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LCMS: Converging Content and Technology

Often confused with a learning management system, a learning content management system is an integral part of a full-featured talent management application. The benefits associated with an LCMS are not as well documented as the other aspects of talent management, such as succession planning and performance management systems. Therefore the LCMS is often overlooked or undervalued.

A traditional LMS is most effective when it also includes content authoring and publishing through an LCMS. Unlike an LCMS, an LMS is the overarching learning system that offers an array of tools to streamline administration, delivery and tracking of employee training for an organization. These learning tools often include instructor-led training administration, pre-integrated e-learning courses and compliance management. The primary function of the LCMS, on the other hand, is to give organizations the ability to create and publish custom e-learning content more efficiently.

Elements of an LCMS
The most comprehensive LCMS applications enable any organization to author, publish and rapidly deploy media-rich content. And with an increasing number of vendors offering simple-to-use authoring tools, comprehensive test building, and assessment tools and collaboration tools, organizations are easily able to design customized, SCORM-compliant courses without any IT background, programming knowledge or steep learning curves, making it the most cost-effective alternative to outsourcing these tasks.

The elements of a typical LCMS include an authoring application, a data repository, a delivery interface and administration tools. These components allow users to fully integrate with an existing LMS, making it easy to publish customized and pre-existing e-learning courses and to manage the administration, tracking and reporting of these courses.

Below are some of the tools that organizations should ensure are included in any LCMS that they are considering.

  • Content Authoring: An effective LCMS will offer a content management toolset that includes easy-to-use content creation tools that allow non-technical professionals to author course material quickly without requiring IT assistance. Most helpful are those with pre-loaded templates because these save development time and make it easy for companies to choose backgrounds, fonts and color schemes that compliment content. These also often offer the ability for an organization to brand their own templates that lock in designs and boilerplate information.
  • Collaboration: Some LCMS applications allow for team-based authoring; this is a highly advantageous as it allows geographically and functionally diverse authors to develop content quickly and effectively. This is now possible due to the development and widespread acceptance of the software as a service or on-demand model. When an LCMS is available on-demand, users can build the most effective content development team, regardless of each person’s location or functional status within the team.
  • Assessment Tools: There are different types of assessment tools offered by LCMS systems; some tools to ensure are included are a test engine, proctoring options and a question bank. A test engine is important as it can allow an organization to create knowledge tests and incorporate them into the curriculum, or use them as pre- or post-training assessments. Once a test question is created, the system can be stored in a question bank by category so administrators can search for particular questions and re-use them in the future. The system also should be able to automatically grade multiple choice, true/false, Likert, and yes/no questions so that results are instantly available for global and individual reporting.

    Test Engine
    A test engine allows organizations to create knowledge tests and incorporate them into the curriculum or use them as pre- or post-training assessments. A well-developed LCMS will have a test engine that will automatically grade questions and provides administrators with the ability to develop, assign and track rigorous and interactive tests and assessments in-house. Pre- and post-course tests, prerequisite assessments and certification programs should be able to be developed using the testing engine. In addition, LCMS users should be able to set test availability based on individual user, position, division or other type of business unit or group.

    Proctoring Options
    A good test engine should have flexible proctoring options and should enable administrators to set a number of automated criteria such as:

  • Time limits.
  • Passing scores.
  • Attempts allowed.
  • Record first passing score.
  • Record highest score across multiple tries.
  • Lockout period.
  • Early exit allowed/prohibited.
  • Random question selection.
  • Assessment description and instructions.

    Flexible proctoring options allow different administration rules for different tests or different user groups. This is important when organizations have their own set of standards and policies for taking tests. In addition, many organizations administer a variety of tests with different purposes including pre-tests, post-tests, test out and much more. Flexible proctoring options allow corporations the flexibility to design tests according to their standards and needs.

    Finally, as previously alluded to, the tests should have the ability to be geared toward specific subjects and used for a variety of purposes. Not only should the proctoring options be flexible, but organizations should look for solutions that allow them to create custom tests and custom test questions for a number of purposes including test out, product tests and other proprietary assessment needs.

