Five Factors to Consider When Learning in the Cloud
Cloud computing, in the most basic sense, is the use of services provided by a number of servers accessible via the Internet. There are a range of cloud providers large and small that deliver a variety of computing services from simple data storage to comprehensive applications. According to Gartner, the public cloud computing market grew 18.5 percent in 2013, totaling $131 billion worldwide.
In the world of learning, professionals continue to accept cloud technology faster than any other area of HR software simply due to its convenience, reduced administration and better user experience. While learning systems are critically important to maintaining the ongoing health of a business, they are often low on the priority list than other business systems such as sales, finance and payroll.
In order to raise the bar and make a cloud-based learning management system (LMS) a higher priority, here are a few things to consider when looking for your next LMS.
One of the obvious benefits of licensing a cloud-based LMS for your learning needs is the elimination of upfront investments such as building out and supporting a technical infrastructure. Most cloud providers license by seats, allowing you to pay for what you need and avoid capital expenditures.
This becomes even more critical given that learning departments are under pressure to keep costs under control. Recent research indicates L&D staffs are drastically reduced as compared to five years ago. Reduced L&D staffs can do more with less and effectively leverage their team members with the cloud resources at their disposal.
Cloud computing companies invest heavily in architecting solutions that are robust enough to connect with users wherever they are. This gives you the ability to drive more learning to more people with lowered wait times and a better overall learning experience.
With cloud computing, employees simply need a computer or mobile device, a browser and a connection to the Internet and they have consistent, secure access and saved progress if their connection is lost. Connectivity today has gotten so good that employees can literally access learning while flying on commercial airlines.
Cloud vendors’ systems are designed to provide high redundancy and availability. They provide services on a scale out of reach for most corporate IT departments. In addition, cloud vendors know their system better than a corporate IT generalist — making incident response faster. In short, the cloud enables a higher level of reliability at much lower cost.
Most vendors who provide cloud-based solutions spend a great deal of time and effort to provide multiple layers of security, ensuring the protection of your data. Cloud vendors must maintain security standards that ensure the integrity of the most security sensitive customer’s data and content both -foreign and domestic. These high standards are then applied across the board to all hosted customers. To be truly secure you should choose a trusted organization that follows best practices such as auditing their applications regularly, sharing results and making plans to identify security issues.
Cloud-based learning solutions can stand-alone or integrate with your other HR and business solutions. Cloud providers know they have to integrate with other corporate applications so they are more likely to have well-established, standards-based solutions for integration. That said, integration time and ease varies from vendor to vendor so you need to ask what types of integrations are supported and how easy they are to implement. A few examples of common integration points with a typical LMS include:
- Organizational data from an HR system drives learner account management and other LMS data.
- Users seamlessly move to and from the LMS without requiring additional authentication.
- Data captured by the LMS can be automatically exported, combined with other data, analyzed, or stored in other systems of record so you can track the success of your programs.
- Users search across assets in the LMS and sometimes federate information from other sources such as document management systems.
- The LMS integrates with talent management systems to simplify the user’s learning experience if the focus is on developing specific skills.
Like any software solution, there are cloud implementations that are well thought-out and quite robust, and others that are not as reliable. Before you make a decision on a cloud-based LMS, make sure you consider the topics we’ve discussed, in the end it’s about making a decision that makes sense for your organization.
For more information and a complete look at this list you can view the complete whitepaper here.
Jim Zimmermann is the Director of Research Products at Skillsoft.
Written for TrainingIndustry.com