How To Choose The Best Learning Management System
Invest in an LMS to deliver and track online learning resources to learners.
While Software-based industries are riding the waves of progress and advancing every day, the e-learning industry has been constrained by old and tired attitudes towards teaching and training. And all of this despite mounting evidence that the old methods just aren’t as effective. The good news is that corporations aren’t hindered by the same roadblocks as the education sector, and as a result lately the industry has seen rapid growth and change in the corporate sector and the adoption of learning management systems.
They have moved away from simply being a means to deliver and track training – essentially just content management systems – towards something closer to a social portal through which informal and formal, online and offline training can be tracked. While some of the traditional methods do indeed still exist (sometimes there really is no substitute to a teacher in a classroom), they are now complemented by blended learning, gamification, powerful social tools, and offline learning, plus many more cutting-edge LMS features.
If you are one of those companies and institutions that are looking to choose the best Learning Management System, you will need to know exactly what your own training needs are before you even think of contacting LMS vendors.
The best place to start is by making sure that you understand what you want to achieve with your LMS. An organization chooses to invest in an LMS – often considerable amounts of money – to raise the competency levels of its staff and ultimately make the company more productive and in turn more profitable.
It is absolutely vital that the learning goals of your organization align with the organizational goals. Defining your learning goals and strategy at the beginning of an LMS implementation project will help guide your decisions on everything to do with the LMS.
Before deciding on individual features or anything technical there are a couple of things that need settling:
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If you don’t have the buy-in of all of your LMS stakeholders then your LMS will not be reaching its full potential. Although you won’t be relying on them to provide all of the information you need to put together a learning strategy. Involving stakeholders in the process not only helps to give a better overall image of the requirements, skills shortages and current situation but will also make them more receptive to change and try different alternatives if they feel part of the process.
As you will be engaging with a number of departments and stakeholders, a great way to get their input is to host a series of workshops and focus groups. Through these you can: Introduce the new learning plan, socialize your vision about a Learning Management System, get feedback on the learning strategy, answer any questions, etc.
On the other hand, if you are replacing your current LMS – perhaps looking for a Moodle™ alternative – then it is important that, in your workshops, include topics like what features of the current LMS they like, which they do not like, and which areas they think need improvement.
Once the analysis has been completed you will want to compile a list of requirements that will form the foundations of your choice of LMS.
There are many different LMS platforms with hundreds of different features. Almost all LMSs will say that they are easy to use, or intuitive, and this is exactly why you need to know as much about the market as possible. Which features you select depends on what type of company you are. Here are some of the main features:
It is the inclusion of game mechanics and design in eLearning courses. Academic interest in gamification is on the rise and there are a large number of studies that show conclusive evidence that gamification helps with learner engagement and knowledge retention, thanks to features such as leaderboards, a points system, badges and rewards that make learning fun.
Mobile learning opens up training to mobile devices, meaning that learners can access their training on any mobile device. Offline learning extends access even further by making training available even without an internet connection. Download the Offline Player and any training you need while connected to the internet. Then when an internet connection is reestablished all learner data progress is synchronized.
LMS eCommerce integration allows trainers to create another revenue stream by enabling them to sell the courses and e-learning content they create online.
Vendor-sold LMS platforms are SaaS, and so are updated automatically by the vendor and benefit from round the clock support. They also make it extremely fast to get a working LMS up and running as there is no installation required.
From a learning management perspective, this is the most important feature. The ability to track performance not only helps build an accurate image of learner progress and knowledge but also allows trainers to gauge the effectiveness of their training. Some LMS platforms, such as Moodle™ and other open-source solutions, come with basic reporting which may be enough for universities and colleges, but won’t be sufficient for the corporate sectors. An advanced reporting system will generally be what a corporation needs.
Social features are a relatively new addition to eLearning and have transformed an LMS from essentially just a content management system into a portal for elearners where they not only have access to the training content but also to tools that encourage sharing and collaboration.
The next step in the evolution of elearning, Tin Can API lets instructors track learning activities – both formal and informal and on and offline – that take place outside the confines of the LMS. Activities such as reading a relevant article, watching a video or attending a conference or talk can now be tracked and included in learner progress reports.
This feature lets administrators create an almost unlimited amount of ‘tenants’ from just one LMS license and based on the same database. This way each vendor, channel partner or department can effectively have their own LMS, complete with personalized branding and access.
Open-source or “free” LMS platforms tend not to come with any support past materials available online. If you are leaning towards a hosted options, then many issues that would usually plague LMS implementation are taken care of by the LMS vendor.
Blended learning is training that combines elements of traditional learning with new media-rich self-paced methods. The idea is not to replace traditional methods – sometimes there really is no substitute – but to complement it with content that has been designed to increase the effectiveness of knowledge retention and engagement.
This used to be very straightforward as all LMS platforms were computer-based and content delivery was basic. Nowadays however there are various options available to you, and what you choose will depend on the training you want to provide and the technical capabilities of your audience.
ILT is the training we are all used to from going to school. Corporate ILT can be classroom-based in the physical sense, or delivered live over the internet. For certain things, there really is no substitute for expert-led training, especially when it comes to fielding important real-time questions and stimulating dialog. For many organizations, it is the foundation of their training strategy, and is increasingly being supported by new teaching methods like blended learning and gamification. Training only really sinks in for some learners when they have had the chance to ask questions and interact with others over the topic. For this reason ILT is here to stay.
The general trend in almost all forms of learning and training is a gradual shift out of the classroom and online. Employees are generally quite a busy bunch, and removing them from their post to carry out training – even if it is profitable in the long-run – can be costly. By giving learners the power over when and how they complete their training brings about a number of benefits: reduce instructor costs, time saving and engaging content.
We understand that modern companies rely on more than just an LMS to function effectively. An LMS is just one piece in a suite of software used by different departments and partners throughout the course of a normal workday. The long-term success of your LMS may well depend on its ability to work with the other software that makes your business turn. Below is a list of some of the programs that can integrate with an LMS:
A good human resources information system, such as Workday or Peoplesoft, helps an organization to plan, control and manage HR costs, carry out detailed reporting and effectively recruit new staff. LMS integration ensures that important employee data is kept up to date across both platforms.
After having spoken to possible LMS vendors and evaluated all of your options, it is time to think about implementation. You may be inclined to think that you in the home stretch now, but really the hard work is just getting started and you are entering into possibly the most critical phase of the whole project. For implementation to be successful both the organization implementing the LMS and the LMS vendor must be committed, and should both follow a few steps to make sure both are aware and ready. This period is critical as it is during the implementation phase that there is a greater risk of failure. Make sure that every stage of the process has been planned and accounted for, and that the right people are in place to help the transition go as smoothly as possible.