What is important when choosing your LMS?
In recent years the number of Learning Management Systems (LMS) on the market has increased dramatically, there are now hundreds of them. The old behemoths from established names are still there but now alongside them are offerings from a number of much smaller organisations as well as open source LMSs.
So how are client organisations choosing between them? The most common way is the 'box ticking' method - does your LMS do this, does it do that etc. The check lists (which in many cases run into dozens of pages) are sent out to LMS vendors who complete and return them. In these cases the LMS with the most boxes ticked vs. the cost is usually chosen.
buyers often miss the point of having an LMS in the first place. Namely, is this LMS going to help my staff be better at their jobs?"
There are also some companies that go out specifically looking for an open source LMS such as Moodle. They have heard all about the virtues of Moodle LMS, i.e. it's free, it's not vendor specific, it is always being updated.
However, I think there is a major flaw in this methodology, completely missing the main point of having an LMS in the first place. Namely, is this LMS going to help my staff be better at their jobs?
An LMS can improve workplace performance by providing easy access to pertinent learning materials when they need them. This seems very simple but it is something that a lot of LMSs fail to deliver on.
I believe the only way to get under the skin of an LMS and work out if it is any good is to compare how the system is used and performs in set scenarios. These should reflect the learning needs of the company looking for an LMS.
Let's look at typical situation to see how two different LMSs perform.
Scenario: Mega-Corporation X is changing their core business software. They currently have multiple 15 year-old legacy systems and are moving to shiny new integrated system. Mega-Corporation X realises they need to train their staff to use the new software, otherwise the staff will not know how to do their jobs after the switchover.
Paul hears about the change from his manager several months before the changeover, his manager tells him that there are some e-learning courses to do. He is told to go to log onto the LMS and do the courses. So he spends five minutes looking for the URL to the LMS, then he has to remember his password, then he has to find the courses, then enrol on the courses, wait for his manager to approve his enrolment, then log on again, find the courses again and finally take the course.
Paul gets so frustrated he gives up and does not complete the courses. A few months later when the software system changes over Paul doesn't know how to use the new system. As a result Paul's customers are let down and have a bad experience of Mega-Corporation X.
It doesn't take a usability expert to see that the LMS described above isn't exactly making it easy for Paul to learn about the new software - and who could blame him for giving up? This LMS has loads of features but it is failing to deliver on the basic point of an LMS.
Let's look at the same scenario using a modern learner-centric LMS instead.
Six months before the change Paul receives an email from the training department explaining about the software change and how it will affect him. It says to look out for training over the next few months. Three weeks later Paul receives another email reminding him about the change and also provides a link to his personal training learning portal.
He clicks the link and the 'Software Change' learning portal opens, and he can see all the courses that relate to him and his job role. He completes a few and then closes the window.
A couple of weeks before the change he again receives a message from the training department. It says he's doing well with his training but he still has two courses left to finish before the software transition. Again the links are in the email and all he has to do is click on them to run the courses.
When the software system changes Paul knows what to do and his customers continue to receive excellent service.
Can you see the difference? The second LMS is thought through from the ground up to have as few barriers between the content and the learner. This increases the uptake of learning materials by employees, this means that the staff are better trained and therefore better at their jobs. It's important to note that both LMSs described offer the same levels of reporting and learner management.
So ask yourself next time you are choosing or reviewing your own LMS, what is important? Is it features? Is it open source? Or is it that you need something that is going to help your staff get better at their jobs?
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