The learning management system (LMS) has been around since the 1960s and in that time, it has undergone much change. We wrote about the modern LMS recently here.
Today’s LMS offerings are many and the LMS is often a complex buying decision for those new to eLearning or wanting to upgrade their efforts. So where to start in the list of overwhelming options? How do you go from option paralysis to streamlined efficiency and practical understanding?
At Logicearth, based on over 20 years of experience of working with different types of LMS, seeing what works for clients and what does not, we have come up with a handy guide.
Modern learning through a modern LMS
If you are thinking of an LMS purchase or upgrade, look at our seven deal-breakers:
- It should be in the cloud
- It should provide a set of tools to encourage sharing, communication and collaboration
- It should support classroom training and administration as part of the learning blend
- It should be multi-device ready
- It should support a modern and natural learning process
- It should have a well-designed database
- It should have an open architecture to help with future-proofing
We’re sure there will be plenty of opinions on possible LMS deal-breaker features; but this is our starter for 10. If you’d like to share your ideas, let us know in the comments at the end of the post.
1. It should be in the cloud
For many LMS it used to be that you needed days of support from your IT department to install the LMS on your workplace server. Often, organisations had to make expensive upgrades to their server to even allow the LMS to be installed. But not today.
SaaS – software as a service now means that many modern LMS vendors have cloud-based LMS options. That means, no server installations, little or no support needed from your IT department and usually a much quicker implementation of the LMS.
But some organisations, especially those in highly regulated industries have concerns with cloud-based systems. Instead of storing your own data – training records, content, personal details, this data will be stored with the LMS on a hosted server. We have worked through this with a few of our clients who needed more reassurance around security and data protection. So ask your LMS provider about this. There are specific security standards that some industries have to adhere to and your LMS provider should know about these.
2. It should provide tools to encourage sharing, communication and collaboration
Gone are the days where a LMS simply hosts content; the modern LMS should provide a range of tools to encourage good communication and sharing of ideas. Our technology partners, Netex provide a cloud-based LMS called learningCloud that bundles together the following toolset:
- Rich learning and training management functionality
- Multi-device, mobile responsive learning content development tool - learningMaker
- Social learning layer for your staff to share knowledge, skills and experiences
- A cloud-based content delivery platform
- A learning app (IOS and Android), so content can be accessed offline and on-the-move
We actually use the social learning tool ourselves for internal communication and many of our clients are now making use of the content development tool, learningMaker.
The best LMS providers integrate these functions – by allowing and encouraging a blend of different types of learning activities. For example, while you are taking a course on ergonomics, support the natural process of learning by asking staff to take photos of good posture, which then can then be shared using the social learning tool.
3. It should support classroom training and administration as part of the blend
There seem to be polarising views in the eLearning industry; many want to ban the classroom from all corporate training programmes and some want to ban eLearning!
This tells us more about the quality of the training and eLearning, rather than the types of learning interventions on offer. The simple fact is that the classroom is still useful for learning and there are still good trainers out there!
But what we know now is that not all company learning has to be done via the classroom. Some staff prefer the flexible learning option offered by eLearning, and many company training programmes take a blended approach; some offline and some online training.
So this means that your LMS needs to support this type of administration flexibility. What that means specifically is:
- Trainers and coaches should be able to easily follow staff progress through their blended learning options regardless of whether they start in the classroom or online
- Support for certification records, competency management and re-training is still important – people still love to have a printable certificate
- Ability to support classroom training with different types of content is vital and may need some timed-released features to help staff focus on the next part of the learning journey
Be sure to ask your LMS provider about support for these blended learning options!
4. It should be multi-device ready
In modern times, this should be a given. Staff need to be able access content on the move. We know that staff use mobile device more and more - latest research shows that many organisations are facilitating Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Many LMS providers offer the option of a Learning App, which allows you to download content to a mobile device for viewing off line. After you finish, you can re-sync to update your LMS record.
5. It should support a modern and natural learning process
This is our favourite one at Logicearth! Many LMS have evolved from legacy systems that were originally designed for academic or larger corporate use. This was mainly due to cost – these were the only types of organisations who could afford to pay for the LMS.
In the past, especially in the 1990s, there was a much more rigid view of workplace learning than there is now. Learning or training was arranged in rigid structures and used terminology like curriculum, module, assessment etc. In more modern times, and we hope enlightened times, learning is much more flexible and encourages a range of activities or learning resources to be presented to staff. If your LMS ‘forces’ you into presenting your content in a highly structured manner, then the warning bells should ring loudly!
And - does your LMS force you to track everything your staff does, or does it restrict the types of content you can upload – important questions to ask. Ask your LMS vendor to talk you through latest learning technology options such as xAPI, LTI, CMI and ask them how you can set up a learning technology ecosystem!
6. It should have a well-designed database
We build this point as a follow-on from point 5 and will probably appeal to the more technically minded of you.
When a database evolves over time and as new LMS features are built on, sometimes the database behind the LMS can restrict what users need to be able to do. We’ve seen this with LMS that have been around for a while. It particularly affects learning resource assignment and updating – especially deletion. Also, as you begin you use your LMS, you’ll upload lots of users, assign lots of learning resources and the LMS can get quite unwieldy over time.
Your LMS to provide efficient and safe features to make quick updates and keep things tidy for the user. One problem we see often is the need for a quick course update once a typo or small error is spotted. Some learners may have already completed that course, so should the LMS make them take the course again or should the LMS force you to add it as a new course?
These types’ scenarios are important to consider, as it will make your LMS more manageable over time.
7. It should have a (reasonably) open architecture to help with future-proofing
We think this is the most important point for an LMS on this list.
The perfect LMS just doesn’t exist.
What you buy for your organisation now will not be suitable as your organisation grows and develops. Your LMS may come bundled with social learning tools, authoring tools or other types of tools, but what if you find a better tool down the line? What if you want to bolt on new tool such as a curation or video sharing tool later date?
A LMS that has a relatively open architecture and supports content interoperability standards is what you should be after!
So that is our top seven. What do you think? Are these seven steps to heaven for LMS procurement or are they more like the seven deadly sins? Let us know in the comments below.