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Questions to Ask Your LMS Vendors

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Mark Berthelemy has suggested a number of key questions that should be included in any LMS RFP. They provide insight into the pain points for purchasers and the challenges for providers.  The questions, generally, were:

 

  • How does your system drive learners into it?
  • How does your system go to where the users are?
  • How does your system provide performance support?
  • How does your system provide social networking?

I reflected on how Accord LMS addresses these questions.

How does your system drive learners into it?
Mark’s blog notes two key opportunities:

 

 

  • Intelligent, recommendation-based marketing to match learners with learning assets based on profiles and actions
  • User based recommendation options for users to suggest or share learning assets with colleagues


Both of these are available through DotNetNuke (DNN) add on modules. In fact, options are so abundant, that you will need a clear, focused strategy for driving users to the LMS or users may be bombarded with too many prompts from multiple channels.

Some of the simplest drivers are the user-based recommendations, referrals, and sharing made available through tools such as a tell my friend type of email services, comment and rating systems that allow cross linking to related content, or web 2.0 tools for sharing and social bookmarking that allow users to post to multiple sharing services within a few simple clicks.

Options exist for more “push” marketing including pop-up ad modules that use intelligence based on user roles and business logic to determine whether to display the or not. Dynamic surveys can be deployed in real time to dynamically change as users respond to each question to route them to the best options.

However, my experience with learning designs has generally been cross-marketing within the learning asset itself. If a learner passes a course, often feedback is “Congratulations. You passed with a score of X%” and the opportunity to cross market is ignored. Often, additional courses are suggested to prompt Learner’s curiosity. Or maybe a follow up email:

 

 

  • Congratulations for passing X course. Any issues with this appearing on your transcript, these are the folks to contact. And hey, did you know that we have these additional awesome courses to make you even more fantastic than you already are?*
     
    * Not a real email, but you certainly get the idea. The Accord LMS provides complete control over all email notifications using easy to customize HTML templates with dynamic token replacement.


Hyperlinks to appropriate courses work well, but this can take significant amounts of maintenance if your catalog of courses is deep and changes frequently. An alternative is to use standard naming or metadata conventions for learning assets so you can pass a search string to query a targeted group of objects. This takes quite a bit of foresight and planning, but well worth the efforts.

Conversely, if the learner is not successfully achieving learning objectives, are appropriate resources presented to help them? Again, these links can be to specific assets or stored queries for targeted remedial training assets.

How does your system go to where the users are?
This is simply asking “where will your users ‘be’ when they would need access to learning?” and “do you make getting from that point to the learning assets easy?”. I agree that LMS access is generally an unnatural process and that organizations layer additional complexity to “address” the access issue.

Interzoic addresses these issues better than most LMS systems. You can host your content catalog on one portal and present it to Learners in a different portal. You can even create any number of views into the catalog so that a Learner can access specific training for one product or curriculum in one part of your site, and a different product or curriculum from another part of your site. The DNN framework works with many authentication methodologies to make your LMS login/access as secure or as transparent as it best fits your business.

Mark’s article drilled down into more specific suggestions:

 

 

  • Buttons in the browser toolbar or browser extensions - both of which are available and achievable with the DNN framework.
  • Mobile versions of the assets – this is where many LMS fail because of two reasons 1) most high end presentation authoring tools only export SCORM only in Flash format and 2) Flash is not compatible with any of the Apple products. However most high end tools can output presentations and training content directly to MP4 (non-SCORM) and the Accord LMS can load, launch and track dozens of different media types, including MP4. There are many options for low resolution quizzes creation that output to HTML – which is compatible with Apple products.
  • Prompted interactions- aside from the previous mentioned sharing tools and marketing pop ups, there are options for news feeds, timed surveys and evaluations, and email campaigns that you can employ to get where users are in their natural course of work and provide access to needed assets. Again, many third party applications are available and the Accord provides, by design, easy integration.


How does your system provide performance support?
Mark then asks a question about performance support vs. training. From my perspective, I don’t think performance assets belong in an LMS. Clients are asking for assets to be accessed in a more productive and natural work scape instead of being locked behind an LMS login and its catalog directory. Performance assets belong in the performance/application environment; they should be reused for training as a secondary purpose when appropriate. The tail shouldn’t wag the dog.

That being said, Mark is fundamentally correct. It does happen, all too often, that performance assets ARE put into an LMS. There are many reasons for this ranging from control and ownership issues, tracking requirements, and “increasing the number of assets in the LMS to justify the ROI” (to justify the price tags!). I am not agreeing with these design decisions, but they are a reality.

One of the powerful aspects of Accord LMS is its ability to use an information asset (PDF, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.) and wrap it with a “learning event” so that the LMS can track and report the asset utilization just like it was a SCORM object. However, this asset can hosted anywhere on a local or remote server and freely utilized in the work scape for its primary purpose. There is no need for it to be locked in the LMS. Coupled with the native DNN search that crawls your site and indexes extended documents such as PDF, Word, and PowerPoint, you can provide additional channels of access to your performance assets.

Accord LMS Learning Events can be searched using title, keywords, description, target audience and lesson objectives, however Flash content creates another technical challenge because it can’t be indexed with web crawlers. Understanding a constraint makes it easier to manage. Since this content isn’t searchable directly from the LMS, you may have to use more keywords and better descriptions to assist your users in attaining better search results. Also, you may want to provide enhanced bookmarking and navigation in those assets so key objectives, tools, or content is easy to identify and navigate to. If it is a performance support asset, you will want to consider how you are packaging it for use in the application environment first, and then consider how it can be packaged for your training environment.

How does your system provide social networking?
The last question Mark poses is how the technology connects people to have a shared learning experience. I would say that the “how” should be in your control. Unlike many vendors who sell their (expensive) version of social tools or linked tools that clearly reveal an “add on” perspective versus one of integration, Accord LMS truly empowers you to utilize a wide range of social tools to deploy that best fit your business and integrate them seamlessly.

One thing I find very interesting is the high focus by most LMS vendors and add on tools for peer-to-peer sharing. This is certainly addressed through module options with Accord LMS. However, my experience in the industry right now is a need for true value mentoring and guided apprenticeship. The tools available to facilitate BOTH peer sharing and functions to support and enhance a mentoring relationship, such as document management/sharing and mentor chat are available through the Accord LMS platform. This is just another differentiating factor from most LMS / social tools available on the market. When seeking a new system, use these important questions to learn more from LMS vendors and find the option that's right for your business needs.

 

 

 

 

 

| Categories: eLearning

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