by D. Romero | Jan. 12, 2015 | 7 Min Read

Social Learning Platforms: The Perfect Combo of LMS & ESN


Learning management systems have been around for longer than you think. Many organizations continue to use the same outdated versions that are hard to navigate, boring to use, and don’t allow for collaboration. In an attempt to make up for their LMS' shortcomings, some business leaders have introduced enterprise social networking (ESN) in their organizations. Both tools have their place, but we think combining them into a social learning platform is the best bet.

First There Were Learning Management Systems

Starting as early as the 1920s, instructors have been using technology to supplement and reinforce learning. But it wasn’t until the introduction and growth of the Internet that the LMS industry really took off. In early 2000, SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model) was introduced as an e-learning standard that placed training content into a specific sequence for users, tracked their progress, and standardized scoring.

And while today’s advanced LMSs are cloud-based, most have not evolved too much from their original roots. Their user interface is still clunky, which leaves training feeling more like a tedious chore than an exciting educational experience. And they still haven’t figured out how to seamlessly incorporate social learning – a way for employees to share best practices and learn from each other.

Then Came Enterprise Social Networks

Seeing the benefits of a more social and collaborative workforce, many organizations have now introduced enterprise social networks to supplement their LMS.

Call it the Facebook for business, the concept of enterprise social networks is to allow employees and team members to connect and collaborate on their work. While plenty of businesses are benefitting from increased communication, other business leaders believe these networks lack a defined purpose. They’re fearful a network like this requires constant monitoring, could lead to leaked insider information, or lead to lower productivity because of distracting chatter. As it turns out, ESNs are not the silver bullet to increased productivity and increased learning everyone thought.

Regardless, there’s a growing market for enterprise social networks, and big names are taking notice. Microsoft purchased Yammer. VMware acquired Socialcast. A recent Gartner report says ESNs will become, “The primary communication channels for noticing, deciding or acting on information relevant to carrying out work” though these benefits will not be realized until 2015 or later.

So ESNs provide a much needed communication platform, but without something or someone guiding the discussions, companies may or may not see the conversations, collaboration, and outcomes they want.

Introducing Social Learning Platforms

So what if, instead of two different systems designed for two completely different purposes, you blended the benefits of social collaboration with the learning an LMS provides? Infusing social collaboration into learning management systems allows corporations to create and link conversations to learning content.

Imagine distributing your company’s training content – orientation, business acumen, sales training, product training, customer service training, etc. – on a platform that not only allows social interaction, but fosters a collaborative community where users can share what they’re learning, communicate best practices, and vote on the content they find the most helpful. Put this into a format that is easy to use, accessible on any device, and includes gamification to bring users back time and time again, and what you have is a social learning platform. LMSs and ESNs have evolved in their silos far too long.

Benefits of a Social Learning Platform

One of the biggest advantages we’ve heard from companies using Spoke, our social learning platform, is learners engage consistently and perform better. Yes, they can easily access training content and then hit up the social community for crowd-sourced, on-the-job knowledge. But more than that, Spoke focuses on a delightful user experience that pulls learners in. The coins and competition make learning fun and reward passing scores. The best community content gets rewarded and ultimately pays off when applied on-the-job. Spoke’s value lies in its ability to engage a team around learning application and make it fun.

We believe learning is better together. We’d love to hear your thoughts on your current LMS/ESN set up, or social learning platform, if you're using one. What’s working? What’s not? Let us know in the comments section below.

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