Is Content King, or an LMS?

In his 1996 essay, at the infancy of the Internet, Bill Gates asserted that the big business will be generated by content production, not technology services. He seems to have been right. Our colleague, Dr. Robert Dobay has just returned from Unleash Global in Paris, the expo formerly named HR Tech. He had the feeling that LMS (Learning Management System) is now the hot topics in large corporations, so they intend to answer the challenges of digitalisation by providing grandiose, integrated software frameworks for learning and development. Of course, these are great tools with smart design. However, most of the time the existing learning materials are shoved into these state-of-the-art systems with their outdated teaching methodology. Now users can watch the same lengthy video lectures and/or PowerPoint presentations, or read extensive, detailed documents in the newly implemented LMS solution. And upon completion of the learning unit, they can pass or fail a test that attempts to check their understanding or memory. Not much is done about application of knowledge or change of behaviour. Okay, there are probably exceptions, but this is the most widespread approach today.

Imagine yourself going to a fine dining restaurant located in a beautiful bay with your romantic partner. The terrace has a scenic sea view: the azure waters and rocky shores are really breathtaking. The horizon is painted by the golden colours of sunset. Your table is lit by candles, J.L. Coquet french porcelain tableware and silver cutlery make the dining experience perfect. The waiter pulls out the chairs for you to sit down and wait for the degustation menu. The items appear in sequence: peanut butter and jelly sandwich for starter, a Big Mac menu with large fries as the main dish, and Oreo cookies for dessert. The crystal wine glass is refilled every time you empty it, with a 2 Euro rosé from the bottom shelf of a discount supermarket chain. Content is really king, I’m afraid.

It’s not at all an easy job to develop good quality, integrated IT systems, construct interiors with cosy atmosphere, or design aesthetic and attractive packaging. However, it’s even more tiresome and resource intensive to produce great content to fill them with.

Lately, we have invested a lot of time in analysing the usage statistics of Act2Manage app. The most recent analysis investigated how the users of our leadership development application rated the 3-5 minute microlearning contents. Four years ago, we developed a screen into the 1.0 version where the users could evaluate at the end of the leaning cycle how useful and relevant they found the suggestions and action ideas. Despite the fact that we don’t really believe in such rating scales, in the beginning we wanted to find out if the users confirm our hypotheses behind content development. We checked the evaluations a number of times back then and found that they were all right. But now we had several years’ data at hand to review. We were very pleased with what we saw: our users evaluated 121 microlearning contents. 97% of the ratings were between 4.0 and 5.0 on a scale of 1-5, while 79% was above 4.5.

While we were only hoping to get such good feedback during content development, we did as much as we could to create real value for our users. Although we had over 1.000 posts on our leadership blogs and had written a couple of e-books on people management, we did not copy-paste a single sentence from existing materials. We wrote about 3.000 short paragraphs from scratch optimised for microlearning, altogether the text size of a 250-300 page book. Each content went through 4 stages/versions of content refining before it was finally approved for publication in the app. We often argued over words or sentences until one of us could convince the other. Action ideas were debated until we both believed that they are practical enough and realistic to implement. In the background laid our decades of consulting and management experience, as well as hundreds of leadership books we have read over those years. Half a year of intensive work was invested in content development. The evaluations reassured us that it was worth the effort.

No doubt, Learning Management Systems are very useful, but they are far from being sufficient, if we really want to achieve something tangible in learning. A huge amount of energy needs to be invested in content creation and learning methodology development in addition to systems implementation. This is a long way for companies to go. Respect for all the organisations who have already taken the first steps on the road.

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Act2Manage is an innovative mobile learning tool to support managers with tight schedules to get better in people management and to improve employee engagement. It ensures turning knowledge to action with the help of follow-up commitments and reminder features.

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