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LCMS Roundup


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									LCMS Roundup
By Ryann K. Ellis                                                                                            The LMS Gues

E-learning promises to deliver just-in-time learning. A learner gains access to a data repository, answers
                                                                                                             Primer On Lea
a few questions, and, voila, the system delivers the precise piece of information when and how they need
it. Unfortunately, most organizations have yet to experience such a smooth information exchange. Enter
the learning content management system.
                                                                                                              Ryann Ellis is
An LCMS provides authoring, sequencing, and aggregation tools that structure content to                       Learning Circui
facilitate the learning process. The IDC whitepaper, "Learning Content Management Systems:                    rellis@astd.o
Comparative Analysis of Emerging Technologies," identifies the components of an LCMS as an
authoring application, a data repository, a delivery interface, and administration tools. The
authoring tools provide templates and storyboarding capabilities, and may be used to convert
existing content. The data repository uses meta data to store and manage individual learning
objects. The delivery interface dynamically serves content that can be modified to reflect a
certain look or feel, such as organizational branding. The administrative applications manage
learner profiles, course catalogues, and so forth. In addition, some LCMSs offer collaboration
tools, including chat, integrated email, and threaded discussion groups.

"An organization has training content, such as Word files, PowerPoint presentations, Flash
animations, and assessments, spread throughout its departments. Using an LCMS, an
organization can aggregate content in a single system, then manipulate it and apply structure to
create and deliver courses," explains Guillermo Leija, product manager for Global Knowledge's
LCMS Knowledge Pathways. "In essence, an LCMS lets an organization take control of
content," he says.

In "Achieving Interoperability in E-Learning," Harvi Singh highlights another advantage of
LCMSs: Data repositories allow multiple developers and subject matter experts to share content
and its components over the network.

Delivery of learning via an LCMS begins with a pre-assessment that targets content. Based on
the learner's profile, the system extracts content from the data repository to either deliver
individual content chunks or assemble full courses.

But success relies largely on effective development and use of learning objects, which are
reusable, media-independent chunks of information organized by a meta data classification
system. Learning objects are the modular building blocks of e-learning content, and can include
such media types as text, graphics, audio, video, animation, games, tests, and simulations.

Another factor critical to the successful implementation of an LCMS is understanding skill sets
within the organization. A company strong in instructional design but lacking media creation
capabilities will look for a system that offers media consulting services. "Even clients with
development expertise want Global Knowledge to implement the system, create courses side-
by-side with them, relate some best practices, and then let them build upon that structure," says

But before purchasing a system, Leija emphasizes the importance of understanding the goal of
the organization first. "If a company needs to start tracking its instructor-led training before
converting to e-learning delivery, then the best route may be to purchase an LMS rather than an

However, there's confusion among buyers about the differences between LCMSs, LMSs
(learning management systems), and CMSs (content management systems). In essence, an
LCMS combines the learner administration capabilities of an LMS with the content creation and
storage capabilities of a CMS. Although many LCMSs offer basic course administration features,
their functionality isn't as robust as that found in most LMSs. Similarly, LMSs use skill
assessments to track learners' competencies and recommend courses, but most systems lack
the capability to dynamically deliver personalized courses or track user access to the individual
learning object. Duncan Lennox, chief technology officer for WBT Systems, explained the basic
difference between LMSs and LCMSs during a panel discussion at ASTD 2001, "An LMS solves
running a learning organization, and an LCMS gets the right content to the right people at the
right time."

So why not a single system that manages content and user data? Although that sounds
practical, Leija thinks a system of that magnitude would require an implementation effort that's
too large and complicated for most training functions. It also depends on what slice of training a
company needs to organize first. "If a company needs to create and take control of its electronic
content, phase one may start with an LCMS. As the organization starts to merge e-learning with
other types of content deliverables, it will want to add an LMS."

IDC's Michael Brennan concurs that LCMSs and LMSs are distinct from one another, but they
also complement each other. "An LMS can manage the communities of users, allowing each of
them to launch the appropriate objects stored and managed by the LCMS. In delivering the
content, the LCMS also bookmarks the individual learner's progress, records test scores, and
passes them back to the LMS for reporting purposes."
A merging of the two
                        LCMS Suppliers
systems may be
where the market is
heading, but a          Knowledge Pathways
separation of           Global Knowledge
content generation      kp.globalknowledge.com/kpath/knowledge.htm
and delivery
capabilities from       Top Class
administration tasks WBT Systems
may currently be        http://www.wbtsystems.com/products/products.html
what is best for
developing e-           Anlon 4.0
learning efforts.       Anlon Systems
Indeed, the             http://www.learningcircuits.org/2001/aug2001/www.anlon.com
outgrowth of LCMSs
has generated
                        Knowledge Mechanics 3.1
interest in the quality
of content that has     Knowledge Mechanics
been lacking in         http://www.knowledgemechanics.com/products/
recent years. "It's
easy to get lost in     Content Delivery Server
the technology,"        Docent
admits Leija.           www.docent.com/products/product_cds.php
"People forget about
training's true goal:   Jupiter Suite
To provide learning Avaltus
to a certain            http://www.paybacktraining.com/products/index.html
population. That's
where an LCMS lives. Its purpose is to add value to content by manipulating it as needs change,
and to deliver that same content as quickly as possible with context and meaning," he says.

More important, as LCMSs develop, so may their influence on e-learning instructional design.
Because an LCMS's strength is its ability to modularize and manipulate content, developers can
begin exploring new learning techniques. For instance, Leija believes that LCMSs are poised to
address adaptive learning. "An inherent capability of LCMSs is adapting content to fit a learner's
personal profile, not just by delivery mode but learning styles."

Likewise, IDC's report on the LCMS market predicts that LCMSs may bridge the gap between
knowledge management and e-learning. "An LCMS's efficiencies, such as learning content
reusability, portability, accessibility, and speed of conversion, and the targeted nature of the
learning experiences it delivers, make it an ideal component of any enterprise-scale knowledge
management program."

Though stumbling blocks exist, the benefits of LCMSs are clear. Users can create, manipulate,
and deliver learning that is on-demand, based on context, and determined by the learner's
query. According to Brennan, "The net result is increased organizational productivity."

Published: August 2001

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