What to look for in a new Learning Management System
Originally, learning management systems (LMS) came to life together with online learning. Training organizations needed tools to host and feature their online courses. Gradually, those LMSs added functionalities to support classroom training, training evaluations, testing, certifications and reporting.
But why do you need an LMS?
First of all, you will certainly benefit from an LMS when ‘learning’ is organized in and by your company. Secondly, you should have a team (or at least someone) who is responsible for organizing these trainings.
If this is the case, there are two possible triggers that will make you start looking for an LMS:
- Your common sense and office tools are unequipped to manage your learning tracks anymore, and you start looking for a ‘system’ to support you in your ‘learning manager’ role.
- You want to set up e-learning for your employees. You’ll need to develop your own learning content or get it through a content provider, and you’ll need a platform where you can host your content.
How do you start your search for the right LMS?
With Google by your side, you will find a lot of checklists, LMS rankings and reviews. There is a lot of useful (and less useful) information out there, but how do you find the information that is relevant to you?
Your first step should be to list your requirements. However, be careful with this. Don’t make an Excel with hundreds of requirements. Focus on the most important ones.
Setting up your list of requirements is not something you do behind your desk. You need to go out and talk with your trainers and their end-users. If your target audience not only includes employees, but also customers? This will add extra complexity in security, authentication, payment options, accessibility, etc.
These are five elements you should focus on:
- Your user interface. Does it have a responsive design? Does it work on multiple devices? This is extremely important for the end-user, as they will probably not use the LMS to its full potential if they do not like the design.
- How does the system comply with data privacy? This topic will only become more important in times of GDPR.
- Interfaces. An LMS is never a standalone system and always links to other systems. First of all to your HR master data, but also to learning content, to reporting tools, and so on. Common interfaces like SMTP, LDAP, SCORM, REST APIs must be available.
- Reporting should be straightforward. The longer you use your LMS, the more data you’ll have, and the more reports and dashboards you’ll need to process. Your reporting needs will change over time, so it should be easy to create these yourself.
- Social Learning. Whether we like it or not, all learning is becoming social. Your LMS should be able to create the feeling of collaboration. Be it in the LMS directly, or via interfacing to (corporate) social networks.
When going through all these elements, never forget to keep the end-result in mind. First of all, the system should help you bring all your organization’s learning opportunities to the learner. And if the LMS also helps you streamline your learning processes and lighten your administrative burden, then it is certainly a success.
How will the LMS fit into your organization?
Beyond the list of requirements, keep in mind the type of learning organization you are and how you fit into other domains of HR and IT.
Does your learning department count only one or two people, with limited IT skills? Then it’s very likely that your requirements won’t be that exotic. So go for something simple, easy to set-up and effortless to maintain. Do make sure your LMS is flexible enough, and gives you the opportunity to grow.
In this environment I would recommend to go for a straightforward ‘plug and play’ system.
The main advantage of these plug-and-play tools is that they are quite easy to implement. Most of the time, you only need to build an interface with your HR master data, make sure the user-interface is adapted to the house style of your company and that there is a simple log-on method for the users. If possible, you should always go for a single sign-on, as it immediately removes a big barrier for the end-user and is a lot safer.
However, do take the future into account when going for a plug-and-play system. After a while, some additional questions will pop up. Can I link the training classes to our competencies? And can we send back the results to our HR master database? Or, – if you have found a great supplier for online training classes – can we link our LMS system to the system of this provider?
On the other hand, when you are working in a big HR department, and all HR domains are working closely together, you might consider going for a full HRIS-system, which incorporates all modules linked to HR.
In this set-up, you will be asked for your advice and requirements, and after a few months it will result in a corporate decision. This decision will always be a compromise. Will this be bad for you? Most likely not. Will it make you really happy? It will probably not be love at first sight, but consider it as a marriage of convenience. Once you will get to know each other, you’ll see that it works quite good, and that the LMS has a huge amount of possibilities. It will be up to you to make sure it gets configured to fit your needs. And yes, there will always be other tools, with fancy new features.
The flexible LMS that fits your needs
In my experience, the Training and Development department is part of HR, but often operates rather independently. And if you are working on different sites, in different countries, for different target groups, while following your own processes, you could consider going for an open and adaptable system.
Of course, your LMS should be linked to the other HR systems, and directly be in contact with the HR master database, or indirectly via Active Directory. But it should be flexible enough to meet all the needs of your different target groups. And it should have the flexibility to grow (or shrink) with your needs.
delaware supports your LMS implementation
At delaware, we have years of experience in supporting training departments with their implementation of an LMS. Until today, this was a part of the implementation of SuccessFactors. For a lot of (larger) companies, this is a best fit, but not for all.
That is why we have started a partnership with SAP Litmos and Totara. SAP Litmos can be considered as a plug-and-play LMS. It has an up-to-date user interface, it can be linked to a lot of useful apps, and, from an learning admin point of view, maintenance is extremely straightforward. An extra advantage is that it comes with built-in authoring tools and an extensive content library.
Totara is considered as one of the most flexible LMSs on the market. With this system you can use your own creativity to design the learning experience of your users. It is based on open-source software, which means if you need a functionality that does not exist, you can simply build it yourself. Totara also has a Performance and a Collaboration module, and from a licensing perspective it is very competitive.
What to keep in mind when choosing an LMS
Buying an LMS will change the way of working in your training department, and the way of learning in your organization. Take your time and make a wise decision:
- Don’t make your list of requirements too long. It is better to focus on a few topics.
- Keep in mind the size and capabilities of your training department.
- Make sure you select an experienced implementation partner.
And don’t forget the most important thing: your LMS should make training and learning content easier to access by your learners than before.
Do you want to know more? Are you considering implementing an LMS?
Get in contact, we can help you make a wise decision (and that is not necessarily implementing one of the LMSs we have in our portfolio).