“Learning management system” has been used comfortably and interchangeably for years by the airline industry and S&T sector companies. Underlying LMS technology and other system attributes are undergoing a not so subtle, rapid transformation into broader training management systems, reports Group Editor Marty Kauchak.

Software and other simulation and training sector companies that deliver learning management systems (LMSs) and related products, have a significant role in community members’ continua of learning. One insight on a company’s presence in this sector was provided by Tonya Meister, the chief marketing officer at Comply365. The Beloit, Wisconsin-based corporate official noted that in addition to serving clients worldwide, “80 percent of US air carriers utilize Comply365’s enterprise mobility solutions including our training solutions. Nearly 55,000 LMS courses and over 35,000 evaluations have been completed using Comply365 Training Suite solutions.”

Richmond, British Columbia-based Pelesys’ rapidly expanding customer list further illustrates the surging demand by end users for LMSs and associated products. In one instance, Air Berlin started by using Pelesys LMS and courseware, but has since expanded the platform to include the qualification and mobile modules. Additionally, Philippine Airlines has implemented Pelesys’ full Training Management and Deployment System (TMDS) platform, described later, and is reviewing the online and offline grading system to manage their AQP (Advanced Qualification Program). “We are approaching about 100 customers that use either our full suite of products or various components,” Allan Greene, the vice president for Sales and Marketing at Pelesys, revealed.

Evolving Toward Training Management Systems 

Arvand Varahram, the managing director at prodefis, recalled traditional LMSs initially were classic CBT delivering systems. “Later on, LMSs were extended by adding more sophisticated features such as classroom management. But in the end, the LMS remained trainer-driven solutions.”

Technology transformation, an LMS platform’s use throughout an airline’s learning community and other factors are leading the demand for this learning product to become more dynamic. “It’s becoming more of a training management system,” Pelesys’ Greene told CAT this October. The community expert noted that an LMS is now expected to handle the scheduling of events, the tracking of qualifications, the development, monitoring and maintaining of advanced qualification and evidence based training programs, as well as other tasks.

Jörg Latteier, the managing director at MINT, focused on the technology transformation in LMSs, observing these systems “can rather be seen as a bidirectional ‘communication’ tool for an efficient teacher-student communication and not just as ‘distribution platform’ for course material” This is enhancing the learning experience, as with today’s multi-platform communication technology at hand, “even ‘dry’ learning content can be offered and set up in a much more interactive, modern and interesting way, compared with older material that was presented to the student on paper. This ‘interactivity’ is an important factor to look at, especially for the future student generations to come,” the industry executive added.

Airline training organizations, flight schools and other end users of LMSs also want these systems to track a learner’s progress though the continuum of training - from accession level, through their participation in “missions” in full flight simulators and other training devices, and through recurrent training - becoming in reality a training management system. Indeed, Latteier told CAT this November that this year MINT TMS (Training Management System) has become a full-fledged “all- in-one learning and training solution” by smoothly integrating LMS functionality into its Training Management System. “Beyond a traditional LMS we offer a highly comfortable and powerful solution to administrate and deliver blended training combining both traditional classroom and/or simulator training and e-learning courses. The distribution of course material and WBT [web-based training] content is simple and straight forward. All SCORM [sharable content object reference model]-compliant material of any provider can be used. The system also supports delivering course materials like manuals and accompanying material via an iPad App, both for online and offline use,” the Kiel, Germany-based executive remarked.

Pelesys’ Greene, added, “For example, we’re seeing the airlines interested in having the progress of the student managed through the entire type endorsement and maintain the qualifications as they remain on that individual aircraft or move on throughout their career.”

Other unmet customer requirements still exist in this sector.

Airlines which prodefis talks to prefer a “course-driven approach which is still missing,” Varahram said and continued, “Attempts to overcome this by adding scheduling functionality to LMS could work, but only if the solution is not based on the trainer-triggered, content-delivery mechanisms. This is where a Training Management System including scheduling comes into play.”

A larger, more significant technology gap is the lack of integration with other airlines’ systems, resulting often in inefficient processes and double input of data, Varahram further pointed out.

“Airlines would like to have LMSs which are much more integrated with their main systems such as the Crew Scheduling Systems (CSS). Currently if there is any integration, it usually ends at the level of basic staff data exchange, or at most at the level of staff qualification exchange. But the airlines need an exchange at roster data level in order to get efficient workflows and maximum automation,” the corporate official remarked.

Prodefis’ message appears to be resonating well within the community. The company lists Germanwings as a customer since this August, and reported Widerøe's Flyveselskap AS was expected to become a client as this issue was being published.

Beyond Pelesys’ LMS, the company has expanded its product portfolio to include a unique TMDS mentioned above. “This includes not only the ability to schedule a pilot for their training and other events, but also to deploy the training content that they have and complete it online or from a mobile platform” Greene noted and continued, “We are also now offering our customers a new Electronic Training Records system enabling AQP, ATQP and EBT management – including both online and offline grading components. This allows the user to create a customized grade sheet for managing and maintaining the individual’s grades as they progress through training.”

Offline use and mobility were end user requirements to which Comply365 is also being responsive. Meister noted her customers’ four leading recent requirements for LMSs include: enterprise mobility that supports any device and makes training available in an off-line state as well as when in connectivity; customizable dashboards for high-level viewing of course statistics, completion rates, organization totals, and completion history across the enterprise; high-level reporting from multiple vantage points that allows for quick trend spotting and drill-down analyses for continuous improvement and to assist with monitoring trainers and materials align with training objectives; and the ability to control visibility of each training to specific departments or provide course access to everyone across the enterprise.

Comply365’s product portfolio has also evolved to meet its current and prospective customers’ needs. In particular the firm’s full training suite of turn-key solutions includes LMS Learning Manager, AQP Learning Manager (Advanced Qualification Program for Pilots), IQP Learning Manager (Advanced Qualification Program for In-Flight crew), and Schedule365.

Also on the Horizon

Community learning organizations should be attentive to new and evolving product developments in this market space.

Greifenberg, Germany-based prodefis expects to further close the gap between an airline’s CSS and LMSs by utilizing the company’s Training and Performance Monitoring System (TPMS), its Training Management System COURSE and their interfaces to both CSSs and LMSs.

“Another new component we are working on is the Exam Module which will become available by May 2015,” Varahram said.

Pelesys’ research and development efforts include innovations in training curriculum and courseware enhancements. Without divulging much detail, Greene did point out the efforts “will greatly enhance the typical, traditional CBT. We’ll have more news on this as we move toward 2015 WATS. And we’re looking to advance components of the training management system that need to evolve – moving toward evidence-based training with our electronic grading system, for example.”

On Comply365’s “watch list” for 2015 is its Training Path, which combines the company’s training, assessment and scheduling modules together to allow the end user to build his or her own powerful engine to manage training across your entire enterprise. “Designed with top level management in mind, Training Path is the solution that brings all your training needs - new hire training, recurrent training for skilled crews, live scenario evaluations, and resource scheduling - together in a system-wide view,” Meister added.

One of many Training Path capabilities is the consolidated dashboard view of the user’s entire system’s training progress and resource availability.

With the upcoming release of version 10 of the MINT TMS (training management system) at the end of first quarter 2015, the company will present a completely revamped web portal, which also will offer some exiting new features for customers of its fully integrated LMS system. “Learners, instructors and 3rd-party customers will benefit from the modern and responsive Web design and there are many new features and functionalities to come, that will significantly enhance both user experience and usability,” Latteier concluded.