April 18, 2019
Learning Thursday #10 – The Many Acronyms of Learning Technology
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April 18, 2019
Learning Thursday #10 – The Many Acronyms of Learning Technology
Katrina Marie Baker works for Adobe as a Senior Learning Evangelist. Her independently operated consulting firm has advised organizations in aerospace, construction, healthcare, legal, retail, technology, and transportation. Katrina facilitates keynote sessions and master classes for learning professionals. She also maintains YouTube channel Learn Tech Collective. She has authored books LMS Success (2018), The LMS Selection Checklist (2018), and Corporate Training Tips & Tricks (2017). Katrina is a former Director of Technology with the Association for Talent Development. She has worked in people/project management and global training capacities for Fortune 500 retailer Whole Foods Market, and Global 100 law firms Cooley LLP and Latham & Watkins LLP. Previously, Katrina worked in music and video production for clients such as Disney Channel and Adult Swim.
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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.

Try Adobe’s learning management system, Captivate Prime, for free.  Connect with the author on Twitter or LinkedIn, and follow me on Adobe’s eLearning blog.

10 Comments
2019-04-29 19:59:19
2019-04-29 19:59:19

In public education, the term LMS is commonly used.

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2019-04-18 14:16:44
2019-04-18 14:16:44

Every month we have an ICCB to prepare for the QACP driven TSCWG.  I’m not making this up.

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Todd Spargo
's comment
2019-04-18 15:15:21
2019-04-18 15:15:21
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Todd Spargo
's comment

Really!!!!

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Todd Spargo
's comment
2019-04-19 19:49:02
2019-04-19 19:49:02
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Todd Spargo
's comment

See, that’s just wrong.

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2019-04-18 08:39:16
2019-04-18 08:39:16

I always struggle with terminology with clients, especially if a L&D manager is involved. It is harder when they have a set idea of what technology they want to use. I prefer, as part of a needs analysis process, to ‘turn off the computer’ and go back to pen and paper and start from the end: ‘ What does success look like for you? and you? and you?’. and guide them backwards to the starting point. Often, not always, they come to the decision that best suits them and they know why. Is it all about the learning and the learners’ experience?

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Eric Dumas
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2019-04-19 19:51:39
2019-04-19 19:51:39
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Eric Dumas
's comment

I agree with your approach Eric.  It allows the organization’s/learners’ perspective to drive the choice of technology.

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2019-04-18 07:27:10
2019-04-18 07:27:10

Before I started reading my intuitive reaction was: it is all about marketing, about trying to make something look better because of (ab?)using complicated terminology to convince mostly ignorant clients.  As long as it is not going over the border, where honesty is no longer important.   Biggest problem with ‘clients’ is that they have not enough information/insight to define their needs, in this case for a learning technology platform. It is pretty much the same in many sectors, aware of that. If you are ignorant of building terminology and techniques for sure you will be abused by building companies as well.  A good intermediator, undertanding the language of both (selling and buying people) would be ideal, but is too seldom used especially in the eLearning industry. Only my personal opinion.

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Lieve Weymeis
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2019-04-19 20:01:11
2019-04-19 20:01:11
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Lieve Weymeis
's comment

It’s definitely helpful to involve a third party who can translate the needs of the client for potential vendors, and also provide the client with context so they can evaluate the platforms more effectively.  Of course the trick to involving a consultant is making sure that they are able to be a neutral resource to the client.  That could easily become another blog post.  🙂

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Katrina Marie Baker
's comment
2019-04-20 07:31:56
2019-04-20 07:31:56
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Katrina Marie Baker
's comment

Indeed, good point. It is not easy to find a totally neutral consultant!  And moreover she/he needs not only to be able to translate the requirements of the client into the language of the vendor, but also to be able to understand them because lot of people starting in a new domain (and that is still the case for eLearning even within big companies as I experienced lately) are not able to explain them. It is very easy to explain your wishes for a new car, but not for an eLearning platform.

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Lieve Weymeis
's comment
2019-04-20 18:07:58
2019-04-20 18:07:58
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Lieve Weymeis
's comment

That is so true.  There’s a lot more discussion required in order to figure out what technology features will support the learning environment.

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