With professional development an increasing priority among employees, companies need to make every effort to provide quality training. Investing in a learning management system (LMS) is an effective way to do so. In brief, an LMS is a software solution for the online delivery of educational courses, corporate training programs and learning/development programs. It allows you to create, manage and deliver e-learning courses to team members – either remotely or on-site.
As a rapidly increasing number of companies move toward a remote workforce, choosing the right LMS to enable easy, effective online learning is more important than ever. But with so many LMS vendors in the marketplace, how do you ensure that you get the best for your organization?
Important features your LMS should have
Evaluating LMS solutions can be challenging – especially if this is your first time. During your initial research, make certain than any LMS you consider is compatible with your organization’s existing software and online training materials – otherwise, you will have made a considerable investment for nothing. The following are important features to look for.
An intuitive user interface – Give this feature top priority. If your team members find the LMS too difficult to use, frustration will result – making training less effective. Bring some of your intended end-users in on the evaluation process and listen to their input.
Customization and personalization – An “off-the-rack” LMS won’t allow you to customize the tool to fit the specific needs of your company and workforce. You should be able to apply your corporate branding on all online training materials, as well as provide personalized online training resources to your employees. For example, your team members should have the option of choosing individualized online learning paths so that they can select the training activities and modules of their choice.
Mobile-friendly responsive design – Online learning is all about convenience and flexibility. Your LMS should be able to be easily accessed and used on laptops, tablets and smartphones rather than just a desktop computer. It should also allow learners to download course content for offline viewing.
Support of certification and compliance activities – If your company needs to track compliance initiatives, look for an LMS that allows you to maintain up-to-date records (necessary in case of an audit). Your LMS should also offer online certification training programs focusing on specific skill development. Our blog post – “How to Make Compliance Training More Effective” – covers this topic in greater detail.
Data security protocols – Encryption and server protection are a must to prevent security breaches – otherwise known as hacks. Find out about the security measures put in place from your LMS vendor before signing the contract.
A built-in feedback system – You can only improve your training content if you know what your learners find lacking. A built-in feedback system will make it possible to collect and compile user data. At the very least, it should have a survey or polling tool.
Robust reporting and analytics – You need to evaluate the effectiveness of your training programs. An LMS that offers robust reporting and analytics tools will let you know the progress of your employees – as well as any areas of training/education in which they are challenged.
Accurate assessment tools – In addition to reporting and analytics, your LMS should allow you to track learner engagement and progress for online assessments. If you are unable to assess your learner’s progress, it is difficult to offer personalized recommendations. Your LMS should provide online assessment options so that you can provide instant feedback.
Always keep the learner in mind
You purchase an LMS to impart training to your team members, who could be internal employees, external learners, vendors, channel partners, etc. Different users have different learning needs. You cannot have a one-size-fits-all training program for all. That is why you need to create course content that is useful to each user group.
An LMS allows you to assign users to specific user groups. It means you can offer appropriate training courses to each group according to their needs. For example, a course designed for the sales team is of no use to the accounting team.
How to know an LMS is right for your business
LMS is an asset for your company; hence, it is vital to get the best. However, with so many LMS solutions out there in the market, how to know an LMS is right for your business. LMS evaluation is a crucial step, and you need to give it due importance. Nick Santaniello – product marketing manager at Northpass – provides a helpful guide on conducting a comprehensive LMS evaluation in his article for eLearning Institute. We’re featuring the highlights, but the article is well worth reading in its entirety.
Assess your needs – This is an important step. You need to consult all of your stakeholders before deciding. Their input is crucial to learn what they want the LMS to help them achieve.
For example, Santaniello writes, “Leadership may envision rapid expansion in the coming years. If so, they will want an LMS that can support that growth. L&D managers often desire an LMS that is easily updated to reflect changes in instructional requirements, so they will want an adaptable LMS. The IT staff’s main concern is typically accessibility and security regulations if the LMS spans multiple locations and multiple administrators.”
List your requirements – Once you have the inputs, you need to make a list of essential things that you want your LMS to have. It is crucial to focus on the essential features first. You can ignore the fancy ones for now. Don’t forget to list down both your operational as well as technical requirements. Some of the essential operational features include tracking and reporting learner progress, content management, and languages needed for instructional purposes.
“On the technical side,” Santaniello notes, “you may require an LMS that scales up as new users come onboard, integrates with other software programs your organization utilizes, and permits the IT department to monitor access. Make sure that you’re asking yourself the right questions.”
Choose the right LMS platform – Learning management systems are available in several formats. Depending on the need of your organization, you should choose a platform that can deliver the best results for your learners. Santaniello provides the following breakdown.
- Hosted or cloud-based LMS – In this format, the LMS vendor hosts the software on its remote server in the cloud. Users and administrators enter via an internet browser to access the program and make changes.
- On-premise – An on-premise LMS resides on your internal server after installation. Your IT staff oversees and upgrades the LMS.
- Open source – Open source refers to the ability of anyone to access the LMS coding and configure it to their specific requirements.
- Custom-built – Using internal staff, your organization structures and maintains its own custom-built LMS.
You also have horizontal and vertical LMS formats to consider. A vertical LMS is typically optimized for a single industry use – such as compliance and regulation – whereas a horizontal LMS is a multi-purpose solution, used across multiple industries.
Conduct research – If you want to get the best LMS for your business, you need to invest some time researching LMS vendors. Learn about their reputation, financial stability, etc. Check references. Analytic groups – such as Forrester Research, Brandon Hall Research, Gartner Group, and Bersin by Deloitte – scrutinize the learning technology marketplace. Visit their websites for in-depth news and analysis of vendors.
Compile a short list of vendors, then issue a request for proposals (RFP). Use the RFP to learn how the vendor will meet your requirements, how much support they will offer during and after implementation and the cost.
Ask for a demo and take a trial run – Santaniello recommends having the LMS vendors on the short list create a hypothetical learning path that takes a typical learner through a series of instructional goals from courses and activities to a final evaluation. Or conduct a trial run of the LMS, if possible.
Select the best LMS for your business – After going through all the details that your team has gathered, select the best LMS for your company’s goals.
However, you also need to factor in content management. An LMS requires quality content to keep your learners engaged. eServe is a learning content management system (LCMS) for e-learning that complements your LMS. As e-learning continues to move to the forefront of education and training, trust your program to an experienced industry leader. Contact us to learn more, and get the most from your corporate training programs.