Your LMS Search: Who to Have on Your Team
You've been given the job of finding the LMS that best fits your firm. Your only guideline is a maximum total cost for everything including system purchase, licensing, implementation, support, etc. Your first stab at research tells you that there are hundreds of learning management systems on the market! Even narrowing it down to a list of the top 20 most user-friendly systems only gives you a starting point for your search. You want to make sure that your LMS is better than just "good enough". What's a person to do? Where does a person start?
The first thing you need to do is drop the "a person" mentality. When Ferdinand Magellan went off in search of the Spice Islands, did he do it alone? Did Neil Armstrong fly solo when he put his footprints in the lunar dust? No! They had teams of people with special skills and knowledge to help them in their quests. And so should you.
In this article, I'll explore how you can use a team to search for the right LMS by looking at:
- Who the team should include
- What team members should be looking for?
Who should the team include?
Who should you have with you in your LMS search? There are usually quite a few stakeholders in the acquisition and use of an LMS and you will get input from all of them throughout the process. But, for the search itself, your team, at a minimum, should include:
- Content developers and training professionals - These are the people who will be working with the LMS to deliver content and track learner progress, while monitoring the system's effectiveness in content delivery and ease of use. They are the ones who are in the best position to assemble a list of "must have" features that will allow them to upload content and communicate with learners.
- HR administrators - You'll need input from the people who schedule and track learning. They will want to know how to set up and run reports, register learners and recognize learning achievements. They are the people who will be running the LMS.
- IT staff - An LMS is software, and software always needs support. While most vendors offer support for their systems, your IT people will be the ones that will be called first. They are also going to be involved in the implementation/integration of the LMS, as well as a variety of maintenance functions.
- Learners - The ultimate end-user of an LMS is the learner. They will use the system to access learning content and complete assessments and tests. They'll access the LMS wherever and whenever they want or need to and will let you know when it's not working. Their input on ease of use is important in deciding which LMS you decide on.
- Management - At this stage of the LMS acquisition process, management may want to be involved, but their degree of involvement will vary from one organization to the next. Some may not want to be involved until the list of candidates has been winnowed down to the top 3. Others will want to be involved from the get-go. They will pay the bills and will ultimately decide whether to purchase the LMS or not. Regardless of how involved they want to be, it's a good idea to keep management informed on the team's progress as the LMS search progresses.
Be cautious about how many people you invite. Too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil a recipe - too few and you might forget the salt! Ask a representative or two from each group to add valuable experience and knowledge to your LMS search.
What should team members be looking for?
Members of your team should look for LMS features and benefits relevant to their areas of expertise. What do they need the LMS to do? What LMS needs have they identified?
Content developers and training professionals will want to look for an LMS that:
- Can upload and properly display course work that has been developed using the software they use. Most companies will use one of the top 10 authoring tools available on the market
- Can play video and audio tracks
- Allows the use of online learning tools
- Allows content editing
- Functions well on PC and Mac desktops
- Facilitates mobile learning across all platforms (iPhone, Android, Smart phone, tablet, etc.)
- Lets learners and trainers communicate and engage in social learning
- Can use gamification in learning content
HR administrators will be looking for LMS features that will let them input and retrieve the data necessary to run the firm's training program. These features may include:
- Learner registration
- eCommerce capability
- Ability to assign individualized learning paths
- Activity reports
- Learning completion reports
- Detailed report by user/by course
- Learner satisfaction ratings
- Test item details reports
- Order details/summary (eCommerce) reports
Team members from your IT department will be looking at LMS software from a completely different point of view. They'll be looking for:
- Compatibility with existing systems
- Ease of implementation
- Vendor support
- Open source or Cloud-based hosting
- Compatibility with learner devices
- Bandwidth requirements
Learners will have a different LMS features shopping list. They may be concerned with any or all of the following:
- Ease of use
- Mobile learning capability -- can they access the learning when and where they have time?
- Social learning capability - can they share their experiences with other learners?
- Gamification - will the learning experience be enjoyable?
- Individualized learning paths - will they be learning only what they need to learn?
- Achievement measurement - can badges or certificates be issued?
- Online help and tutoring capability
Team members from management will have their eyes on the bottom line. Their concerns will center on:
- The cost of the LMS
- The return on investment (ROI)
After you've assembled your LMS search team, you will have to identify what the organization needs from an LMS. This will take some time, as will researching the systems available. Read reviews and find out what other users like about their LMS and what they don't like. Then, narrow down your list and you'll be ready to start talking to vendors. Our LMS Buying Guide offers some great tips for when you are ready to shop.
Selecting the right LMS is made easier through teamwork. Teamwork is made easier by selecting the right team!
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Jill is an Instructional Designer at BaseCorp Learning Systems with more than 10 years of experience researching, writing and designing effective learning materials. She is fascinated by the English language and enjoys the challenge of adapting her work for different audiences. After work, Jill continues to leverage her professional experience as she works toward the development of a training program for her cats. So far, success has not been apparent.