Insight into Learning Content Management Systems

Nashua, NH (USA), September 2007 - Stephen Shaw is chief learning officer of Eedo Knowledgeware and Associate Professor of Educational Technology at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. He has helped Eedo to achieve a leading position in the LCMS market, while assisting a wide variety of customers in designing and implementing effective learning-content management strategies. In an interview with CHECK.point eLearning, Shaw speaks about operating mode and benefits of Learning Content Management Systems.

It seems there is a lack of understanding about of the operating mode of Learning Content Management Systems. What are the main characteristics of an LCMS and how does it work?

Stephen Shaw: An LCMS is an application designed to facilitate the creation or capture, management, and transfer or distribution of content designed for learning or performance support. Content is created using an object model. Assets (images, text objects, animations, and video) are aggregated into pages, pages into lessons, lessons into modules, and modules into courses. All content is saved under taxonomy and tagged with metadata to enable search and retrieval.

Content can thus be re-used or adapted for different purposes with minimal effort. Consider a case where an image, say a corporate logo, appears several hundred times across a curriculum. If the content had been created using stand-alone authoring tools, any change to this logo would necessitate an onerous task of manually finding all occurrences and replacing each one manually. When content is created and managed with an LCMS, this logo has only one instance in the content repository but many occurrences or -œre-uses-. Update the single instance and every occurrence is current.

Best-of-breed systems are characterized by a variety of other features and advanced functionality including: flexible workflow, project management and reporting tools; a translation environment for creating content in multiple languages; an assessment engine for creating and administering tests and test item banks; version control and history; collaboration tools for distributed development; utilities for importing and converting legacy content; authoring tools; records management capabilities; end-user search portlet; taxonomy and metadata management tools; and knowledge sharing or knowledge-management-type functions.

A variety of push and pull strategies can be used to drive the right content to individuals. Content can be distributed based on organizational groups or individual profiles. End-users can also search directly for performance aids or just-in-time learning if an end-user portlet is provided. LCMS can also be integrated with other HR or ERP systems: Learning Management Systems, Performance Management Systems, CRM or Call Center Management Systems, for example.

This enables more sophisticated management of learning via competencies, for example, or via gaps as identified either through performance management data or directly from performance-related data tracked by business applications and measured against certain specified benchmarks or performance targets.

What role does dynamic content delivery play?

Stephen Shaw: Some implementations of LCMS are -œstatic-. The LCMS is used to create content, which is then packaged using industry-standard methods (SCORM, for example) and transferred to a Learning Management System (LMS). In the LMS, the courses are catalogued and made available to the appropriate end-users via an LMS or HR portal. This process is largely manual and time-consuming. If revisions are made to content within the LCMS, a new -œpackage- must be generated and transferred to the LMS. Hence, revisions typically are available only at significant intervals, say, quarterly or annually. The end result is that users do not necessarily have access to the most recent or accurate content, even if that content has been already been created.

With dynamic delivery, content is distributed directly to end-users from the LCMS or the LCMS and LMS are integrated at the application programming interface (API) level. In the latter scenario, users still access content from an LMS catalogue; however, the LMS reaches into the LCMS and draws the most recent content to serve up to users. As soon as revisions to content have been identified and the changes made within the LCMS are approved, the new version is presented to end-users.

Dynamic content delivery ensures that the most current and accurate content is always available to employees. This has a significant impact on the success of new business strategies and the attainment of business goals related to sales, customer satisfaction and retention, and also on the reduction of cost and risk related to regulatory compliance.

What are the benefits for companies implementing an LCMS, and what types of experience have you had so far?

Stephen Shaw: Implemented properly, LCMS can drive the costs and time for content development down very significantly. Efficiencies of 50% are common in our experience and also according to industry analysts who have surveyed the market more widely. Among our customers, Lufthansa reports a 65% savings on course development, with increased output.

The RCMP, Canada's federal police force, showed a 600% ROI based on reduced course development and delivery costs. The Department for Work and Pensions in the UK achieved a 30% decrease in time to create content, over a short horizon, and has an expected 500% return on investment.

Large-scale, high-volume content creation was also enabled via the authoring and content management capabilities provided by the LCMS. Another customer, a US-based insurance industry association, manages the training and testing for a variety of industry accreditations that vary across the 50 states. Using the content and assessment management capabilities of an excellent-quality LCMS enables the creation and management of these programs in a highly efficient manner.

Quite apart from the cost savings, LCMS are a key element in enabling business strategies, as mentioned above. Without access to the most current content, in a dynamic business environment, sales and customer-support personnel are not equipped to sell and service new products or services successfully. And without the capability to manage content that is provided by an LCMS, global organizations are incapable of localizing content appropriately for different languages, regulatory jurisdictions, markets, or roles.

We are now past the early-adopter phase for LCMS. The technology is mature and should be central to most firms' toolsets for addressing learning and development, and many knowledge-management requirements. Of critical importance, LCMS technology places Learning and Development units in a position to service business needs more effectively and directly.