Can someone please tell me where this idea originated that you have to buy all of the components of your learning infrastructure together?
I really don’t understand and want someone to give me concrete, logical reasons for that approach. Sure, some learning content may need to be customized to your environment or industry, but certainly not your entire learning infrastructure. Content is only one piece of the three parts that make up a basic learning infrastructure. It makes sense for the learning content to be specific to your environment and industry. However, the other two parts, content authoring tools and learning management systems (LMS), are software platforms whose basic functions are to create and house learning content, respectively. I see no reason that those two platforms must come from the same vendor who has produced the learning content. After all, creating software platforms and learning content require two very different skill sets.
While I understand that it may be easier to have one vendor with which to work, taking that approach with your learning infrastructure is very limiting and probably will not best meet the needs of your firm. That idea is analogous to your CIO going to Dell or HP and saying, “Give us everything you’ve got – desktops, laptops, switches, routers, monitors, printers, software, all of it!” Would that ever happen? Certainly not. Why? Because different vendors provide different solutions at different price points and with different levels of fit for your organization. Seriously. You should be buying the best tool for the job at the price you can afford based on the specific needs of your firm.
Is there something different that a legal-specific LMS does that others do not?
Someone at ILTACON last August told me that their firm needed a “legal-specific LMS.” I’m sure my complete lack of a poker face displayed my bewilderment at this statement. Her face had a similar look of bewilderment when I asked her why the LMS had to be legal-specific. There is a bias in law firms towards things that are “legal-specific” that simply does not fit every situation. I realize that some LMSs have been structured to make it easier to track CLE, but any modern LMS should be able to do this, because at its core, CLE is simply an annual hourly requirement. Also, if the professional development and other training groups in the firm are not combined, then those records are usually already kept elsewhere. There are products designed specifically for tracking CLE that perform that specific function very well, so purchasing your LMS on that criteria is very limiting.
Why wouldn’t you want the very best LMS option for your firm’s money?
An LMS is the system used to house your content, provide a way to schedule and register for courses, track usage, and do reporting. This is the foundation of your learning infrastructure. You want those core functions to be as streamlined and efficient as possible, both for the training team and the learners. I did extensive research last year on modern learning technology and what new tools are being offered. This included LMS platforms, as well as learning record stores (LRS), which are springing up right and left. There are some modern LMS models that provide tools for performance support and informal learning activities, such as discussion groups and credit for outside activities. For the most part, they are very expensive and not widely used yet, but that is changing quickly. With the rapid advancements in this area, especially for mobile and informal learning, I would not want my firm to be limited in this foundational piece of its learning infrastructure. (I’ll be sharing more information on LRS, new LMS capabilities, and other new learning technologies here in the future.)
Can I get all of my learning content from one vendor?
The next largest piece of your learning infrastructure is your learning content. In my role as a training manager, I examined content from all of the vendors with a specific focus on law firms. No single vendor provided all of the content for all of the applications we used. Some came close, but there were definite gaps in some of the major applications we needed, which meant we developed the additional content in-house. In many instances, we had to customize the content we were able to purchase to make it fit our specific environment and setup. With applications changing more rapidly, no vendor can be expected to keep up with every single version of every application being used by every law firm and law department. It’s just not feasible, so you want to have as much flexibility as possible to get the most closely aligned and engaging content to fit your specific needs.
Why limit yourself?
On top of rapid technology changes and the large variety of applications, vendors and the needs of your firm change a lot in a few years. Anyone still remember what a great vendor Perfect Access Speer was? They were awesome until one day they were just gone. At my prior firm, we purchased our initial learning content and LMS in 2008. Think about how much things have changed since 2008 and will continue to change over the next few years. I would hate for a needed change to a better LMS or updated content to be limited, because we were tied to a specific vendor’s content and LMS.
There is a reason all-inclusive vacations are generally cheaper.
Sure, it is easier, but you are getting the same cookie cutter experience as every other person there. One size fits all is definitely not the approach to take when it comes to something as important as the infrastructure for learning in our organizations. Gaining knowledge and skills is mission critical, so we owe it to our firms to spend training dollars as wisely as possible. You will be better off picking the exact a la carte items that meet your specific needs and give you the flexibility to change as needed. That’s the menu from which I’d be ordering!
Author’s Note: I want to make it very clear that LLDevNet provides neither an LMS nor end user learning content similar to that of other vendors. We are LMS and content agnostic. Our mission is to show firms and trainers different ways to leverage their existing content and methods to make training more meaningful and effective for learners. We wish to help light a path forward to a bright future for L&D in law firms and legal departments.