Finding a learning management system (LMS) requires a lot of brainstorming and prioritizing to nail down your final system requirements.
Don’t jump the gun by writing down your dream functionality and selection criteria just yet.
Before you start writing your wish list, you have to ask yourself and your organization the right questions to land on the LMS that makes the most sense for your business’s goals, struggles, and desired future.
Think about the clothes you wear. Everyone dresses differently based on what they plan on doing for the day (we won’t tell anyone what you’re wearing while working from home).
An LMS operates kind of the same – the things each organization needs from an LMS are likely to be different because each organization has its own struggles, personality, goals, and needs. It’s important to figure out your style – learning style, that is – so that you can get a better grip on what you want your LMS criteria to be.
LMS selection is a really great way to drive new and innovative e-learning initiatives and, no matter what your selection process is once you start shopping, it’s important to work up to that before diving in.
By really honing in on what you want your new LMS solution to accomplish, you’ll leave your LMS evaluation knowing you made the best choice for your audiences.
Here is how to figure out your criteria, and get it right.
- Who you gonna call? 📞 (Your project team – build it)
- Tackle the big questions about your learning strategy❓
- LMS features found in modern, world-class learning suites 🌍
- Final thoughts 🖊️
Who you gonna call? 📞 (Your project team – build it)
Step one to making sure you have the perfect LMS criteria? It’s time to form your LMS project team.
Unfortunately, you can’t just do a quick throat clear and yell “project team, ASSEMBLE!” You’ve got to be diligent and think strategically – remember picking the line-up for your kickball team in grade school? Well, this one will be a bit more important!
These are the folks who help you navigate the needs of your learners, what it is that you want to accomplish, technical requirements that need to be considered, and will ultimately help ensure the LMS provider gives you everything you need and more.
In a nutshell, you are all committed to making sure no wrong choices are made, and that you have chosen the best LMS for your use case and audiences.
This type of operation requires people in different departments, since this is definitely beyond the scope of just one person, or even a single department. Your IT department, HR department, Learning and Development (L&D) team, and any staff who uses/will use the LMS or its data should have representation on your LMS requirements team.
Depending on your use case, you may also want to consult your people in Partner Enablement, Customer Enablement, and Sales Enablement. These are the people who will help to get what you and your audiences need from the right LMS.
Related: What you need to do to gain internal buy-in for a new LMS
Tackle the big questions about your learning strategy❓
Before you get all jazzed and start writing down the things you want in your LMS software, pump the breaks a little. We’ve still got a few more steps.
What comes next is important because this is where you take inventory, assess what has worked, what hasn’t, and to get granular with what you actually need to see in a learning platform. Here are some questions for you and your team to ask yourselves:
💭 What is your current process?
You can’t make changes without first recognizing what needs to be changed. Take the time to break down how your training currently operates, where the gaps lie, and how people are impacted by the current training. Capture what the experience has been for your learners in the past so you can clearly articulate where you’re starting from.
💭 What do you want the future to look like?
Now that you’ve taken an honest inventory of how your training process and procedures operate today, you can start dreaming! Take the time with your team to define what your goals are in learning and your ideal user experience. These will give you a good roadmap for where you want to head, and help you decide whether the LMS vendors you’re considering can get you there.
💭 What are your learning needs?
It’s time to figure out your audience’s learning “love languages”!
It’s important to crowdsource information here, whether through surveys or your own research. Thoroughly vet answers and continually ask yourself and your LMS project team: what do our learners need and what do they want? What is most likely to keep people engaged in the platform? Where have our learning programs previously fallen short and how can we improve on this? What experience do we want our audience to have?
These questions are pretty important to make sure your audience is always top of mind when you’re making decisions about different solutions.
This is not where this list ends.
You also need to take time to consider your audience. Whether you’re providing or hosting customer training, partner training, corporate training, sales training, or onboarding and compliance training, you need to make sure all of your ducks are in a row.
Now that you’ve done some reflection, we can move towards what you’ve been patiently waiting for… Drum roll, please! 🥁
It’s time to start narrowing down the functionality you want to see in your training programs.
Whether you’re planning or releasing an RFP, or establishing relationships with different sales teams, you’ll set yourself up to be successful after you narrow down your most important criterion.
