Choosing a learning management system (LMS) is not an easy task, particularly if you’re a first time buyer. Before you start to look for an LMS it’s important that you identify your requirements so you have a clear view of your “must-have” and “nice-to-have” features. Prioritizing your needs before starting the review process will save you a lot of time and effort and will also ensure that you choose the right LMS for you. While there’s lots to consider when choosing an LMS, we’ve put together a checklist of the 5 most important considerations.
Selecting an LMS is a long-term commitment so before you invest your time and money you need to be prepared. If you don’t already have a strategy, you should put one in place. Your strategy should set out your budget, identify the staff or stakeholders who will be involved in the selection process and also include a draft timeline with a deadline for each stage, from research to launch.
If you have a tight budget and do not have IT staff to support you during a lengthy LMS installation, a cloud-based solution may be more suitable for you. These solutions offer a hosted platform with no installation requirements. These solutions are just as effective as in-house, corporate style systems and offer a robust alternative. Cloud-based vendors usually have flexible pricing plans and often adopt a cost effective ‘pay as you go’ approach, allowing you to pay month to month and removing the need to be tied into a long-term commitment which can be hard to get out of if things don’t work out as planned. Customer support, training and regular system updates typically come at no extra cost.
If you are migrating from your existing LMS provider you need to dedicate a section of your strategy document to managing the transfer of you course content, users and training history records.
You should have your course content and requirements in mind, if not already created and ready to go, before you start your LMS search. E-Learning content comes in all shapes and sizes from Word to PDF documents, PowerPoint presentations to video, and SCORM to Tin Can. If you know what content you’ll be using you’ll have a better idea of which LMS will support your chosen content format. You should also decide if you require quiz or exam functionality, survey functionality and the ability to award certificates to your learners when they have successfully completed a course.
Another key factor to consider when it comes to your course content and the LMS you choose is mobile support. As tablet and smartphone usage rapidly grow it is very important that whichever LMS you choose fully supports course content delivered on these devices. As more and more people to choose to learn on the go, ensuring your LMS can deliver your courses to both mobile devices as well as PCs and laptops is a key factor to consider.
Following on from this point, another important factor related to course content is what browsers the LMS supports. Some older platforms have struggled to keep pace with the regular release of new versions of IE, Firefox and Chrome resulting in content not launching or tracking correctly for learners. So when carrying out your LMS search be sure to check with each vendor which browsers they support.
LMSes with eCommerce functionality will provide you with an online store where you can do exactly that. You should also ensure that there are multiple payment gateways (like PayPal, Stripe and Authorize.Net) available. The ability to create discount codes is also a great feature to have so you can incentivize your learners to purchase your courses.
Look out for LMSes with white labelling functionality so you can brand your url, as well as the login and logout screens so the LMS design is consistent with the look and feel of your company’s website. If you intend to deliver your online courses to multiple clients you may want to focus on LMSes that will allow you to personalize the eLearning experience for your clients. Client portals can be branded with each client’s logo and company colors. You can also assign courses and learners by client portal so only the content relevant to them is available through their personalized client portal.
You’re going to have learners taking courses on your LMS so you’ll need to be able to find exactly what they’re doing. For this you’ll need an LMS with advanced reporting features so you can filter learner data, be it by user, course, date ranges, groups, custom data fields and so forth. Ideally you want to be able to export reports and also schedule reports to run automatically on a daily, weekly or monthly basis that are delivered straight to your inbox.
#5 Customer Support
Customer support is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing an LMS. You will be calling on customer support for assistance and you need to be assured of their capabilities and dedication to helping you no matter how small the issue. Look for solutions that offer 24/7 support and speak with the customer support representatives before you sign up. Keep track of how swift they are to respond to your queries. Don’t be afraid to ask for a customer reference to get an independent insight.
Don’t forget to focus on your requirements! Look for solutions that offer free trials so you can get to know the system before you commit. Take advantage of demos so you are fully aware of the functional capabilities of the LMS. You may find an LMS that ticks all of your requirement boxes but if it’s not intuitive and easy to use you may find the whole process takes longer than expected.
If the LMS you select fulfills your requirements it will enable you to deliver the best possible online training to your learners. Ultimately, the platform must meet your needs and your learner’s expectations for this to happen. Happy LMS shopping!
This post is by Caroline Lang, Digital Marketer at LearnUpon, the learning management system for professional training companies and SMEs. Sign-up today and start delivering your training courses online in less than an hour. For more information contact [email protected] or sign-up for a free 30 day trial. Follow us on Twitter @learnupon.