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12 Questions - Choosing A Learning Management System

Choosing the right LMS for your organization isn't easy.

There are numerous choices, from vendor systems, to open source, proprietary systems, even "free" learning management systems.  There are many stakeholders whose needs should be considered. Worse, much of the information is conflicting, and product information from competing competitors starts to look all pretty much the same.

Organizations invest significant time to investigate providers of eLearning content.

Choosing a LMS can be just as critical of a decision, significantly affecting organizational benefits, ROI, and effectiveness of an organization's training strategy and goals.

To make a better decision, answer these questions before you choose a learning management system.

Knowledge Management Software Overview:

  1. What are your training goals?  Typical goals include regulatory compliance (OSHA, EEOC, other), risk avoidance (harassment, diversity, safety), quality/efficiency (ISO, Lean, or Six Sigma initiatives), increased sales (sales techniques, CRM), customer service (corporate procedure, handling difficult customers, issue tracking software),  manufacturing processes, new hire training, software/equipment training, corporate policy training, and customer product training.  Are your goals to increase learning retention?  Cut learning costs?  Develop future management?  Increase sales?  Cut manufacturing/service/delivery costs?

  2. How many students do you expect now and five years from now?  How many courses?  There's a big difference in the amount of complexity a mid-sized organization will need (up to around 5,000  students) vs a large organization (tens of thousands of students).  Number of courses will also have a direct impact on the amount of complexity your LMS will need.  There's no need to purchase an "atomic fly swatter", when there are simpler, more cost effective, easier to deploy and manage solutions available on the market.

  3. How much will your content change?  Are you a fast growing young business whose needs will likely change within the next 5 years?  Or are you more a stable organization where your needs and size may change more slowly?  If you expect your content to change, you'll want a LMS that can manage content changes easily.  If you expect your business to significantly change within the next 5 years, you'll want a LMS that can be easily modified as your needs change.
  4. Learning Management Constraints:

  5. How much budget and time do you have? Do you have the time and budget needed to create and support a fully customized solution - do you have significant support of your in-house IT staff, or a budget to hire teams of consultants?  Unless your organization has made training a priority over most other projects, you may not get as much IT implementation and service support as you need.  If you see a risk that your IT support may be insufficient or may shrink, a hosted solution can take some of these risks off your shoulders.

  6. How much of your content is developed in-house?  Most organizations have both in house developed and vendor provided content, but which is the most important to yours?  Is your custom training developed in-house or by outside vendors?    Organizations that develop significant in-house content themselves will want a LMS with features to make content authoring easy and efficient.

  7. What's more important, ease of implementation, or really cool features?  Bells and whistles catch our attention when selecting a product, but ask yourself - how often will features be actually used?  Will specific features better engage students and result in greater usage and retention?  Will specific features provide information that is actually used to manage employees or help you make decisions on your training programs?  Be careful of being drawn to attractive features that will be seldom used by your organization.
  8. Additional eLearning Strategy Details:

  9. Is customization important, or is off the shelf ok?  Most organizations want the ability to tweak the system, especially if it will be used for a number of years.  Today, many companies are used to the benefits of site customization, especially for systems that will be used for a number of years.

  10. How detailed do management reports need to be?  Will you publish summary or granular training information to other parts of the organization?  Organizations having a complex organizational or cost structure are more likely to require more granular information.  While many companies may only need summary information, organizations that allocate every expense into product costs, who have a matrix organizational structure, or who have many departments based on products/functions/regions may need very granular information.

  11. How easily will an LMS work with your existing training content?  If you've already purchased content, consider how well it will integrate with your LMS.  Ask potential e-learning vendors for sample course that you can test on a demo of an LMS that you are considering to make sure it works.

  12. Does your LMS need to be SCORM compliant?  If your training needs to be SCORM compliant, your LMS needs to be able to work with SCORM compliant training.

  13. How important is security around your training systems?  How much of your training contains trade secrets?  Would the risk of even minimal training downtime significantly impact your company?  Most organizations find that training, while important, won't contain the secret recipe to Coca-Cola and isn't so mission critical that investing in 100% uptime provides a strong ROI.  For most organizations, security, while important, isn't the central deciding factor when choosing a LMS.

  14. Who is the company behind the LMS?  Have they been around for awhile?  Do they have a track record?  Will they still be here in 5 years to support my investment?  Do research beyond the website and product literature to find out how long the company has been in the LMS market, talk to customers, and research the web for customer reviews.

The best computer based training content in the world can fail to deliver intended benefits if paired with a learning management system that doesn't meet your organization's needs.  Many organizations invest more time and resources to examine eLearning content than to study the system that organizes that content, as content typically carries a steeper initial investment.  HR and training managers can avoid expensive pitfalls by asking the right questions before choosing a LMS.

Topics: lms, elearning, learning management system