Winning Features of an LMS: Diary of an Instructional Designer

Features of LMS for busy learners

“The sky is falling!”

“It hit me on my head!”

No, this isn’t the famous fable. It’s the first page from a diary of an instructional designer working on any LMS!

If it isn’t the sky in literal sense, it’s the overwhelming choices with differentiated specifications, all for one task: instruction design. We, mere mortals, want to do the best for the client (with celestial expectations (the sun, the moon etc). So before we know it, the “sky is falling…”

Each time we settle into a course authoring software, we are required to jump to something else, for a better solution. Each time we try to satisfy the client, they come up with one “small” request in the middle of the instruction design process. This “small” request is not small in size! In fact, there is a good chance that this requested functionality is not available in our current instruction design and development software. We are now torn between ripping off the page and starting over using another design tool or risk a sweet review by the client: “lazy and incompetent will never go to this instructional designer again!”

While we hold the sky up, by re-doing (yes we know rapid prototyping), we find that the client has a very funny learning management system that won’t accept the current format of the completed instruction design.

The sky falls.

We work with this funny learning management system in the dark! We find that the LMS indeed has several features we use in the course authoring system. Why on earth didn’t this sweet client tell us about this LMS before? Why did they just say “instruction designer needed to create a course with given content? Why are we still working beyond the job description? Why couldn’t life be simpler?

Why can’t a LMS have all the desirable features of a course authoring system to completely bypass the deployment step and simply publish for viewing?

To be very honest, very few LMSs make it to the serious instruction designing books. Instructional designers are a bunch of “creatively insane” individuals, who are trying to accomplish a five senses experience for the learner. You ask for the moon, we want to give you the galaxy!

Please view the winning LMS features from our diary. It’s just a wish, but not an impossible idea.

  1. Universal format upload button:

    We may have a course in Flash, a pdf file, XML format, Word or .exe. Please accept all formats. We see most LMS accept many formats, but they should accept as many formats as they are possible in the content development phase!

  2. International Standard Compliance:

    Standards like AICC, SCORM or Tin Can and Experience API should be covered by a single LMS. Compliance should be the simplest step in an LMS. It is too technical a detail to worry about! Tell us that your LMS is compliant with all course formats!

  3. Star Features of an LMS:

    Some star features include reporting, social networking, single sign-on, mobile support and learner multi-media uploads. Being able to comment under a course and being able to integrate multimedia and interactivity during course development phase.

  4. Easy to use and easy to understand:

    Let us make this very easy to understand: we need a LMS that is easy to work with. Completely user-friendly and WYSIWIG tools, just like we are used to in our course authoring system. Designing and developing a course is a challenging feat. We don’t want to get into the technical details of LMS operability.

  5. Multiple Reporting Formats:

    We thoroughly enjoy the metrics and statistics features of an LMS. Please enable formats like Excel spreadsheet and other types to export these reports for various uses.

  6. Unpredictable Audiences:

    Sometimes we have audiences or learners who need to purchase the course. We need the LMS to have e-commerce features (with a variety of payment accepting options). We need features to add discount coupons and market the course link through social media. Sometimes the course is to be made available for free. We also need a “course preview” feature to show the winning features of a course. What if the audience is world-wide, and we may have thousands of registered learners. Please allow for learner scalability. The popularity of online courses world-wide requires this feature. What if the learners are within the company and the course should be made available through the intranet? Such requirements are common and should be covered by a LMS.

  7. Budget Blues:

    If a LMS offers a free period of usage, OR a free use with basic features, with no obligations attached, we wouldn’t think twice before we try it. We have tons of tools to upgrade in our instruction design tool box. A reasonable monthly, six-monthly or a yearly payment option is desirable.

  8. LMS Hosting and Support?

    Behind every e-learning system, there is a human (or a group of support personnel). No one knows the value of human interaction in an online environments more than us, instructional developers. We may have limited technical skills, and we may be too thick to get it the first time, if the LMS does not have a strong support system in place, all the above features do not matter!

There, we said it all. Learning management systems are evolving rapidly to suit wider needs of training and instruction developers. If they develop LMS with instruction designers and even instructors in mind, they will be guaranteed a strong market share.

Are there any features you would like to add to the list? Share your thoughts!

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