Craig Weiss: "The LMS is only as good as the metrics"
Surely the readers of our blog know what an LMS is, and that it is probably the main tool for quality training automation in companies.
But very few specialists in e-learning understand how to choose the right platform, what to pay attention to and what mistakes to avoid.
Our guest today is the one who can tell it better than anyone else. Meet:
Craig Weiss — CEO, Blogger, Speaker, E-Learning Expert
Craig is the CEO of The Craig Weiss Group and founder of FindAnLMS.com, the leading Learning System Search Platform in the industry.
He writes the Craig Weiss Blog (formally E-Learning 24/7) which is read weekly in 174 countries, territories and colonial territories.
Craig has been identified as the most influential person in the world for learning systems (including LMSs, LEP/LXP) and one of the top three in the world for e-learning.
He speaks at conferences and events around the world and is recognized by his peers as a thought leader and expert in the e-learning space.
AO: Hi Craig, It's great to have such a cool expert on our blog! Can you tell us how you come to the e-learning sphere? What was the starting point?
Craig: I started to investigate it back in 1999 when I was working on a doctorate. I saw an article in a journal from Australia, discussing this new way to learn—via the internet, rather than CBT (CD, which requires a desktop). I then applied for a grant to teach a journalism course (at a university, I taught at), 100% online, which I received.
From there, I was hooked. I knew that it was a better way for everyone to learn, and when I jumped to a company in 2000, I implemented an e-learning program, and built an LMS (which I do not recommend).
AO: 😁 I think it was a great LMS for its time... What do you love most about your job?
Craig: Helping people by providing them insight and knowledge in an honest, up-front, and independent way.
This industry is full of “so-called experts”, and misinformation. What I try to do is say “hey I’ve been there—with running training at all these companies including associations, and here is what works and not”. Then I look at trends in the space, which well, I believe will be or starting, and forecast it out. Fortunately, I’ve been over 90% correct.
AO: That`s cool! What do you think companies need to start on their way to the digitalization of employee training?
- Commitment. Without it, you are going nowhere. The head of company or association or whatever, has to “buy-in”. It goes a long way.
- Secondly, patience. This is not a quick win—it takes time.
- Thirdly, your passion. You need the passion, because you are going to drive this, constantly.
AO: What do you think should be the team involved in the implementation and further control of learning automation in the company? What are the roles and the minimum number of people in such a team? (let's take an example of a medium-sized business from 50 to 300 employees)
It’s easier to say who you DO NOT WANT on the team.
IT/IS is the worst. They should never drive the process, let alone implementation. You should only need them, if you need to connect to other systems OR you need to have files uploaded from say an HRIS/HCM or just off your own internal drives. Way too many folks get IT involved, or they try to push themselves and often times it just pushes out the launch time.
With systems SaaS today, and mostly turnkey (i.e. they change the skin/logo to yours), the implementation time could be as little as two to four weeks.
Thus, the only key items you require is your content (if you have any) and off-the-shelf, connections to HRIS/HCM/Payroll or whatever platform. Which IT exists here only to help, if need be, and then HR to get the files you need to upload into the system.
I would always recommend that only the head of whatever department/division is overseeing the system to have access to it, along with their administrator(s). For others who want data — send them a report.
AO: Interesting approach! Couldn't agree more, as with modern platforms you can really get by with a team of 2-3 people.
Craig, you've created a great resource for finding an LMS (findanlms.com) to help companies make the right choices. Tell us, what are the main difficulties/mistakes that companies experience when choosing an LMS?
Common mistakes when choosing an LMS
Not doing due diligence.
That is to say, they look at only a few vendors, usually the most well-known OR they see a list of select a list and then blast out an RFP to all of them.
Ask the wrong questions.
Or are unaware of the key questions to ask. This is a big one, because too many people allow the vendor to come off as the expert, and if the vendor isn’t, you could end up miserable.
Pricing — You have to be in your budget.
Never tell a vendor your budget. NEVER. And you have to negotiate, everything is pretty much on the table, except setup fees. Understand how pricing works in the industry — I have a few posts on how it works. Once you do, you are in the driver seat.
Demo — Always include your own content when they show you the demo.
Because you want to see the results – the data.
Shortsightedness. Lastly, think where do you want to be three years from now. Way too many focus on now, not tomorrow.
AO: Do you personally have basic criteria for determining the best/suitable LMS?
Yes. I can look at a system and within the first few minutes whether it is a winner or a dud.
As for criteria — systems today have around 80% of the same feature sets.
I always look at the metrics — do they tell you a story about the learning/training of your end-users? Views for example, mean nothing. A system is only as good as the metrics.
Oh, and UI/UX — if you are doing customer education, then you need a slick system— because you have one chance to wow them and get them to use the system.
AO: What affects the effectiveness of learning more, the platform you use, or the content you fill the platform with? In what ratio?
Content always drives the system.
Designed poorly—if people are required to take it, there isn’t anything to say, yuck and avoid. Make sure to purchase 3rd party off-the shelf-content on topics that are beneficial to your learners, including personal and professional development (which is the #1 reason why people leave companies).
If you create your own content, take some time to dive into a search engine, more than one page to learn about instructional design for online learning. Always use a TOC—table of contents, and allow people to bounce around the course.
AO: What data is important to collect in the process of training employees in order to find growth points?
Well, it depends on the system.
I want to know the following:
- Where in the course/content learners have gone.
- How many times, avg time of viewing—this will provide a lot of insight, and thus from there you can either focus on specific courses on that subject area, rather than building multiple on the topic of the entire course. This requires your courses to have a table of contents.
- Trend lines over a period of time, from new skills, to what is popular and what is not (which systems rarely offer).
- And usage rates.
Assigned learning is the wildcard here, because you are forcing someone to complete the entire course, and thus the data really means very little, unless they do not complete it.
Completion only useful if it is a certification program, or compliance. Duration overall, I’d rather have an employee go into a course 20 times, and focus on X or Y chapters during that, and time specific.
Overall duration — everyone learns differently, so an overall duration is very misleading.
AO: What trends are emerging in the field of e-learning in the next 5 years? What are you personally waiting for?
I wouldn’t bet the farm on skills being the hot one, five years from now.
To me, the big trend to support will be cohort learning on the corporate side. That’s going to be big.
I also think data segmentation will continue to grow, not just for Large Enterprises but others sizes.
I do worry that more and more L&D folks along with people who have zero background in training or L&D will want a fully automated system and the system to basically do their job for them. There are plenty of folks in L&D, HR and Training who do not really know what data is relevant to their learning/training and what is not. That is a big worry.
I should note, I do not believe VR is going to take off to the extent people have said. Rather a combo with AR—which is then MR is more likely, still not mass usage.
And the Metaverse? Way off, we are talking at least a decade from now, due to technology.
AO: And finally, share your favorite case in your career that you remember :)
This is going back to 2003. I was overseeing training for a global association. We offered 3rd party courses/content not only to our members in our learning system, but also our employees.
One day, I had our mail clerk come to my office. She was crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she said nothing. Rather, she couldn’t believe that she got to take all these courses/content for free. She was just thankful. She could not afford to go to a community college, she had only a high school diploma. She said her boyfriend, who only had a high school diploma and couldn’t afford community college was taking the courses and content too.
That is the power of online learning and providing it to everyone, you just never know the full impact, unless people share their stories. A huge difference was made for her.
We should give people opportunities to increase their knowledge and gain new insights and information—for all—which is why I am a huge believer in providing content, 3rd party which is not required. Do that, and you can hear stories like this.
A very inspiring story at the end of the interview, a huge thank you to our guest!
See you soon!💙