Learning Thursday is a blog series that features a new L&D article every other week along with discussion points. Read and then share your own ideas by commenting below! Check out the last Learning Thursday here.
Have you ever noticed how many acronyms there are in the learning and development industry?
You’d think we were NASA. Every instructional design model, every teaching method, and every new flavor of learning technology has an acronym. Why?
In two words: Marketing strategy.
Take learning technology vendors for example. Many acronyms are used to delineate different types of learning systems, when in fact the functionality across the categories is similar. For reference, here are some of the more prominent learning system categories. Feel free to comment other types below this article:
It’s not easy to define which system features or traits belong in which category. It can be difficult to tell whether a specific platform is principally a learning management system (LMS), or a learning content management system (LCMS), or something else entirely. An LMS can easily have learning record store (LRS) features, and vice versa. Adobe Captivate Prime is an example of “hybrid” learning technology that straddles more than one category.
Here’s a video where I discuss similarities and differences between an LMS, LCMS, and LRS:
You might ask, if there’s so much overlap between system types, why don’t we just let go of these acronyms and refer to everything as a learning technology platform? Because there’s the need for vendors to market their platforms. And part of marketing is differentiation – making one product seem in some way better, more innovative, or more learner centric. Making one type of learning technology seem more desirable than another.
I was talking recently with McLean & Company, contributing to their annual learning technology report that will come out this summer. One of their questions was, “Are learning management systems going away?” My response was that, in time, the term learning management system may indeed be replaced with something else. But the inherent functionality we associate with an LMS – the course catalog, reporting capabilities, and much more – are necessary for many organizations and will continue to exist.
The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter which type of system a vendor provides, or what they call it. What matters is whether their platform does what your organization needs, whether it’s user friendly, and whether the future of the platform is aligned to your organization’s goals.
If you are in the process of selecting a learning technology platform, look past the marketing verbiage and evaluate each platform for what it truly is.
Feel free to comment and share your opinions.