The Ever-Evolving LMS

After years of clunky, administrator-focused learning management systems, new developments in the LMS market have started to focus on the employee's experience. "The end user always wins," said Katrina Baker, a LMS specialist with experience implementing and maintaining LMSs at a Fortune 500 retailer and Am Law 100 law firm. "If the end user doesn't want to use the system, the system ceases to exist."

Check out our video interview with Katrina Baker above—or the text version of the Q&A below—to learn how companies are changing their approach to the LMS and the big questions companies need to ask before diving head first into a new LMS.

What does NextGen LMS mean to you?

NextGen LMS really means that we're building on the foundation of what a learning management system has been able to mean to a company in the past.

Learning management systems have been around for a while and they have done so much for corporations worldwide, but in the past couple years, there have been so many great innovations in learning management systems. NextGen LMS is really just a culmination of all of those different things and going over all of the new innovations that are available.

You've had the opportunity to work at a few different places and therefore have interacted with a few different LMS'. Thinking back to those companies, are those companies changing how they approach a learning management system?

Oh yeah, absolutely. I would say learning management systems have become a much larger piece of what employees interact with in terms of training and development. They don't just deliver videos anymore and boring PowerPoints. It's much more interactive.

There are games. There's TinCan API, which, for those of you who are familiar, that collects data on even training activities outside the LMS. So not only is the company getting a much better picture of what their learners are learning, but the employee is gathering a lot more information and is hopefully having a lot more fun doing it.

At the event you'll be leading a session, which is titled "Simple Steps to Implement and Administer a LMS." What are some of the major challenges and roadblocks that you've come across in implementing a LMS?

A lot of companies assume that one size fits all when it comes to LMS'. They assume that because of other big retailers, or somebody else in their field has one particular LMS that is the best one for their needs. And that's not necessarily the case.

It's really important to do a lot of research and follow up on the front end before even getting a LMS. If that part is done right, it saves so much trouble later on.

A good LMS that's been well selected and has been gone over by everyone at the company, that LMS is going to deliver the best content for the end user. Definitely looking into whether the LMS is going to meet the company's budget needs.

A lot of people look at that on the front end and go, okay, it's going to be fine for this first year, but does this LMS vendor have a reputation for raising rates later on? What can you expect in the future? How many users are you going to have a year from now? Five years from now? Is that going to affect the rate? It's not necessarily something people think about, but it's going to greatly affect if that LMS is going to have a great impact on your employees long term.

We know an LMS is going to be a big investment up front, but we hope it's not a big investment every year after that.

Right. Exactly. Or you hope it doesn't just keep increasing. That's the scary part.

LMS' have been around for a while and there's this need and movement toward innovation. When you look at some of the corporate learning blogs, there are plenty of people bemoaning LMS' as clunky and old and dysfunctional. As someone who works intimately with them, what do you see as the potential for the next generation of the LMS?

It's much easier now with the new LMS' to appeal to the end user, whereas the first LMS' appealed to the administrator and the company, but not to the end user.

The end user always wins. If the end user doesn't want to use the system, the system ceases to exist. So there have been a lot of recent developments that have made LMS' more appealing. Gamification is a big one. That's something I'll be talking about during my talk because that has just opened doors to things and made the end users' life much more enjoyable.