Get The Most Out Of Your Learning Management System

Originally Published in the Summer 2020 Quality Management Forum

By Joe Wojniak, ASQ CMQ/OE, CQE

Are you dissatisfied with learning and development at your company or organization? In an article published by the Harvard Business Review, “Where Companies Go Wrong with Learning and Development” (Glaveski, 2019), 75% of 1,500 managers surveyed from across 50 organizations were dissatisfied with their company’s learning and development function.

The dissatisfaction isn’t limited to management, either. The same article cites statistics that 70% of employees feel that they don’t have the skills needed for their jobs, and only 12% of employees actually apply new skills learned in on-the-job training and development programs. This does not paint a pretty picture:473e0cc37ac959c0c2327dbb75fbd8e8-huge-ar
  • Management is dissatisfied with results
  • Employees don’t have the skills needed to do their jobs
  • Few employees use what they’ve learned on the job
  • Very few employees feel that training improved their performance (Andriotis, 2017)
So what’s going on? There’s a clear need for training, but management and employees don’t believe that the training they are getting can be applied to their jobs or that it can improve their performance. Can we break this cycle? Yes, by implementing Just-In-Time (JIT) training.

JIT training isn’t new, but it is effective—train people on what they need to know, when they need to know it. Being able to apply learning immediately after or as part of training to real world scenarios improves retention and skill mastery. The HBR article mentioned above suggests that our biology uses forgetfulness as an energy- and calorie-saving strategy and that applying the new knowledge and being exposed to the new information repeatedly over increasing time intervals helps improve knowledge retention:
Figure 1 - Read and Acknowledge Training

We can blame biology—and our innate, evolutionary desire for survival—for the fact that humans quickly forget what we learn. As Matthieu Boisgontier, of the University of British Columbia’s brain behavior lab put it, “Conserving energy has been essential for humans’ survival, as it allowed us to be more efficient in searching for food and shelter, competing for sexual partners, and avoiding predators.” As a result, our brains quickly forget what we don’t use. Incorporating new learning into your work is one way to retain knowledge. Another is spaced repetition. Originally proposed by psychologist Cecil Alec Mace in 1932, it refers to spreading learning out over time (material should be reviewed in gradually increasing intervals of roughly one day, two days, four days, eight days, and so on). This approach takes advantage of the psychological spacing effect, which demonstrates a strong link between the periodic exposure to information and retention. Studies show that by using spaced repetition, we can remember about 80% of what we learn after 60 days—a significant improvement [emphasis added]. (Glaveski, 2019)

We need training on the things we need to know, when we need it, we then need to use it, and we need to repeat the training at intervals. Learning management systems typically do not implement this learning sequence. For many compliance-focused training programs, training means having employees read materials and acknowledge that they’ve understood the material (Figure 1). This is bare bones compliance; little or no effort is placed on assessing training effectiveness. Training content is pushed out by job function categories, and there is little effort to tailor content to the individual employee.

An improvement upon this is to incorporate quizzes to test what the employee has learned. This measures retention (Figure 2). Unfortunately, because retention is near 100% shortly after the time of training, such testing is not representative of what the employee will retain in the future.
Figure 2 - A Drag and Drop Exercise, Demonstrating the Learner's Short-Term Retention of Knowledge

In many ways, this explains why it is so difficult to implement effective training. There’s inherent inefficiency due to built-in, biologically-driven forgetfulness. We remember information that is immediately useful, but if we’re not using the information, we don’t need it—and it’s forgotten.

Remember libraries? Libraries systematically organize information. Businesses and organizations need to systematically organize the information that is meaningful to their activities in a way that employees can access it when they need it. Such access should not be based upon an arbitrary schedule. Learning is situationally dependent based upon the needs of the employee and the current challenges. If one’s job is routine, then perhaps training on a schedule might work.  But if the employee is faced with constantly changing circumstances, then perhaps training that would be most effective is need-based and JIT in nature. Let’s learn to learn, when we need to learn.

Meta-Learning (Learning to Learn)

The five steps of meta-learning are (Maudsley, 1979):
  1. State a theory
  2. Work in a safe supportive social and physical environment
  3. Discover and internalize rules and assumptions
  4. Reconnect with reality-information from the environment
  5. Reorganize the learning by changing the learned rules and assumptions.
In effect, we each need to be individually responsible for what we learn and to the extent possible, what we “know.” How then does the organization encourage employees to learn, to take responsibility for their own internal path to knowledge? The second step of meta-learning suggests an important aspect of the learning process—that there needs to be a “safe supportive social and physical environment.” Establishing this environment can be one of the purposes of forming organizations in the first place.

