Surprisingly Cool Things You Can Do with an LMS

Surprisingly Cool Things You Can Do with an LMS

Surprisingly Cool Things You Can Do with an LMS

Not all Learning Management Systems are created equally. In fact, you would be hard pressed to identify matching features across the entirety of the industry. So instead of "Surprisingly Cool Things You Can Do with an LMS" this article may be more aptly titled, "Things You Did Not Know GyrusAim Could Do for You". However, it is best to gaze upon this list with the intent to evaluate your current LMS, as it too may have some of these capabilities hidden within its standard operating features.

Resource Management

The number one item on our cool stuff list is Resource Management. Having the cooperative capabilities to schedule an instructor on a localized calendar has unmeasurable benefits. Scheduling that same instructor, the classroom, the projector he/she is using, a laser pointer and a shared laptop… priceless. One of the smarter features of an intuitive LMS is being able to fully manage all aspects of the learnings; this includes considerations for conflict management and making sure administrators are not double or triple booking training resources within their organization. This practice also aids in the ability to reschedule due to unforeseen circumstances, as well as to track user metrics within the allotted scheduled times.  

Custom APIs

The second cool thing we find that is typically overlooked is the ability to develop custom APIs. What is an API? According to Beal (2016), an “Application program interface (API) is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. An API specifies how software components should interact.” If your organization has developers on board with some time to spare, and you as a training organizer has requirements for interactivity between common programs, an API could be developed to ease inoperability between software components. This could be as simple as integration with your HRIS to as foreign as merging the capabilities of two separate Learning Management Systems.  

Assessment Creation Tool

You are definitely reading that correctly. The ability to generate content directly into the LMS not only exists but is being highlighted on this blog post. Gone are the ways of the past and the need to call your LMS provider every time you need a new bit of content development. If your organization demands an immediate change, an external time component in unnecessary, and the inevitable reception of a bill to reflect that proposed demand can be completely averted. In today’s marketplace organizations need to be able to address their own needs, without cost prohibitive circumstances surrounding their LMS.

Granular Control

When we say granular control at Gyrus Systems, we mean granular control. With 258 permissions currently available in GyrusAim and the ability to define new user roles within the program with just a click of the mouse. Undoubtedly other LMS providers also share at least a portion of these restrictions. Administrators are often unaware of what they are capable of divulging to their users within these settings. Perhaps, there is a view that would add exponential user value or one that would allow for a subroutine to be performed by another role in your department, making your work life infinitely easier.

Title 21 CFR Part 11

Unless it is an organizational requirement, you may not be aware of its availability. At Gyrus, we pride ourselves in being 21 CFR Part 11 compliant. If you are asking yourself what is 21 CFR Part 11, it is defined as, “Title 21 CFR Part 11 is the part of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations that establishes the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on electronic records and electronic signatures (ERES). Part 11, as it is commonly called, defines the criteria under which electronic records and electronic signatures are considered to be trustworthy, reliable and equivalent to paper records (Title 21 CFR Part 11 Section 11.1 (a))”  [Wikipedia]  GyrusAim has developed a feature for supporting compliance with Title 21 CFR Part 11. Though your LMS may not support this particular requirement for electronic signatures, there may be an alternative compliance component that can be utilized for security purposes within your current environment.

Thus concludes this segment of Surprisingly Cool Things You Can Do with an LMS. Please continue to join me as I investigate the LMS landscape and offer helpful tips whenever they may arise.  

 

References

Beal, Vangie. "What Is API – Application Program Interface? Webopedia Definition". Webopedia.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 14 June 2016.

"Title 21 CFR Part 11". Wikipedia. N.p., 2016. Web. 14 June 2016.

Six Things I Learned From Our Visitors Part II

Six Things I learned From Our Visitors Part II

Six Things I Learned From Our Visitors Part II

How to overcome challenges experienced by LMS users from ATD 2016

In my previous post “Six Things I Learned From Our Visitors” I delved shortly into the gloomy cloud of sadness that engulfs the perception of the entire LMS industry. In particular, I highlighted six statements of Industry professionals and paraphrased what that meant to problems they experienced with their LMS providers. Now is the time when I should mention that the users surveyed were not Gyrus Systems Users and that the easiest resolution would be to explore our most recent release of GyrusAim. But I digress, this post will explore manners in which people in these sorts of environments could make their lives a little easier.

