Buying An LMS 101
Did you know that only 8% of people love their current LMS?
A 2012 poll by the Brandon Hall Group confirmed just that. By comparison, more than three times that many people said they outright hate their LMS.
Why would this be? What causes some companies to love their eLearning system when so many others can't stand theirs? And how can you ensure that your organization falls in the "love" group when buying your own learning management system?
We're here to answer those questions. Think of this ebook as your textbook to finding the best LMS for your business.
As training methods have evolved over time, so too have the software applications available to conduct training.
Nowadays, you don't have to fly all of your employees to headquarters for a week-long crash course on your corporate history. You don't even have to mail them all CDs with recorded tracks of your executive team's presentations. Instead, employee training can take place online, through web-based software, on an iPad, or even on a smartphone. But if you're the one charged with developing a training plan, all that flexibility (not to mention over 300 different LMS programs on the market) can easily leave you feeling lost, confused, and overwhelmed.
Taking the leap to formalize your employee training and development program is a big deal. How do you know you're ready? Is a LMS even what you really need? And most importantly, which eLearning system is going to breed love (and not hate) in your organization?
Over the course of this textbook we'll cover…
Ready to get started? Or are you feeling unsure? Let's take a quick 'members survey' to see where you stand…
LMS Readiness Assessment Test
There are a lot of excellent reasons to buy an LMS…and a few bad ones. Does your organization have all the necessary prerequisites?
An LMS may or may not be what you need right now. Let's review some of the basics before you move on
You're most likely ready for an LMS, but keep studying the material so you're 100% prepared
You're at the top of the class! Skip ahead to Chapter 2 and get started!
Most companies don't offer certifications, host external training sessions, and hire big batches of employees all the time. Often just one of these needs is enough to merit buying an LMS, but if you do two or three of those things, then you're most likely to benefit from an eLearning system.
Also, the need to charge for training doesn't necessarily mean you need an LMS. But if you need to handle refunds and credits, an LMS could certainly make it easier
If you hear yourself saying things like: "We need to figure out our learning strategy" or, "Wouldn't it be cool if we could offer all our classes as virtual classes?" … you have other issues to address before purchasing an LMS.
There are a handful of applications that complement an eLearning system but don't necessarily serve the same function. Make sure you don't mistake these LMS peers for an actual LMS. These applications are typically separate products, but the industry is increasingly overlapping, meaning more functionality from these applications are being included in LMS or vice versa.
Computer-Based Training (CBT) focuses on specific skills, often customized for the needs of the organization; more focused and specific training program than a comprehensive eLearning platform.
Talent Management gives employers the tools to accurately recruit, manage, evaluate and compensate for employee performance by tracking development and standards; while talent management solutions help companies evaluate where employees stand in terms of their learning and development, an LMS allows companies to offer learning materials to actually improve performance.
If this isn't your first LMS purchase, join the club. In a Bersin & Associates survey, one quarter of respondents said they were likely to switch their LMS within one year. Some of the most commonly cited reasons for wanting to replace an LMS include:
25% of LMS owners are likely to switch within 1 year
Most companies aren't sure what to look for when shopping for an LMS. That lack of knowledge sets them up for a long-lasting hate of their eLearning system. Fortunately, the next chapter will tell you exactly what to look for and how to anticipate your needs so you don't end up hating your LMS.
LMS Course Syllabus and Objectives
Now that you've taken the assessment test and know that you're ready to buy, it's time to dig into the meat of our course – identifying your LMS needs. With hundreds of eLearning options and features available, clearly establishing your requirements will ensure that the LMS you ultimately select makes the grade
First, to figure out which features you need in an LMS, your company needs to define its learning strategy.
By answering the following questions, you'll pave the way for a much more productive conversation with church management software companies.
Develop detailed examples of how you will create, deliver, access, and use your learning programs. In these use cases, include what sort of tracking, testing, and reporting are necessary.
Use the answers to the questions in Step 1 to create all the possible combinations of types, audiences, curriculums, and delivery methods, so that when you talk to an LMS vendor, you can paint a clear picture of what you need their system to do.
Social Learning: According to a Bersin & Associates 2012 report, nearly half of large organizations are purchasing social platforms at the departmental level to learn about them and to test their effectiveness.
