Do You Know About These Learning Technologies?

BY Celisa Steele

ASTD 2014 conferenceI attended the Association for Talent Development’s annual conference in DC at the beginning of the month. (At the start of the event, it was the American Society for Training and Development’s conference, but the group announced a rebrand at the conference.) Walking the trade show floor, I noticed a range of vendors that use technology to support learning but don’t get as much attention as other technologies. Are you familiar with these three types of learning technologies?

Spaced Learning

Spaced learning, the concept of repetition and reinforcement of learning activities over time, isn’t a technology per se, but it benefits dramatically from the availability of technologies to support it. There are some great new ones coming along.

Mindmarker bills itself as being in the business of training reinforcement, and Mindsetter‘s brand line is “continuous eLearning.” Both focus on repetition of key concepts from learning materials spaced over time—a practice shown to improve recall and, therefore, application of learning.

Axonify works in a similar way but emphasizes gamification and personalized paths to close learning gaps.

(For more on spaced learning and related concepts, you might want to check out 5 Powerful Strategies for Your Lifelong Learning Toolbox.)

Learning Record Stores (LRSes)

With a fully fledged version of the Tin Can API (aka the Experience API) out since last October, learning record stores are starting to crop up. “The LRS is a new system that goes hand in hand with the Tin Can API, ” according to the Tin Can API Web site. “As Tin Can-enabled activities generate statements, they’re sent to an LRS. The LRS is simply a repository for learning records that can be accessed by an LMS or a reporting tool. An LRS can live inside an LMS, or it can stand on its own.”

At least three stand-alone LRSes were represented in the conference expo:

  1. Wax LRS by Saltbox
  2. Watershed LRS by Rustici Software
  3. Learning Locker

We’re excited about the potential for LRSes to help organizations capture and then interpret data about formal and informal learning and activities directly offered by the organizations as well as those the learners cull from the broader landscape.

Based on discussions with LRS vendors, though, it seems that the real value will come down the road, as most projects currently are limited pilot implementations tied to a specific project. Starting small and building out certainly makes sense to us, but we’re eager to hear the results and see the implications for for learning management systems.

Learning Content Management Systems (LCMSes)

LCMSes have been around for a while, and you’re more likely to be familiar with them than the other two categories of learning technologies I’m talking about here.

But what’s new, in my opinion, is the increasing need for multi-channel digital publishing so you can support a range of devices (laptops and desktops to tablets and smart phones). The beauty of an LCMS is that it can help you automate that multi-channel prep work by building out a database of learning objects that get pulled together dynamically in a way that rapid development tools usually can’t.

LCMS vendors dominKnow and Xyleme were on the floor at the ASTD conference.

If you’re using an LCMS, an LRS, or a technology to support spaced learning, we’d love to hear from you about how it’s going.


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