Online learning without an LMS

Your organisation wants to get into online learning.

The default solution is usually to find a learning management system and an authoring tool, and then go from there.

Is that the only answer?

Join the conversation on LinkedIn

As a number of people suggested a week or so ago when I raised this question on LinkedIn, the answer, of course, is no.

There are many ways to take your learning activities online. Please get this straight… you do NOT need an LMS and and authoring tool. Only buy into that approach if you know exactly why you want to.

The way you go online will depend very much on your organisation, what you’re trying to achieve, and the people you’re working with.

I’ve identified four types of approach, which you can mix and match: Curate, Create, Converse, Check


Find teaching materials that do what your people need, and link out to them.

You’ll need somewhere to put those links. That could just be a document that you share, but you’ll probably soon want to move up to a web page that you can update easily. Try to use systems you have in place already, like Sharepoint or Google Sites.


Documents, web pages, audio files or videos. These are often way more useful than an elearning package. Host them wherever you can. Even a simple Sharepoint site. You don’t need to spend vast amounts of money.

There’s a huge amount of guidance on the web about effective writing, audio recording and video production. You’ll make mistakes at first. It won’t be perfect. But keep practising and you’ll get better.

Of course, you can’t track who’s using your materials, but why would you want to?


Conversation is one of the most powerful learning mediums. Whether it’s just an exchange of information. Or proposing and defending ideas. Or deeper feedback and reflection.

Start with the tools you have available, like email, Slack, Zoom, Teams, Yammer, Facebook Workplace etc.

There’s a whole art to using online tools for quality conversations. Don’t expect too much too soon…


To be effective, all learning experiences need a feedback loop. That might be just trial and error. It might be feedback from a colleague or a coach. Or it might be automated feedback from an assessment mechanism.

It’s only when you get into the last of those that you might want to start thinking about an LMS or similar system.

The simplest approach is to build in “trial and error” points into your learning design. Eg. This is how it should work. Is that how it’s working for you? If not, what are the things that could be going wrong?

Don’t think that the LMS will make things easier. Yes, it allows you to deliver assessments at scale. That’s fine as long as you’ve put in the time and effort to make those assessments valid and reliable.

Posted: 06 June 2021

Tags: Resources Supplier selection Learning design Content management

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