Choosing an LMS
Choosing an LMS is a big decision for any company, since it requires an initial investment that makes it difficult to change your mind after the purchase has been made.
So, what do you need to consider when selecting an Learning Management System?
Stay away from a “one size fits all,” solution. Just as your organization is unique, your online training system will have unique requirements. Here are some things that will make you decision easier.
Which features do you need in an LMS solution? Come up with a feature checklist. To get started, answer the following questions:
- Do you need a hosted Learning Management System or one that is installed in-house?
- Do you need to keep track of training records only, or do you need to deliver and track training?
- Do you need authoring tools for your online training system?
- Do you use rapid eLearning tools that are SCORM compliant?
There are a couple of caveats to note here – any feature that you don’t need, that is included in the LMS, isn’t a benefit for you, no matter how great it is. Ideally you want to pay for the features that you will use, not a lot of extra fluff. That said, it’s important to have a vision of your future needs – so a solution that is scalable, and allows your training program to evolve over time is a better investment.
- Ease of Implementation:
How easy is the LMS solution to implement? This question really centers on how many resources your organization has to dedicate to both the implementation of the solution and the on-going maintenance of the software. Hosted LMS solutions (also known as ‘Software-as-a-Service’ or SaaS) are typically faster and easier to implement and require fewer dedicated resources. Upgrades and enhancements are included in your subscription price, and are available immediately. Your LMS environment can usually be setup in days – giving you time to populate the course library, add user information, import historical data, and setup customizations. And all maintenance of software, servers, and upgrades are addressed by the vendor. Installed LMS solutions usually require more dedicated resources, careful planning, and have a longer implementation track. The upside of this type of solution is that your organization has complete control over access to the software, security of the content, and integration with other in-house software systems you may use (HR, for example). Upgrades and enhancements usually come with an additional fee. Depending on your organization, the benefits of maintaining your data in-house may be worth the extra investment.
- Ease of Use:
How easy is the LMS to use, for learners, subject matter experts, course managers, and training administrators? The more intuitive the LMS interface, the easier it is to get buy in from trainers and learners alike. And if you have buy in, you know the system will be used and will ultimately be seen as a resource for your company, and not a liability. To really find out if the LMS is easy to use, see item 4 below.
- Test Drive the LMS:
Contact the vendors you’re considering and ask for a free trial of the LMS. Add 5-10 user accounts, so you can include a cross-section of people in the trial. Setup an account for a couple of course managers, a trainee, and an administrator. Add a course or two (is it easy to add a course – or did you need lots of help getting the course setup? do you have the software tools you need, or do you need to purchase additional software to create a course?) Have a learner take the course (even better, have everyone with an account take the course) – can they resume training easily? Can they search for the course they need? Was the navigation intuitive? Run reports – can you easily save reports to run again later? Can you automate reports, so you can get the regularly via email? Is there a report you need but don’t see listed?
- Check References
Ask for a few client references so you can find out how satisfied they are with the product and with customer support. Customer support is an important consideration in buying an LMS because your needs are likely to evolve – meaning you are going to have questions about features or how you use the product. Is customer service responsive to their needs? You may also want to find out if the implementation was a success, how easy/difficult it was, and how it has been received by the organization. Ask what they like best and least about the product – and make sure you try out those features when you next login.
Got further questions? Enquire now! »