The Key to Managing Staff Training: A Learning Management System

Article excerpt

Because the field of corrections is a specialized, evolving field, staff receive an extensive amount of preservice and in-service training. Ensuring that staff receive the training they need--the what, where and when--requires a concerted effort on the part of all training staff. Managing the process of scheduling/assigning courses, monitoring staff progress and documenting course completions in order to comply with legal, judicial and ACA standards requirements is one of the most challenging responsibilities of managing staff training. In the distant past, before computers and cell phones, records were kept manually, requiring a deep trail of paper. Today's technology has drastically transformed the learning landscape. Perhaps the best way to manage training, regardless of the number of staff or type of training programs, is by using a learning management system.

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A Learning Management System

A learning management system (LMS) is "software designed to manage, track and quantify all of an organization's learning activities." (1) An LMS offers benefits from the standpoint of both learning outcomes and training operations. It addresses four basic categories of learning:2

* Initial--acquiring knowledge and skills for the first time;

* Continued extending knowledge and skills in a particular field;

* Refresher--refreshing knowledge and skills (may be done for remedial purposes as well); and

* Upgrade--moving to a higher level of competence in knowledge and skills already acquired.

In addition, a well-designed LMS streamlines and strengthens training operations by:

* Centralizing and automating administration for all training programs, including classroom-based;

* Assigning and tracking each learner's progress--e.g., assigned groups of courses and classroom trainings;

* Storing records for each learner;

* Generating reports on learners' progress and training completions;

* Securing all training documentation; and

* Managing and deploying e-learning.

Respondents to a survey by the American Society for Training and Development identified centralizing the management of learning as the number-one reason for having access to a learning management system. Table 1 rates the most valuable features of an LMS based on survey responses. Although the percentages would undoubtedly change if the respondents were in the corrections field, the value and necessity of the features is universal.

Table 1. Learning Management Systems

Learning Management Systems

FEATURE                       PERCENTAGE

Reporting                           52.8
ComOance and Tracking               46.5
Assessment and Testing              42.5
Learner-Centered                    39.4
Content Management                  29.9
Course Catalog                      28.3
Security                            14.2

Learning Circuits, American Society for Training and Development,
2009

A good, effective LMS needs these key features. However, both technology and training experts agree that usability or ease of use belongs at the top of the list. As one learning professional explained, "Good [online] training shouldn't have a large learning curve, or, for that matter, any learning curve. It should be practically invisible. Users should be able to hop right on and begin training without being challenged by a confusing interface. The same goes for trainers--they shouldn't have to jump through hoops to create online training modules or generate the reports and documentation that they need." (3)

Selecting a LMS

Selecting a LMS that fits both learning and operational needs is critical, as illustrated by the results of a study by the Masie Center (4) in which participants critiqued the LMSes currently being used by their organizations. (5) In response to the question, "Assuming you had the authority and resources, would you replace your current learning system? …