Why Yesterday’s Learning Technology is Falling Short Today

Richard Posluszny ·

Feb 09, 2021

The first Learning Management Systems (LMS) were developed in the early 1990’s, with the first fully online courses (for credit) popping up in 1995. At the time, course content was limited to mostly text and graphics. 

It took until 2008 for the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to arrive on the scene and by 2012 the format was taking off around the globe, with lecture capture being the primary content type in use. Since the advent of high-speed internet and developments in mobile tech, LMSs — and their modern alternatives — have found their way beyond academia and into the business world.

In this post we’re going to shed some light on how the corporate LMSs of yesterday are not meeting expectations, and why a shift in thinking is required if learning programs are to stay relevant over the next decade. 


The Stagnation of the Traditional LMS

The impact the Internet has had on learning is nothing short of a revolution. We’re still waiting to see where everything lands once the dust settles. Currently, the market is quite fragmented, with 500+ LMS providers in the corporate learning technology ecosystem alone. 

Traditional LMSs take a lot of heat for being rigid and feeling like a chore to deal with — And, rightfully so, as they can be problematic. In the era of Netflix, YouTube and Instagram, it’s become increasingly difficult for traditional LMSs to engage and impress the growing number of millennial professionals who count on these solutions to perform their jobs. 

Consider the following about a traditional LMS:

    • Content is static and changes slowly — Usually managed by trained, eLearning professionals.
    • Content is delivered through a rigid, standalone system — Expect a subdomain and separate login credentials for your learners.
    • Learning data is siloed from core operational data, adheres to a fixed model and is limited to in-system analysis.
    • Essential branding is allowed (e.g., a company logo) but the experience for learners is fundamentally the same for all businesses and users.
    • Automation is only possible within the system itself and essentially acts as a “walled garden.”
    • An API is available, but more out of necessity — Sorry if you’re looking for something custom.
    • Not equipped to scale and handle a truly large number of learners — 2,000+ Monthly Active Learners (MALs) is an accomplishment.

For far too long we’ve allowed the LMS to dictate how, where and when learning can happen. 

It’s time for something new.


The Shift from Learning Management to Learning Operations

Learning programs are rarely executed properly. We know this because of data points like the following: 

    • Only 1 in 4 senior managers report that training was critical to business outcomes. 
    • A mere 12% of employees apply skills learned in traditional learning programs to their roles.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about learning technology over the last 10 years it’s that our thinking behind its adoption is more important than the technology itself. 


What is Learning Operations?

Learning Ops facilitates an organizational shift that aligns learning programs to measurable business goals. The result is an operations model, backed by supporting technology, designed to improve learner performance through integrated and personalized learning experiences. 

Put more simply, it’s making sure we’re only building programs that move the needle for our business, instead of building experiences because “Hey, we need to train people, right?”

Here’s what Steve Cornwell, Co-Founder & CEO of Northpass, had to say about it: 

“After five years of partnering with the world’s most disruptive companies that are employing cutting-edge learning initiatives, we’ve decided to democratize our best practices that yield significant business results. Innovation has caught up to the corporate learning technology ecosystem, which is primed to become an enabler of top- and bottom-line growth for today’s businesses. We are confident that Learning Ops will play a key role in shepherding this shift.”

To facilitate this organizational shift, we designed a three-step framework for implementing Learning Ops, outlined below:

    1. Align teams and outcomes, and prioritize for impact.
    2. Create engaging content that drives better performance.
    3. Deliver a frictionless and human learning experience.

For the full details, check out our recent eBook “How Do You Actually Do Learning Ops?


The Learning Ops Platform vs. the Traditional LMS

The Northpass team cultivated this new framework after noticing a critical issue: Learning programs are not prioritized because they’re not aligned to the primary goals/KPIs of the business. Once learning’s goals are in sync with business units’ primary goals/KPIs, however, this changes. 

Learning Ops platforms benefit from the use of data, automation and portability to enable a more personalized learning experience at scale. 

Consider the following differentiators of a Learning Ops platform:

    • Content is personalized and changes frequently — the focus is on 1:1 learning experiences, agility and data-driven authoring that is accessible for anyone, not just eLearning professionals.
    • Content is delivered just-in-time (JIT) natively in your proprietary application or product, or via your website.
    • Learning data is an extension of core operational data; the model is flexible and uses native dimensions to correlate business impact.
    • Configuration and customization is available — and encouraged — at every layer of the learner’s experience.
    • Automation is available within and beyond the barriers of the platform, making it easy to link disparate systems together to create efficiencies across your technology stack.
    • Robust documentation, software development kits (SDKs) and build tools allow developers to work with the features/functionalities they already know and love.
    • Focused on global deployments with the flexibility to scale for hundreds of thousands of monthly active learners (MALs) at any given time — This is only the start as it’s possible to train millions of active learners if a platform offers true scale.

It’s time to say goodbye to the rigid systems of yesterday and usher in a new way of doing things. One where learning is personalized, relevant, accessible and leads to positive business outcomes.  

Ready to take a deeper dive into Learning Ops? 

Download our new eBook “How Do You Actually Do Learning Ops?” now. 


Download the eBook

About the Author

Richard Posluszny

Richard Posluszny oversees Northpass' marketing efforts. When Richard isn't spreading Northpass' gospel, he can be found driving something sporty, at an art gallery or learning more about American history.

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