Social Learning Management Systems
December 15, 2010
What are we talking about here? Well, according to Wikipedia:
A learning management system (commonly abbreviated as LMS) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, and reporting of training programs, classroom and online events, e-learning programs, and training content.
The word social seems to crop up in connection with learning a lot these days. Maybe we add it to the stock term LMS to create a couple of new alphabet soups. I think that each of the terms is significantly different from regular LMS, and from the other, that the new abbreviations may be useful.
- SLMS: a social LMS, with social meaning that the LMS includes social media features.
- NSLMS: a new social learning management system, with new social learning referring to the phenomenon described by Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner in their book The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media.
That the two terms mean different things is important. They differ with respect to the units of learning they emphasize. A SLMS emphasizes traditional units of learning: courses. It adds a social component, which may change the way in which learners engage with the content and with each other.
A NSLMS needs to encompass the units of learning content made possible by social media. This includes, to use an example from Bingham and Conner, short videos. It is interesting to note that their primary example of an organization using short videos, TELUS, did away with its existing LMS. It is also interesting to search the index of the book for LMS (or learning management system); there is no such entry.
SLMSs do not typically address the new social learning, any more than traditional LMSs do. SLMSs are more social because they add a social layer to the system for managing learning.
NSLMS, in contrast, are “new social” because they enable management of the new social learning. This means that they recognize smaller and less formal units of learning. To mix one of Bingham and Conner’s terms with one of my own, NSLMSs recognize microsharing as a means of learning.
To state all this is to raise questions about NSLMS. Can they enable the management of microsharing without becoming cumbersome? There are more units of learning, and many more combinations of those units, when microsharing starts to provide some of the learning formerly provided by more traditional learning. (Yes, I do mean “some of,” rather than “all of.”)
Then there are the more fundamental questions about NSLMSs. Who is working on them? How much do organizations need them? Which organizations have already developed in-house NSLMSs?
Perhaps the most fundamental question of all is: do NSLMSs exist?