There are over 700 LMS on the market. It's a minefield. Choosing the correct LMS can make or break a project. In this 2-part article, we'll outline some common mistakes that should be avoided when you choose your next LMS.
I spoke at length with a client last night who was looking to choose an LMS for his company. He had spent some time looking through some of Google's highest ranked search results, but was lost amongst a sea of features and functionality.
Thinking about the future
Choosing an LMS is a long-term investment. What will your company need from the platform in 5 years?
It is notoriously time-consuming to migrate to a new LMS, so choosing the correct platform in the first place is essential.
I have spent many years in elearning and overseen the implementation and migration of several LMS.
I have made many mistakes in this process, some big, some small - it's a constant learning curve. In this article, I simply aim to share some of the lessons I've learnt and the mistakes I've either made myself, or seen my colleagues make.
Key mistakes to avoid
So let's get stuck into the key mistakes to avoid when choosing an LMS:
1) You didn’t check the vendor’s customer support
Setting up and deploying an LMS is a lot more complex than it may seem on the surface.
To begin with, you'll need help from the LMS vendor in setup, choosing functionality and familiarising yourself with the basics.
In the mid-term, you'll be needing support on uploading content, administering learners and creating relevant reports. You may also need to consider platform integration with other systems that your company uses. If not systems, company policies (tip - get your IT department involved in the process early).
In the longer term, you will be dealing with a completely different series of challenges such as using advanced reporting and other functionality that managers and learners will request once they start using the LMS.
The first LMS I implemented was developed by a company based in Canada. My company was based in the UK. Whilst the software was being resold by a third-party distributor based in London, any technical queries had to be escalated to the support team ‘across the pond’.
This meant that if we arrived at work in the morning and there was a technical issue (users can't access content, managers can't access reports, SME's can't upload content - these are some examples that spring to mind!) these issues weren't being viewed until 3/4pm UK time, by which time we had lost a whole business day before anyone replied.
We would then often wake up the following day to a response which was asking for more information, which lead to the classic international, disjointed, email conversations that we have all experienced when dealing with customer support based in a different time zone.
So when you're looking at an LMS, check on the customer support infrastructure. If the LMS vendor is based in another time zone, what level of support is there in your region?
Will the local support be able to make changes to the system and investigate bugs? Or will they simply be offering guidance on how the functionality works?
There is a big difference.
2) Intuitive interface for infrequent users
The key to a successful LMS is ensuring users feel comfortable with the platform.
We have all logged into software that doesn't seem intuitive and then never logged back in because of that one negative impression.
The more people frequently using the platform, the more successful the platform will be.
This is not only relevant to learners, but critically also to managers who want to see both their teams progress and also review feedback captured by the platform (i.e any questions being asked, issues on certain topics etc.)
Ensuring that those people accessing the management interface find administration straightforward will also go a long way towards ensuring the success of a platform like this.
In any LMS rollout, you must ensure that you create a network of e-learning champions. These are the people who will actively promote e-learning with your audience.
This will only happen if they are actually using the system and enjoy the experience.
3) Additional costs for updating style and adding features
Whilst the price for an LMS is usually stated in black and white on the contract, you must be aware of additional costs that may or may not be included once you are under way.
I have seen several examples of LMS providers offering functionality in their product, only to discover that a certain feature does not come as standard and will require additional investment.
One example that stands out to me was a new release of the LMS which had a series of excellent social functionality - discussion forums, surveys, news feeds, leader boards etc. but was being sold as an optional add-on, which increased the price of the original agreement by 25%.
This meant that as we grew our audience, the cost of the LMS would increase proportionately! Yikes!
Another LMS I've used charged our company each time we wanted to change the appearance of the LMS. Obviously not ideal.
4) Ability to grow with your business
I've seen varying behaviour demonstrated by different LMS vendors. Some LMS vendors share their product roadmap (which features they are planning on adding to the product), whilst some do not.
Whilst I understand that sharing the roadmap can create more questions than answers for the vendors, knowing where the software is headed is a key factor when choosing an LMS.
At the very least, ask your potential vendors how willing are they to discuss new features and their vision for the future of the product. Are they going to focus on learning or branch out into other HR related software (and ultimately lose focus on the learning aspect)?
What are their plans for mobile?
Will they be adding gamification in a future release?
The best LMS vendors actually host events where they will share their vision for the future and gather feedback from users.