Running head: ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING Organizational Learning: The Use of an LMS to promote e-Learning in an Organization Candice Henderson North Carolina State University EAC 582 – Organization and Operation of Training and Development Programs December 4, 2009 Organizational Learning: The Use of an LMS to promote e-Learning in an Organization Introduction E-Learning has made it possible for organizations to enable, extend, and enhance learning to millions of workers worldwide. A learning management system (LMS) is a software application or Web-based technology used to plan, implement, and assess a specific learning process. Typically, a learning management system provides a Learning and Development department with a way to create and deliver content, monitor student participation, and assess student performance. Learning activities in an LMS may include instructor-led training classes, webinars, job aids and dozens of e-learning modules addressing the full gamut of professional and personal development – from running a meeting and leading teams, strategy development, to time management and technical skills. A learning management system can provide students with the ability to use interactive features such as threaded discussions, video conferencing, and discussion forums. Research by Bersin & Associates shows that in 2009, more than 70% of large companies have an LMS in place (Bersin, Howard, O’Leonard, & Mallon, 2009). A successful Learning and Development team should spend a significant amount of time and resources on marketing e-Learning via the learning management system to its audience (the organization). The primary goal is to increase engagement and excitement around learning, while more specific goals include driving traffic to the learning management system (LMS) to get the maximum value from the investment in technology. In this paper, we will discuss the use of a learning management system (LMS) to promote e-learning in organizations in regards to change management in the implementation phase and the resulting impact on the organization. Self E-learning of any type represents a change. Even though it might be as simple as the replacement of an instructor-led class with an online course or an Excel spreadsheet with an elaborate LMS, it still is a change in the organization. Learners used to instructors often resent having to learn from a computer, and trainers who feel valued for their instructional skills often feel threatened. Managers who have always controlled the access to training and information often feel undermined when learners can access learning resources anytime and anywhere. The organization assumes that it knows what’s good for the learners. The organizations themselves do not change – people (learners, managers, and colleagues) change (Dublin, 2006). People rather than processes are the central focus of any successful change management and communication approach (Steel, 2005). Change management is the discipline of managing people through the specific transition that the change represents. It is about communication and exchange, dialogue and questions, attitudes and behaviors, leadership and support (Dublin, 2006). Barry Oshry talks about system blindness that some organizations may have whether it be spatial, temporal, relational, process, and uncertainty (2007). He states that our consciousness is shaped by the structure and processes of the systems we are in. Having this system blindness can impair the organization as it tries to undergo the change. What can organizations do to encourage change and promoting learning? Oshry (2007) suggests engaging senior leaders, “Tops” in communicating the changes. A firm communication plan has to be put into place from the “Tops” to the “Middles” to the “Bottoms”. Author Lance Dublin identifies three cyclic stages of change communications that an organization must go through: inform, involve, and integrate (2006). Informing involves generating awareness through information and messaging activities. Learners, managers and the organization need to be informed about the problem and e-learning solution. The purpose is to make sure the messages you want to be heard are broadcast widely and in ways they will be recognized, recalled and remembered (Dublin, 2006). Examples of specific activities could include newsletters, presentations, e-mails, webcasts and speeches. The “involve” step includes finding ways to engage the learners, managers and organization in experiencing the e-learning solution, to give them a chance try it out for themselves, ask questions and form their own opinions (Dublin, 2006). The purpose is to let them “put their hands on it” and personalize the solution and have it become theirs. Specific activities can include tutorial videos, trial tests, department meetings, expos, fairs and road shows. The last step, “integrate”, is critical to make e-learning an ongoing and integral component of organizational processes, systems and business initiatives, but not be something foreign or forced. The long-term success of e-learning depends on whether it becomes part of the organizational culture, fully integrated into learners' and managers' work life. The purpose is to ensure it becomes so well-accepted and integrated that, like e-mail, it becomes critical to individuals and the organization but "invisible. " (Dublin, 2006). Recognizing the LMS platform as one for ongoing learning and development by the leaders of the entire organization helps encourage buy-in from the rest of the population. It is important that the business case for e-learning be clearly defined and communicated throughout the entire organization. 