4 Steps to Choosing an LMS

It’s no secret elearning courses are the future of corporate training. With the increased flexibility and richer user experience, more and more organizations are turning to online training as a way to expand and enhance their respective employee development programs.

However, online training courses are only part of the equation. To really maximize an elearning program, businesses should consider investing in a learning management system (LMS). Learning management systems provide a platform for administering, tracking, reporting and deliverin elearning content. They are a useful tool when it comes to measuring the success of elearning initiatives and employee learning—which is why it is important to be confident you’ve made the right choice in a LMS partner.

There are many aspects to consider when purchasing a LMS, so here are some tips to help you prioritize what to look for when searching for a LMS.

Step 1: Review Current Program and Determine Cultural Readiness

Before beginning to vet LMS partners, examine your current training program—what is working and what could be improved? Reflecting on your existing program serves two purposes:

  • Provides a starting point for what to look for in a LMS
  • Begins the conversation around elearning as a new training method

Survey your employees about what they enjoy about the current program. Could these same ends be achieved through a LMS? What kind of new features would a learner prefer? These conversations involve the employees in the decision by allowing them to voice their needs, ultimately paving the way for the LMS transition.

In addition to gathering employee input, take advantage of the program review to determine how the training workflow will be change and what an ideal training process looks like. Who organizes the trainings? How are employees currently notified? What sort of followup occurs? All of these questions begin to outline what you’ll need from a LMS.

Step 2: Identify Objectives

Identify your organization’s strategic objectives in employee development and define target areas for knowledge and skill transfer. Envision how training will be performed in the next few years. What technologies and procedures will you need? What kind of courses will learners take? The LMS should be able to bridge the gap between your current work and future envisioned work. This will lead you to create a learning path for employees, and help you narrow down what capabilities your LMS should possess.

It is also important to think about such factors as scalability, integration and support:

  • If your company is experiencing rapid growth, you need a LMS that is easily scaled to accommodate new users and remain cost-effective.
  • Take into consideration the support and maintenance provided by the LMS vendor. A good support package is essential whether you are going to host the LMS internally or use it as a software service.
  • Perform an IT infrastructure assessment to determine current configuration and hardware. This will help identify what technical features your LMS should possess to sync with current programs and software.

Step 3: Prioritize needs and Make a Comparison Chart

Once you’ve identified both your programming and technical needs, it is time to prioritize your list in order to begin comparing LMS partners. To begin, there are a few standard features common to the majority of LMS’ you can avoid prioritizing:

  • Ability to add/delete learners
  • Tracking progress and scores
  • Ability to test learners
  • Report generation

Using the information collected during your current program review, feedback from employees and your training objectives, make a list of ALL the LMS features you desire you can think of. Don’t leave anything off. It often can be helpful to write the feature directly next to the objective it connects with to ensure you are meeting your needs.

The second step is to go back and prioritize which are must-have features and which are bonus features. You can either denote the importance of each requirement by creating a numbered list, marking a ‘Y’ or ‘N’ by each feature request or create separate columns for “Must Haves’ and ‘Bonus Items’. Examples of bonus features may include collaboration/social tools or a content authoring option.

Step 4: Evaluate LMS Partners via Comparison Chart

Now that you have your needs, it is time to begin evaluating potential LMS partners. Before contacting sales representatives, it is best to familiarize yourself with each LMS provider’s site and educational materials. Many vendors will provide product demos on their sites, but you should also review available any webinars, white papers or support forums. These materials can provide good insight into a company’s philosophy and approach to customer service.

In addition to how well a LMS meets the requirements on your prioritized list, you should consider two additional characteristics: associated risks and pricing. The elearning industry is a fast-growing market and there has been an explosion of LMS providers as a result. Do you want an established LMS provider or are you looking for someone newer to the space? Do they have a few content partners or a wide-variety of courses available? Each one comes with its own risks and should be taken into consideration when reviewing potential partners. Lastly, be sure to approach your LMS search with a budget and number of users in mind. Pricing will vary from provider to provider, but most LMS’ base their pricing on user ranges (1-250, 251-500, etc).

This process may seem tedious, but purchasing a LMS without an understanding of your company’s needs and current learning culture can lead to elearning waste down the road. Fortunately, there is one aspect of your LMS provider search you don’t have to worry about. No matter the LMS provider, you can be sure OpenSesame courses will integrate with the system of your choosing.