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Don’t Buy an LMS Until You Read This

If the past couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that many of our daily tasks can be carried out just as effectively through remote, digital means as they can in person. Training and education are just one example of this. Though eLearning was a growing industry before the pandemic, the need for remote solutions has only created a greater demand for computer-based training in a variety of applications.

If you, like many, are developing an eLearning program for your organization, a Learning Management System (LMS) is a mandatory component to keep everything straight. ELearning requires organization, consistency, and a way to track each learner’s progress through the course. An LMS gives you all of those things and more. With one central program to host and manage all of your courses, guide training for your learners, and provide data on learners’ mastery, you’ll have everything you need to get started.

Today, let’s go over some of the most important considerations that need to be made when it comes to choosing your organization’s LMS.

Tips On Picking the Best Learning Management System

Identify Your Needs

Organizations are as varied and different as the people who make them up. Because of that, a one-size-fits-all LMS is difficult to come by. Every organization has its own needs and pressures that ultimately determine which LMS most closely meets its needs. For instance:

  • Age: How long has your organization been around? A brand-new company is in a very different position when it comes to organizational knowledge than one that’s been around for decades or more.
  • Size: How many members are in your organization? Depending on how many learners you intend to train, you’ll see differences in the types of LMS options that can support you. Smaller teams may have a smaller selection since many systems have minimum learning requirements. The number of learners also influences the pricing plans your team may qualify for. 
  • Skills: What is being taught, and what is the skill level of your intended audience? You’ll have different needs if everyone is starting from square one than you would with a mix of skill levels. For instance, perhaps the members of your team have a variety of different skill levels. This might prompt you to use a more robust LMS that tailors the training materials to the learner, so more skilled learners can start where they already are, and greener learners can receive the background knowledge they need before proceeding.
  • People: What is the culture and mission of your organization? How well do these factors align with those of the LMS? You could invest in the best possible LMS available on the market, but that’s meaningless if your team doesn’t buy into the vision and learning philosophy of the LMS. Find a system that your whole team can get behind.

Define Your Requirements

How do you plan on structuring your eLearning program? Will it be pure eLearning, blended, or digital but instructor-led? These different structures influence the demands you’ll have from an LMS. A digital, instructor-led course requires an LMS with video conferencing or webinar capabilities, while a pure eLearning course could probably get away with using an LMS that doesn’t have video conferencing.

Also, depending on what kind of media you’ll be using in the course (PDFs, MP3s, video, animation, Tin Can, Scorm, etc.) you’ll need an LMS that supports those formats. 

By and large, does the LMS offer the essential features and benefits you need?

Think About Perks You’re Looking For

Once you’ve decided on the basic features you need, take a look at the many interesting additional features that can bolster the functionality of your LMS.

  • Talent Management: Create a flexible learning system with a variety of learning paths, allowing your learners to start their journeys where they currently are and focus on the skills they want or need to improve upon.
  • Social Learning: Whether it involves competitive challenges, group assignments, or things like knowledge sharing and group discussions, social learning can be a valuable feature in an LMS.
  • Mobile Learning: Does your LMS of choice have a mobile app, like LearningZen? Allow your learners to take their learning on the go, accessing eLearning courses on mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, and more. 
  • E-Commerce: Depending on your use case, you may want the ability to sell your courses. Finding an LMS with e-commerce options allows you to sell classes for the general public to learn from.
  • Gamification: Gamification is a huge aspect of modern eLearning. The ability to make the learning process more fun and engaging is a perk you’ll want to prioritize in an LMS, so take a close look to make sure your prospective LMS supports gamification options.
  • Certificates: Certificates can take the form of printable certificates of completion, blockchain badges, or any variety of positive reinforcement that indicates a learner’s mastery of a topic. Look into the certificate capabilities of an LMS that you’re considering.

Get Feedback From Staff

Your team will have a valuable insight into the reality of your current eLearning and training systems. Make a point to get their candid feedback, allowing them to comfortably and honestly convey the weaknesses and strengths that your organization’s training system has. This paints a fuller picture of where you need to improve and what you should reemphasize. With this information, you can select the best LMS for the job and fully consider the role of your team and the LMS itself in the training process.

Explore the Market and Evaluate Your Options for LMS Vendors

Before rolling out a new LMS for all of your users, make sure to run tests on each LMS program that meets the criteria your learning program requires. What is the vendor’s support and training like? Do you like them? Chances are that this will be a long-term relationship, so liking your LMS vendor goes a long way.

Consider the Maintenance and Adaptability of the LMS

Do what you can to “future-proof” your eLearning strategy. Just because your system works well now doesn’t mean that it will always work, or that you will never need to update things. As the world and the technology that keeps it running develop and evolve, the technical features of your courses (and perhaps even the information contained within) need to be changed. Where possible, stick to an LMS that utilizes common programming languages, allowing you to export code without locking your courses within a proprietary format.

Consider How the LMS Tracks Learner Data

Keeping track of your learners’ achievements and knowledge retention is a vital part of the eLearning process. In addition to tracking your learners’ progress through the material and grading their performance, data tracking also gives you an idea of how learners engage with the course, providing valuable insight into possible areas for improvement in how material is presented.

Consider Your Budget

Make sure that the overall cost of your desired LMS is within your organization’s price range. It would be a shame to get invested in a shiny new LMS only to find out that flat rates, subscription costs, per-user fees, or even your own staff’s time and other non-obvious expenses make the whole endeavor too costly. Keep budget top of mind when picking an LMS and consider how the vendor’s pricing model affects your end costs.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to choosing an LMS, you need to understand your team’s unique needs, talents, and limitations. With dozens of different LMS solutions to pick from, you’re bound to find something that not only teaches your team in the way they need to learn, but also fits your organization’s budget and skill level.

Though your LMS selection journey will be different from any other company’s, the above points are some of the most important aspects to consider when finding the right LMS for you. At the end of the day, there are hundreds of LMS solutions available and most do roughly the same thing. Find a company you like and trust, and be sure that you enjoy the people you work with.

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