What is an LMS and how can it help?
If it’s your first encounter with learning management systems (LMSs), choosing the right one can be challenging. However, it’s totally worth it, because the proper LMS can help you boost your employee training and help achieve your goals.
Here is a six-step guide to make an informed purchasing decision and select the LMS that will make you achieve your business goals.
1. Evaluate your needs and objectives
The first thing you need to do when choosing a learning platform is identify your needs. What tasks can it help you with? Are you looking for a way to increase your sales? Or train your staff to communicate effectively with customers? Think strategically and plan your training objectives clearly.
Another important thing you need to consider when choosing an LMS is exactly who you will train. Ask yourself these questions:
- What number of employees do I want to train?
- Will this number fluctuate or remain the same (as with regular refresher training)?
- How old are your employees?
- Are there any skill level differences between them?
- How tech-savvy are they? Keep in mind that if an LMS is not user friendly, employees won’t be very eager to learn how to use it.
When you know who you will train and for what purpose, you can define which LMS features you need for fruitful learning.
2. Decide on LMS requirements
Again, follow your priorities. Any LMS is a complex software solution, and it should not be an impulse purchase. Many LMSs come with a lot of trendy extra features: social learning, gamification, or e-commerce, for example. The point is to avoid overpaying for the features that seem fancy, but not applicable for your employee training in the short run. A real must-have is a stable and usable LMS that will facilitate training from day one.
To reach a clear understanding of what kind of LMS you need, answer the following questions:
- Should it be a cloud-based or hosted solution?
- Where is the data stored? Who can access what? And other security considerations.
- What integrations do you need? For example, an LMS can be integrated with a CRM system, or HR-software, or BI tools.
- Do you need a built-in course authoring tool?
- Do you need detailed statistics on materials, groups, and users?
Determine your feature priorities and know your budget or time limitations. This will help you have a clear technical requirement and facilitate your choice of an LMS vendor. Summarise your requirements in an LMS request for a proposal that you will send to a prospective vendor.
3. Select an LMS vendor
When facing an abundance of LMS software on the market, you might want to hear referrals of LMS vendors from other companies. Learning from someone with hands-on experience is helpful. But you should keep in mind that their experience might be irrelevant to your particular case. Every business is different, and what works for other companies (your counterparts or competitors) won’t necessarily work for yours.
A broader perspective on the LMS market may help. So, take your time and check the ratings of various systems – read reviews on Capterra and other websites that assist with software selection. Examine common LMS pricing models and decide what pricing most suits your company’s needs.
And, of course, take a careful look at different websites of LMS vendors. When examining a vendor, pay close attention to:
- LMS descriptions – Check the feature information and match it with your needs.
- Customer reviews and success stories – Who will use the LMS? How do they organise their employee training with an LMS?
- Knowledge base – Chances are you will need this for reference purposes, so make sure a vendor provides access to product documentation and tutorials.
- Tech support – How can you contact the LMS provider? Can you expect a fast response?
- Update policies – How often does a vendor deliver updates? Is there a charge for this?
After you decide on your LMS providers and have a shortlist of your options, it’s time to experiment with each LMS under consideration.
4. Try the LMS yourself
At this stage, you test an LMS during its trial period. Start with essential features like inviting users and uploading training materials, and then proceed with testing extra features. However, it’s better not to limit this testing process to a mere trial of functions. Focus on the usability of an LMS – make this your priority.
If you don’t understand the interface of a specific LMS, it will be even harder to teach colleagues how to work with it, so you should look for other options. Also, test how much content this LMS can load and how it processes various formats, like SCORM courses or video lectures.
5. Request a use case demo
An LMS vendor can organise a demo for your company. To make it fruitful and gain valuable insights, elaborate on the use case plan for this particular LMS. This basically shows your employee training requirements. It can give your potential vendor a clear understanding of what you expect from their software.
To conduct a use case demonstration, invite a group of employees that represent your target learners (your focus group) and the stakeholders of your employee training project. A use case scenario should at least involve an LMS administrator, an instructor, and a learner in your organisation. You can ask a vendor to provide a walkthrough on how to use an LMS from their multiple perspectives. Prepare a list of questions about an LMS and don’t hesitate to ask for details. A well thought out demonstration helps the stakeholders with a project justification.
6. Make a choice
The more you understand the pros and cons of this particular LMS for your business, the better your choice will be. At this stage, compare all the details you’ve learned about LMSs from your shortlist. Also, evaluate the impressions of using them during demonstrations. Settle on the LMS that is most efficient and best suits the needs to achieve your goals.