In education, the future is about technology and removing barriers. As learning leaders, we want to make sure learners are happy with their eLearning experience so that they continue to be motivated and engaged in their learning. We also want to find the best way to support our training requirements while lowering costs and maximizing return on investment. You have probably considered using a learning management system, or if you already have an LMS, you might be considering switching to a new one. Here are some guidelines to help you choose the best LMS for your organization.
7 Tips for Choosing the Best LMS for Your Organization
1. Identify your audience
As simple as it sounds, this analysis is critical for success. Learner satisfaction is one of the key reasons your training programs will succeed…or fail! Think about your courses as your product, and your learners as your customers. What can do you to ensure that they are engaged in their learning program?
First, you need to define who your learners are. Consider:
- Will you deliver eLearning to customers, employees, members or partners? For example, if you sell courses to customers, you will need an LMS that includes eCommerce features. If your eLearning is going to be delivered to employees, then consider single sign-on and possible integrations with other applications you already use in your organization.
- How many licensed users do you need? Number of users often affects the price of your LMS.
- How do your learners want to access content? Millennials embrace (and expect) mobile learning.
- What are your goals for your training program? Each individual comes with a unique skillset and learning needs; how do they align with your program goals and requirements?
- Have your learners been previously exposed to eLearning? Learners who are familiar with eLearning will need less guidance to successfully use a learning management system.
2. List key features
Just because a feature exists doesn?t mean that you need it or should use it. Before choosing a learning management system, think about which features and functionality are “must have” and which are “nice to have”. The best learning management system for you will include all of the features you need to be successful.
Establishing your list of critical functionality can be tough, but here is a quick list of the features every learning management system should have:
- User-friendly interface
- Flexible testing and assessment options
- Comprehensive administrative capabilities
- Reporting and tracking features that will you give you the information you need in a format that you can work with
- Modern architecture that can support integration with other systems in your organization like your HRIS, CRM, ERP or payment processor
- Support for mobile learning
3. Define technical requirements
Whether you already use an LMS or not, think about the content you want to deliver to your learners. Will you build it from scratch or use existing material? You need to identify any possible compatibility issues that could impact your implementation.
If you develop content using a specific content management system like Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate or Lectora, then ensure your learning management system is compatible with that system. Ask your LMS provider to load up a couple of your modules so you can see them the same way your learners would.
If you already have material developed to the SCORM or TinCan standards, ensure your platform is compliant with those standards. It will ease your LMS implementation.
4. Establish a budget
In the learning management system environment, there are hundreds of providers and as many pricing models. But, more often than not, number of users impacts the price you will pay. Additional costs can include custom integrations, training, implementation consulting or hosting.
To help establish your budget, review your LMS provider’s Terms of Service for the following:
- User definition: the number of users often impacts your LMS pricing. Take a look at the terminology used to describe users. Will you be charged for concurrent users or all users created in the LMS? Is there a way to archive user data to help manage costs?
- Level of support: Make sure support fees, like implementation fees or consulting fees, are identified.
- Number of administrators: The best learning management systems don’t restrict the number of administrators you can have in your system.
- Hosting fees: Some companies may charge a hosting fee or limit the amount of content you can have in your LMS.
- Contract term and cancellation policy: Even if an LMS provider advertises a monthly price, ensure they will actually let you pay monthly. Many will advertise a monthly price, but will insist on a one-year term with payment for the full year upfront.
- Integration: If you already use an HRIS, CRM or ERP, you might consider integrating it with your LMS t0 share data across your systems. Identify any potential costs associated with developing or implementing these types of integrations.
5. Consider the timeframe
As more LMS providers adopt a cloud-based delivery model, you can now find a lot of information online before even contacting a potential provider. This unprecedented access to information impacts the timeframe of your LMS selection. A research and decision making process that used to take months now takes only a few weeks. We recommend you decide on a process and timeline for your LMS selection process, and include deadlines for each stage from research to launch.
Identify who will be involved in the selection and decision-making process, and get them onboard quickly. Each department has its own schedules and priorities, so you should prepare an agenda for every meeting.
Some LMS providers offer a free trial period. It’s a great opportunity to see the learning management system in action and to see if it?s really as user-friendly as it claims to be. Be sure to include this free trial period in your schedule. Actually using the tool is one of the best ways to ensure that you pick the best LMS for your organization.
6. Identify skill requirements for LMS administrators
Administrators are responsible for the daily administration and success of your learning management system. They should be system super users, able to provide support to end users across the organization.
Ask your LMS provider if there are any specific skills that they recommend your Administrators have. In addition to strong communication and customer support skills, does your LMS administrator need any special technical skills? Make sure the user experience for administrators is as good as it is for learners.
7. Level of support
Implementing an LMS in your organization requires time, effort and resources. Make sure your LMS provider has effective processes to guide you through the implementation. Ask LMS vendors a few questions:
- What training is available for administrators?
- Will you have a dedicated account manager?
- How many consulting or support hours can you access as part of the implementation and on an on-going basis? It could be a few hours per month or per year. We recommend at least 8 hours to be able to help you to successfully implement your training program.
On the technical side, review the support process your LMS vendor provides:
- Where do you submit tickets and how are they processed?
- How are support requests prioritized?
- How quickly will you get a response?
- Is it possible to talk to a real person if you want to?
The best LMS for you will be the one that most closely aligns with your requirements and will help you to meet your goals for your training program. Investing in a learning management system is a commitment of both time and resources, so look for a provider who can support you in the long term. Then, ask vendors to submit a detailed RFP to find the LMS that your organization needs to succeed.
Need more advice on how to choose the best LMS for your organization? Download our FREE LMS Buying Guide!