Six Things I Learned From Our Visitors Part IIBelow are the issues portrayed and mitigation techniques:

 

Difficult to Formulate Content:

In less user-friendly systems it is important to design content with the implementation in mind. Focus on how the system parameters push you to corners, and bend the needs of the organization to fit the limitations of that system. Be careful not to lose sight of what is important and be vigilant in the pursuit of good content. Content is the most important resource for the development of individuals within your organization. Good content can be the difference between driving sales at your typical yearly rate and exceeding stakeholder expectations. 

Defining Course Requirements:

Before attempting to conquer individual course requirements, be sure to have a clear perspective on what those may be before attempting to merge into your system. Good housekeeping will go a long way into mitigating some of the heartburn experienced in system use. Some find it best to draft ideas on a good old fashioned notepad and enjoy going through the process of identifying the skills that need to be met, how to reinforce them, and who would best benefit from inclusion in a proposed course.
 

Limited and Tedious Reporting:

For this particular area, I struggled to find a practice that could best benefit the user. In LMS environments with poor reporting functionalities, there is no immediate bandage. However, it is possible to find the common denominator in what is required and what is being reported. There is always the workaround of internal auditing and pushing content to a more instructor-led training environment, by doing this you can introduce a human element capable of finding the missing pieces in departmental reporting generated from an outdated LMS.

Complex System Implementation:

There are companies that exist just to do this portion of an LMS migration; so it should go without saying, you are not alone. However, you can help this process by taking a deep dive into what you are attempting to enter into your LMS. Be sure to take a look at both transferrable content and the human resource component. Verify the output of your previous system is updated and free of duplicate entries, past employees, or expired content which may hinder future organizational development.

Poor Search Functionality:

Think of yourself as a meta-keyword guru. Though the system you are using may be difficult to use, this may be overcome with good maintenance practices at the entry level. Optimize the words you use to describe the course, in order to optimize the results you get from searching for that course. Do not be afraid to use google as a resource, look specifically for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques and if need be, resort to the ultimate reference of a thesaurus.

Managing My Users and Importing New Enrollees Is a Job in Itself:

Though in many environments this cannot be helped, it is best to develop a repeatable process for entry. Refer back to the advice for complex system implementation, as a data clean-up can prevent you from having to deal with the oppressive LMS environment which is becoming some time intensive.

Though all these methods may be suboptimal, there is something to be said about good process formation and cleanliness of the data entry. As a personal disclaimer, I tried my best not to make this into a sales piece. However, if these scenarios reflect experiences garnered in your current LMS environment, it may be wise to explore the potential of a new system as soon as possible/ schedule a demonstration of GyrusAim today. 

Show Me the Release Notes!

release notes smallI occasionally help out with RFPs. A common question is to provide a release or upgrade history (Release Notes) of our GyrusAim LMS that shows its revisions over time. Access to such a document is very important for prospects prior to signing a contract.  An ongoing history of software releases provided by an LMS vendor proves that they invest resources into developing the product by adding new features and fixing problems. If a vendor cannot or will not provide such a detailed history, it can be a warning to steer clear of their Learning Management System. (An exception is a start-up vendor that is so new that they really don’t have a release history, other measures must be taken to validate such companies.) Providing such a history is not a problem for Gyrus Systems since we’ve been in business since 1987 and update our GyrusAim LMS several times per year.

A meaningful detail to examine when Release Notes are provided is to ensure that it contains product information up to the current date.  As an example, Release Notes are provided to you by a vendor in December, 2015 with history that ends in 2013.  Questions should be raised with the vendor about why they have not improved their product for such a long time.   It may indicate a loss of product focus or worse.  Perhaps the company is trying to be bought (mergers & acquisitions have been common in the Training & Development Software Industry) and has cut development staff to save costs and make the company more attractive to a buyer.  Most such reasons are good indicators to avoid a vendor.

Revision numbers may be another clue that the software product is not the primary focus of a business, especially if the product has been around for a while.  If the product has been in production for several years and is still a “Version 1,” then there’s a good chance it’s not being developed and a reason to avoid it.  Gyrus Systems is preparing to release its sixth-generation “Release 16” version of the software which means there are many years of development invested in it that translates into a tremendous number of features that help our customers manage their learning environment.

Whether the LMS you are investigating is designed to be installed at your location, is cloud-based, or SaaS, the vendor should readily provide Release Notes when asked for them.  Examine the document in detail and ensure you ask the vendor about gaps or other problems.

