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The Ultimate Checklist for Buying Your First Learning Management System

A learning management system (LMS) is a vital software program for companies looking for administration, reporting, tracking, and automation features of their training programs. It essentially provides organizations with a framework that takes care of all areas of the learning process.

Learning management systems are designed to make it easier for training and development officers to identify and assess employee and company learning goals.

The problem with LMS platforms today is that there are many of them to choose from. For businesses considering a learning management system, how can you narrow down your selection to choose the one that best meets your needs?

You could go with your instinct or rely on recommendations and what review sites have to say. However, this can easily lead to choosing the wrong LMS. Not only will this be a waste of time and money, but it also results in other issues such as migration and contractual obligations.

To help you choose the best learning management system, you must have a checklist that you can use to guide your decision. The following are ten of the most important considerations when buying your first learning management system.

1. Do the Necessary Research First

One of the first things you should do before purchasing a learning management system is to do the necessary research for each of the providers you have in mind.

As mentioned, investing in the wrong LMS is going to be a waste of resources. It can even become a hindrance when you want to upskill your workforce.

That’s why selecting a business learning management system with proven credibility is crucial.

Some of the things you can do to ensure this are:

  • Read up on client testimonials and recommendations
  • Go through reviews from trusted resources
  • Create a feature matrix to compare desirable products
  • Sit in on demonstrations

You can also consult with your research and development team once you have listed down your top choices of LMS providers. Ask your team for opinions and any past experiences they may have with your selected vendors.

2. Identify the LMS Features You Want

Before you begin searching for an ideal learning management system, it’s important to identify the core features that you believe can help your organization.

Below are some of the common features you want to keep in mind when choosing your LMS platform:

  • Single sign-on: This authentication feature allows a user to log in with just a single ID and password to access relevant software systems.
  • iOS/Android app: You want to ensure that your employees aren’t stuck to their desks but can work wherever they go. A mobile learning platform can help enable their success.
  • Smart training assignments: You want your LMS platform to be able to assign training modules to your employees automatically.
  • Integration with your HR or payroll system: Again, you want your learning management system to automatically input new employee information while removing those who are no longer with the company.
  • SCORM compliance: The learning document standard called SCORM allows companies to easily transfer to a new LMS if needed. Essentially, it’s a hassle-free way of taking all of your training modules and moving them elsewhere.
  • Gamification capabilities: You want your learning management system to be engaging to employees while they train. Gamification allows you to give out badges or points for milestones completed during these sessions.
  • Automatic training renewal management: Retraining is a vital aspect that organizations need to ensure knowledge and processes stay fresh. The ideal LMS software should be capable of handling this process for you automatically.
  • Training prescriptions: Employee mistakes during training is normal, which is why you want to look for a learning system that can provide follow-up training on anything they’ve missed. This feature will allow you to fill any gaps in areas of improvement.
  • Custom content: When starting out, you might need to have pre-made, ready-to-go content that can help you get training started immediately. An LMS program that can provide custom libraries ensures that you get the courses you need for your organization right away.
  • Reporting is a must: Make sure that you check how the system provides its reports. This reporting feature should be part of the core capabilities of the platform and not an add-on. The reports should also be easy to customize, sort, and export to spreadsheets.

3. Match Your LMS According to Your Organization Type

As a first-time LMS buyer, you should consider your organization type and choose a platform that offers the most sensible features.

  • Are you a corporation and want to have a system for training, upskilling, and onboarding employees?
  • Are you a training company and need to host your modules and courses?
  • Do you need an LMS to educate students because you are an educational institute?

It makes no sense to get an LMS license that is more suitable for training session hosting when you are a corporation or an educational facility. Similarly, you don’t want to get a costly system meant for training organizations when all you need is to educate your internal teams.

By looking at the customer base of your desired LMS provider, you can get insights and match their features to see what types of companies they normally serve.

4. Select an LMS Based on What You Need It For

Another important aspect to consider is the main reason why you need a learning management system. You want to examine which areas of your organization will be the primary users of the platform.

The use cases for different companies are not the same.

For instance, corporation use cases are normally for onboarding, employee training, compliance, and sales team training. Meanwhile, an educational institute will need an LMS to host, distribute, and share their courses with their students.