21st Century HRD In the last few years, modern corporate training has undergone tremendous change. In addition to the need to rationalize budgets, consolidate and reorganize the L&D function, and deal with rapidly changing business conditions, organizations are now dealing with a real change in the way training takes place. Managing corporate learning has come a long way from generic spreadsheets tracking which employees took classes, when, and where or simple databases kept in Microsoft Access or through another database system. No more are the files of papers in the file cabinet that tracked rosters, completion rates, and learners’ transcripts. The age of the learning management system is here in full effect, albeit with some progress let to still be achieved. While learning management systems grow more powerful and more popular, their origins are relatively humble. Software to manage learning within organizations has been around in one form or another ever since computers made their way into the workplace, says Bersin (as quoted by Sussman, 2005). Training processes are so complicated now that companies just can no longer manage them effectively manually. According to Bersin, LMSs got their biggest boost in the late 1990s, as electronic courseware became enormously popular (Sussman, 2005). Older learning management systems were designed to track in-person classroom teaching, but they weren’t able to manage self-serve CD-ROM courses. Thus came web-based learning management systems that were able to handle a variety of media to support learning. Now that an LMS is put into place and the training/L&D department has the courses developed, what’s next in deployment? David van Adelsberg and Edward Trolley describe how to run training like a business (1999). They state that the underlying concept of running training like a business is measuring what matter (Van Adelsberg & Trolley, 1999). Efficiency and effectiveness are what matter. Efficiency measures quantifiable numbers – total costs, utilization rates, number of participants, etc. While efficiency measures are typically associated with processes, effectiveness measures are more so related to what the customers perceive and what they gain in tangible value. One of the essential responsibilities of organizational development professionals is to communicate the value of what they can deliver (Howard, 2009). According to McLagan (1985) as quoted by McLean, organization development focuses on assuring healthy inter- and intra- unit relationship and helping groups initiate and manage change (2005). Training has to meet its customers’ needs in order to have a tangible, lasting impact on the business. The role of L&D and HR is to carefully monitor the organization’s learning culture, and implement new processes and systems that improve the learning culture. Any change in process requires a heavy dose of change management. It is important to consider employee, management and leadership culture in any major learning strategy (Bersin & Mallon, 2009). E-learning products by themselves do not often contribute to efficiency; they must be effectively administered and managed, which requires continuing attention on the part of the sponsoring organization (Codone, 2001). Research In undergoing a push towards online learning, a Learning and Development team starts out by developing an understanding of its internal customers’ needs and motives, and then showing internal customers how the online courses can make a difference to them in ways that matter. When marketing from the perspective of what motivates people, the group knows that it has a greater likelihood of engaging learners (Howard, 2009). The team has to show how the LMS will support practices, policies, programs and systems in the organization. Explaining the numerous benefits of utilizing an LMS for e-learning to the key stakeholders along with the entire organization will help create buy-in and encourage voluntary participation. Companies are realizing substantial direct and indirect savings through the use of LMSs. For example, web-based systems’ ability to serve up e-learning course materials to any user with Internet access substantially reduces the costs associated with classroom training (instructor fees, multiple copies of materials, and travel and dining expenses). Some people in remote locations aren’t in areas where face-to-face training is possible. Using an LMS becomes the quickest way, and the most effective platform to deploy e-learning classes. Among reasons for customer satisfaction with web-based systems: • Most customers have few qualms about letting corporate training information reside “outside the firewall. ” • It’s easy to integrate with web-based courseware. • Users are required to provide much less IT support than would be needed with an application run on their own servers. In addition, most online LMSs are browser based, reducing or eliminating the need for additional client-side software. Changes and updates to that software are automatically available to all users. • Any employee with web access can access the LMS, regardless of location. According to a recent study on LMS customer satisfaction, Bersin provides results from the study that leaves little doubt as to whether LMSs deliver tangible benefits to users (Sussman, 2005). When asked whether LMS drives productivity in their organizations, more than two-thirds of the respondents gave their systems high marks. The clearest example of productivity gains can be seen in the reduction of administrative overhead. Other major advantages are: • Knowledge is no longer needed to be taken from the shelf of the training department, brushed off and reviewed, because e-learning is immediate and provides up-to-date information. • Research shows that the major reason for losing employees is that the employees feel that their companies do not invest in their professional development. E-learning can help in overcoming this problem, since it does not only tackle the workers’ need to develop new knowledge and skills, but also provides learning on-demand. E-learning is less intrusive to the daily work duties of the employees and the company, which results in saving both time and money. • Convenience and portability: E-learning is very suitable for all kinds of employees since the courses are easily accessible at anytime and anyplace. Moreover, it is self-paced, which means that you can control the speed. You can also download the materials, read them, keep them and reuse them whenever necessary. (Alshara & Sharo, n. d. ) HRD Practice To aid the instructional design process, an organization must spend a significant amount of time on performance consulting. Performance consulting” is a needs assessment process that must be completed to identify the root cause of the business problem. Working with the line of business, performance consultants diagnose the business problem and assess the needs, and then work with instructional designers to develop, launch, manage and assess the training solution. According to the case study by Bersin & Associates, author Chris Howard (2009) states that performance consulting does not presume that the solution is training. A skills gap analysis is utilized to determine if training, performance management or some other approach is required to solve the business problem. Performing a needs assessment identifies 4 types of needs – business, performance, training, and