White Board for an Organized LMS Implementation

In the introduction to the Change Management Strategies Series I mention three major factors effecting change.  These include an organized implementation plan, communication, and management buy-in.  This blog will focus on an organized implementation.  Whether you are in the market for new Learning Management Solution (LMS) or have recently purchased new LMS, the implementation should be at the forefront of your mind.

An LMS implementation includes the application installation (if not hosted), data migration (historical and automated), configuration, training, testing, and launch.  Simply put, it is the time from which the software is purchased to the time the software is operational.  Implementations can span a wide variety of times depending on factors such as: amount of users and administrators, resources available, integrity of the data being migrated, and etc.  Here at Gyrus Systems we have worked on implementations spanning 3 weeks to over 12 months.

One of the keys to a successful implementation is keeping organized.  A great way to keep track of events during an implementation is to utilize a basic white board.  We keep a white board wall in the office with a template of the general implementation plan.  I'm not saying you need an entire wall, however a simple white board could increase the organization of your LMS implementation team.

Benefits of using a white board include:
  • Keep everyone updated on the progress of the implementation
  • Encourages input from all resources involved in the project
  • Gives visibility of processes within the implementation
  • Allows for reorganizing and re-prioritizing events and milestones in the plan
  • Having the plan visible throughout the project may prevent potential conflicts during the course of the implementation.

If you have already purchased the software, hopefully you were provided an implementation plan (might be referred to as your project plan).  If you were not provided a plan, or have not yet purchased an LMS, I would recommend asking for a standard implementation plan.  Companies may be hesitant to provide a detailed plan until they have spoken with you about requirements, however they should be able to supply a general plan that they work from.  Once you have the plan you are ready to start filling in your white board!

How you can use a white board to aid in your implementation:

  • Draw a rough outline of your project time line on the board
  • Have a meeting to discuss key points in the time line, and the resources needed at each phase of the project
  • Keep the board in a highly trafficked or visible area
  • Encourage your team to provide input and suggest changes if they think the project could be managed better
  • Don't worry if the board gets messy – this means people contributing
  • Reevaluate the board and your progress weekly to stay organized.

 

See Also:
Change Management Strategies for LMS Implementation
Communications for an LMS Implementation
Buy-in for an LMS Implementation

 

e-Learning Best Practice: How to Make Sure Your System Works

e-Learning Best Practices, and why they can fail from the very start . . .

There are a lot of things that need to go right for your web based content to be successful. Some of them are easy to see. Like when a learner launches a course and the video refuses to play. Others are harder to see. Like when the internet connection that learner is using gets bogged down and the course never shows up.

Of all of the things that need to go right (or can go wrong), it may seem like some of them are more critical than others, but this is not the case. Like the weakest link of a chain, you can get 90% of your content system right….and lose out in the end. And to the learner the cause of the failure doesn’t matter. Regardless of the cause, the end result is still the same. A frustrated learner. To the learner, only one thing matters. When she launches the course it either works or it does not.

If it does not work, well then….Game over.

To get a handle on what can go right or wrong, think of your  as an ordinary garden hose. On one end is a spigot which is delivering water to the input side of the hose. Then there is the hose itself which transports the water all the way along its fifty foot length. And finally there is the nozzle, or output side which delivers the water on target. One part starts the water, one transfers it, and one delivers it. Every part plays an essential role in achieving but a single outcome; delivering life giving water to your garden.

Choke off the water supply, drill holes in the hose, or use a rusty old nozzle and you’ve got a problem. No water. And, from the standpoint of the Gardner it doesn’t matter why no water is coming out. It only matters that nothing is happening. The only thing that will make it right is when you see that constant stream of cool clear water.

In web based training, your job is to keep the WBT streaming; to ensure the learner gets her WBT course.

Start – Transfer – Deliver

And if she doesn’t get it, to quickly find which part is the problem and fix it. And the only way to do that is to move heaven and earth to ensure that each part of your WBT eco-system is functioning as needed to get the job done.

So let’s break it down into its parts and go over what you can do to build and maintain a bullet proof infrastructure.

Keeping with the water hose analogy, let’s begin with the spigot side where the flow of water begins. This content start point is the course itself and the computer server environment that hosts it.

The course itself can be created in any quality content authoring tool capable of publishing SCORM and/or AICC compliant content. But there are a few key things to look for and test to make certain the course works.

First is the file size of the course itself. This is the number you see when you look (in Windows Explorer for example) at the zip file after you have published your course. The size of your course is going to affect everything downstream because it tells you just how much “water” you are trying to pipe down the hose! In fact, most LMS’s have a maximum file restrictor built in. If the file size of your zip file is 200 megabytes and your LMS has a restriction at 150 megabytes…well as you can see, plans will have to be made.

