So, you’re looking for an LMS? Whether you’ve shopped around before, signed up with more than one, or are starting to look for your first - there are plenty of features and functions out there that you can find in every LMS. These features and functions are exactly what are marketed on just about ever learning management vendor’s website. Chances are you can name a few - authoring your own content, some sort of content libraries to supplement, quizzes, answer banks and more. Add in an extra layer or difficulty that your organization has lots of different learning needs that you are trying to meet within one system and things can get very messy, very quick. How do you prioritize which features are most important? How do you know you are choosing the best LMS?
Unfortunately, the answer is nuanced for every organization. First, we would suggest that you do some planning up front about what you think is necessary for your business and what you would consider a success then narrow down additional features from there. Surprisingly, you will find that you don’t need all the bells and whistles that most vendors try to sell you on and instead simple and functional gets the job done nicely without overwhelming. All that being said, we wanted to put together a list of things to avoid when shopping for an LMS - either these features and functions will add extra complications to an already tough job, or are simply outdated.
A Complicated Interface
This really should go without saying but a complicated system has a way of adding an unnecessary burden to users and administrators alike. Aside from being frustrating to work with and in, a complicated interface disincentivizes learning and continued use of the program. If throughout a product demonstration you start to notice that navigating through menus is cumbersome, or even repeated phrases that are used in navigation that take the user to a different section of the system - abort. Where a learning management system is supposed to save you time on the backend when distributing learning materials and measuring overall learning progress, inquiries from the end user on how to do something could replace that time if the system is overly burdensome and complex.
If you aren’t super tech-savvy yourself, this should not inhibit you from using a learning management system. But even beyond that, an LMS that looks like it is from 1990…. May, in fact, be. There are certain baseline features that you would think an LMS would have in this day and age, like responsive design, but surprisingly, some are not run that way. In which case, do not purchase that LMS. Responsive design is an approach to web design and development that suggests that site should respond to a user’s behavior and environment - for example, a computer screen would produce more robust options and smaller text than a phone screen where buttons need to be larger to click on. While it is not necessary to have a mobile app, responsive design is something you should be looking for as users are more mobile than ever before and will want to have access to education materials on the go, as much as possible.
All the Bells & Whistles
Let’s face it, you want to get your money’s worth from whichever vendor you ultimately select, but there is a such thing as too much. While we can’t exactly point you in the direction of what qualifies as too many bells and whistles for your organization, we can that unnecessarily over complicating a systems interface with too many options - that you’re likely paying for - is just that: overcomplicated. Find an LMS that has what you need, is scalable, and stop there. The extra features tend to be extra burdensome.
Lack of Security
If the news is any indication these days, data security is a big deal. You don’t want your organization, whether your large or small, to be the next scandal of misuse of data or giving data to third-parties that have no interest in privacy. As we rely more and more on technology, security will continue to be a larger conversation and some vendors are not taking part in that conversation yet. Watch out for them! If a website URL has a “s” after the http, this is a secure site, but this is only the start. Make sure to get the relevant questions answered for security protocol to ensure the data of your company is safe and secure on your vendors servers (especially if you are choosing a cloud-based LMS).
Nickel & Dime
Businesses are in the business of making money, LMS vendors are no exception - but that doesn’t mean that all LMS vendors have hidden costs. Be on the lookout for hidden costs such as customer support, implementation fees, mandatory training (it’s okay to pay for training but it shouldn’t be mandatory), and bug fixes have been subject to extra fees. If you’re not sure whether or not a vendor charges for these: ask. It’s better to understand where any additional costs are going to come from but even better if there are no additional costs that the company does not make you aware of.
These are a few of the things that we have seen over and over again in LMS vendors and we would advise you to steer clear of on your search. While some of these features or functions can be burdensome, others, like lack of security, can be harmful to your organization. What are some of the features and functions that you thought you needed in an LMS only to find out they were more trouble than they’re worth?