Mobile Learning: In a recent survey on the E-Learning 24/7 blog, 88% of respondents thought they needed or said they absolutely needed their LMS to have mobile learning capabilities for tablet devices.
88% need mobile learning devices for tablet devices
Here are some pros to each kind:
Web-based: accessible anywhere with an internet connection, can be used on most computers/devices, maintenance and upgrades are handled by the vendor, lower initial investment.
On-premises: greater ability to customize, greater access to data, easier integration with other installed systems, greater flexibility with deployment, potentially lower lifetime investment.
*Based off of Capterra LMS buyers in 2012.
Now that you know what you're looking for, it's time to start shopping around. But be forewarned… you won't be graded on a curve when it comes to finding the right LMS, so if you want to get an A, you've got some homework to do. Your first assignment to prep for the LMS exam is to create a list of possible software solutions for your organization.
Test Taking Tips for Buying an LMS
Capterra's LMS software directory has all 300+ learning management solutions listed in one place. Use the filtering tool to check off your must-have features and narrow down the list to a much more manageable size.
The goal is to create a list of 3-5 LMS solutions that you'll evaluate more closely. But if your requirements are pretty basic, narrowing your results could still leave you with 15, 20, or even more viable options. Alternatively, your needs could be so specific that after filtering the list down, you're only left with 1 result. That's why in Chapter 2 we said to only focus on your top 5–10 features… hopefully those should leave you with a manageable amount of options to evaluate.
If this process looks overwhelming – or even just annoying – just browse our software directory, and use the filter tool to narrow down your options!
Now that you have your handful of options, it's time for the fun part-- demos!
Software demonstrations are the best way to determine which eLearning software fits your needs. Some of these demos happen one-on-one with a sales person (like office hours with your professor), while others are webinars with groups of potential buyers (like a big lecture class). Either way, the demos and conversations you'll have with each software company should answer the following questions about your remaining LMS contenders:
When you're demoing and selecting an LMS, make sure to gather answers to the following questions from each involved party:
There's no simple answer when it comes to LMS pricing. Besides the fact that there are several different pricing models, your specific requirements are also a big factor in how much you'll pay. However, it's important to know the various pricing models so that when you get quotes, you can compare apples to apples
Here's a breakdown of how most ChMS providers charge for their software:
Solutions with This Pricing Model: Desire2Learn, Halogen, Meridian
Additional pricing models you may run into include Unlimited User Flat Fee (ex. Interactyx) and Pay-Per-Course (ex. CourseWebs).
The great thing about the LMS software test is that it's open book-- or in this case, open ebook! Keep this guide close as you move through the buying process, and you'll be sure to get an A. Asking yourself the right questions and taking the time to examine your organization's specific needs will ensure that you end up with an eLearning system you love today and in the years to come.
We've covered enough to get you started, but as you're going through demos you might come across terms you aren't familiar with. Here's a cheat sheet to help you translate.
Blended (aka Hybrid Learning): Learners complete some parts independently through an e-learning system, and other lessons in a traditional classroom setting.
Channel Learning: Channel learning happens when organizations share their LMS content with other organizations. One firm, for instance, might find it useful to borrow content from another firm rather than recreate a similar course for their learners. Sharing content between one LMS and another is easy and effective because of the standards in place for LMS content objects (See SCORM).
Collaborative Learning: takes place through social learning tools, like a virtual classroom or an application-sharing tool. A group of learners can be assigned a project and work together on it either simultaneously or at different times.
Course Authoring: adapting a course taught in a traditional classroom, or producing new content specifically for the LMS.
EE (Extended Enterprise): ability to open up the capabilities and content of your LMS to an audience beyond your employees, such as clients, partners, suppliers, and other third parties.
Learning Pathway: The order in which a learner completes the elearning content of an LMS. A learning pathway can be set up by the manager of an LMS, or by the learners themselves.
Capterra believes software makes the world a better place. Founded in 1999, Capterra has helped millions of people find the right software for their business — all kinds of businesses — whether a multinational corporation, a school, a church, a doctor's office, a manufacturing company, or a zoo. Capterra works with thousands of software vendors to understand their products in order to match companies with the best software for their needs. Check out www.capterra.com to find software ratings, reviews, buying guides, and the most comprehensive list of business software products available.