Second is the type of video or audio files used in the course. If your course has animation, movies, or audio, it is important to know what was used to create it. Is, for example, your animation produced in Flash or Shockwave? This can make a big difference if your learners don’t have the right software installed to view the course or if the LMS is set to accept the other kind of file.

Third is the server environment hosting your courses. You want to be sure you have the horsepower and set up you need. Speak frankly with your network administrator about your content needs. Discuss how many courses you will have, their file size, and the kinds of audio/video files they will contain. Go over how they will be backed up and how often they will be updated or replaced. Plan for how many learners will be consuming the courses, how many concurrently, and where, when, and at what time of day they will consume them.

A successful SCORM/AICC experience starts at the beginning. With the courses themselves and how they are hosted on a server to be available for your learners. Just like a clogged or broken water spigot, if the course doesn’t get a good start, all of the fixes made “downstream” will do little good. Be certain to carefully plan and execute this first essential component of a successful WBT Content system.

Next time: “The Hose”, getting e-learning from A to B!

Benefits of Skills-Centric Learning Management Systems (LMS)

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS
Employees benefit by a skills management system because they’re provided with:
• A better understanding of quality proficiency related to their jobs
• A clear view of what skills and skill gaps they currently have
• A learning and development plan that takes into account their job-based skills requirements
• A record of their learning and development achievements
• Recognition of their skills and opportunities to use them in other assignments in the organization

MANAGEMENT BENEFITS
Through skills management, managers are presented with:
• A clear picture of the skill requirements of their employees
• An understanding of their employees’ skills strengths and weaknesses
• An informed basis for career development planning discussions
• Ability to develop prescriptive learning and development plans
• A facility to identify subject matter experts for assignment-based work

EXECUTIVE BENEFITS
Executives need to know that their organization has the skills to fulfill business strategy. A well-implemented skill and learning management system provides:
• A view of the capability of the organization
• Proof that the organization is meeting regulatory requirements
• Learning and development plans that are aligned with business strategy

What is Skill Management?

Skills management is the practice of defining employee skills and jobs and capturing skills assessments for analysis. The results of this analysis are then used to develop and deploy people and their skills.

Skills are defined within a framework in the form of a list of defined skill names. Each skill has a description combined with a numerical proficiency-level scale. Each level provides a detailed description of behavioral indicators.

To understand the skills and proficiency levels that an individual possesses, skill management systems provide a method of self assessment, with the assessment confirmed by an appropriate third party, typically the individual’s line manager.

Tin Can: Is Your Learning Management System (LMS) Compliant?

What does Tin Can compliance mean?  It means that your Learning Management System (LMS) has been updated to include the latest standard for learning content.  Previous SCORM standards created specifications for learning content that allowed interoperability between content authors and LMS providers.  This goal was admirable (and essential), and achieving it allowed companies to play in the same ball field, ultimately producing many quality LMS applications.

The ever-evolving technological landscape created new learning options that caused a paradigm shift in perception about how and where learning occurs.  Thus the premises upon which SCORM was based fundamentally changed, and SCORM and the LMS applications using it became obsolete.

Product obsolescence is a constant challenge for software development companies.  Balance must be achieved between price and product features, cost and release timelines, cost and product support, and many other priorities to keep software fresh, “not obsolete,” and well-supported.  Companies that successfully balance these requirements thrive by combining relevant and customer-driven software with quality product support at a reasonable price for their customers.

Companies that do not successfully balance these challenges create irrelevant or few new features and product support may be non-existent.  Customers and prospects soon migrate to other vendors.  Corporate survival under such circumstances is difficult and many vendors fail, merge with other businesses, or perhaps get bought out.  As with any enterprise application purchase, caution is the rule and LMS buyers should fully evaluate a vendor’s current product, release schedule, and customer support to remediate future negative results from the LMS purchase.

So how does Tin Can work into all of this?  The Tin Can specification became available mid-year 2012, with the official release being April 26th, 2013.  Many LMS vendors have already, or are in the process of, modifying their application to be Tin Can compliant, potentially indicating forward-thinking companies.  Tin Can compliance is an important “first filter” indicating whether an LMS vendor “has gotten it right” by prioritizing its development effort to become compliant.  If a vendor is not currently, or will not soon be, Tin Can compliant, it’s good reason to avoid them as your LMS vendor.

