Did you know that only 8% of respondents to a 2012 survey say they love their learning management system (LMS)? This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Many companies are unhappy with their LMS due to outdated interfaces, lack of customization, or incomplete reporting. Doing thorough research and identifying your team’s main objectives before installing an LMS can save your company lots of time and money in the long run.
Learning Management programs help businesses and educational institutions track, administer, and report on educational courses or training programs. These programs are often used when onboarding new employees, but they can also be used for external customer-facing training sessions as well.
If you’re wondering how to build a learning management program for your company, you’ve come to the right place. Choosing the right software for your company is no easy task, and there’s a lot of research to sift through before making a decision. We’ve provided some of the most important considerations for you and your key stakeholders when evaluating an LMS solution.
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Determine Use Cases
The first thing to consider when looking for a learning management program is the necessary use cases and learning strategy that you hope to provide. To do so, ask yourself these questions, and share them with stakeholders:
- Who is our audience for the curriculum? Will we have one curriculum or multiple courses on different topics?
- Will the courses be instructor-led, video-based, or text-based? Or something completely different?
- What will the delivery method for the courseware look like? Will employees engage with training software online or on their local machines?
- What platforms will the content be hosted on? As more and more people use mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, is cross-platform compatibility important?
- Do we need an entire LMS, or just an LCMS (Learning Content Management System)?
Select Important Features
Learning management programs can have a wide variety of features ranging from critical to “nice-to-have”. Sit down with your key stakeholders and figure out what features are most important when looking for a learning management program. Once you have your short list of prioritized features, you can refer to it when demoing different vendors.
Common LMS Features
- Content Delivery
- Tracking and Reports
- Assessment Management (Testing)
- Employee Self-Service
- Online/Virtual Classes and Content
- Industry Standards Compliance (e.g. SCORM)
- Ability to Integrate with Your Existing Systems
Demo Your Options
You wouldn’t buy a car before test driving it, would you? The same principle applies to building a learning management program. You should never leap into building a learning management program before demoing the different options.
During a demo period, be sure to have your list of prioritized features at hand and ask questions like:
- What level of support and maintenance is available?
- What is the pricing model? (Per user, per year, or something else?)
- Does the vendor have similar customers?
- Does the vendor have compelling testimonials or reviews from similar customers?
- Will the system be user-friendly for both the administrators and learners?
Remember that a significant software purchase like a LMS affects people across the company. You’ll want to get buy-in from IT, administrators, and learners (your employees or students). Since these are three completely different audiences with different goals, be prepared to answer different types of questions for each group.
IT professionals are most often interested in the technical requirements for integration and the support required to maintain the system. You can ask these questions to evaluate the technical feasibility of the learning management program:
- How does this program integrate with our existing processes and software?
- What are the technical requirements for support and maintenance?
- What kind of customization is needed?
- Will the LMS be cloud-based or on-premise? What are the pros and cons of each strategy for our business?
Administrators want a system that is easy to maintain and has robust reporting capabilities so they can measure user progress and engagement. When speaking to administrators (these may be your training leaders or teachers), ask them these questions to get a feel for how the LMS will suit their needs:
- How easy is it to add a new course?
- How do I see which students have completed each course?
- What formats are supported for the learning content? (Web, text, video, etc)
- What kind of data can I access about my learners, and how do I access it?
For your learners (either in-house employees or external customers), you’ll want to focus on the user friendliness and experience. If possible, include some of your target users in the demo and be sure to get feedback from them as well as key decision makers.
Many companies end up cycling through multiple learning management programs before finding the one that suits them best, so doing your research and getting buy-in upfront can save a lot of money.
Ask your target users these questions to evaluate the user-friendliness of the product:
- What is the level of technical skill needed to use the product?
- How can I find out about new courses or information?
- How do I search for information, and how long does it take to find what I’m looking for?
- How do I see my courses and track what I’ve completed?
Implement Your Solution
Once you’ve settled on a solution, work with IT and management to ensure it rolls out smoothly across the company. Now is the time to track employee engagement, learning progress and other metrics to assess your curriculum’s success. The right LMS can help you do all of that, and ensure the success of your learning management program for years to come.