Getting the Most Out of Your Learning Management System

We can optimize the results of learning management systems by recognizing the limits of technology, what it can and can’t do. We also need to understand how people learn and the environments that support learning. We each are responsible for what we learn, and we continually learn new information to address the present needs and challenges of the day. Our best learning management system may be between our own ears!

Engaging the Learner

Pushed information out of context does not engage the learner. First, we need to understand what motivates each learner and then provide a delivery system that supports individual learning styles and interests. Environments where learners have an opportunity to teach each other have shown improved effectiveness both
in knowledge retention and in being able to apply new knowledge. In “Deconstructing 70-20-10,” Dr. Tom Whelan’s Training research shows that training is most effective when learning comes in these ratios:
  • 55% from on-the-job experiences
  • 25% from social sources such as interactions with others
  • 20% from formal educational events
    Figure 3 - Student Page with Learning Resources
Shared learning experiences can be delivered via web conferencing, live videos, and saved videos; and they can be supported by learning exercises. A couple of examples are SSD Global’s Leaner Six Sigma Training Programs (Figure 3) and Udacity’s Nanodegree Programs (Figure 5).

SSD Global provides in-person training and concurrent live web sessions to engage larger and remote audiences. The student page provides accessible resources both during the training and after the training is completed, so that students can return and reinforce their knowledge by reviewing content when they need to apply it.
North America:
Android 47.27%, iPhone 52.28%7
Android 74.45%, iPhone 22.85%7
Figure 4 - Android and iPhone users in North America and Global

Udacity provides nanodegrees in different computer programming and data science areas. One very popular program is the Android Developer Nanodegree. When people use smartphones, 47.27% in North America and 74.45% globally (Casserly, 2019), many are using a smartphone that uses the Android Operating System (OS). See Figure 4. The Android OS runs apps on your phone, helps you make phone calls, lets you take pictures, updates your calendar, gives you Instant Messages. In order to make all this work, programmers and developers write and update the apps used by the phone. There is growing demand for mobile devices, smartphones, and tablets, and as this demand grows there continues to be a need for more developers. Udacity trains developers using a web-based, purpose-built Learning Management System (LMS.)

After logging into, the student is presented with a dashboard interface (Figure 5). For each learning program or module, there is a list of activities along the left-hand navigation bar.
b42aa053a2997a00930759834dff1a7a-huge-ic The light bulb is the knowledge center, where students can look up answers to questions that other students have posted.
bf9125047d071fcffb72050b72ce8297-huge-ic The purple comment icon is the Student Hub, where students can interact and support each other by answering questions and working on project problems cooperatively.
Figure 5 - Udacity LMS Dashboard

Completion of the nanodegree is recognized with a certificate (Figure 6), which is validated and can only be issued to the student who completed the program. Students can share their certificates using a link to the Udacity website:
Figure 6 - Udacity Nanodegree Certificate
About the author

Joe Wojniak has been a member of ASQ since 2002. He holds the following ASQ certifications- Certified Manager of Quality/ Organizational Excellence and Certified Quality Engineer. Joe is currently a Senior Quality Engineer at Medtronic in Louisville, CO supporting many exciting medical device products and systems. Most recently, Joe completed a Design for Six Sigma Black Belt in Medtronic’s Design, Reliability, and Manufacturing Program. Joe is also a member of the ASQ Quality Management Division’s Training and Development Content Management Committee, contributing to the recent revision of The Certified Manager of Quality/ Organizational Excellence Handbook (not yet released.)

The learning management system has come of age, with a wide variety of content and topics provided on very different platforms. Everything from out-of-the-box software platforms to customized content providers such as SSD Global and Udacity.


Andriotis, N. (2017, October 19). What is Just-in Time training (and how to adopt it in corporate training). Retrieved from

Casserly, M. (2019, February 8). Which is the more popular platform: iPhone or Android? Retrieved from

Glaveski, S. (2019, October 2). Where companies go wrong with learning and development. Retrieved from

Learn the Latest Tech Skills; Advance Your Career. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Maudsley, D. B. (1979). A Theory of Meta-Learning and Principles of Facilitation: An Organismic Perspective. University of Toronto. Retrieved from

Student Page. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Whelan, T. (2018). Deconstructing 70–20-10. Training Retrieved from
Posted by Jerry Rice on Sep 24, 2020 6:03 PM America/Chicago


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