Top ten tips for selecting an LMS
Over the past couple of years I’ve made some fairly in depth suggestions for how and why you might use an LMS. So I thought it was about time to get back to basics and capture in one place some of the key things that you need to consider when selecting an LMS. So here are my top ten tips for selecting an LMS:
1. Know what you need. It seems like it should go without saying that you shouldn’t start the selection process for an LMS (or anything else) without being absolutely clear about what you need. Unfortunately I’ve seen many organisations start their selection process with nothing more than a vague idea of what they need and an even vaguer idea of what an LMS is or what it can do. You need to be very clear about what your requirements are.
2. Pricing model. It used to be that all LMS vendors used similar pricing models based on the number of registered users; albeit at widely varying prices. Even if the industry as a whole is still trying to cling to that model (guess who it favours!) in 2014 there are more options. Some vendors will offer flat rate pricing based on system capacity and technical requirements rather than the number of users. Other vendors offer a range of services wrapped around open source, and therefore licence free platforms.
3. Hosting and support. A key factor in the choice of platform is the choice of available hosting models. Will it need to be hosted in house and therefore require technical expertise and support within the organisation? Will the vendor host it for you and provide all of the technical support you need? Are you better served by a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution?
4. Customisation, configuration and flexibility. I’ve warned here before about making too many customisations, but it’s rare that any LMS will meet all of your needs straight out of the box. Therefore you need to be confident that the platform you choose is flexible enough and can be easily customised to meet your needs. A key consideration here is what effect the customisations have on your ability to upgrade in the future.
5. Learner centric and job related. It’s relatively easy to build a catalogue of content and present it to your learners as a big list, but is that really what they need? To be effective, learning needs to be relevant to the learner’s needs and their role, so can the LMS present learning content as part of custom learning journeys?
6. Ease of use. No matter how technically sophisticated a solution is, or how well it is perceived to map onto a business plan, if its difficult to use (for learners and administrators) it will likely fail. On more than one occasion I’ve seen very complex and expensive learning solutions implemented by ERP vendors that simply stagnated and died through lack of use.
7. Getting data out. “Reports” usually appears on any list of LMS requirements, but careful thought needs to be given to what data you need to get out of the LMS, and who has access to it. Simple completion reports are rarely useful. Can the LMS present customisable dashboards to learners and managers?
8. Mobile. If you aren’t using mobile devices for learning today, trust me, your learners are and you will be soon! You need to check that the LMS can deliver and manage mobile content and ideally be accessible on mobile devices itself. Online learning shouldn’t be restricted to the desktop.
9. Innovation. It’s almost a cliche to say that we’re working in a fast moving and rapidly changing environment, but that doesn’t make it any less true. You need to consider any vendor not just in terms of what their product offers today, but in view of their capacity to innovate in the future. Do they have a proven track record of investing in and developing their platform, and is that development customer led?
10. Relationship. An LMS is usually a mid to long term investment, so can you picture yourself working with the vendor next year? Or in five years? Ask their existing customers about their relationship and be sure that culturally there is a good fit between you and the vendor.
Everything on this list is worth considering whether this is your first LMS or you’re looking to replace an existing solution. What tips would you add to this list?