Here at Gyrus Systems we are proud to have included the Tin Can specification in our GyrusAim application as of April, 2013.  We look forward to continuing our 25 year legacy of organic software development by leveraging the Tin Can specification through the development of many revolutionary enhancements in follow-up versions.  Stay tuned for details!

Is Your Relationship with Your LMS Vendor Long-term?

When it comes to purchasing a Learning Management System (LMS), you don’t want to only focus on the product. Sure, it’s important—you’re investing time, money and effort into it. But what many often forget is that the relationship with the LMS vendor is just as important. Why should you invest your dollars and hours if the vendor isn’t willing to do the same for you as their customer?

The ideal vendor provides a consistent experience year after year (this includes both the quality of their product and their customer support). Many vendors give you the 5-star treatment as a new customer, but as you continue to use their product year after year you may feel like you’ve been forgotten.

Experienced vendors provide consistent service and support and do not forget about those customers that have supported them for years. For example, LMS vendor Gyrus Systems has been in the learning software industry for 25 years. Not only do they provide support to those that are just climbing aboard, but they also take care of those that have supported their business for five, ten, maybe even fifteen years. Gyrus also offers free software upgrades to their customers three to four times a year to ensure that they have access to the best software versions possible.

I emphasize the importance of experience because it’s not uncommon for younger businesses to be bought out by other large, more experienced organizations. How does this affect you as a customer? Prices may increase, products may change (or discontinue), and the quality of the support you receive may diminish. Investing in an experienced vendor with a quality product can ensure that you won’t find yourself in any of these situations.

Vendors like Gyrus Systems understand the importance of a customer-vendor relationship. Gyrus customers don’t have to wait days to hear back from customer support. Even better—Gyrus representatives remember their customers, they remember your name, and they remember your support. With vendors like Gyrus, you are no longer just a number, you are in a relationship.

So you’re ready to select Learning Management System

So, you’re convinced it’s finally time to select a real Learning Management System. What was the straw that broke the camel’s back? Was it the latest mandate to develop standardized learning programs company wide? Or is it this year’s directive to incorporate succession planning, career development and pay more attention to employees outside the United States?

Maybe your company is much smaller than the corporate giants with an international presence and it’s just about getting everyone who has a hand in employee development on the same page? Duplicate Excel spreadsheets, new elearning initiatives, redundant training development, managing no-shows, empty seats, training schedules via multiple emails, compiling reports that take hours only to be asked to recreate similar reports at management’s whim each month?

Where do you begin to research vendors and understand the scope of implementing an LMS? How long should the implementation take? Does IT need to be involved up front or should you narrow down your search before putting in a request? What type of services do vendors offer? How much or how little can you do yourself?

These and many, many other questions are fair game for anyone taking the LMS plunge. From the vendor perspective, we want to help you through the research and evaluation process and we want to help set the right expectations. Ultimately, it’s your success that makes us a success.

There are several free resources available for LMS researchers. I recommend this free digital ebook, 339 Tips on LMS/LCMS Implementations, published by the eLearning Guild. Implementing a Learning Management System with the right expectations can make all the difference in your success. Armed with the right tools, you can make a difference in establishing an effective workforce development program.

Are Academic Achievements Indicators of Workforce Performance Successes?

How important are academic achievements in predicting workforce performance? The general thinking that good students will be good workers goes along these lines:

  • If the student cares enough to work for good grades, he or she will work hard as an employee.
  • The student has the general aptitude to understand what is needed in this profession.
  • The student has the general background to be successful in this profession

While these are valid arguments, there are other considerations for a student's academic performance, such as:
Personal factors–Perhaps the student has many personal conflicts with jobs, family (e.g., newborn baby), and environmental (having to study in a loud, distracting place).
Social factors–Perhaps the student gave up a social life to have academic success. While that is honorable and noble, will such a person make a good employee in a highly social environment?
Personal motives–Was the driving force behind the academic success an unbearable parent, for example? Will that same force be present in the work environment? Did the student learn for the right reason or just to alleviate another problem?
Poor Student–Some people, I am convinced, are just poor students. But that does not make them poor or even marginal employees. Some people just do not thrive in a classroom environment but do in a work environment.
I worked on an IT project several years ago with a group of seven or eight academically-successful people. One older lady in the group did not have the college degrees that the rest of us had. She even had limited technical skills and was used on the project as a technical writer. But she had a way about her that brought out the best of everyone on the team, even though she was not the project manager. I remember watching her interact with the group, thinking, that if we were to name an MVP for the project team, it would be this lady; even though she made minimal technical contributions.

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