Thursday, 4 April 2013

Servicing your LMS

In New Zealand it’s the WOF (Warrant of Fitness) in the UK it was the MOT, but whatever you call it and wherever you are there’s something you should do every year (or 6 months if you drive an old car like me) to make sure your car or beloved motorbike (incidentally worth several time what my car is worth) is actually fit for purpose.  Funny thing is that organisations invest significantly in their Learning Management Systems (or LMSs) but how often do they ever check on their fitness for purpose?

First thing to realise is that if you don’t regularly service any piece of equipment for an extended period of time it falls out of shape.  Try skipping the dentist a few years and see what you get… the trick is to keep servicing, keep checking and never letting it get too far out of shape.  I play sport and have done since I was… well it’s been a while and long as I can remember.  Give or take an injury or two I’ve never stopped playing and that’s probably why I’m still able to play at a reasonable level at my ripe old age.  Again it’s harder to start up again then to just keep going, it’s that regular servicing that keeps things working the way they should and stops you getting strains in the most inconvenient of places.

There are lots of places to get your LMS serviced, from the official places that only check fitness (and won’t make any corrections) to large chains of garages and even the dodgy little place round the corner (and some cowboys to boot).  Picking the right one is best done by listening to people, trusting what you see, hear and feel and ultimately by the way you feel when you drive away.  Same thing for getting someone to service your LMS.  There may not be that many LMS service centres, but don’t forget there are millions of cars (yeah, even in New Zealand) and relatively few LMSs so it’s all relative.  Funny thing is the same rules apply, you have to listen to what other people say, looking and evaluating as you go, but ultimately how you feel after the service period is the best way of knowing whether you should return.

Of course an LMS and  a motor vehicle are hardly the same things at heart, in both cases how you use the thing is perhaps more important than the technical capabilities of the thing itself.  The difference in your LMS WOF is that it is as much about how you use it as it is about the way it works, it’s a meeting of man and machine and the overall effectiveness that counts.  As ever in Learning Technologies you need to choose your mechanic wisely and find one that really speaks your language not just the mystical language of tappets and bearings.

Finally remember that when your vehicle is failing badly it may just be time to trade it in or buy a new one.  If you (or your predecessor) roped you in to a long-term deal (I still can’t believe some vendors persist in this) you may have to suck it up for a while but you should already be eying up and checking the performance of the new model.  If you haven’t considered looking at Open Source too, then you probably have already limited yourself to the expensive European market without considering those ‘other’ vehicles that are technically far better at a fraction of the cost with more options and add-ins than you can shake a stick at (the one you should have beat your predecessor with for tying you in for this long).

As a post-statement remember that everything above holds firm equally for motor vehicles and LMSs, but in absolutely no way bears any relevance to your partner.  Servicing, trading in and upgrading are thoughts that should go no further and a lock-in period (even if that period is ‘til death) is part of the deal if you want to secure the ultimate package.