Navigating The Minefield of Learning Management System LMS Procurement
You have been won over by the benefits of eLearning, and now, after several sessions deliberating and reflecting upon the pros and cons of having control of your own Learning Management System (LMS), your organization has finally settled on the idea.
During your analysis phase, you will undoubtedly have come across the various facts and stats that show a Learning Management System (LMS) is one of the best investments that you can leverage to ensure your training toolkit hits the mark when it comes to ease of use. Not only that, but the attractiveness of financial viability and the ability to deliver the type of training to your employees to upgrade their knowledge regularly, and ensure that they stay compliant always.
A well-maintained Learning Management System makes it easy for trainers and skills development specialists to create, deploy, and maintain the eLearning courses they have worked so diligently to develop, to provide their audience with a meaningful eLearning experience. However, to get these benefits from a Learning Management System, they must find the one that offers the features they need and the functionality they want.
So now you have buy-in, you need to begin the search for the correct vendor. Choosing a Learning Management System that offers you the features you want, fits into your project budget, and meshes with the skills of your development team can be a challenging task, and just as important as knowing what you do require, you need to know what to avoid. Let us look at how to select a vendor.
Determine your goals, needs, and expectations.
Before you begin to look at all the Learning Management options available today, you need to get a solid understanding of the learning goals you wish to achieve This means looking at your current learning system and performing a needs analysis from both organisational AND learner perspectives – It is no good having a cost-effective Learning Management System, that learners find difficult to navigate and use. You also need to determine the needs of your design team, as well as your own expectations of the product. Leverage surveys from learners, feedback from trainers and developers, focus groups, interviews, and discussions with subject matter experts. Take a close look at the learning goals and objectives that you want to achieve through your eLearning courses or online training events by having discussions with your team or department heads. For example, you can ask the Learning and Development department of your organization what they would like to see in a new Learning Management System, and which learning materials and activities they feel are necessary.
You also need to identify the technical and operational specifications the Learning Management System needs to help you address your goals and learner needs. You should make a note of the current vs target specification. Are your courses built in a 3rd party authoring tool? For example, Articulate Storyline, Articulate 360, Lectora or Captivate? Are they published in SCORM 1.2, SCORM 2004, AICC, Flash or HTML? Is offline completion and push notification required? This will also greatly depend upon the talents and skills of your eLearning team, since you will want to choose a Learning Management System that offers you the creative control you want and the functionality you need to design the most powerful eLearning experience for your learners.
Develop a list of key features your Learning Management System needs.
If you have done any research into Learning Management System solutions before reading this, you will have undoubtedly noticed that there is a wide range of features to choose from. In fact, there are so many that it can be difficult to narrow down the list of key features that you absolutely need. However, this is one of the most important steps in the Learning Management System selection process, as it will allow you to create a short-list of solutions that will give you the power to create the most effective eLearning course for your audience. For example, if you are catering to an audience that is comprised mainly of busy adults, opting for a Learning Management System that supports mobile delivery may be ideal.
On the other hand, if you feel that your learners may benefit from eLearning games and scenarios, then you may want to go with a Learning Management System that will help you develop a more interactive eLearning strategy that focuses on gamification features.
Consider the technical limitations of your audience.
In addition to considering the tech limitations that you may have with your current eLearning software, it is important to think about your audience’s limitations as well. How will they be accessing your eLearning courses? If they will be using their mobile devices, then you may want to opt for a Learning Management System that supports mobile delivery, for example, and determine which specific mobile platforms are accessible. Furthermore, you may want to do some research to assess whether your audience is tech-savvy, or if you may need to make your strategy more basic for those who are not necessarily familiar with eLearning courses. This will be a factor when choosing a Learning Management System, as it will determine the nature of your eLearning activities and level of multimedia integration.
Figure out the level of support you will need versus the support services offered.
While some eLearning teams might get by with minimum support, such as FAQ or online forums, others may require 24/7 phone and email support from the LMS vendor. So, you will need to determine how much support you really need. Is the vendor going to be able to walk you through the set-up process? Can you call them if you encounter a technical problem when developing your eLearning course?
Focus on current and future needs when testing out a potential Learning Management System.
A Learning Management System may be perfect for your learning and development needs today, but will it be tomorrow? Ideally, you will want to choose a Learning Management System that is going to offer you the features and functionality you need now and in the future. Is it easy to update and maintain over time? Will you be able to integrate other tools and technologies into the platform?
You can get a clear sense of how well the Learning Management System will adapt to your current and upcoming needs during a live demo or trial run. It is essential to ask the vendor about testing the product before you purchase. This can help you to avoid costly trial and error, given that you will be able to see which features are going to be truly beneficial and which may be unnecessary. During your trial, you can also gauge whether the scalability is in line with the expected growth of your organization, and if its flexibility, customization, and usability is what you need to achieve desired eLearning outcomes.
These tips will help you choose a Learning Management System that is right for your learning and development needs, and they will allow you to create eLearning experiences that are ideal for the needs of your audience. Smart eLearning partners with multiple LMS vendors, so you can be sure that we can help you discover the solution that fits your needs.