An LMS is not, and should not be, an impulse buy. Regretting that you fell for that fidget spinner fad is one thing ― worst case scenario, that’s $10 dollars you won’t ever see again.
Falling for a inferior LMS, on the other hand, will not only be more costly, but it will also negatively affect your company’s training program, and by extension its overall agility and competitiveness.
That said, with so many options available, so many details to watch for, and so much marketing spin thrown around, LMS evaluation can be a daunting task. Which is why, in this post, we will try to teach you everything that you need to know to pick the right LMS for your needs.
You see, it all boils down to five simple rules:
1. It’s all about you
eLearning is applicable to all kinds of industries, but individual training needs can vary a lot. This means that, while there are a few good all-rounder LMS platforms, there is really no universal “one size fits all” solution.
In determining what your need are, doing so, you’ll need to raise, and get the answer to, lots questions, such as:
– What are your short, mid, and long-term market goals?
– How can eLearning help you achieve them?
– How many people do you need to train?
– …split in how many teams?
– …and in what subject matters?
– Do you have any specific technical considerations regarding your LMS?
– How many resources (content writers, instructors, IT, etc.) can you devote to your training program?
– Does it also need to cover your extended enterprise partners or channel network?
– What are your criteria for its success?
There are no hard and fast answers to most of those questions. You can start with some high-level brainstorming by the executives involved, and continue with employee surveys, one-on-one interviews with the expected stakeholders (department heads, dev-ops, partner representatives, etc.).
If you are a bigger company with an existing or newly setup eLearning or HR Development department, either have them perform the whole research, or consider their opinions very carefully ― their role will be crucial in the success of your training program, and you better start trusting them sooner rather than later.
If you don’t have such expertise in your company, you might want to check with some corporate training consultants (though, finding a consulting firm you can trust is almost as difficult as doing the LMS evaluation yourself).
2. We don’t live in the Matrix
Or maybe we do. But whichever the case, there’s no reason to place much emphasis on “Comparison Matrices”.
I’m speaking of those grid-like charts, with software titles on one axis, features on the other, and checkmarks whenever a specific title has a specific feature.
Software vendors in general, and LMS vendors in particular, seem to love them, as do many inexperienced software buyers. Like most marketing tools, they are, however, not to be trusted.
You’d probably wouldn’t compare a Ferrari and a Ford city-car by looking at a comparison matrix and checking which has the more features like “steering wheel”, “brakes”, “rear-view mirror”, “CD-player”, and so on. Well, you shouldn’t base your opinion on an LMS on some LMS evaluation matrix either, and for the same reasons.
An LMS merely having a particular feature (e.g. reporting) is not the same as said LMS having a good implementation of that feature ― or a user friendly one for that matter.
There’s also the fact that some “unique” features some LMS have are just marketing gimmicks (“solutions in search of a problem”), that are just there to pad their feature list. Which is worse than useless, because each redundant feature represents both a mental burden (when you’re trying to use the software) and an opportunity cost (time best spent perfecting some other feature).
So, by all means, run through your LMS requirements checklist when doing your evaluation, but don’t just check the presence of a feature: first and foremost check the quality of its implementation, and how well the features it does have work together.
3. Actions speak louder than brochures
Continuing on our previous theme, I’d like to stress this point further: any software can look good on a brochure (or a, so-called, “brochureware” website).
That doesn’t necessarily translate to it being good in actual use, and even less so in long-term daily use.
Proper LMS evaluation is like the proverbial proper pudding evaluation: the proof is in the eating. Or, in the former’s case, in the using. Anyway ― it might not be the best metaphor, but you got my point.
Whatever your LMS evaluation criteria might be, try to check how the LMS under evaluation fares with those in actual use. Take advantage of any time-limited demo account or free basic account on offer (and if the vendor doesn’t offer either, run, don’t walk, away from them).
Oh, and don’t just have your resident geek or IT person test the demo account: try to get a small representative sample of your final learners to play with it, and see how they fare, and what (if any) challenges they face — then discuss them with your prospective vendor.
4. Support matters
No matter how user friendly an LMS is, you should still ask for (nay, demand) great support.
TalentLMS, for example, is dead easy to install and use, to the point of having won several awards (and lots of custom praise) for its user friendliness. Still, people call in with support requests all the time.
For some, it is because they can’t be bothered to read the manual (first law of software usability: nobody reads the manual). For others, it’s because it’s their first encounter with online learning software, and even the concepts are unfamiliar to them (“SCORM what?”).
No matter what the reason, you want a vendor that answers your support queries promptly, has ample documentation (even if few ever consult it), and has a culture than encourages great customer support. Bonus points for technical documentation (like API specifications), and tutorial videos.
Oh, and speaking of support, if your eLearning vendor can also handle part (or all) of the tedium of installations, backups, updates and other such technical matters, even better ― after all your end goal is to train your employees, not to learn how to maintain an eLearning platform.
5. Mobile is the new desktop
Laptops are good and powerful, but in 2017, mobile learning is where most of the action is. Including a large part of the corporate training action.
See, eLearning is all about freedom and empowerment, and what’s more liberating and more empowering than being able to learn wherever you are — on your way to a client, on your daily commute, on the couch at home, free from not just from rigid training schedules, but also from your desk?
That’s why, in an era when even traditionally conservative Fortune 500 companies heavily invest in mLearning, even the best online training platform is not complete without a matching comprehensive mobile story.
LMS Evaluation: Solved
While we are obviously biased in favor of our own product (*cough* TalentLMS *cough*), we think you will agree that our tips and guidelines for LMS evaluation are as impartial as they get.
Feel free to use the LMS selection checklist when evaluating learning management systems for corporate or commercial learning use, along with any other unique needs or LMS evaluation criteria you might have based on your use cases.
And if you need a taste of what TalentLMS is about and what it can do, you are welcome to check out our free-for-life demo account, and have your own TalentLMS-powered portal up and running in a few minutes.