I’ve received some good feedback on my post Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS) for Managing Course Assets. One thing is pretty clear, LCMS tools have really headed towards a kind of super Authoring tool and there's a related but quite distinct need for support for a Warehouse. The need for the Warehouse - keeping track of learning content assets across the organization has its own set of requirements.
I would really like to have a dialog (email exchange) with people who are managing large collections of production and produced digital assets in larger organizations who can describe how they are managing it. Know anyone who can contribute to this?
Requirement: “We need to figure out a way to get information from other departments to make sure we have the most current information available.”
This in very common across all larger companies. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand has, nor do they know whether or not it is current or accurate. My larger customers faced the same problem and use LCMS to fix it. In a true enterprise deployment of LCMS all learning content and original source files regardless of what tools may have been used to develop it are stored and meta tagged in the LCMS central repository facilitating quick and easy search and retrieval. Problem solved because now we know what we have and where it is.
Your reader also points out a common problem in larger organizations of knowing whether or not the content is the most currently available information. Meta tags provide information on where the content came from, who the owner of the content is, when it was created, when the last time it changed etc. Powerful and flexible workflows facilitate content reviews, approvals and provide audit trails. They can also be configured to have content contributors and approvers to digitally sign off on the content for accountability. Another problem solved by LCMS technology.
Brenda is right that this is a classic example where an LCMS can help. However, this is only "problem solved" if you use the LCMS to manage your assets. If you are authoring using several authoring tools with distributed groups doing the authoring, then it's possible but unlikely that they will be willing to use the LCMS to manage all of those other assets. The LCMS can help with workflow and meta tagging. External vendors can work with the LCMS as well. The key is to have appropriate organizational standards and governance in place that people must work against. That said, I've found many large organizations that will operate this way for some kinds of content and manage that through an LCMS, but other kinds of content is built in other ways and does not use the LCMS. This most often devolves into the LCMS being used to manage assets that will be packaged (authored) for distribution.
Requirement: “We need to set up a process to determine all courses the information will impact.” and “We need to make the changes.”
This another example of a common problem LCMS’s solve.
As you mentioned LCMS’s do come equipped with powerful easy to use authoring capabilities. While content can be authored, tagged and stored from any authoring tool the built in ones provide for very powerful content management. Your natively created content can now be managed at the asset level. Let’s say a company has 1000 courses on the LMS and let’s say our company logo has changed. Now imagine having to find every image of that logo and update it. Scary thought eh? J We probably wouldn’t do it. In fact there are many changes to company policy, regulations etc that happen every day and because you can neither find the content or find where in the content the change needs to happen and because it’s a daunting task to do it it’s not done. So what does this mean. It’s means that employee’s very often are working with out of date or incorrect information.
Now let’s take that same scenario and let’s say we have the ability to search for that logo and click a button and every instance of that logo across all 1000 of our courses in our LMS is instantly updated and no LMS administrator had to lift a finger J Let’s say we have a change to policy and need to know what content that change will impact. Now imagine doing a quick search, finding that the change will impact 50 courses, make the update and all 50 courses are instantly updated in the LMS. Pretty powerful eh :) That’s why companies use the built in authoring capabilities when they can. Another problem solved by LCMS technology.
If you use an LCMS in a smart way, then certainly you can help to determine what courses will be impacted by changes. If you are REALLY good, you could even have the same content assets get reused in multiple courses so that a single change can propagate changes out to all the courses. For something like the logo change - if everyone is using exactly the same logo asset from the LCMS, you will be in good shape.
The problem is that a lot of what people want here is that when a policy changes they want to know - what courses do I need to go change and let's go make those changes. In many cases, the relationship between a policy and a set of courses is not well defined. If you know that's the kind of changes that will occur, you can be smart about how you keep track of things (in an LCMS or not). I've seen some cases with things like product descriptions where updates really do flow nicely because of an LCMS. But in many organizations, a policy change comes through and it's a lot of manual work to go find all the courses that have been authored that need to be changed - or more correctly you decide if it's worth it to make the changes with lots of the courses not getting updated. And in the case of a picture of a product - somehow authors have made their own copies to fit into their courses. It's certainly not changing the picture in one place and poof it gets update.
Obviously, the LCMS can provide big time value here if used in a way that supports these changes. But if you have distributed authoring with different kinds of tools (not to mention service providers), it's a lot messier. Again, any LCMS vendor will tell you that all of these things can be done - but will you have the ability to really do it, especially when/if it adds overhead for things that are authored outside the LCMS.
Requirement: “Save the previous version in the archives for discovery requests.”
This is common in highly regulated environments. How do we know what version of content a learner went through? Let’s say we are a financial services company and one of our employees messed up. Our regulator wants to know exactly what that learner was taught. We need to know to defend our company reputation or worse. Let’s say that regulated content has changed 25 times in the last year. How can we locate and retrieve the exact version of content that learner went through on say March 25th 2010?
An LCMS can track, version and archive all changes to content. We would do a quick search in the archive, locate and restore an exact copy of what that content was on March 25th 2010. Let’s say the regulation for how long we keep content information is different for every state or country. In Canada the regulator say we need to keep the record for 7 years. In Germany 6 years etc. Most regulated companies want content to completely disappear soon as possible :) Again easy if you have an LCMS. Set your date once and poof it’s gone. No more evidence that it ever existed!
This is clearly a place where authoring with an LCMS makes a lot of sense. Trying to do this with traditional authoring tools can be done - by saving copies of the produced courses along with their dates on a network drive. But you must manually handle all the policy decisions. And there's still possible issues around lack of electronic signatures and other controls. I.e., how do you "prove" that's the content. The LCMS can help back you up if used correctly.
“Save the current version for future updates.”
With an LCMS you always have the most current version, it’s easy to locate and it is automatically updated where ever it might be.
Again, a very good match for the requirements of an LCMS.
One thing that's quite interesting is the the reader who originally provided the requirements works in an environment where there is distributed authoring with different authoring tools being used. I don't know if that includes third parties authoring as well. They need to decide what kinds of content would be best to author within an LCMS to get the value described by Brenda. And for other kinds of content, will the assets be tracked in any significant way.
Again, please weigh in on this.