Investing in an LMS is a big decision that an organization needs to take. Typically organizations look for solutions that address their learning and training requirements. There are many questions that come up in the initial discussions – should we go for proprietary LMSs or should we try open-source? What features should we be looking at, what are the costs involved, will they meet our specifications and so on. However, it is not so much about what a Blackboard, Saba, Sumtotal or Moodle CAN DO or NOT DO but how they can best be customized to cater to our requirements that is more significant. In this context, here are some do’s and don’ts that we can keep in mind while selecting an LMS.
Analyze your training requirement: Before choosing an LMS provider it is important to understand your training need and learning strategy that you wish to adopt to fulfill the need. What are the functions that you want the LMS to do – Integrate classroom training, provide certification for mandatory training programs, deliver eLearning programs, provide a collaborative learning environment by incorporating informal learning?
Include L&D department along with IT department: LMS may be installed and managed by IT department but it is the L&D department which is its end user. An LMSs may have many complex features and options which may not really be required in this context. Therefore, it is important to consult and involve L&D department in all discussions. Document the questions and expectations of key stakeholders so that it can be handy when comparing solutions provided by various vendors. It will also ensure that the focus remains on the immediate and basic requirements of the organization, instead of being carried away with frills and extras that are not immediately needed.
Document all your requirements before meeting vendors: You know your needs and what works for you better than any of the vendors. Therefore, it is a good practice to document your primary requirements in consultation with your training/ L&D department. It also serves as a good reference manual for potential vendors who will better understand your essential requirement and provide customized solutions. When introducing LMS for the first time, it is better to go for something that is simple and easy to navigate so that it is not intimidating to a newbie.
Consider future expansion possibilities: Though you start of on a simple and small scale, you may want to expand the use of the LMS in future. You may intend to scale up and choose to extend the online training facility to your employees in other locations. Therefore, choose an LMS that allows you to grow slowly along with your needs and provides the option to scale up as and when required.
Try it before purchasing to figure out hidden costs: A one-time demonstration may not be adequate to understand the suitability of an LMS to your specific requirements. Ideally, it would be a good idea to try out the LMS and its feature to ensure how it fits into your overall organizational set up. A pilot test or trial involving all key stakeholders such as the administrators, a few users and managers is a good idea to assess their comfort level and ease of usability with the interface. Some LMSs may be rigid and may not provide enough room for customization. Even if they do, there may be a lot of vendor administration costs involved. You may also want to compare the offer with open source LMSs such as Moodle, which could be customized easily without recurring costs.
Don’t just look at immediate requirement, think long term: Though you may currently be having a limited number of courses administered to a few hundred employees, it may not be the case in future. You will need to ensure the scalability of an LMS when you grow and expand. What is the maximum seat capacity of the LMS?
Don’t rush into LMS purchase without understanding the entire training scenario in your organization. How many classroom training are offered? Are there any online courses currently offered. If not, you may first want get some eLearning courses developed, upload them on to the organization’s online portal and observe employee reactions to the online courses. Would classroom trainings also be managed by the LMS? Is there a reliable internal team to manage and administer the courses?
Don’t be hasty in recruiting manpower to manager LMS internally: Analyze the internal team members and see if a few can be assigned administrative rights while the rest of the enforcement can be outsourced to an external vendor. Understand the scale and volume of the work involved. Do you really need to hire internally or would it be easier to outsource the LMS maintenance and administration to an external vendor?
This list may not be all-inclusive but is merely suggestive. There certainly are other factors one need to keep in mind while selecting an LMS. However, what one essentially needs to keep in mind is that LMS needs to be tailored to cater to the organizational needs and not the other way round. Do share your thoughts on the same.