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Monday, January 24, 2011

Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS) for Managing Course Assets

I received an inquiry from a reader at a large company that is continuously working on large projects with lots of course content running around.   They have Articulate courses, classroom courses, SharePoint sites, etc.  They have an LMS but not an LCMS.  And they currently manage all of this using what I’ve seen at a lot of companies: network drives, naming conventions, some SharePoint.  Of course, it’s still a bit of a mess.  Sound familiar?

A long time ago, the goal of an LCMS was to help to manage all of these kinds of assets.  Along the way, a lot of the LCMS products on the market have become more about a kind of authoring approached with content stored in a database that is transformed into courseware.  This is valuable for large scale authoring and translation of content. 

They also handle asset management, but I really have not been seeing the kind of large scale adoption of LCMS products for that purpose.

Here are some specifics of what this reader is going for:

  • We need to figure out a way to get information from other departments to make sure we have the most current information available.
  • We need to set up a process to determine all courses the information will impact.
  • We need to make the changes. 
  • Save the previous version in the archives for discovery requests.
  • Save the current version for future updates.

These are classic requirements for learning content management.  But I’m not sure they line up with what most LCMS packages provide – unless you decide that you will use it as a super-authoring tool.

In Digital Asset Management – LCMS, ECM and SharePoint, I talk to how ECM (Enterprise Content Management) solutions might be a better fit for parts of this.  But I’ve seen organizations cobble together solutions using SharePoint more than I’ve seen LCMS solutions.

This seems to be backed up by The LCMS at a Crossroads:

Our research has shown that content management needs vary widely from company to company, and some organizations are well served by some combination of social and collaboration platforms, portals, and the lightweight content management functionalities now common to rapid development tools. In fact, because content management is now so ubiquitous in almost all social networking systems (including Microsoft SharePoint), many companies are finding ways to leverage these tools to help aid content development.

In LCMS – Not Just a Technology: It’s a Strategy, Bryan Chapman really nails a key issue going into all of this discussion: you need to think about your overall strategy and then make sure your systems support that strategy.  Some key elements in the learning technology strategy that Bryan talks to some of the bigger pictures questions that organizations need to think through.  This is exactly what I discuss in eLearning Strategy.  Without an eLearning Strategy defined and the specific objectives defined, then you can’t possibly figure out the right systems.

  • What are you trying to achieve here?  Is it lower-cost development?  Easier translation?  Faster time-to-market of learning?  Greater re-use?
  • What’s the ROI for spending time doing this?

This is what Dawn Poulos talks about in How NOT to adopt an LCMS

Okay, this is probably too much motherhood and apple-pie.  Yes, you need to figure out the larger strategy, value proposition, what you are really trying to achieve, etc.  Let’s assume you’ve done that.  You still do get back to the core questions:

Are people using an LCMS to manage content assets and workflow across the enterprise?  Or are they really using SharePoint or other ECM products for that?  And LCMS products are more a different kind of authoring tool?

Curious to get reactions to this.  What are you seeing out there?  Any advice for this person?


Damon Regan said...

The tough part about the strategy seems to be balancing support for economies of scale objectives on the one hand with values for flexibility and diversity of production methods on the other hand.

Unknown said...

Tony, thanks for putting this out there - it gave me an opportunity/springboard to pull together my own thoughts on how the LCMS has evolved as a tool. It may not answer your client's issue, but I throw these thoughts into the mix to see what other discussion gets raised.

Tony Karrer said...

Damon - completely agree about scale vs. flexibility. That's most often the crux of the problem.

Chris - good post. I like the terms you used in terms of warehouse vs. authoring tool.

Paul Schneider said...

What I’ve seen over the years is it has continued to move towards super authoring into easy to use authoring with some super capabilities to now seeing people wanting it to also be their “google docs” place.

In terms of the later… (warehouse) I’ve not seen people have and effectively use it that way. I would love to hear about folks that do though to see what/why they were successful – as I know tech is probably only part of the problem.

escalante blogger said...

And that the other countries use for. Another strategy to develop will their economic stability.

Anonymous said...

Having a public dialogue around how learning technologies can and are being used is great for all of us in the learning industry. This blog post raises some key questions as to how organizations are using LCMS technology to manage course assets.

To your reader’s inquiry I posit the following. It would appear that the octopus you’re attempting to tame most likely goes beyond content itself. It’s an easy time-suck to develop an “ultimate pigeon whole” mentality.

“My organization is chock full of great content and ideas. If only there was a perfect management system so we could store and retrieve it all before they retire…”

Many of the resources you speak to (SharePoint, LCMS, LMS) are really components to the larger, overarching strategy of Knowledge Management (as per Brian Chapman) which like Content Management can mean different things to different people.

As learning professionals we should recognize the development paradigm has shifted slightly to incorporate not only what might previously have been dismissed as skill of the craft, but also content once viewed as outside the required scope.

Old Style New Style!
Design Design
Develop Remix
Deliver Reuse
Evaluate Share
Repeat Connect

Yes, you still need to organize the mayhem. But trying to cram everything into a compliance-style box is counterproductive. Metatagging may even make such (SCORM) practices obsolete. The same applies to types of content. It will be necessary to embrace multiple formats and provide multiple output types. Your management tools should not dictate your content development strategy. Assembling a personalized “suite” of tools which communicate well with each other will support an organization’s Knowledge Management needs while addressing management of content. Content Management is really just a piece of the greater machinery so should be as flexible and agnostic as possible.

iQpakk Learning Management System said...

I really enjoyed this post about Learning Management Systems. My company is currently developing and marketing a new LMS system for web and iPad use. It's called iQpakk and you can learn more about it at Let us know what you think!

Reema said...

Thanks for such a good description about LCMS.
it helps a lot as i also wanted an learning software for my company. so that we can extend our reach and train more people all around the globe

Akash said...

Microsoft Sharepoint sites are easy to maintained and can be modified easily that's why organizations uses Sharepoint rather than ECM. Sharepoint sites has very good GUI and working on them is better than ECM.

Anonymous said...

I have been using the Outstart Evolution LCMS for multiple product software training management for over 5 years. During that time I have experienced MAJOR success with re-use and single-sourcing ROI and I have experienced MAJOR failure. The determining factor seems to me to be associated with Instructional Design discipline. When content is created (whether using Rapid ID tools such as Articulate, More time consuming Flash, or just basic using the embedded authoring tools) success follows developing defined objectives. My experience has convinced me that the ROI of an LCMS does not occur on the initial development of instruction -- but when design plans for re-use and/or single sourcing the ROI for updates (time and effort) is phenomenal. When there is no design discipline and no strategy there is very little if any payback.

Fabrizio said...

We are one of the few international LCMS developers and providers and the cases we have monitored in our more than 150 large international deployments witness a very high ROI on learning content production (more than management)...but You are right..many come to it as a super authoring environment first and then for mufti channel delivery...far less for pure workflow, version, project & procurement management which instead should be indeed where the power of LCMS systems really relies upon