There are several hundred Learning Management System vendors in the market today. Faced with an overwhelming array of choices, how do you know which is the best? The fact is that none of them are the best for everyone, however one may be the best for you. The trick is finding the best LMS that meets your needs and your budget.
These ten steps take you through the selection process from planning through purchase. Consider each carefully and you’ll be on your way to an ideal LMS solution.
Before You Start to Search
Step 1: Review Your Current Strategy
Evaluating your current training program is an important first step to selecting the best LMS to suit your needs. Write down all the things you do now. What’s working well? What are the limitations? What’s missing? Documenting what is effective now and understanding your deficits will help you select an LMS that will enhance your strengths and fill in your weaknesses.
Step 2: Understand Your Training Goals
Why do you want an LMS? Do you want to save money on travel? Enforce compliance requirements? Sell your courses online? Get a better handle on managing your training programs? Whatever your reasons are, write them down in clear measurable terms. Completely understanding your goals is the only way that you can select the LMS that helps meets those goals. Measurable goals facilitate objective review of how successful your new system is after you’ve been using it for awhile.
Step 3: Understand eLearning Content
Well made content is expensive to create and, if done correctly, can be useful for years to come. It’s important to make sure that it can move to a new system if, for some reason, circumstances force you to move to a new LMS platform in the future. Content that is published to the SCORM industry standard is the only reliable way to ensure that your content is portable to other e learning platforms. Some LMS offer built in authoring tools that are not SCORM compliant or portable.
There are several best of breed SCORM authoring tools that range from converting PowerPoint presentations to full featured eLearning authoring systems. Before you select your LMS, get a free trial of the software that you’ll be using to create new material and create some sample courses to user test on your LMS candidates. For more information please see The Truth About Creating eLearning Content.
Selecting a Vendor
Step 4: Review the LMS Features
Review the vendor’s web site to determine if their features meet the needs you outlined in step #2. Remember, you don’t need the system with the most features - this will add cost and complexity. You need the system with the right features to help you accomplish your needs today and your goals tomorrow. Check out the Accord LMS Features page for an example. Also beware - some vendors put more dollars into marketing a slick UI but skimp on robust feature development. Looks can be deceiving.
Step 5: Get to Know Your Vendor
Buying an LMS is a big decision and the vendor should be a supportive partner for years to come. Get them on the phone. Ask for a demo. Make sure that they provide thoughtful answers to your questions. Ask who you’ll be working with once you have made your purchase. After speaking to the vendor, you should feel that they understand your project and have provided valuable consultation. The type of pre-sales support you receive will reveal the company culture and usually indicates the level of service that you’ll receive throughout your relationship.
Step 6: Review Customization and Integration Options
Most LMS systems can be configured to reflect your brand. Usually this is limited to a color scheme and a logo, maybe the home page layout. Some LMS include a full featured web content management system that can be used to build a professional website around your learning management system. The more you want to highlight your brand and customize your Learner's experience the more you will want to consider web content management tools. If you have applications that need to integrate with your LMS, such as an HRIS or Single Sign On, now is the time to understand the technical requirements and possible limitations.
Step 7: Understand their Pricing Model
Studies have shown that spending more money often does not provide a better product or greater satisfaction.
- Learner Count - can vary from user account or login to actual learning engagement.
- Active Learner Pricing - users who are currently taking managed courses within a given time period
- Administrators – some systems limit the number of administrators based on your pricing structure.
- Features - Find out what is included in the standard feature set, do you have to pay extra for enterprise features?
Discuss how your learners will be using your system and negotiate the best pricing model that your vendor offers for your unique needs.
Before You Sign
Step 8: Get a Test Drive
Once you’ve identified some top contenders, ask the Vendor for a free evaluation period. Make sure that they provide adequate training. This is one of the final steps. Avoid the common mistake of getting access to an evaluation site and then not taking the time to actually user test it. Load in some courses and make sure that everything works as advertised. Now is the time to find any issues with your content, UI or integrations and bring them up to your vendor. You’re not only testing the evaluation site, but also how the vendor responds to support inquiries.
Step 9: Check Out the Reports
For many organizations, reporting is where the rubber meets the road. Your LMS should give you all the information that you need to evaluate your training programs. Can the reports be automatically delivered to supervisors so that they can ensure compliance? Can the utilization reports be customized and segmented by Teams? Can the reports be exported as PDF, Excel or CSV?
Step 10: Review the Implementation Plan
Implementing an LMS is a process that has a number of interdependent tasks. There will be both in house tasks and tasks the Vendor needs to take care of. Some tasks may require that prerequisites are completed. For example, if your vendor offers a data migration service from another system, they will be unable to do so until the data is provided. Talk to your Vendor - what kind of LMS implementation management do they offer, what kinds of tools do they use to make the process easier?
You're on Your Way!
Industry reports suggest that the average time organizations take to select the best Learning Management System for their needs is from two to six months. Taking time on the front end to do things right can save a lot of time and trouble on the back end. If you review each of these steps, you should be well on your way to selecting the best LMS and Vendor to meet your needs now and in the years to come.
Accord LMS offers powerful features, implementation management, and excellent support at an affordable price. Please contact our Sales Team for more information.