Below are some of the most important features you should consider to make sure your customers, partners, sales channels, or employees can benefit from a revamped and modern online learning experience (feel free to take notes if you need 😉).
Related: Build an air-tight business case for a learning platform
LMS features found in modern, world-class learning suites 🌍
Webinars & video conferencing 👩🏾💻I🧑🏻💻
More than ever, remote training is a top priority. Web conferencing integrations make it easier than ever to host virtual events, webinars, and conferences, directly within your learning platform, and these babies are here to stay.
SCORM, AICC, and xAPI 💻
SCORM and AICC are international standards for tracking e-learning activities that open new possibilities for our learning content. xAPI (formerly Tin Can API) is the Learning Objects new standard. These standards are what power authoring tools with the ability to receive course content and bring it to life in an LMS. The beauty of authoring tool packages is the power to diversify your learner’s experience. Instead of solely pushing out word docs and powerpoints, you can expand your horizons with different media types by using the various versions of SCORM, AICC, and xAPI.
Blended learning 🎨
Blended learning is an LMS feature that helps you supplement traditional modes of learning (these are your top-down formal learning course and ILT), and uses technology in your LMS to include modern learning methods too. Blended learning is a multi-dimensional approach to delivering learning content for a multi-faceted audience of individuals who have different needs. We love options!
Like most everything, learning has drastically shifted to the cloud. A cloud LMS is hosted on the internet so that you’re able to access your LMS without installing software that grants accessibility. The same way Apple, Verizon, and Google all have cloud accessibility, modern learning solutions do too. That way, you don’t lose your information systems, and people can access your LMS easily. Bottom line: keep your head in the cloud.
This LMS feature is pretty easy to understand – after all, we wouldn’t love shopping on Amazon so much if it wasn’t so easy, right? With e-commerce functionality, you can use built-in stores or integrations with vendors like Shopify or Paypal to make selling (and shopping for) training courses simple. With e-commerce, you can also compose and sell bundles of courses and manage different plans for different groups of customers. User interfaces that include e-commerce make it easy for your customers to browse, preview, and purchase training materials or course catalogs from your LMS.
Mobile learning 🤳🏼
We’d be willing to bet that within arms reach of you, there’s a mobile device. When you’re not at work, you probably do most of your Google and Youtube searches on it too.
E-learning has become the way we work and learn, so LMS platforms that are not accessible on other devices are not optimizing the bandwidth of their online learning program (pretty lame if you ask us!). You’re missing out on the ability to reach your learners on their favorite mobile device and catch them on the go.
Social learning 👍🏽
If social media has done anything, it’s caused us to grow more (virtually) connected than ever before. Online social interactivity has become second to breathing for most of us, and more and more we see organizations turning to social learning modules.
This LMS feature creates learning environments where professionals in the same organization can communicate, collaborate, share best practices, and learn from subject matter experts (even despite location). These e-learning experiences are a great way to ask questions and share user-generated content (think Youtube) to drive learner engagement and knowledge sharing across your organization. Need we say more?
Beautiful and intuitive user interfaces ✨
Simply put, if you want a learner’s online training to be clear to understand, it has to be easy on the eyes and facilitate a cohesive flow between dashboards and overviews of courses. User interfaces that are intuitive are easy to use for admins and learners. This results in spending less time learning how to use the LMS and more time learning how to get promoted.
In addition, your learning environment and branding should be an extension of your culture and who you are as a company. White labeling makes it so that your learners can’t tell your platform is owned by someone else, making them feel right at home. An LMS vendor that lets you white label your e-learning platform allows your academy to have the same colors, logos, icons, and watermarks as your business.
Simply put, if e-learning is not easy to use, your people won’t default to it. Ideally, the platform you choose should not be a major time suck to get through and understand. If people are spending too much time on tasks that don’t even contribute to their learning, like figuring out how to even access a course, then users will likely avoid using the system. The system you choose should be a friend to all who use it, and its ease of use is what will keep learners logging in.
Related: Top 24 LMS Features: The Complete List (2020 Update)
Final thoughts 🖊️
These features are just some of what you can do with an LMS to make your learning more powerful. With a hard-working project team, a thorough inventory of what you need, how you’ve operated in the past, and where you’re looking to go, along with features that align with your goals, you’re ready to start shopping around.
With solutions that are tailored to your use case, your learning operation is going to look and feel better than ever!