Can An LMS Really Help With Knowledge Management?
For an organization to succeed, it needs to act on the very same information. On the best information. This requires identifying knowledge sources, extracting information, and distributing it instantly throughout the organization. This process usually involves specialized knowledge management teams and tools. But what if you could use what you already have?
An LMS (Learning Management System) plays a key role in training processes. It stores training materials and knowledge bases, allows for synchronous training of hundreds of users thus distributing knowledge, and helps monitor knowledge acquisition through the reporting module. What if it could be used for knowledge management as well?
The Standard Process Of Creating eLearning
Before we try to answer this question, let’s quickly analyze typical elements of the eLearning creation and distribution process.
- Training need is always what starts the training process. It can be identified by a manager, reported by a team, or result from company goals. It may point to lack of information or insufficient level of skill(s) among the employees. Depending on its scale, it may be addressed internally within a team or delegated to an L&D team.
- Training tactics are the way in which L&D decides to deal with the training need. Should the need concern a smaller audience and require skill improvement, an in-class or online synchronous meeting with a trainer will probably be recommended. For dealing with theoretical knowledge and a bigger audience, eLearning will often be the choice.
- The SME (Subject Matter Expert) is the person preparing content and working closely with the eLearning team. To create a great eLearning experience, one first needs to choose the right SME to select and prepare content that will be turned into interactive materials in the next step.
- The Instructional Design team (part of the eLearning team) is a group of experts in applying educational theories and electronic tools to the subject matter in order to enhance the learning process.
- The LMS administrator (also part of the eLearning team) is a person uploading training content onto an LMS. They are often responsible also for curating content on the platform, managing users, and generating reports.
- Communication either in the form of mailing or system notifications is the way learners learn about the training that awaits them. Ideally, it should motivate learners and explain what they will gain from the training.
As we can see, creating eLearning is a long process and, as such, may carry certain challenges. Let’s take a look at them in regard to the parties involved.
- might not be able to make a connection between the company and individual employees’ goals, which may negatively influence employees’ motivation to undergo training;
- might not recognize what employees actually need to get out of the training.
- may not be good at communicating information in a way that is understandable to others;
- is usually busy, concentrated on their own tasks, and may not have time (or willingness) to train others;
- in extreme cases, may be unwilling to participate in the material creation process at all;
- may not fully comprehend training needs and knowledge gaps of those they need to train;
- if encompassing a managerial role, might be biased towards company goals rather than individual employees’ needs.
The eLearning team:
- are often swamped with work and may have considerable deadlines (sometimes two weeks is objectively long when your employees need information “yesterday”);
- depend on the SME for input and review.
After analyzing the above points, we can conclude that the main challenges relating to eLearning include:
- limited resources (SME, eLearning team, time),
- considerable resource investment,
- low employee motivation,
- one-way flow of information, centrally distributed and controlled,
- employees’ passiveness.
Why Not Leave It All To The Employees?
This would allow us to remove all the pain points by…removing all the parties causing problems. And as crazy as it may seem, it actually makes sense. Let’s have a look at some facts:
- Employees usually know best what they need to perform their duties effectively. By engaging them in the process of creating training materials and letting them determine their training needs, we make them active players and give them real control over their jobs—and that is incredibly motivating.
- When in trouble, employees don’t immediately fill in an official training request. They look around and turn to their colleagues and other teams for help. And they usually find it. Because in every team or department there usually is a quiet guy sitting quietly in a corner, who has seen it all and knows all the knicks and knacks of a procedure, tool, or system. He may not be an official expert but he definitely is a go-to person every time there’s trouble. This is how employees identify and use knowledge sources on their own. Unfortunately, as this activity is outside of the formal system, it cannot be monitored, evaluated, and reported, thus it cannot become an official part of the process. Unless…we use our LMS!
LMS: Taking It To A New Level
Imagine an organization where every employee is allowed to create their own eLearning course. If you know something that may be valuable, you can easily share it with others. Each course is up for sale in exchange for an internal company currency, distributed sparingly among all the employees. Having a limited amount of money, employees need to choose carefully what they spend it on and, this way, show what they need most and who they trust will give it to them. As everything is taking place on the company’s LMS, all the activity can be monitored, support offered, progress evaluated, deadlines kept, and KPIs fulfilled.
What Will You Need?
- The right role. While older LMS systems used to have three roles as a standard (admin, tutor, student), some of the contemporary solutions offer a wider choice, or better yet, allow to create and assign custom roles, accommodating the needs of different organizations.
- In-built content editor. You don’t always need an authoring tool (and knowledge of how to use it) to create an eLearning course. There are solutions that have in-built content editors, allowing to create both text- or video-based learning, as well as interactive materials. And all of this without specialized knowledge. For example, H5P interactions are based on templates—all one needs to do is to fill in the fields.
- Internal currency. The project is bound to raise interest, many employees will want to see their colleagues’ courses. Using an LMS with internal company currency allows controlling the time spent on the platform. The course price should correspond to the time needed for course completion. The more time one needs, the higher the price. Tracking money flow will help establish topics most in demand. Additionally, internal currency is a great addition to a company’s motivational system.
- A rating system is an effective way of monitoring the quality of the course. It lets learners share their opinions on how useful a course was.
It is not about the tools but, rather, about the way we use them. A simple LMS, perhaps perceived as outdated by those looking hungrily towards the latest LXPs, can give us more than we initially expected. Cultivating knowledge sharing within an organization is more important than simply buying a knowledge management tool.