10 questions to ask yourself when choosing an LMS
April 1, 2021
What is an LMS?
An LMS (Learning Management System) is a powerful tool that can house your training content and supporting documents while managing users and reporting on progress. An LMS has many other features that can make it an attractive option for many teams looking for a way to optimally deliver their content, but not all LMSs are created equal.
If you’re wanting to know whether you need an LMS at all, or if you can use an ad hoc solution (such as uploading videos to Vimeo or Youtube) instead, you might be interested in our article about when an LMS is the right solution for you.
Below we review some key questions to consider when determining which LMS is the right content delivery platform for your team.
Questions to consider
How important is security to our company? What kind of user control do we need?
Security is always an important feature to consider when presenting training, especially if it will contain any type of trade secrets and confidential information, or has to meet compliance standards. You’ll want to ensure your LMS has a secure login system with 2 factor authentication, a strong encryption level and allows admins to control user permissions across the LMS system, but especially on the course and module level.
Stay away from an LMS provider that can’t answer these questions to your satisfaction. Data breaches can be very costly to your business in more ways than one, from loss of IP, loss of revenue and potentially irreparable damage to your brand’s reputation.
What types of learning (ILT, eLearning, etc) are we creating?
Some LMSs specialize in certain kinds of content delivery, and so it’s important to know what type of content you are ultimately trying to create in order to know whether you can find an LMS that handles that type of content specifically, to save money and have a feature-set tailored to your needs.
A lot of LMS platforms allow for housing of eLearning, videos, documents, audio clips, quizzes and more, but each may structure them in different ways, so it’s important to be able to look at the user interface (UI) of each LMS to see how easy it is to work with the things you need.
If you are mostly designing Instructor-Led Training (ILT), and don’t plan to record or reuse the training in the future, you might not need an LMS at all.
What types of outputs (SCORM, TINCAN, Video, MP3, etc) do we need?
eLearning can be output into several different popular formats from SCORM to TIN CAN, video, and mp3 audio. While most LMSs can host video and audio, not all of them work with SCORM or TIN CAN.
SCORM and TIN CAN are two of the most popular eLearning outputs that allow for deeper performance tracking and grading of eLearning created using software such as Adobe Captivate or Articulate Studio/Storyline. They contain the programming behind the scenes that can tell an LMS that a user has taken a test and received a grade in it, or they’ve completed certain content in the module.
Many LMSs allow you to skip needing to use those applications by providing their own built-in eLearning design platform, but these can sometimes be limited in their feature-set and can also make it very difficult to extract all of your content and leave that platform in the future if things change.
Ultimately, you will want to know what outputs an LMS can handle, so you can make the most informed decision based on how you want to design the eLearning and how important being able to lift and shift your content might be in the future.
Do we need social learning features?
Social Learning refers to sharing your experiences about the learning through social media, or other messaging platforms where you can discuss the content, share ideas and get help.
Some LMSs have built-in communication platforms that allow users to connect with each other either in class groups, forums or private messages to accomplish these things.
LMSs sometimes handle these things within their own framework, which can be very handy for businesses that may be training users in multiple locations, while other LMSs don’t offer this feature.
Do we need Gamification?
Gamification is defined as “the process of adding games or gamelike elements to something (such as a task) so as to encourage participation.” Many LMSs now offer a range of customizable badges, trophies and achievements for users who do things such as complete eLearning modules, post messages in forums, or score high on tests.
These things can help users to be more interested in going through the material, because of the rewards being offered. It’s important to ask the potential LMS providers you’re researching if they offer gamification, and how customizable it is based on areas you might want to gamify.
Do we have supporting documents? Where are we planning to store them?
Supporting documents are an important part of training, because they can provide more details to support the training itself. What gets forgotten sometimes is that these documents, even in the digital age, need to live somewhere so that learners can get access to them. Most users prefer a simple, easy to access method of document retrieval, while businesses want to make sure documents are secure and cannot be accessed by unauthorized individuals.
While many LMSs offer the ability to house documents in their internal network, this is not the only option. Using a document storage/collaboration app such as Dropbox or Box can allow you a lot more fine grained permission for specific users so they only have access to the folders and documents they need while still making it easy for users to quickly preview and download those documents.
We also recommend thinking about how all of the supporting documents will be catalogued so they can be easily tracked, managed and updated as needed. While creating a table in Excel is a cheap and easy option, using an online spreadsheet program such as Smartsheet might be a better fit because it allows for collaboration and easy sharing of the most up to date data across one or many sheets to only the users that need access.
Are we selling the training or providing it internally?
It’s important to determine whether you will be selling your training, or might do so in the future.
Some LMSs offer a storefront feature that allows you to offer some or all of your training for sale. A subset of those LMSs may also offer integrated payment options into their storefront, so you don’t have to set up your own and then connect it.
If you’re not planning to sell training, or have another method in place for users to obtain it, then this won’t be as high of a priority for you. But if you do plan to sell training in the future, it’s still important to look at LMSs which offer this feature as future proofing.
How many courses are we creating?
Some LMSs make their money by charging per user seat, while others charge based on number courses/modules being created. We recommend understanding how your LMS provider candidates charge to see what might be a better fit for you. Do you have a large number of users and a small number of courses, or vice versa?
Another thing to consider, if you do have a large volume of courses and modules to deliver, is versioning. Some LMSs handle course and module versions, both for training and reporting purposes, making it easier to see and understand changes over time as new users may take an updated version of the course. Other LMSs don’t offer this type of feature, so each course and module would only have one version and there might not be a great way to report on older content versus updated content.
How many users need to take the training?
As previously mentioned, most LMSs charge either by courses created or active user seats (how many users can access the platform during a given time). It’s a good idea to consider how many users might need to access the LMS over a given time, based on the LMS provider’s subscription options. Some LMSs offer discounts for longer commitments, such an annual rate compared to month-to-month billing.
An LMS should be flexible, so that it allows you to adjust the number of users you need dynamically over time, rather than forcing you to buy large groups of users seats, some of which you may never need, in order to hit their next access tier.
Do we need the ability to grade content and/or track progress?
Most LMSs should be able to report grades and progress in content, but not all have robust reporting engines that can report on all the unique criteria you may require.
Do your due diligence when researching the reporting capabilities of your LMS provider candidates. You never know when you might need the ability to report on an uncommon metric that is important to your business.
Positive Results™ is a training development and cloud solutions company that works with organizations to analyze their business process then provide training and tools to resolve any gaps we identify.
Although we are no longer in the LMS re-selling business, our focus on providing the highest quality learning design for our clients means we still pay close attention to client needs in the evolving world of LMS platforms. If your team needs help designing training and ultimately wants to house that training on an LMS, please contact us. We’re happy to help provide guidance along the way to assist you in making your selection.
If you have additional questions or need support, contact us at:
Positive Results™ Custom Business Solutions