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The Intersection of Online Communities and Learning Management Systems

This post originally appeared on Online Community Results. SocialFish and OCR partner on many online community strategy and implementation projects – contact us if you need help with yours.

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We’re seeing some interesting things going on in the association industry at the intersection of online communities and learning management systems (LMS).

Social learning is a growing trend. In the 2014 Association Learning + Technology Report by Tagoras, which surveyed 200 organizations:

  • 88.7 percent of respondents indicated their organization already offers technology-enabled or technology-enhanced learning and another 10.6 percent said they plan to in 2015.
  • Over 80 percent of survey respondents using technology for learning said they offer recorded (i.e., on-demand) and real-time (i.e., live) Webinars or Webcasts. Self-paced online courses, at 65.5 percent, were the only other format that came close to Webinars.
  • Among social media tools specifically asked about in the survey, YouTube is the most common in associations’ learning programs (used by 33.1 percent of respondents), but Twitter (32.2 percent), Facebook (28.8 percent), and LinkedIn (27.6 percent) follow not far behind.
  • Just over half of respondents (51 percent) report using a learning management system (LMS) to deliver and manage education. This number has grown quite a bit from the 39.7 percent of respondents who reported using either an LMS or a learning content management system (LCMS) in the 2010 edition of the survey.

So what to make of all this?  Here’s our take.

We expect to see more acquisitions of LMS products by AMSs.  

JP Guilbault, President and CEO of YourMembership.com, said about their acquisition: “At YM, we’re building an innovative and robust platform of offerings designed to help organizations enhance engagement across social, mobile, and web channels. There’s never been a better time for organizations worldwide to leverage their data and technology to create meaningful and personalized interactions to fulfill their missions, add member value and increase revenue.”

The AMS/LMS combination is a business-intelligence and engagement-driven way to structure activities that enable not just the purchase of products (in this case education) but reasons for people to keep coming back, by tying together time-specific e-learning activities with other touchpoints housed in the AMS.

We wouldn’t be surprised to see acquisitions of LMSs by online community platforms (or vice versa).

Why? Because social learning is already a standard practice for best-in class communities, meaning the embedding of live learning opportunities into the community as part of an organization’s stable of engagement tactics.  Connecting the online community to a face to face conference or event through conference session-related discussions; pre-and post-webinar access to a subject matter expert through accompanying Q&A hosted in the community; and hosting live online events directly in the community, like a live chat at a designated time – these are all examples of social learning tactics already being deployed in successful online communities. It’s a logical next step to integrate some of these functionalities in a frictionless way through the acquisition of learning platforms where webinar or livestreamed video content (for example) could be seamlessly integrated into the user experience.

And the other side of that coin is equally attractive – Peach New Media, for example, is an LMS company that has long included social learning and online community elements into their video platform, with the ability to have chats and discussions alongside livestreamed events. We’d be surprised if other LMS players in the market have not also considered how adding a community layer integration to their educational platform could work to the benefit of all concerned.

Community platforms are already being used for learning objectives.

Discussion forum questions can be used to assess how educational content has been understood. There are lots of poll and survey functionalities in various community platforms that can be used for assessments. Automation tools available in some community tools allow organizations to create a lite LMS type experience:

  • watch a video and earn a badge
  • participate in discussions and earn a badge
  • complete a quiz and earn a badge
  • gather all three badges and earn a designation
  • participate in discussions to keep your designation

The list goes on – not to mention peer-to-peer based learning activities.  We’ve worked with organizations who provide CE credit specifically for participating in community discussions!

We see the convergence of community/forums and online learning to continue trending.  If you work for an LMS, Community Platform or AMS and have thoughts on this from an industry perspective, please share!

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