SCT’s Mario Pierobon explores the latest trends in management systems for learning, training, and learning content.

Digitisation is becoming the ‘new normal’ of training delivery in safety critical industries. Organisations are looking for digital technologies to accelerate their transformational processes that have a proven return and with a short payback period. In this context, learning management systems (LMS), training management systems (TMS) and learning content management systems (LCMS) are increasingly becoming core learning technologies to help organisations make the most of strategic resources and ease the collaboration with trainers.

The ultimate goal of these technologies is to assist organisations in managing content consistently and ensuring that employees are current in their operating practices by helping them organise and track essential metrics such as completions, certifications, and certification expirations.

LMS and TMS

LMS and TMS are both essential to the learning technology stack. TMS sits at the foundation as a back-office software whilst the LMS mission is to deliver eLearning and to better engage the learners.

“One can find more than 800 LMSs in the world including free solutions, some more dedicated to the extended enterprise, traditional tools or even learning experience platforms,” said Stephane Pineau, CMS at LMS vendor Training Orchestra. “Each of these core technologies complements each other, but TMS and LMS do so each in a special way, which is why organisations that incorporate both instructor-led training and eLearning into their learning programmes, choose to deploy both types of software.”

The training management system addresses the back-office, operational and logistics training processes for instructor-led training and virtual instructor-led training (ILT and VILT), essentially, taking care of all the strategic needs that are not met by LMS.

“LMS on the other hand, serves the learner and eLearning, allowing content managers to organise, deliver, and monitor online courses through an end-user interface,” said Pineau. “There is only a one-word difference between TMS and LMS, but it is an important one. TMS is focussed on organising training sessions and is built for training schedulers and administrators. The core is its administration capabilities, and it is centred on an organisation’s processes: session scheduling, resource management, instructor calendars, cost tracking and reporting.”

For TMS, scheduling and resource management capabilities are robust, giving organisations the ability to schedule and manage any type of strategic resource from trainers, rooms and virtual rooms to equipment such as simulators, aircraft, and safety equipment - any of the items required for the training session to successfully take place.

A training management tool (TMS) can link with other business tools providing a key integration function. Image credit: Arlo.

“Conversely, LMS is focussed on registration and e-learning delivery processes and is built for the learners. It is centred on interaction with the learners, so the number and diversity of day-to-day users are much larger. Of course, training managers will still oversee the training administered through the LMS, as well as track course completion and learner progress. As such, the end-user experience is at the centre of LMS, and much of its value lies in the fluidity and intuitiveness of its front-end user interface,” said Pineau.

Training Orchestra is a back-office software to automate and optimise ILT/VILT operations including session scheduling, resource management, instructor calendars, cost tracking and reporting. “As a complement to LMS and other learning technologies, our system replaces manual processes and spreadsheets and helps organisations increase resource use, optimise session scheduling, and track costs,” said Pineau. “Our software also offers an instructor portal that helps organisations better collaborate with, detect and engage the best instructors and subject matter experts (SME) for the right job. The instructor portal gives organisations and instructors a dedicated way to collaborate, share materials, and track their ‘to-do’ lists. It also allows instructors the option to apply for open teaching opportunities as posted by the organisation.”

Communications between TMS and LMS relies on a simple standard Rest API integration process which is common to all LMSs. “Scheduled sessions are pushed from our TMS to the LMS and course catalogues and resources are synced. The process also begins with an interface study. The purpose is to be sure that the business requirements and processes defined and to determine what data needs to be moved where and when”, says Pineau.

Arlo’s TMS solution is designed to automate manual processes to streamline training operations. “Our software allows to schedule courses and presenters, track payments and business growth, and provide relevant marketing, all within one platform,” said Adam Inker, sales consultant at Arlo. “Our software and LMSs go hand in hand to provide a solution for promoting self-paced online, face-to-face, live online, and blended courses. Arlo has a native integration with the Moodle LMS, and it acts as a host for other LMS solutions.”

LCMS

A learning content management system (LCMS) can be coupled or integrated to TMS to help training departments in safety critical industries ensure that all materials are accurate and up to date.

A Learning Content Management System (LCMS) is a platform that integrates authoring, delivery, publishing and analysis of content in a multi-user environment. Image Credit: Xyleme.

“This sort of assurance can only be made when the right technology and processes in place for content creation and maintenance,” said Liz Treichler, marketing director at Xyleme. “An LCMS provides the ability to ensure consistency and accuracy across all content, version control and version history reporting and in-depth metrics around content consumption and performance.”