Being clear about your use cases not only helps in choosing the right LMS vendor but also in defining the must-have features for your learning system.

5. Consider Your Organizational Budget

You need to have a clear idea of the costs that are associated with your desired learning management system. Consider the one-time fees, annual recurring expenses, the total cost of ownership, and even ongoing administrative costs.

These are important because you don’t want to get an LMS that goes over your budget.

Just like most software providers, these vendors can be separated into three brackets based on the pricing and quality of their features:

  • Low-cost LMS vendor
  • Mid-range LMS vendor
  • Enterprise-grade LMS vendor

One common mistake that many first-time LMS buyers make is when they spend most of their training budget to get a costly LMS platform. This leaves them with little room to obtain other essential elements that make for a successful training initiative such as quality learning content and a team that will manage the system.

However, you shouldn’t base your decision on just your organizational budget, since you can easily end up choosing systems that lack the key features and service quality you desire.

Consider the budget and the offer and align that with your needs to get the best learning management system for your organization.

6. Don’t Settle for Free Trials

Many learning management system vendors offer free trials that can last up to 14 days. Within this period, you have the opportunity to check out the capabilities of your chosen LMS programs.

However, you shouldn’t settle for just a free trial. This is because most free trials offered are oversimplified. These offerings can lack key features that can easily leave organizations outgrowing them in a month or two.

7. Look Past the Learning Management System

Before entering into an agreement with a company that offers a learning management system, be sure that you look beyond the software and see how they treat potential customers.

Do they seem to force you to make a rushed decision? Are you having a hard time contacting their sales team to answer any questions?

You can even try to get in touch with their support team to see how they treat you. Although the software’s functionality is what you’re after, the people and the team behind the software are equally important as well.

8. Find Out What Good Onboarding Looks Like

Many learning management vendors offer programs that have onboarding capabilities, yet only a few of them get it right. Onboarding has to be meticulous and done with care where virtual teams work together to set up the system and strategize.

Meanwhile, you should also learn all that you need about the platform so you can manage it successfully on your own. Don’t make the mistake of believing that since you are already spending a lot of money on onboarding, your project is guaranteed to succeed.

Instead, you should spend time really understanding the whole onboarding process. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much time do I get with my trainer/coach?
  • What is the scope of what they do?
  • Will I get the same coach or will it be a different instructor each time?

Ask the LMS vendor for a standard onboarding outline. You want to avoid those that use phrases like “you should onboard at your own pace.” This is just their way of saying that you’re on your own and that they don’t have any real structure or guidance to give.

9. Don’t Rely on References

The truth is that most review websites that reference a list of vendors provide details that are skewed towards a specific provider. Their selections are often pre-screened to ensure that the information provided only discusses all the positive things about the company and its system.

Many of these so-called resources are also paid to subtly advertise software providers. You don’t want to rely on these references because you can’t expect wholly honest data from them.

Save yourself the time and effort of going through these sites and do the research on your own instead.

10. Ensure It Has Security Features

After you’ve invested time and effort in creating your training modules and processes, the last thing you want is for your LMS to be afflicted by malware or viruses. Unfortunately, cybercrime is a huge problem nowadays and identity theft can happen if you aren’t careful.

That’s why you should make sure that your chosen learning management system operates through a secure channel and utilizes modern cybersecurity features.

Conclusion

A learning management system is one of the greatest investments you can make for your organization. However, you need to know what to look for to avoid choosing a system that cannot help accomplish your goals.

To summarize, you should:

  1.  Do the necessary research
  2. Identify the LMS features you need
  3. Match the desired LMS to your organization type
  4. Select an LMS based on what you need it for
  5. Consider your organizational budget
  6. Avoid basing your decisions on free trials alone
  7. Look past the learning management system
  8. Find out what good onboarding looks like
  9. Avoid relying on references
  10. Ensure it has decent security features

By following this checklist when buying your first learning management system, you can be sure to get a training platform that meets the needs of your organization and employees.

If you need additional guidance on how to choose a learning management system for your organization, give our team at VAIRKKO a call at 888-290-0671. We’d be happy to answer any questions that might be specific to your organization.

 

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