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Essay

The LMS Market is Quickly Losing Ground

Technological advancements have created a unique set of expectations for modern workers. And now, learning management systems, the undisputed Goliath of the corporate learning world, are having their lunch eaten by David.

It goes without saying that the birth of the internet and resulting advancements in technology have completely changed the way we live and work. Take learning management systems, for example.

A decade ago, the benefits of being able to push training content to employees without needing to pull them into a classroom were enormous: no more scheduling nightmares; no more instructors; the ability to reach widely geographically dispersed employees with a standard curriculum delivered exactly the same way. Virtually overnight, the corporate enterprise jumped on board and created a multibillion-dollar market for the LMS.

But if we’ve learned one thing about technology in the past 10 to 15 the years, it’s this: the next (r)evolution is always just around the corner. Technology is now disrupting itself at a pace that’s sometimes difficult to comprehend.

Not only is the second wave of disruption in corporate learning squarely upon us, advancements in technology have created a unique set of expectations for modern workers. The result? LMSs, the undisputed Goliath of the corporate learning world, are having their lunch eaten by David. [Editor’s note: This refers to the Bible story about David and Goliath.]

Over the past three or four years I’ve asked a number of learning professionals at every conference I’ve attended what they like or don’t like about their LMS. It’s not very scientific but I’ve received some fairly unvarnished feedback about the current state of thinking among people tasked with driving knowledge in the enterprise.

Put simply, LMSs don’t deliver the learning experience today’s employees demand, or the business results executives demand. Despite that, a few years ago the general consensus was that financial investments in LMSs prohibited them from more spending on something new. Today? Goliath has a fight on his hands.

Learning leaders are embracing new platforms that are mobile-first, cloud based, drive voluntary learner engagement and incorporate advancements in cognitive science that map knowledge to how learners best acquire it. Not only that, for the first time it’s possible to measure knowledge and correlate it to business results. Instead of a one-size fits all, check the box approach, David has a sharper sword and a more nimble and effective approach to win the battle to drive actual performance.

The rules of engagement have shifted. The most forward-thinking learning professionals are moving on it, and quickly. They understand that leveraging advancements in learning technology make them strategic enablers to the C-suite. And they’re not letting legacy investments in LMS hold them back.

The vice president of asset protection and risk management for a luxury U.S. retailer recently told me, “When you are training the fastest growing portion of the workforce, millennials, you have to have a program and process that is agile and communicates to them using methods that allow for optimum participation and understanding.” Two years ago he took the leap, and the risk, to use a new employee knowledge platform to try to get the business results he wasn’t seeing out of the LMS. It worked, and he’s contributing almost $3 million a year to the bottom line in reduced safety incidents.

Similarly, the learning leader at a major long-term health care software company that uses one of the bigger LMSs in the market told me last month, “We are getting away from the one-and-done type of training because we’ve realized that learning is an ongoing process. We want to measure knowledge growth not just at a snap shot in time.”

Consider, marketing analyst Ambient Insight recently published a report stating the self-paced e-learning market — defined by LMS, off-the-shelf content and services — is in steep decline and is expected to drop from global revenues of $46.6 billion in 2016 to $33.4 billion by 2021. According to the report: “In the current e-learning market, the single most unfavorable place to be is the LMS market, which is essentially imploding, particularly in the U.S. corporate segment that has a negative 33.9 percent growth rate.”

Should we be surprised? Not really. Classroom instruction is still a significant portion of the corporate education market, and LMSs have had their sights on filling that void. It’s resulted in a certain lack of innovation, which happens when you think you’re the winner, and celebrate your victory. Suddenly turn around, however, and the Davids of the world have snuck up from behind to deliver business data and results in ways never seen before. And they’re doing it while addressing the modern learner’s needs. They aren’t an evolution, they’re a revolution resulting in a preference for market substitution.

E-learning became a defined market category because LMSs were disruptive in their day. As with everything, however, the market moved, but the LMS hasn’t moved nearly as much with it. The most progressive learning professionals understand they need to drive employee knowledge with targeted, effective and measurable technology platforms.

What do these platforms look like compared to what today’s organizations are trying to make do with? The list is long, but the most important elements involve adaptive and personalized content, microlearning bites to map to how the brain most effectively remembers information, delivery on any device at the moment of need, supplementary information on demand in two clicks and 10 seconds, and analytics to track what the learner knows with the intelligence to tie it to actual behavior and business outcomes. It sounds like a lot, but elegant and simple technology solutions incorporating all of that are out there for those brave enough to chart a new course.

Delivering the most effective, impactful and meaningful learning experience should be the goal for every learning and development leader. It isn’t about checking the box anymore. Knowledge is the new category, and David will be the winner because Goliath needs a new strategy.

Carol Leaman is the CEO of Axonify Inc. Comment below or email editor@CLOmedia.com.

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