What to look for in a next-generation LMS?
There are many learning management systems (LMS) offerings on the market today and procuring an LMS is a complex buying decision - if you are new to eLearning or planning to upgrade.
58% organisations are dissatisfied with their current LMS and 37% plan to upgrade this year or next.You can read our full guide to elearning and corporate learning management systems here.
So where do you start in the list of overwhelming options? How do you go from option paralysis to streamlined efficiency and practical understanding?
First and foremost, understand your specific requirements. Each organisation will have its own nuances and needs.
However, there are a set of must-have’s that are common to all the best learning platforms. At Logicearth, based on over 20 years of experience of working with different types of LMS, seeing what works for clients and what does not, we have come up with seven must-haves to ensure that you acquire the best learning management system for you.
Our seven deal-breakers for a modern LMS are:
- It should be in the cloud
- It should provide a set of tools to encourage sharing, communication and collaboration
- It should support classroom training and administration as part of the learning blend
- It should be multi-device ready
- It should support a modern and natural learning process
- It should have a well-designed database
- It should have an open architecture to help with future-proofing
We’re sure there will be plenty of opinions on possible LMS deal-breaker features - but this is our starter for 10. If you’d like to share your ideas, let us know in the comments at the end of the post.
1. It should be in the cloud
In the past, the LMS was typically installed on a local server - and you you needed days of support from your IT department to complete the installation. Often, organisations had to make expensive upgrades to their server to even allow the LMS to be installed. But not today.
SaaS – software as a service - now means that modern LMS vendors have cloud-based options. That means, no server installations, little or no support from your IT department and usually a much quicker implementation of the LMS.
Some organisations, especially those in highly regulated industries have concerns with cloud-based systems. Confidential data, for example patient data in healthcare, must be stored within the company’s own IT infrastructure on a hosted server. We have worked through this with clients who needed more reassurance around security and data protection. So ask your LMS provider about this.
For some extra support in your research, look at our guide to the best GDPR checklists.
2. Provide tools to encourage sharing, communication and collaboration
Gone are the days where an LMS simply hosts content; the modern elearning platform provides a range of tools to encourage good communication and sharing of ideas.
Our next-gen LMS, learningCloud combines the following lms tool kit:
- In-application authoring that is easy-to-use and allows subject matter experts ni yoru organisation to develop content themselves
- A fully-responsive interface that works on any device
- A cloud-based content delivery platform
- Native apps for iOS and Android to support mobile learning
- Social learning supported by comments on every activity and a chat tool
- Content curation for your managers and SME’s to share knowledge, skills and experiences
The best LMS platforms offer a range of functions functions - by allowing and encouraging a blend of different types of learning activities. For example, while you are taking a course on ergonomics, support the natural process of learning by asking staff to take photos of good posture, which then can then be shared using the social learning tool.
3. Support classroom training and administration as part of the blend
There can be polarising views among learning professionals; many want to ban the classroom from all corporate training programmes and some want to ban online courses!
Our blog on improving eLearning shows you what frustrates people most about online learning.
This tells us more about the quality of the training content, rather than the types of learning interventions on offer. The simple fact is that the classroom is still useful for learning and there are still good trainers out there! But what we know now is that not all company learning has to be done via the classroom. Some staff prefer the flexible learning option offered by virtual classrooms and elearning courses, and many company training programmes take a blended approach; some offline and some online training.
Our blog series on creating blended learning programmes explains more about this approach. To blend classroom training into your LMS:
- Trainers and coaches should be able to easily follow staff progress through their blended learning options regardless of whether they start in the classroom or online
- Support for certification records, competency management and re-training is important
- Ability to support classroom training with different types of content is vital and may need some timed-released features to help staff focus on the next part of the learning journey.
You can find support in rolling out large-scale virtual classroom programmes here.
4. It should be multi-device ready
In modern times, this should be a given. However, while most learning platforms will function on any device, do spend time inspecting the user experience. It should be optimized for different screen sizes and situations.
Staff need to be able access content on the move. We know that staff use mobile device more and more - latest research shows that many organisations are facilitating Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Many LMS providers offer the option of a Learning App, which allows you to download content to a mobile device for viewing offline. After you finish, you can re-sync to update your LMS record. Our custom eLearning content is multi-device as standard.
5. It should support a modern and natural learning process
In the past, especially in the 1990s, there was a more rigid view of workplace learning than there is now. Learning or training was arranged in rigid structures and used terminology like curriculum, module and assessment.
Now, working is more flexible and staff need a learning experience that supports it that change.
If your LMS ‘forces’ you into presenting your content in a highly structured manner, then the warning bells should ring loudly! Our blog on facilitating messy learning explains the modern approach to learning
And - does your LMS force you to track everything your staff does, or does it restrict the types of content you can upload – important questions to ask. Ask your LMS vendor to talk you through latest learning technology options such as xAPI, LTI, CMI and ask them how you can set up a learning technology ecosystem!
This edition of our monthly eZine focuses on learning in the flow of work.
6. It should have a well-designed database
When a database evolves over time and as new LMS features are built upon it, sometimes the database behind the LMS can restrict what users need to be able to do. We’ve seen this with some of the older online learning platforms.
It particularly impacts learning resource assignment and updating – especially deletion. Also, as you begin you use your LMS, you’ll upload lots of users, assign lots of learning resources and the LMS can get quite unwieldy over time.
Your LMS should provide efficient and safe features to make quick updates and keep things tidy for the user. One problem we see often is the need for a quick course update once a typo or small error is spotted. Some learners may have already completed that course, so should the LMS make them take the course again or should the LMS force you to add it as a new course?
These types of scenarios are important to consider, as it will make your LMS more manageable over time.
7. Open architecture to help with future-proofing
We think this is the most important point for an LMS on this list. The system must be able to grow and integrate with other systems over time.
Of the three key barriers to satisfaction that users list with the traditional LMS, one is it being one of many systems without seamless integration.
What you buy for your organisation now will not be suitable as your organisation grows and develops. Your LMS may come bundled with social learning tools, authoring tools or other types of tools, but what if you find a better tool down the line? What if you want to bolt on new tool such as a curation or video sharing tool later date? A LMS that has an open architecture and supports content interoperability standards is what you should be after!
So that is our top seven. What do you think? Are these seven steps to heaven for LMS procurement or are they more like the seven deadly sins? Let us know in the comments below.