Why Usability is Critical in a Learning Management System
Usability and Ease of Use
Ease of use means having incredibly successful usability. When your product is easy to use that means the developers put a major focus on usability. And when usability is a primary factor in software development, that software will have great usability.
Imagine your favorite software application. Have you ever wondered why you like it? Conversely, imagine your most frustrating experience with software. What was that like? We've all had experiences with great usability and poor usability. But we often forget about the pain usability caused once we get past the poor usability issue. Sometimes we even blame ourselves for not being able to "figure it out". But after thinking about your experiences consider what might have made the experience better. You might consider software usable if it's quick and easy to learn, efficient to use, you and the system can recover quickly from errors, and operations are easy to remember.
However, "easy" is a relative term. What might seem easy to one person, becomes another person's nightmare. That's why getting to "easy" is...well... NOT easy. Cirque de Soleil performers make acrobatics look easy. But we all know the perceived "easiness" took each acrobat tens of thousands of practice hours to achieve. Of course good usability doesn't often require 10,000 hours to achieve, but it does require a significant amount of attention and time. Often more time and effort than many businesses are willing to put into it. This is why finding an "easy to use" learning management system should be one of your top requirements. When a business respects usability, they show respect to YOU, the user.
A Usable Learning Management System is Easy to use
When your LMS is easy to use...people will actually USE IT! And when your employees are using your learning management system they are engaging with you, the training department. They are engaging with the content you provide and with their colleagues within the business. Especially when instructor-led training is part of your blended course design. Engagement drives collaboration, participation in the training process, and learning. Course content creates conversations. Conversations expose difficulties, and problems with the business. Errors are discovered. New ideas are shared. Ultimately the business gets better.
As a training professional, your learning management system is the heart of your department. Many LMSs claim ease of use for the end user, the learner, but the claim fails to support the administrative features. Your LMS should be focused on usability for the administrative features as well as the end user experience. Usability applies to ALL users. If you, the manager and administrator, are not happy to use the LMS then the employees you serve won't be happy either. Sales teams rely on a CRM to manage their work, and you rely on an LMS for yours. Your ability to use the product is critical and equally important to the business.
Access to Information Often Solves Training Problems
When you have a usable LMS you will discover that you have the ability to solve non-training problems as well. Access to the right information at the right time is a major issue within many companies. It's the type of problem that has no real owner. Everyone is frustrated by the difficulty in finding documents and other resources. But each employee or department creates their own work arounds to get what they need. Access is big part of usability.
In your efforts to creating training courses you will encounter this frustration as you begin to have conversations with subject matter experts within the organization. You will discover previously unknown shared drives, private hard drives, document sharing services accessible only by one department, and more. By discovering these hidden mines of content gems you have a unique opportunity to add business value quickly, because lack of information is often the driver of many training requests.
You originally set out to polish up these gems, grind them down, and set them into the perfect instructional design of your training course. Before you do that, try simply making the content accessible in the LMS. I've discovered on more than one occasion that simply making original content available eliminates the perceived need for a completely, and often over-designed, development of a course. I originally discovered this after enjoying the usability of Litmos as a training manager.
The content you find may be a powerpoint document created by engineers to present a new product. And in your discovery process you may have also come across specification documentation as well. Create a course in your LMS and upload each element as a module in that course. You could even quickly create an assessment based on what you learned along the way. Your course structure might end up looking something like this:
Module: Powerpoint uploaded
Module: Spec. doc 1 uploaded
Module: Spec. doc 2 uploaded
Many traditional instructional designers will balk at this iterative development process. I understand why many trainers cannot accept this approach. But let's take a look at why it works and what problems it solves.
The immediate problem is access. Requests for training often come from those who have little or no access to the shared drives of other departments. As the training manager you are the middle man between those who NEED the information, and those who HAVE it. Spending a lot of time perfecting a course design and development is overkill. Putting the content immediately into a course as is provides access to content otherwise hidden from those who need it. The best part is that you can still spend time designing and developing the perfect course to your satisfaction. However, you will most likely find that doing so is no longer necessary.
Time is money. And the sooner you solve business problems the less money it takes and the more value you add. If a business problem can be solved by providing access to information in the form of "training", then why not? Waiting until perfect is not a strategy. Solve business problems on your way to creating great training. Providing access supports the learning process first and addresses training development processes second.
Take Litmos for a test drive and experience the usability for yourself.