Janet Clarey sparked off some serious thinking in my head about, really, what we are measuring in terms of RoI on training initiatives. The post in question was Rob Wilkins’ Why do we sacrifice? and you can find our conversation in the comments (and hopefully contribute your thoughts too!). George raises some relevant ideas too in his post On the value of assessments.

I am really intrigued. How can we create metrics (and data collection parameters) so that we can derive RoI from the activities in a learning network?

Almost directly related is the question of how LMS providers, as reviewed in Janet’s series LMSs that kick ass, can contribute to this activity. Outstart believes the LMS and the Social Network are separate platforms, the former controls, tracks and reports on formal training initiatives while the latter enable rather than control informal learning. As Janet reports, Jeff Whitney from Outstart comments:

We developed our social media platform separate from our LMS as many informal learning initiatives do not require the formal reporting and tracking features of an LMS. But we also integrated the solution with our LMS to support activities like the invaluable, ad hoc student-to-student and student-to-instructor knowledge sharing that surround formal learning initiatives.

Charles Coy from Cornerstone makes an interesting comment:

Incorporating multiple modalities of learning is not the challenging part. We can build communities of practice into business workflows and develop social media environments. The challenges, in Cornerstone’s view, revolve around engagement and tracking. Getting people to contribute and then assessing the value of this 80% social learning element for the organization.

John Stearns from Generation21 has this to say:

Gen21’s product focus is on its core product functionality. To that end, core collaborative features in the LMS cover the key aspects of social media – collaborative authoring, wiki’s, messaging, message boards, interactive web environments, content rating, library, etc. Imaginative use of these functions achieves a reasonable level of “social” interaction

…….For Gen21, social media is simply another analogous function that clients may choose to use in their learning toolkit. The elements of social media in our LMS are those that related most directly to our mission to enable learning.

Will Hipwell from Geolearning makes a strong assertion that I would love to see in action:

GeoLearning’s GeoEngage module facilitates Communities of Practice (CoPs), enables social networking, and provides access to Web 2.0 technologies like Chat, instant messaging, email, file sharing and uploading, resource library, blogging, wikis, discussion groups and RSS feeds. These are all integrated with our LMS platform so that informal learning can still be tracked, managed and measured as easily as more formal training programs. (emphasis added)

And this one from Dave Wilkins at Mzinga got me really intrigued:

Alternately, for companies ready to move beyond a course- and LMS-centric view of social learning, Mzinga can provide a Community strategy where social networking and social media are more prominently featured and formal learning elements take on supporting roles. In this model, Mzinga “hides” the LMS, but still exposes certifications, compliance, curriculum, virtual classroom, and courses through deep, direct links. (emphasis added)

There are others that Janet talked with such as ElementK and Meridian that are interesting reads. It seems to be clear that LMS providers have integrated social media functions to a large degree, in one way or the other. And that some seem to have some tracking and reporting linkages as well, though I don’t know to what level of detail or with what specific approach in mind.

Would love to hear from the community what they feel!

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