If you’re trying to choose a learning management system (or LMS) for your organization, it can be easy to get lost in the weeds. There are so many options to consider, so much jargon to learn, and countless variables that come into play. How are you supposed to perform a comprehensive LMS systems review? The best approach is often to keep it simple and make a great decision based on your unique needs.
Unfortunately, LMS vendors don’t always make it easy to keep it simple. Do you need an LMS, LXP, or TMP? What is an API? Can you take claims of a modern UI or machine learning at face value? This article will help you wade through all of the marketing buzz and find a system that meets your needs and budget. Let’s get started!
- Approach Feature Lists with a Plan
Many LMS vendors list everything their platform can do, and it’s tempting to choose the one that can do the most stuff. That’s a bad approach because your organization doesn’t want to do “stuff,” it wants to meet the unique needs of its learners. Furthermore, unneeded features can add a layer of complexity that makes it harder for learners to access the content they need. Therefore, you should identify which features you need before you start browsing feature lists.
Most organizations will want strong reporting tools to track learner progress and an intuitive UI for ease of use, so feel free to start with those. If compliance or recertification will be a big aspect of your e-learning program, you’ll want those built directly into your LMS for convenience. Similarly, platforms for remote learners should include communication tools to facilitate collaboration with colleagues. Some of the other features that might be “must-haves” include course authoring tools, integrations with other software, scalability, automatic course enrollments, and mobile functionality.
- Take Advantage of Free Trials
Many LMS vendors have free trials so you can try their system before committing to a purchase. This can be a great way to try multiple systems for yourself instead of relying exclusively on marketing copy to make your decision. That said, there are a few things to keep in mind. Many trial versions exclude features present in the paid software, especially those with no time limit. Similarly, you should always be aware of when your trial ends so you are not accidentally charged.
Some LMS vendors don’t offer free trials, but you shouldn’t automatically rule them out. While it’s nice to be able to try before you buy, you don’t want to let that become an obstacle to choosing the right LMS.
- Think about Your Budget
You probably don’t have unlimited financial resources, and the vast majority of LMS vendors aren’t up-front with their pricing. That might sound suspicious, but it’s actually a good thing. Most vendors design a custom solution around your specific organization’s needs, ensuring that you only pay for the features and volume you need. This means that they can’t post prices on their websites, but you can usually get a free, personalized quote by contacting them.
Since you need to reach out to every vendor you’re considering, it’s best to start this step after you already have a shortlist prepared to save time. Otherwise, you would be wasting time reaching out to vendors who cannot meet your needs.
- Consult an Expert
It’s great that your organization is trusting you to choose an LMS, but let’s be real: you are not an expert in online learning. Luckily, the field has many people who are and will share their expertise at no cost to you. For example, Craig Weiss is an e-learning analyst whose predictions have proven over 90% accurate since 2009. He is the Lead Analyst for The Craig Weiss Group and the author of the popular e-learning 24/7 blog. Furthermore, Weiss offers prestigious awards that LMS vendors take very seriously, often giving him advance notice of upcoming features and updates that you won’t find anywhere else.
Weiss’s latest project is FindAnLMS.com, a website dedicated to helping average people compare the top players in the industry head-to-head with exclusive insight from the expert himself. You can create a free account on FindAnLMS.com right now if you’d like a helping hand with your LMS systems review. It’s a great way to make a strong decision without getting bogged down in extraneous detail.