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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Horizontal Learning

Interesting post ... Horizontal technologies for learning ...
In the eLearning sector many vendors have created eLearning Solutions primarily for educational institutions. These technologies are supposedly designed for learning but that is not true. These technologies are institution-centric and vertical by nature. The concept of Learning Management System (LMS) was wrongly named. Better fit for a name would be Teaching Management System or Institution Control System.

Same is true in the corporate eLearning space (LMS Dissatisfaction on the Rise & Do You WANT an LMS? Does a Learner WANT an LMS?).

No student would use the current so-called learning environments during their worktime or freetime. In 2006 I was at EC-TEL where Scott Wilson asked the audience full of educational technology specialists, “how many of you use a LMS for your personal learning?”. Surprise. No hands.

Quite true.

Social technologies are different. Blogs and wikis are already being implemented by learners themselves. Call them Personal Learning Environments (PLE) if you want but the key issue here is that they are based on user-centric design.
I'm not sure what he means by "they are based on user-centric design" but the idea is right. If we are providing an LMS and thinking we are providing a good learning support mechanism, I think we are deluding ourselves. They are necessary and I certainly am involved with them (selection and implementation) a lot. However, knowledge workers and learners are adopting other work and learning techniques and tools because they support knowledge work and learning AND because they are incredibly easy to use, thus, the adoption hurdle is low (see Adoption of Web 2.0 and eLearning 2.0 Revisited).


Harman said...


I completely agree with what you wrote in this post..."Teaching Management System". We have been working on another "teaching management sytem" called WiZiQ (Wiz-IQ) and had the same dilemma....what do we call it? What should we tell our target users (teachers)? I too didn't like calling it an LMS for the reasons you mentioned in your post. I hope we take it from a TMS to students using it learn from good teachers.

Anonymous said...

At a long-ago CBT conference, in that distant age when IBM and Goal Systems ruled the earth, a speaker at a conference asked, "How many of you have seen PLATO?" Roomful of hands. "How many of your organizations use PLATO?" Nary a one.

That said, I don't know if the average employee, even the average salaried employee, accepts as yet the benefit, let alone the need, to manage his or her own learning.

It's still a long path from sixteen years of formal education through somewhat-job-related training to building your own learning network.

And Bob Mager's already covered the notion that they really oughta wanna.

Tony Karrer said...

Interesting comments.

I agree completely that most employees aren't really that interested in "managing their own learning" or "building a learning network" ...

Part of the issue is that most people associate learning with developmental learning. For developmental stuff, probably using an LMS is going to be okay. But, when was the last time that you sat down to decide what classes you needed to take? That's an awefully limited case.

However, there is some learning that is much more common and is something that employees care about. Employees who are knowledge workers are interested in how they can do their knowledge work better and more effectively. (They may not know how to even express this, but they want it.) A good chunk of their work (the tacit knowledge activities) is not separate from learning. An LMS doesn't help you this kind of activity, but it doesn't suffer from the "manage my learning" issue.

Anonymous said...


I really like your statement that knowledge workers "may not even know how to express" their desire / need for tools to capture and manage both knowledge (where to look stuff up) and learning (how to incorporate that stuff).

And absolutely an LMS doesn't help -- really, it's an adminstrative tool for the organization, Rawhide applied to learning ("round 'em up, move 'em out").

Mark said...


I'd say that the "learning" that people don't want to manage should be known as "training" or even "education" but that our continued use of "learning" as something that can be externally managed, packaged or delivered via fiber-optic cable, then we aren't having the discussion using the correct terms.