriate software.

The other factors affecting choice

  • Number of users: This affects administrative requirements and pricing, and requires identification of the business units and location or other differentiators.
  • Deployment: The computer type and operating system may be specific to a requirement
    • By operating system (Windows, Mac, Chrome, Linux, Android, iPhone)
    • By location (desktop, mobile)
    • Administration: How much training is required to administer the system (is it complicated to use?)
  • Price: Budget is always a consideration but should not be the final determinant
    • Free
    • Free Trial
    • Monthly Subscription
    • Annual Subscription
    • Automatic Renewal when subscription ends
    • One-time License (Permanent License)
  • Application Types (there are many more!):
    • Synchronous or Asynchronous Learning
    • Blended Learning
    • Built-in Course Authoring
    • Corporate or Business
    • Gamification
    • Mobile Learning
    • Video Conferencing
  • Basic Features: An LMS should have certain other features, such as enrollment and tracking of learner, test score recording, and course or module completion.

Identifying LMS and other products for your needs

There are hundreds of LMS products available, and the number changes constantly. These three websites provide comprehensive coverage of what's available, and they also provide ratings and different ways to sort the offerings so that you can match them to your requirements.

· Capterra

· TrustRadius

· Software Advice