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LMS vs. LRS: How and Why They're Different

If you have been in the eLearning industry for a while, you know that the platforms commonly used by companies to manage online courses are LMS (Learning Management System).

However, in the last 5-10 years, the introduction of new technologies, such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence, mobile learning, microlearning, and social learning, has spurred the emergence of other technologies, which are certainly changing the eLearning landscape, for instance: Learning Record Stores (LRS).

In this article, with the intention of informing organizational leaders about the new concepts, we will share a short explanation of the most significant specifications of each technology (LMS and LRS), their main differences, and why the LRS and the LMS are not opposite technologies, but tools that can be used in a complementary way to take corporate learning to the next level.

Before getting into the explanation, let's take a step back:

How People Learn

Chances are, the first time you had to study for a specific topic was when you were preparing yourself for some test at school. Before that, you learned to walk, brush your teeth before going to sleep and not throwing stones at the neighbor's dog. For none of this you had to read a book, you learned it by trying, listening to other people, and through observation. This type of learning is informal learning, it is intuitive, and it is the natural environment by which we obtain useful information and tools to liver.

When we go to school, we learn guided by a system designed and supervised by others. You go to a place dedicated to training, where there are people trained to guide you, curriculum and methods that help you understand complex topics. This process is not intuitive; its organized and supervised by professionals who track your progress, collect information to improve the system, and make sure there are no important things left along the way. This type of learning is called formal learning.

In the corporate digital environment, these two categories also exist.

Also read: Road Map to Success: Mobile Learning Essentials

Learning is Part of Everyday Work: Informal + Formal Learning

Companies across industries have been using learning management platforms (LMSs) to organize content, activities, and performance assessments. These platforms collect information about their collaborators and are regulated by administrators/supervisors, who make sure they function as an extension of the course. Everything they include is part of each organization's professional growth and reskilling plan. They represent formal formation.

Informal training is everything else: learning through mobile apps, games, and any content you can access over the internet, anytime, anywhere. In other words: "learning in the flow of work'. 

Also read: 

How to Promote Self-Directed Learning in Your Company

Learning Is Not a One-Time Event! Promote Continuous Learning

Let's Review: What is an LMS?

The platforms through which companies offer formal learning content and activities are called LMS (Learning Management System).

The LMS has some functions that an LRS does not have, for example: ·

  • User management Content management and delivery · Tracking compliance requirements Email integration.
  • Collaboration forums
  • Announcements
  • Delivery of activities such as quizzes and evaluations
  • Programming and managing in-person event resources.
  • Classroom asset management
  • Certifications and recognitions
  • Skills recognition

LMS's have data buckets that they collect from their users' activities. This data is used to improve their performance, provide better tools, track each student, and personalize their experience. This is one of the advantages of using these platforms: not only does it allow you to access information in an orderly manner, but there is also a team of people who review the performance of users and the usefulness of the content delivered.

The downside is that the amount of information that these systems offer learning leaders is quite limited. In addition, LMS does not have a record of informal learning, or offline, so they cannot offer new learning paths outside the system.

Welcome to The 21st Century: Learning Happens Everywhere 

Something similar happens while we go to school. In addition to learning through the institution, we continue to learn through direct experience. Some sources of informal learning at this stage are our family, friends, activities we do in our free time and anything we are interested in and decide to investigate on our own. The information we obtain from this informal learning, unlike what happens in school, is not recorded in an institution. A caring family or dedicated tutor can follow a person's informal learning and create opportunities and paths for skills that an institution's curriculum does not include to exploit. If we are attentive, we too can regulate our learning, and look for stimuli and environments that motivate us. Effective communication between a school, family, and student, shortens the distances between learning channels and helps each channel complement others. Despite this, some of the information that can be obtained from informal learning is lost.

In the eLearning world, this means that our employees learn both inside and outside their classrooms, homes and LMS systems. They use online games, videos, peer conversations, and other eLearning and mobile learning solutions to complement the "formal" experience they have at work. 

Also read: What Do Modern Learners Actually Want From Your eLearning Courses?

The good news is that we can now track those "informal" learning experiences with the use of an LRS with xAPI technology.

What is an LRS?

In digital environments there is a technology that can record activity and collect information from all the media with which the learner interacts. This technology is called LRS (Learning Record Store).

An LRS stores interaction data with applications, social platforms, other websites, LMS platforms, and talent systems, and produces reports for a broad picture of a user's offline and online activities. Thus, a company can have clear control of all user interactions and their learning experience outside the LMS.

The Learning Record Store (LRS) stores data about learning experiences from a variety of sources, known as activity providers, in xAPI format:

  • eLearning course
  • Websites
  • Games
  • Simulations
  • Quizzes
  • Videos

One of the most notable differences between the two technologies is the flexibility of the LRS. This technology does a better job of storing and keeping records than a typical LMS.

In addition, most LMS's are not designed to track social learning experiences, while LRS is.

Another significant difference is that in most cases, students will never see the LRS or even realize that it exists; all the data relevant to them will be extracted and displayed within a student-oriented system. The student does not access an LRS, unlike an LMS. It is simply a repository of data collected during learning.

LRS & Big Data - The Corporate Learning Revolution

Organizations have never been under so much pressure to measure the impact of their learning programs and demonstrate their value. LRS technology is now really the key technology to collecting, visualizing, and analyzing learning data today in companies.

Traditionally, an LMS reports only data within your system, limiting your ability to track all the learning that is happening in your organization. However, an LRS allows companies to capture and track a wider variety of information about their students and activities from multiple systems, including their LMS.

For example, an LRS can collect data about face-to-face training, learning accessed at work, and many other learning touchpoints or student activities. This means you have valuable knowledge about both your students' progress and behavior... and your learning programs. The data from these experiences is stored in the LRS and can be shared with other systems that provide advanced reporting. As a result, using a quality LRS, the full range of formal and informal learning activities can be measured, visualized, and reported with robust business performance data, in one central location.

With xAPI, the eLearning specification that enables data collection from all your learning systems, the LRS triggers a whole new approach to corporate learning. With access to countless data, corporate leaders now can measure not only the level of "engagement" of employees, progress, and performance, but also the impact on business KPIs. This is a real change in the business context, as you can immediately visualize where the value of the learning content is. Therefore, companies can invest in the future while continuously improving their workforce, and students can receive learning that really works for them.

LMS + LRS = Complementary Technologies

Is it possible to have an LMS and an LRS at the same time? Yes, by adding an LRS hosted by your company, you will have an ideal ecosystem. This will give you the agility you'll need in the coming years in an ever-evolving industry

. While LMS is an especially useful platform for organizing formal learning, THE LRS is the technology that allows these platforms to be incorporated as part of a broader learning environment, including other, less traditional channels. They are not exclusive and can be used in a complementary way by a company: they are technologies that are enhanced together. The LRS is a monitor that observes and records student activities in digital environments, extracts data, and generates useful reports to optimize content, activities, and curriculum.

The LMS is the platform through which the company offers formal training content, activities, and evaluations. In other words, the LRS is intended to increase the capabilities of an LMS by storing, classifying, and sharing all learning data collected within the LMS. This diagram shows the LRS as a stand-alone system, but as the LRS. can also be incorporated into an LMS. In this scenario, reports and analyses can be left to the LMS for you to provide, using data from the LRS. Are you ready to demonstrate the effectiveness of your corporate learning programs? Do you want to implement an LRS in your company? Contact us here.

 

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