The Best Learning Management Systems

When it comes to considering the right Learning Management System (LMS) for your company the options and features can be bewildering. However, before you become lost in the complexities of choice, consider and review your business needs.

Here is our quick guide to 10 key areas for consideration: –

LMS – DIY or bespoke build?
HR – integration or standalone?
Delivery – e-learning only or blended delivery and content?
Social –hierarchical guidance or full social sharing?
e-Learning – create your own content or commission it?
Control – internal management or remote monitoring?
Delivery – on and off line?
Device – desktop and/or mobile devices?
Scalability – more or bigger?
Pricing – paying by user, by content, by course or a combination?

To understand the impact of each of these key factors we provide a general guide below.

LMS – DIY or bespoke build?

DIY – Should you so wish and have the available resources you could build your own Learning Management System from one of the many off-the-self-products. These could include leading providers such as Adobe Captivate Prime or 360Learning LMS. Software and hosting systems such as these are flexible and provide most of the features and integration systems mentioned in our earlier guide list. They also tend to be a cheaper route into establishing an LMS and branding it to meet your general company style. The downside tends to be that the learning curve to creation and deployment is rather steep. The more feature rich, flexible and scalable the LMS, then the more complex it is to set up and manage. So, if you can dedicate the right staff to such a long-term project and are not daunted by the elongated development period, then this route could be right for you.

Bespoke – If you are looking for swift deployment and fast results then getting a team of experts will be the easiest option. Most LMS suppliers will happily provide a comprehensive quote with a fixed price for your consideration. Your request could be for just the LMS and hosting, through to a comprehensive package inclusive of off-the-shelf courses, bespoke courses and remote management and support. Requesting a quote with each element itemised offers the opportunity to control the roll-out and phase in costs. It also provides the opportunity to price check this option against any DIY strategy.

HR – integration or standalone?

LMS integration to an existing HR system often appears a logical choice. It avoids duplication of data and should help on-line learning become a seamless part of existing personal development. However, very few software systems operate together without issues. Also, as both software packages benefit from version upgrades, previously harmonious companions can fall out! Another solution to integration might be to look for gateways of shared data or common single sign-on protocols, these decrease duplication and avoid the pitfalls of full dependency.

Delivery – e-learning only or blended delivery and content?

Most companies will not rely upon e-learning for all their future training needs. Some subjects could still benefit from a classroom approach or a face to face delivery method. However, to have the scheduling or tracing of these events within the LMS may not always be necessary. Even relatively basic LMS platforms will allow some recording of off-line activities but always ask rather than assume. In businesses with complex structures or operating across various countries, full integrated or blended learning options could prove of vital importance.

Social – hierarchical guidance or full social sharing?

Modern LMSs now tend to include some Social elements. These often include users being able to view profiles and achievements of fellow users within their team, department or company. Some will also provide a limited guidance or Q&A section. If, however you want your entire e-learning to be within a Social Space, then give thought to what you are expecting this to achieve. A Facebook style interface doesn’t automatically generate Facebook levels of engagement or activity. Even so, much of a company’s knowledge and experience is an asset held within its own staff, so creating a platform where employees can mentor and advise each other can be valuable.

e-Learning – create your own content or commission it?

Creating engaging and effective e-learning content is a skill best left to the professionals. Yes, you know your staff and business topics better than anyone but transferring that knowledge into effective learning courses is tricky.  Internal influences, cultures (and dare I say politics!) can often affect the quality of delivery. Skilled e-learning creators, without agenda, are practised at absorbing your knowledge and delivering to a brief. Project teams will work with you to access your available materials and design a course that speaks with your voice. Experts will also create courses quicker and will use their existing software. Any inhouse cost savings can easily be off-set by increased production time, software licensing and the initial learning curve.

Control – internal management or remote monitoring?

We would always recommend that your LMS is proactively managed. Users will always need assistance and technology doesn’t always work seamlessly. You can attempt full support internally or pay for this as an external service. Many businesses blend these two options together and create a two-tier system. Standard first line support is provided by locally trained staff, but they then escalate to external experts when the need arises. This reduces costs and reliance on others whilst maintaining an integrated support structure.

Delivery – on and off line?

Obviously, all Learning Management Systems work online but despite increased global connectivity, online isn’t always possible. This is less likely to be a consideration if all your learners are within the UK or if they are international but working within cities. However, for learners based in remote locations or in third world countries off-line learning may be vital. If this is you, then ask the question and check what is supported. Also consider building courses with a reduced reliance of video content. Many places that struggle for internet coverage will also have slower than average speed when connection is possible.

Device – desktop or all mobile devices?

Most LMS solutions deliver content successfully across both desktop and mobile but do check what devices and browsers are supported. More obscure devices and lesser used software are rarely fully catered for. Better to know in advance and make the correct decisions rather than discover it in the fine print later.

Scalability – more or bigger?

Ideally you won’t want to be looking to switch LMS platform anytime soon so it’s worth planning ahead and consider what your future business needs might be. This isn’t about user numbers because all systems offer this expansion although it is worth knowing the cost scale under those circumstances. What may be an issue is the requirement for certain functionality which your chosen platform simply doesn’t provide. We know predicting the future is not a science but a prior meeting with key stakeholders before deciding on an LMS could prove advantageous.

Pricing – paying by user, by content, by course or a combination?

Pricing models across LMS providers vary greatly and you should give careful consideration as to what you’ll need from the LMS. For example, how many users will the platform need to host? How much course content will be available? Do you want to provide single courses or curriculums of courses too? All these numbers will help you select a pricing system most suited to your needs. Most suppliers offer various billing permutations but the key elements making up most cost models will include some or all the following.

An initial setup and deployment cost. Monthly or annual hosting costs. Course access costs either by individual user or by agreed maximum numbers. Course content available either through pay as you go, pay for open access to all or buying bundled content available to an agreed number of users.

Certain pricing models fit better with different sized businesses, but you’ll find that most suppliers will flex their billing system to fit with your specific needs and to keep them competitive.

In conclusion

The single most important message from our brief guide is that you need to review your needs and document these along with your expectations. Obviously, the subject, the options and the consideration are more complex than we can cover in this short article but hopefully it has helped.

For a more comprehensive and personal guide then why not give us a call now on 0330 024 2881 or use the contact form provide HERE.

Original Article by Cortexa

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