Sometimes I get a request to host a guest post. This time I decided to place this post. The last 2,5 years my focus has been on eLearning authoring and I think this a very informative post on selecting a LMS. This post has been written by Jordan Barrish who is a Market Analyst for Capterra. She researches and writes about trends in a variety of software verticals, with a particular focus on learning management software. You can follow Jordan on Twitter – @jordan_barrish.
When you arrive for a check-up at the doctor’s office, the first thing your doctor does is take an inventory of what’s happening with your body. He’ll want to know what’s working and what’s not and only you can explain what’s actually wrong before proceeding to the examination.
As you are searching for your perfect Learning Management System (LMS), you need to have a sense of any problems in your organization to make sure you get the right prescription for an eLearning solution.
Here are 7 things to think about before considering an LMS:
1. Learners – Growing up, we learned not everyone acquires and retains information in the same way. If it’s possible, try to think about the information you are going to be sharing and how your users are going to be taking it in.
Tip: Typically LMS solutions are very customizable, but if there are certain learning needs in your organization make sure to address these before you jump into a demo.
2. Administrators – Especially if you are not going to be the one in charge of running your LMS, you want to make sure to choose a solution that is user friendly for your administrator. They will be handling your content and your learners, so keep them in mind; they will thank you later.
Tip: This also includes customer and technical support from your solution provider. Be sure to check out company reviews or test out their support lines to be sure your administrators will have a pleasant experience when trying to solve any potential problems.
3. Features & Functionality – Will you need customized templates or reports? What about assessment tools? Maybe you need an ecommerce feature or the ability to integrate with other applications and systems? Create a list of your must-have and nice-to-have features and have those handy as you demo different software products.
Tip: Some LMS providers focus specifically on corporate clients while others are specifically geared toward academic institutions. Many systems will work for both, but be sure to clarify that the solutions you’re considering meet your organization’s needs.
4. Content – What kind of content will you be hosting on your LMS? Does it need to be Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) compliant? Will you be creating the content or will you need to outsource for this feature? Will you need to use PowerPoint conversion, a 3rd party course authoring tool, or would you prefer an LMS that has its own? It’s vital you have a deep understanding of the undertaking that comes along with creating and supporting your learning content. Creation of content that is not effective and engaging for your learners can limit the effectiveness of your LMS implementation.
Tip: When thinking about your budget, keep in mind the possibility of 3rd party sources for content. This could cost you a pretty penny, so be wary of how much of the content creation your organization can handle on your own.
5. Web based or On-premises – Decide which type of software you need. Web-based means you can access it anywhere there’s an internet connection. On-premises means the software is installed on site.
Tip: Neither of these options is better than the other– but one may be better for your specific needs. Make sure to ask questions about security, backup files and data ownership.
6. Budget – LMS pricing is complicated, so it can be hard to determine a budget. While you don’t want to waste your time looking at solutions that are out of your price range, it’s important to consider all of your options and make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Some LMS vendors charge a flat rate, others by number of learners and some by usage.
Tip: Typically software vendors do not list their pricing models on their website. Be sure to ask for this information upfront, either in your initial email or call with them.
7. Additional Fees – Be aware that many solutions charge fees for ad-ons that you may think are included. The best way to make sure there are no surprises is to ask. You don’t want to set a budget, sign a contract, and then realize the software can’t expand with your organization without exceeding your budget.
Tip: You may not need every feature a solution offers. Find out if you can purchase the LMS without those features to potentially cut down on extra costs.
Finally, any other goals you have set out for your eLearning to accomplish. Be certain that whatever core functionalities those goals may require, that the LMS you plan to demo is capable of those. Do you want to be able to reach more students? Do you want to post video lectures to help cut down on classroom lectures? What about giving your students the ability to track their progress. Always keep your end goals in mind.
If your prognosis has been made and you are ready to start demos, take another few minutes and check out Capterra’s LMS Software Directory for a comprehensive list to help you get started.
Best of luck on your journey to eLearning recovery!