JoAnn Hackos, PhD
Many of our training colleagues have begun investigating Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS) to deliver modular training components online. Cisco Systems and Autodesk, for example, develop training modules in OutStart. Other products include Hyperwave, Docent, Click2Llearn, and Intellinex. The content-management functionality is typically an extension of basic Learning Management Systems (LMS), which provide course and learner administration capabilities and often include testing and certification functions.
Traditional document-management and content-management vendors duplicate much of the functionality provided by LCMSs. All use a repository to store content, and some provide for the assembly of modular content into deliverables. In fact, we expect that most LCMSs will blend into the enterprise content repository world fairly soon. Most vendors are generalizing their products, rather than focusing on niche markets exclusively.
In an article in the July 2003 issue of Chief Learning Officer, a magazine that addresses the learning management community, Jennifer Vollmer of the META Group, describes an E-Learning Maturity Model that relates very well to the Information Process Maturity Model that I have discussed in the past six issues of this e-newsletter. Jennifer describes five levels of maturity among training organizations moving their content online.
From a training perspective, Vollmer believes that a Level 3 (Enterprise-based) organization remains focused on organizational rather than content issues. She notes that organizational alignments required to achieve an enterprise-wide training solution take time to achieve. By the time an organization has established central learning objectives, they have agreed upon goals and built an infrastructure that can support the development of consistent and standardized content.
At Level 4 (Competency-based), the development of modular learning, a new concept in Level 3, is strongly underway. Part of the focus on modular development is to support more customized delivery of instruction in line with a competency model. In a competency model, learners are asked to achieve learning goals rather than sit through courses. This model encourages the development of modular learning objects to support individual needs.
For the perspective of information development, competency means delivering content that permits customers to develop their own collections. Oracle, for example, enables customers of Oracle database documentation to select sections of documents and construct their own tables of content. Customers creating their own “virtual” documentation may also subscribe to updates of the information in their collections, much as we subscribe to live updates of the virus-detecting tools. I get a message on my screen every few days telling me that Symantec has updated my content.
Vollmer’s Level 5 is called Knowledge-management-based. She explains that the focus of a Level 5 organization is on supporting the knowledge worker. Learning activities are intrinsic parts of enterprise knowledge management. In such an environment, an enterprise content-management solution may be most appropriate, with links into systems that deliver training modules.
In a Level 5 information-development environment, a knowledge-based focus would indicate a strong degree of partnering with training and customer service for external audiences and human resources for internal audiences. The partnering in this case implies a single knowledge transfer strategy throughout the organization that includes, but is not limited to, formal publication deliverables. Many information developers have discovered that they can offer value by assisting other organizations to standardize their publications and increase their usability and customer focus.
The strategies adopted by our sister learning organizations can help us develop more mature organizational structures in information development. Learning organizations, I have found, are better attuned to corporate revenue goals and customer needs than are information developers. A partnership in creating a global strategy will assist both organizations in gaining process maturity and adopting the content-management solutions most likely to succeed.