    Question Bank
    The question bank can be used to create, store and repurpose custom test questions. The question bank should be organized by category and provide administrators with the ability to view the categories, view question-item analysis and filter questions by ID, question, question type, category, active status, who the question was created by and added by.

    A good test proctoring option is the ability for questions to be allowed to be randomized on a test, pulling a designated percentage of questions from any given category. Also, it is beneficial if the system allows for question item analyses be run on questions in the question-bank repository. This report will then provide test administrators with an enhanced understanding of level of difficultly versus poorly worded questions, as well as other helpful analysis based upon a question’s statistical criteria (i.e. correct, incorrect, number of respondents, etc.).

    Key Benefits
    One specific benefit is the ability to develop highly targeted training that is more effective than off-the-shelf e-learning courseware. With a full-featured LCMS, organizations can develop courses that are not generic – they target needs specifically related to the organization, an individual’s role or job at hand while using appropriate corporate language, branding and cultural conventions.

    Additionally, organizations can develop courses to replace costly instructor-led training courses. Oftentimes, e-learning programs are more cost-effective than instructor-led training and when designed properly are just as effective. Custom online content developed with an LCMS can help cut costs associated with travel, administration, instructors, etc. In addition, they reduce opportunity costs for both the employer and the employee; employees can now take training when it is convenient for them not when mandated by the training department.

    Finally, when integrated with a talent management system, content from the LCMS becomes even more powerful as organizations have the ability to target their custom-developed training directly to those who need it, based not only on their role or division within the organization, but also on various performance and competency metrics as measured through the integrated performance management system.

    Integration: Making the Most of Your LCMS Investment
    Although using an LCMS is advantageous when developing training courses, organizations are only truly able to take advantage of their technology investment when they integrate it with other talent management applications. The LCMS can be integrated with only the LMS, or it can be integrated with every element of a talent management solution to effectively manage training and create a fully integrated solution.

    Organizations that integrate the LCMS with an LMS can develop and administer highly effective blended learning programs. And, because the LCMS enables authoring of custom courses, higher quality e-learning can make a blended learning program more cost-effective, substituting and supplementing instructor-led training. In addition, integrating an LCMS with an LMS enables seamless administration and reporting, and it provides a consistent user-interface for the company.

    Once the LCMS and LMS are integrated, organizations should consider taking this a step further by also integrating these with performance management and succession planning applications. This will tie performance measurements and management into training. It also creates a more effective and streamlined training program; highly specialized training can then be based around corporate objectives and can be delivered through custom-corporate training. Organizations also can better train their workforce toward the vision of the company by creating training that reinforces corporate vision or objectives. Then, they will be able to better align performance metrics and goals with these corporate objectives

    This robust solution also will help identify and better position training toward skill gaps and weaknesses. This effectively aligns training dollars with the needs of the workforce, as training courses and development plans are aligned to competencies, performance reviews and goals. Integrating a blended learning program with a performance management system creates a true performance-driven training program, maximizing training dollars.

    Clearly, harnessing the benefits of an LCMS is important to businesses. It allows organizations to build and publish relevant and cost-effective proprietary training content that works. The LCMS also can help automate training that would normally need to be instructor-led, yet because it is specific to an organization and administered electronically, it is often more effective than traditional e-learning.

    In addition, once content is published in the LCMS, it can be managed, tracked, assigned and reported on throughout the system, and most importantly, it can be integrated with other aspects of a talent management system such as the LMS, performance management and succession planning.

    Integrating the LCMS solution with a talent management system is an important key for organizations wanting to maximize their workforce performance. An integrated LCMS allows custom training to be administered to those employees who need it the most, providing organizations with a cost-effective means of delivering organizational or product-specific training to a dispersed group of employees based on their performance and productivity.

    Adam Miller is the president and CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand. He can be reached at amiller@clomedia.com.