Summary: An LMS designed for both professional and educational purposes
LMSs have become extremely popular as corporate training tools and the global growth of the eLearning market is expected to reach $31 Billion by the end of this year (Pappas, 2019).
So what can you do with an LMS? According to Wisetail, “you (can) create learning content, distribute it to your entire organization, track completions, and build a powerful community. An LMS is designed to streamline and manage everything you need to train your workforce in the most organized and productive way possible”.
In other words, Wisetail allows trainees to access training content at a time and place of their convenience – provided they have access to the internet – due to the asynchronous nature of the platform. It also provides learners with some variety of training content, for e.g. videos and text as well as links to external material. Quizzes can also be designed and uploaded to assess users on their learning.
Users are also awarded points for completing modules as well as badges and certificates for completing various stages in their training. This not only provides them with an indication of their performance on the platform but also with an extrinsic source of motivation.
Besides housing training material, Wisetail also provides opportunities for users to reach out to colleagues via their ‘Connect’ page which works like a simplified social media messaging application. Aside from encouraging users to interact with each other, they can also interact with the content through a ‘like content’ and ‘comment on content’ function – in so doing providing instructors with feedback on the training content.
From an instructor’s perspective, learner progress and activity are able to be measured through an extensive variety of inbuilt reports e.g. user module completion report or user test report. The platform also allows for some customization when it comes to designing training content and assessments.
Instructors are also aware of all the trainees on the platform since they need to create user profiles and also control module enrollment. Instructors can also provide different stakeholders with specific permissions, for e.g. managers are granted access to a trainee’s quiz scores or points.
To provide an element of gamification, instructors can allocate points, badges or certificates to specific modules and even design an online points store where trainees can redeem their points for company merchandise to cash rewards.
Critique and Implications for Education
I have used this platform to create online training material for onboarding new hires as well as existing employees in my current position as training manager for Mad Radish, a fast-food company with locations across Ontario.
It goes without saying that this mode of delivery is more suited to self-directed learners who are intrinsically motivated to complete the training course for professional reasons.
Furthermore, I have applied some of the principles of andragogy specifically that adult learners need to see immediate relevance and impact on their professional lives when it comes to the subject matter (Knowles, 2015). In this case, the content is very much aligned since they will be learning new concepts directly related to performing their jobs more effectively.
I also specifically chose to use videos of narrated slides with the narrator visible on screen to decrease the transactional distance (physical and perceived) between trainees and the content as well as between learners and the instructor. Transactional distance, according to Moore (1997) being the psychological or communicative space that separates the instructor from the learner in the transaction between them, and which occurs in the learning situation.
In addition, people learn better when the content is narrated in an informal, conversational style as opposed to a formal style (Mayer, 2001). Using narrated slides allows the instructor to apply Mayer’s Personalization Principle (Mayer, 2001) by personalizing the content using informal language when applicable and addressing learners directly.
From a business angle, adopting an LMS makes a lot of sense, not least because of the substantial direct and indirect savings especially when it comes to the costs associated with classroom training, for e.g. instructors, multiple copies of materials, and travel and living expenses (Sussman, 2005).
Another advantage of using Wisetail is its capacity to manage knowledge i.e. information is available to those who need it when they need it (Crocetti, 2002). This in turn plays an important role in enabling businesses to become ‘‘learning organizations’’ where new information can be obtained, housed in a central location and easily accessible to develop solutions in the face of new challenges.
Besides also providing companies with the possibility of standardizing training practices across departments and locations, thereby ensuring alignment and standards, Wisetail also allows management to link performance to training, where, in the words of Sussman (2005) specific training can be easily customized and delivered to employees who are performing poorly in some areas of their professional roles.
Finally, Wisetail is also an effective tool since all employees can be reached simultaneously through the many communication features of the platform.
When it comes to discussing the pros and cons of Wisetail from an instructor’s point of view, the picture is slightly more nuanced.
On the plus side, it is very simple and cost-effective to update existing material and there is no ‘waste’ as such. Another obvious advantage housing training content on Wisetail is that it is used to support hands-on training in stores.
Nevertheless, it also has its limitations. Firstly, it is challenging to create rapport, user engagement or a community of learning – even though there are social media-like functionalities on the platform due to the asynchronous approach of the training.
Assessment is also very limited to True/ False or multiple-choice questions and subsequently evaluation, although ‘automatized’, is very superficial. From an organizational level, is is necessary to go beyond this type of assessment and to evaluate trainees in everyday professional situations but, as mentioned by Crocetti (2002), this goes beyond the possibility of an LMS.
Another limitation is that Wisetail, like all web-based learning tools, also has a limited capacity to cater to different learning styles.
Other functionalities such as buttons on pages which provide link to other pages do not exist and this makes content development and design more challenging.
Lastly, as with all technology, glitches can occur and unfortunately tech-support can be slow in responding or resolving issues which impacts the user’s experience.
The picture is very similar if we consider a trainee’s perspective. Although following a course asynchronously provides you with choice when it comes to time, place and even device, for those trainees who prefer to learn with others, it can be a very lonely experience.
Similarly, although support is provided via email, this is not immediate and can leave those students who are not accustomed to learning online frustrated. That being said, according to Pappas (2019), 49% of global students have taken an online course in the last few years and since our employees are typically students, this is most probably a minority.
Wisetail also missed an opportunity to provide ‘feedback’ to users by not displaying the correct answers when completing quizzes.
On the other hand, Wisetail is multiplatform friendly and trainees can access it on various devices for e.g. mobiles phones, laptops or iPads. It also features a very intuitive user interface which decreases friction from new users.
Finally, as mentioned previously, it also provides some social learning supports through its ‘Connect’ and ‘Share’ pages which allow users to interact with each other and share their experiences.
Access and Cost
Wisetail is not a free tool and requires users – companies in this case – to pay a monthly subscription fee. Unfortunately this information is not openly available on the Wisetail website.
Overall Wisetail ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’. Web-based learning tools do have their inherent limitations and Wisetail is no exception. For purely corporate training functionalities, Wisetail is a useful tool that provides trainees with a workable online learning solution and also allows companies to measure employee performance. Furthermore, it has effective inbuilt reward systems that are highly customizable. Could it be improved? Yes, absolutely. The learner experience could be enhanced with better assessment and feedback mechanisms. Would I recommend this LMS as an effective online learning tool? Absolutely.
About the Author
Crocetti, C. (2002) Corporate learning – A knowledge management perspective. Retrieved from The Internet and Higher Education 4 (2002) 271 – 285
Knowles, M. et al (2015) The Adult Learner. Routledge, UK.
Mayer, R. E. (2001). Multimedia learning. Cambridge University Press, New York.
Moore, M. (1997). Theory of Transactional Distance. In Keegan, D. (1997). (Ed.). Theoretical Principles of Distance Education. Routledge. Retrieved from http://www.c3l.uni-oldenburg.de/cde/found/moore93.pdf
Pappas, C. (2019) Top Learning Management System (LMS) Statistics For 2020 You Need To Know. Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/top-learning-management-system-lms-statistics-for-2020-infographic
Sussman, D. (2005) The LMS Value. Retrieved from American Society for Training and Development, 07-2005