Learning Management Systems: What to Look for in Selecting One
Human resource executives and corporate training managers who are considering implementing learning management systems (LMS) may have more of an advantage than they realize when reviewing the different programs available.
For those new to the term, an LMS is a software package or cloud-based service that enables organizations to manage and deliver learning materials and resources to students or trainees. It automates administrative tasks, facilitates the seamless flow of information from source to end-user, and enables organizations to maintain vast amounts of skills and competencies for a large group of employees in an efficient and functional way. Simply put, LMS can improve organizational performance.
Many LMSs were designed specifically for corporate training and later adapted for academic applications. You may have assumed that it was the other way around. This means they are well suited for employee training.
In your search for the right LMS for your business, look at four key elements.
Experience of LMS Vendor
The experience of an LMS vendor is one consideration when shopping for an online learning system that will best suit your company’s training needs. A good first step to acquiring that information is to tap your network. Colleagues in the same or similar industries may be able to recommend systems that have helped them.
If you know someone in the United States military who has trained personnel using an LMS, it may be worthwhile to schedule an interview with that person. LMSs that provide learning services to military personnel must be robust and flexible. They must be able to incorporate training materials in many different formats and be able to upload content from many different subject areas. They must also be accessible from anywhere on the globe.
Whether you compile your list of LMS vendor candidates by talking to business associates or by conducting an Internet search, one of the first things you should ask the sales representatives about is the standards supported by their systems.
Most systems on the market now use the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM). This standard helps ensure the accuracy of test scores, influences which content can be uploaded to the system, and influences how reports are generated and shared with other software you may use. This can be critical for HR staff who wish to track the progress of employees in training programs. Consider it a red flag if a sales representative cannot intelligently discuss the most recent SCORM standards or give rational reasons why their system uses other standards.
IT Costs For Implementing an LMS; Local Installation vs. Hosted Approach
Cost is always an important consideration in any buying decision. When selecting an LMS, the start-up costs may not be indicative of the costs of using a system over many years.
Local LMS Installation
If you purchase a system and have it installed on your own servers, you will have more control over the configuration of the system, although this option has higher initial costs than a hosted approach.
If your IT staff has the expertise, you can tailor the system to your organization’s particular needs. This option, however, usually means that any upgrades or updates will cost extra.
Hosted LMS Solution
If the training in your industry requires continual updates, you may want to consider a hosted LMS, or Software as a Service (SaaS). This option does not require the installation of any software. The system is hosted on the vendor’s servers and upgrades are included as part of an overall package.
Customization of hosted systems can be more expensive than having the software installed on your own hardware. Some LMS vendors understand that installation and hosted options each offer advantages and disadvantages depending on the training needs of the customer, and will offer both options.
User-Friendliness of an LMS
Ease of use is an important consideration for any software purchase. LMS systems that require instructors to be trained on their use may cost less initially, but may end up costing you much more than more sophisticated systems that are also more intuitive if instructors do not use the system because, despite the training, they find it difficult to upload content or administer tests.
Even more important than ease of use for trainers is ease of use for trainees.
You may want to conduct an assessment of the computer literacy of potential trainees and match this information with the requirements of any LMS you consider.
If trainees will be using the LMS from home, you will want to evaluate the LMS’s system requirements, such as which browsers it supports and which versions of those browsers are required. LMSs that offer demonstration modules before purchase can help you make a more informed evaluation of their ease of use.
Having an absolutely clear idea of your company’s training needs and how these needs support your company’s overall business goals will be your best guide in taking all of these factors into consideration when selecting a LMS.
Learning management systems like those described in this article are becoming more and more commonplace in businesses and are even starting to appear in schools — particularly in online colleges and other primarily electronic institutions.
Complex business software like enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is also increasingly used in the education industry, but in general this is only happening in higher education institutions like colleges and universities. In the future the two systems may be able to work in tandem, more closely integrating learning management systems with other aspects of educational institution operations.