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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Does it make sense to use the same product for K-12 (schools) and corporate e-learning environments?

I just answered a question on about academic versus corporate learning management systems. is a question-and-answer website created, edited and organized by its community of users. I answer questions about e-learning, Moodle, and Blackboard.
I'll reproduce the question and answer below.

The question:

Does it make sense to use the same product for K-12 (schools) and corporate e-learning environments?

The product is an adaptive learning system which will adapt to users learning ability. The product supports multiple roles (student/mentor/admin) I am seeking opinions about the usability, and effectiveness of such a product, in 2 very different environments. The issues I foresee are wrt content, and presentation, but I have limited experience in e-learning, both for K-12, and corporate.

And my answer:

I have helped people use Moodle in both academic and corporate environments. I work for a medical school that is part of a large hospital, so our learning management systems (yes, there are several!) must occasionally work in both a corporate and academic environment.

In your question you ask specifically about differences in the content and presentation of courses, when used in a corporate versus academic environment. In my experience, the types of content that an LMS can handle, the presentation of a course, and the usability of the LMS for students, are the issues that are least affected by the different needs of corporate and academic users.

The issue that most separates academic and corporate users of a learning management system is user and course management. For example, in a corporate environment, we often need to enroll everyone with a given job title into a specific course, and require that they pass that course by a specific date. So the corporate LMS needs to:
  • Pull job titles from your company's human resources system.
  • Assign courses based on job titles.
  • Track due dates for course completion and alert users of past due courses.
These are things that a lot of LMS's developed for academic environments don't do.

On the other hand, in an academic environment, we might need our LMS to establish core competencies (often called "outcomes") that apply to all students, in all grades. We might want to have teachers include those competencies in all of their courses.

For example, we might establish deductive reasoning as a core competency. So the academic LMS needs to:
  • Allow administrators to establish outcomes that apply to all students in the school.
  • Allow teachers to indicate when an activity, test, or assignment is testing or developing that outcome.
  • Report on the progress that individual students, and groups, are making in learning the outcomes.
Learning outcomes that are measured across courses is something that you'll find in academic LMS's. But if you wanted to ensure that everyone in company has a given skill, then in a corporate LMS, you would probably need to make that skill a separate course and run everyone through that one course.

To summarize: once a student is inside a course, the differences between academic and corporate learning management systems usually don't matter to the student. But the managers, administrators, and teachers who run the learning management systems have different needs in academia and the corporate world. So LMS's designed for those different worlds usually have very different features for managing courses, managing users, and reporting on activity.

I hope this helps you to evaluate LMS's for K-12 versus corporate learning environments. Feel free to post any follow up questions that you may have.

If you'd like to read the other questions that I've answered on Quora, or just click around the e-learning and Moodle sections, you can click through to my Quora profile