work environment needs (Robinson & Robinson, 1995). Training needs identify what people must learn if they are to perform successfully. In order to reach the overall business needs, the training and work environment needs along with the performance needs are combined. One common business need which has become a huge driver behind the current LMS growth spurt is regulatory compliance. From the financial services industry to pharmaceutical manufacturing to oil refining, businesses are facing having to comply with a raft of regulations involving financial integrity, health and safety, environmental protection, employment rights, and so forth. Many of those regulations mandate that a company be able to demonstrate that employees have been appropriately trained to meet them. With increased scrutiny from stakeholders, regulatory agencies and the media, companies must be able to demonstrate that their senior management, sales force, and other employees are fully versed in compliance laws and business ethics. Thus organizations have turned more to e-learning as an option for completing training on a wider scale. Recommendations To leverage the LMS to its full potential, the case study presented by Chris Howard shows that a robust HR information system (HRIS) in conjunction with LMS implementation is paramount. Utilizing an HRIS that ties into the LMS allows the organization to link learning into performance. Current systems automate the administration of training, but they do not necessarily provide guidance on whether the right kind of training is being delivered to the right people, says Adam Miller, CEO of Cornerstone, a popular online LMS provider (Sussman, 2005). “Companies want to know where they’re strong, where they’re weak, where they have gaps in their talent, whether that talent is misaligned with corporate goals, or if performance isn’t meeting expectations in some areas. The answer for them is performance-driven learning,” says Cornerstone’s Miller. The LMS can have hooks and handles into an existing performance management system or, better yet, the LMS can include a performance management component. ” (Sussman, 2005). Research by Bersin & Associates shows that of the more than 70% of large companies in 2009 that have an LMS in place, 1/3 of these companies are considering replacing or upgrading these systems with integrated talent management systems (Bersin, Howard, O’Leonard, & Mallon, 2009). Organizations now have teams that manage learning, performance management, assessment, leadership development, succession management and career development in a single group. Employees are no longer as “people to train” but, rather, “talent to manage” and organizations want to align their Learning & Development investments with the talent management strategies needed to grow or improve the business. Leveraging internal resources for development and delivery of the solutions is part of an effective L&D department. These partnerships encompass not only local training delivery resources and functional SMEs, but also senior management, IT and HR. The team-oriented approach results in higher levels of engagement and better learning outcomes. Another key part of the implementation phase of the change management process, with regard to the technology infrastructure, is the importance of complete and thorough testing. An incremental approach to rolling out the new learning management system has worked better than releasing the entire platform on an organization. Listening to user feedback is critical as the company transitions from a decentralized, non-technology approach to a centralized shared-services learning organization and an enterprise LMS implementation (Howard, 2009). Learning organizations also need to be aware of the operational demands of their audiences. Through trial and error, the case study presented that giving employees too many training activities will create interruptions in operations, which can impact customer service (Howard, 2009). Time management issues and balancing the needs of learning versus operations must be forefront in the minds of learning professionals and the organization. Conclusion The fundamental principles of training have not changed – people still need deep levels of skills, experience and practice to become proficient with any role in an organization. New and experienced employees need continuous training to stay current on the company’s products, processes and markets. Managers and leaders need coaching, mentoring and feedback (Bersin & Mallon, 2009). The implementation of a comprehensive learning management system (LMS) is one of the keys to the success of promoting e-Learning to an organization, enabling learning and organizational development to deliver training programs to a geographically dispersed audience with 24 / 7 learning needs. The process is one of significant organizational change and should not be taken lightly. Organizations must plan for the change accordingly and apply an appropriate framework for managing the change at the organizational level. Utilizing strategies to manage the change process during an implementation will help organizations better prepare for resistance from employees. According to authors Dawson & Jones (2003) as quoted by Caroline Steel, people affected by the change don’t feel part of it: participants in the change need to feel part of it so that they have the motivation, skills and knowledge to adapt to the change (2005). Communication is central (Stace & Dunphy, 1994). It needs to be consistent, aligned to the vision, and must involve powerful mechanisms for . listening. Businesses have challenged training to become markedly more effective and efficient. When you run training like a business, organizations have to provide a contribution that will fulfill the business strategies of customers both tangibly and substantially. Because e-learning provides numerous benefits and advantages to the business world and its workforce, organizations are able to meet its business needs along with satisfying any governmental requirements. References Alshara, O. , & Sharo, M. (n. d. ). The Use of E-learning in Non-educational Organizations: a Preliminary Study of the UAE. Higher Colleges of Technology, Jordan University of Science and Technology. Retrieved December 4, 2009 from http://www-vs. informatik. uni-ulm. de/de/intra/bib/2007/IMCL/papers/240_Final_Paper. pdf. Bersin, J. , Howard, C. , O’Leonard, K. , & Mallon, D. (2009). Learning Management Systems 2009. 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