Tips for choosing the best Learning Management System – Part 1
Updated: Aug 3
Before an upcoming blog on positive changes that administrators can make to the set-up and structure of their Learning Management Systems (LMS), I thought it was worth going back to basics for those considering either considering procuring an LMS for the first time or changing to a different supplier and/or product.
Choosing the right LMS can be the deciding factor in whether a training programme is a success, so organisations should invest time in assessing different products and confirming which is the best fit for their individual needs.
Below are some questions to help organisations start that investigation process:
Do you even need an LMS?
If you’ve got this far in the blog then your organisation has probably already decided to invest in a Learning Management System but it is important to understand the need for this requirement as this will affect which product you end up choosing.
Generally speaking, if the organisation has e-learning or classroom courses where learning completion needs to be tracked and reported on, then a Learning Management System is needed. Whilst there are exceptions, such as organisations sharing e-learning modules (perhaps with integral certificates) via the intranet or internet, there is usually a business need to know the popularity and efficacy of content and this requires some element of reporting and assessment.
Will you need it for e-Learning Tracking, Classroom Event Management or both?
Whilst it is possible for L&D teams to manage e-learning and Instructor-Led sessions using separate systems, this can cause problems both with reporting and the creation of a unified training record for users. If only e-learning management is required in the short-term, it’s worth considering if this will change in future and, if so, ensuring that the LMS that you choose meets the functionality you require both now and potentially in the future.
If you require a system to manage your training events, make a list of the functionality you need (e.g. trainer diaries and skillsets, venues and capacities, repeat event functionality, automated joining instructions etc.) so that you can confirm with suppliers that the LMS meets all of your requirements.
How will you add your users to the system?
This will depend on whether you already know who your users are. If so, you may need to bulk upload all users onto the system in advance or it may be possible to connect your Learning Management System to your Active Directory or HR system which, provided the data quality is of a high standard, may allow you to build rules into the system to reduce administrative burden. Alternatively, some users might not be known to you in advance so you may require self-registration functionality so that users can create their accounts and self-enrol on courses as required. Once you know how user accounts will be created in your organisation, you will be able to confirm that any new LMS purchase includes the required functionality.
What kind of digital content do you want to upload?
Some systems will only allow you to upload SCORM and/or xAPI/Tin Can e-learning modules but it is worth considering whether you will have other digital content that complements or completes the learning experience. Whether it is podcasts, recorded webinars, videos, digital documents or text pages added directly into the system, you will need to check that these can not only be hosted as part of the courseware but that their completion can also be tracked.
Do you want to push specific content to users?
In many cases, organisations will have learning pathways in mind for groups of users based on their specific attributes such as role, seniority, department and location. Some learning management systems will allow you to set up automated rules within the system to push the right content to the right users. This can save considerable administrative time as well as improve reporting if at-a-glance dashboards are used to show the progress of assignment completions.
How are the skills and certificates managed?
It is worth considering whether you are likely to need to change certificate design regularly or whether you might need multiple template designs. Some systems will allow the upload of a single template during the initial set-up and do not have the flexibility to manage multiple designs or the suppliers will charge you each time templates are updated.
If the certificate is only valid for a set duration, such as one or three years, then an LMS with built-in compliance management may be required allowing users to be automatically notified when certification for certain subjects is no longer valid.
Are your courses modular?
With the trend for bite-size learning, often courses are split into smaller components or modules. In some instances, the same modules may be used with multiple courses and this can be frustrating for users if they find that having passed one course, they then have to retake a module they have previously completed to fully complete another course. If this course set-up is familiar to you, you may want to look for an LMS that will automatically link identical modules and show completions for those modules within all courses where they appear.
Check back next week to discover my final 7 tips.