Businesses of all sizes may find they benefit from a learning management system or LMS. A learning management system is a way to deliver online courses and training to employees in a streamlined, cost-effective way.
While the specific goals of an LMS can vary depending on the goals of the organization, the primary objective in the most general sense is the delivery and tracking of online learning. A learning management system serves as a centralized hub for learners, including remote learners who work for your organization.
Not only can you manage and deliver content, but you with an LMS, you have the ability to measure how well employees are learning, track their data, and communicate with employees. Most LMS platforms also allow for communication between users.
Along with being used for business training, learning management systems are often used in government organizations and higher education.
The following are things to think about when it comes to choosing a learning management system that will work for your needs.
Determine Your Needs
You should look for an LMS that meets the needs of your organization—not the other way around. With this in mind, outline what the needs of your organization are before you start the process of comparing different platforms and their features.
There may be some features that are really important to you and others that aren’t as much so.
You also need to think about not only your business needs and objectives with the introduction of an LMS but your employees.
How comfortable are your employees with the idea of technology? Do you have a tech-savvy workforce, or are they more reluctant to embrace new technology when it’s introduced?
Your needs now might not necessarily be the same as your future needs either, so scalability should be a priority. Scalability means that you choose an LMS solution that will grow with you, and many cloud-based solutions offer this. You can simply pay more and get more functionality as you need, but for now, you only pay for what you require.
As you’re determining needs, outline specific pain points. How do you hope training is going to address and solve these issues and in what ways will an LMS play into this?
As you highlight your goals that will drive your LMS decision-making, get as specific as possible. For example, maybe you have a certain percentage you’d like to increase sales or productivity by in a window of six months. That’s a good goal, rather than simply saying you hope to improve sales.
Get to Know Your Audience
Briefly touched on above was the importance of thinking about your employees and their tech comfort level when choosing an LMS, but you should go beyond this and delve into who they are, what drives them, and how they’re going to best interact with the learning management system.
Specific considerations as you get to know your audience include:
- How old are they? Older employees might not value collaboration tools as much as younger employees, for example. On the other hand, if you have younger employees, they might like the opportunity to integrate social features into their training and learning experience.
- What are the varying skill levels of your employees? Every employee is going to have a different baseline level of knowledge, and you don’t want them to have to muddle through unnecessary training to get to where they need to be. That’s one of the benefits of an LMS—you can often create personalized learning paths.
- Will your employees likely need extensive training on the use of the LMS itself? If so, you might have to consider simplified, user-friendly platforms to minimize this training time.
Once you have an idea of your organizational and employee needs, you can begin to compare vendors.
You want to find that balance where you have the features you need, but not too many that you don’t need. If you choose a platform that has unnecessary features, it can make it more difficult for employees to learn to use it and know what’s most important for them to be using.
A good starting point to compare vendors is simply to look at features and see which platforms have the options you need, versus the ones you can live without.
Then once you have a shortlist based on features, you can start actually comparing the vendors.
Some criteria to compare vendors include:
- How long has the vendor been on the market? Not that new options can’t be good, too, but generally, a long and stable history is a good indicator for a software platform.
- Read reviews from customers and perhaps case studies if they’re available. If possible, try to find reviews and case studies from individuals in your industry. In addition to reviews and case studies provided by the vendor themselves, make sure you look at independent reviews as well.
- Try to choose vendors that offer free trials. One of the best ways to get a feel for new software, including an LMS is to take advantage of a free trial and see how you like it. Many vendors do offer free trials, so if you are thinking about a vendor that doesn’t, you might want to look elsewhere.
- There are also often options to book demos. With a demo, you can get the company to provide you a comprehensive explanation of the system and ask questions in the process.
- You will need to consider the level of support offered by a vendor when making a decision. This is something you might not think about until it’s too late, but it’s better to proactively look into the type of support offered, rather than finding yourself in a challenging situation and realizing it’s not what you need it to be.
Finally, you will have to be realistic with your budget as well. As was touched on, if you choose a cloud-based solution, you may be able to pay for what you need now, with the option to grow as you require it.