You don’t have an LMS yet? Trust me, you need one.
You have an LMS but it gives you a hard time because it’s no longer in sync with your training and development needs? It takes a long time to do pretty much anything, can’t rely on reporting and users are complaining about (or simply mock) the old technology? Trust your own judgement, you need a new one.
The good news is, the market is now teaming with LMS solutions for every type of organization and a wide range of expectations and needs. The not so good news is that buying a LMS is a decision to be made for a longer period of time so it is really important do pick the right one.
5 questions to ask yourself before buying a LMS
I’ve already talked about the main types of Learning Management Systems with their advantages and potential shortcomings, now here are the main questions to ask before venturing into an LMS purchase.
What formats will your LMS have to support?
Learning managers and instructional designers are best qualified to assess both what valuable already existing content will have to be deployed using the new LMS and what types of materials it will need to sustain in the future.
The learning domain is a very flexible and dynamic one, constantly adapting to new technological trends on the market. Something unseen before comes out almost each month.
Therefore, it’s crucial that any learning system can act as a link between the past and the future, ideally managing to intertwine the two by adding fresh features to older (but still viable) modules.
What standards will it need to meet?
Standards are generally-agreed ways of doing something. They are very necessary to achieve some consistency and to avoid total chaos. When it comes to LMSs there are a few of these.
Before deciding on what product to buy, the decision makers have to take into account the product’s capacity to abide by either AICC, SCORM, xAPI and lately cmi5.
It’s the vendor’s job to make it compliant by at least one standard but it’s still better to check before signing on. It’s also a good idea to first figure out which standard is best for the way learning is done in the organization.
What are the most important features for the organization?
An LMS normally has to do quite a number of things and all (or most) of them are important for the corporate learning process. It’s best, however, to have a prioritization of all these features in order to figure out which are most significant in relation to the needs of your business.
Is it reporting, social networking, single sign-on, dedicated technical support?
It works best if decision makers draw up their own list instead of using one provided by the vendor and putting little check marks on that – there’s a good chance everything will seem essential and ‘must-have’ because they have marketing people too.
Who are your LMS administrators and what are their skills?
There is not one LMS that is not advertised as ‘easy to use’. That may be true, once you learn the ropes but for the most part, everything that is new presents at least some challenges. Having a good idea of who will be in charge of running the LMS is paramount in deciding how intuitive it will have to be.
When I was a trainer in a telecom corporation, the learning consultants were running the LMS – their ball park was learning and development, not technology so the fact that our system was not really user friendly proved to be quite a pain.
Some vendors offer administration features which sounds great but it’s advisable to negotiate tasks and response times.
What is your budget?
You may be tempted to think that this should really be the first thing to consider. If you start like that, however, you might miss some elements that you will find really important and cost-efficient in the long run.
When thinking about the budget, keep in mind that apart from the initial implementation investment and the monthly fees, the organization might also have to invest in infrastructure – such as servers and internet connections.
If you are considering a LMS that goes by user-based subscription, it is best to negotiate the price and how it should vary in connection to the number of enrollments. How additional developments will be made and billed also needs to be considered.
The answers to these six questions are important in making the best decision. Yet they may not be the only relevant ones for your organization so if you are looking for inspiration, here’s the exhaustive list of everything anyone could ever want to know about a LMS.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.