As companies scramble to find resources to meet their needs, a Learning Management System (LMS) is a foundational tool used for learning content, employee training, and selling digital products. Having the proper infrastructure in place is critical for the ongoing success of your business. The online environment has jetted into first place as the way to conduct mandatory training, enhance employee skill-sets, and host meetings. But it has also offered the unprecedented opportunity to create a new product line. When it comes to LMS’s, there is no “one size fits all.” Selecting the right system is a highly subjective process. Here at CIMATRI, we recently completed an exhaustive process of evaluating over 100 different LMS’s to select the right one for an organization that had the potential of millions of users. This article outlines the takeaways gained during that process that will help you decide the best LMS for your needs.
Considerations for Choosing the Right LMS
1. Business Use Case
The first step is developing a business case specific to your needs. This cannot be overstated enough. The business case identifies technical requirements, establishes critical questions, and provides the implementation roadmap for your digital investment. How will you be using your LMS? What level of support do you need? How many users will be in the system? What is your price point? Does it have and support an API? How familiar with e-learning are your users? What is the timing for implementation?
2. Key Features
The business case will identify the key features that you will need.
- Does it offer Asynchronous, Synchronous and Blended learning programs?
- What type of testing and assessment options do you need and are offered through your system?
- Does it include reporting and tracking features? What about multiple language support?
- Do you need integration with social media tools?
Will you be selling courses or other learning experiences to customers? If so, ensure that your LMS tools have E-Commerce capability.
Your LMS absolutely needs to be compatible across different devices and systems. This includes Mac, PC, mobile, tablet, Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.
Best practice: Note any caps on the number of participants, as you need an LMS that will grow with you over time.
Define your level of support. Ensure you get what you need, without overpaying. Be sure to ask:
- Where is your data stored?
- What type of training is included in the base price?
- How many administrators can you have in the system?
- Will you have a dedicated account manager?
A good LMS should also offer 24/7 support plus backups as part of the package, so be sure to confirm this before signing up.
6. User Friendly
In order for your community to adopt (and love using) your LMS, it must be easily accessible and user-friendly. The system’s interface should be easy to navigate for end-users, offering a single sign-on (SSO) to begin learning and interacting with others in the community.
There are many different LMS options available today at varying price points. You can easily eliminate those platforms outside your price range by establishing your budget at the onset. Some companies charge a base price, while others charge a monthly fee for individual users, plus training, plus branding, plus support. Be sure to know and ask the right questions so that there are no surprises in the final price. Are you paying a per-user fee or a course load fee? Best practice: Your budget should include the overall cost and maintenance, not just the monthly/annual and start-up fees.
Timing is just as important, if not more, than any other questions you may be asking.
- How long will it take to secure the LMS?
- Complete the onboarding training?
- What are the contract commitments?
- Can you pay per month or are you locked in for a specific time frame
- How is data and personal information protected?
- What security policies does the vendor have in place?
- Does your organization need to purchase certain policies to ensure member and organizational data is safe?
- Is there a disaster recovery process?
10. LMS or LCMS?
LMS stands for Learning Management System. LCMS stands for Learning Content Management System. Both are software tools. But the difference is that a LMS manages, delivers, evaluates, tracks, and reports the learning progress, while the LCMS allows you to author content within the system. Which is best for your organization can be discovered and articulated through your business case.
Does the LMS provide the ability to offer games, badges, completion certificates, etc.?
How important is it to you that the tool has your logo and color scheme throughout? If so, ask for a customizable interface that allows you to align the program with your organization’s branding and marketing.
We live in a day and age where user reviews are plentiful, so take advantage of what others in your industry have shared in online forums like G2 Crowd, PCMag and Capterra. Review sites allow you to compare everything from price, feature sets, compliance, and security to training and support. Be aware that specific vendors will always try to sell you on their product, rather than truly giving you a market comparison.
The Wrap Up
Selecting the right software tools can feel overwhelming. But with help in the process and establishing a solid business use case, you are well on your way to success. Before purchasing an LMS, consider following these steps:
- Convene a group of decision-makers from a cross-section of your company.
- Complete your business use case.
- Research different vendors that offer LMS and LCMS solutions.
- Ask the top 3 vendors for a free trial period or a demo account to test the features.
- Write and distribute an RFP.
- Understand the timeframe and support needed for implementation.
- Acquire your new tool, and head off to the races!
Still in the dark about what the best LMS is for your organization? We can help. Check out our IT assessment here to get started.