LCMS supports content reuse by intelligent linking that avoids copying and pasting, so that updates only need to be made once and can be pushed automatically to all outputs and deliverables where the particular content is used. As a result, organisations operating in safety critical industries can be confident that all of their content is accurate, up-to-date, and consistent, and can implement updates and changes quickly and effectively across the board.

“LCMS provides detailed version histories and permissions, thereby ensuring that organisations easily track and determine which version of content was seen by each individual learner. This also allows organisations to see exactly who has updated each piece of content, when it was updated, and where it was published to provide complete visibility into the content lifecycle,” commented Treichler. “By tracking comprehensive content and learner performance data LCMS allows organisations to easily see how long each individual user spends on each piece of content, and providing data down to the question level to support the continued improvement and long-term effectiveness of their content.”

Enforcing Training Syllabi

The training departments of organisations operating in safety critical industries need to develop and implement procedures in order to have enforced training syllabi, covering both initial and recurrent training, and this is an area where TMS provides support and automation. For example, if there is recurrent training TMS can send automatic reminders.

“The software enables and assigns professional development points and hours to individual events and event templates and it keeps a record of the number of points/hours accumulated by each contact who has completed events running through TMS,” said Inker. “The system also automatically sends reminders of qualification expiry, and by using the Arlo app presenters and administrators can record attendance, make comments on registrations, and assign grades.”

Additional Benefits

There are additional benefits that digitisation can provide in the development and customisation of training programmes. “LCMS provides for significant reduction in effort, resulting in both time and cost savings, for development, maintenance, translation, customisation, and measurement of training materials. These reductions come from the separation of content from the presentation, content reuse, automated publishing through customisable templates and central content delivery,” said Treichler.

Digitisation provides for the automation of manual tasks. “For example, TMS can send automatic registration confirmations, reminder emails and surveys. TMS also captures orders, accepts payments online and issues invoices,” said Inker. “TMS can also be beneficial with regard to customer relationship and record management, as it stores each customer’s upcoming and past training, financials, and sales interactions. Moreover, the software provides a self-service portal for registrants and a company portal for team managers.”

A significant benefit of digitisation has to do with time efficiency. “LCMS streamlines and simplifies content creation, delivery, maintenance, and analysis processes, making it easier for organisations with large volumes of learning content and diverse audiences to manage the entire learning content lifecycle in one place,” said Treichler. “It reduces the time it takes to create, update, and maintain content, it eliminates the need for content authors to spend time on design and layout thanks to responsive output templates, and it reduces the time it takes to personalise content for multiple audiences.”

Regardless of the format, through a LCMS is it possible to significantly reduce development time by linking and reusing existing content and standardising templates so that content updates and formatting are synchronised.

“Updating branding, lining up bullets, styling headings, changing copyright dates can result in tedious amounts of work that ultimately does not improve learning outcomes. With an LCMS’s pre-defined templates and standardised styles, teams can focus on the quality of their content – not branding and formatting,” said Treichler. “In addition, as organisations operating in safety critical industries put more emphasis on tailoring learning for different audiences across different languages, regions, and any number of other filters, the content maintenance burden increases exponentially. Separating content from context and linking instead of copying and pasting, allows authors to personalise content for each individual audience.”

Future Expectations

The role of LCMS in organisations will keep expanding as learning functions continue to enhance their offerings to personalise content and support learning beyond the classroom. As the amount of content organisations need to create expands, and their need to package the same content in many different ways increases, the need for a central repository to manage all these offerings will also increase.

“Many traditional LCMS tools focus on authoring, but the modern LCMS goes beyond authoring to provide a true end-to-end solution, encompassing flexible authoring and outputs, centralised storage and distribution and comprehensive tracking and measurement,” said Treichler.

With a modern LCMS, organisations can integrate content created in any authoring tool and generate a wide variety of output types.

“Innovative solutions keep content in sync in a central repository and can push that content anywhere it needs to be with robust built-in distribution APIs, making it easier for organisations to deliver content at the point of need,” said Treichler. “An LCMS oriented to the future includes a learning record store, which collects comprehensive content and learner engagement and performance metrics, down to the question level, empowering organisations to objectively assess the effectiveness of their content and the progress of their learners, and to identify pieces of content that may need to be updated or improved.”