Selecting Learning Management Systems

Selecting a Learning Management System can be a burden, can be a chore, can be a mindfield, or it can be a pleasant experience – the choice is yours and yours alone!

Now, before we get off on the wrong foot, yes, we sell and implement DOTS, so I do have a bit of a bias towards DOTS Talent Solution’s excellent offering, however, years in eLearning and experience in the “big end of town” does provide me, personally, with a unique perspective… I was the Country Manager for one of the LMS “Gorillas”, so have seen just how big and arduous this selection process can be.

Fear not, this article is not a lecture from on high on how to select an LMS, nor is it a thinly veiled sales piece for DOTS, what it is, is very, very brief look at 16 years experience in Learning Management Systems and over 20 years experience in eLearning and a couple of the more “interesting” things I have seen along the way. So, sit back and enjoy a light trip through the mindfield of your choosing.

The most important thing to realise when selecting an LMS, or any other thing for that matter, is that you are the buyer and should know what you need and most importantly: why!

For this reason, you need to understand just what you want and (hopefully) need an LMS for. This is somewhat like when buying a car, for instance, don’t walk into the Ferrari dealership and start looking around at the options list when all you need is a four-door runabout that will pickup the kids and the odd bit of shopping on your daily runs around the suburbs.

So, lets understand what you need an LMS for and just what an LMS is.
Unfortunately, nobody – and yes, I mean nobody – can tell you what you need an LMS for. Many can advise you, many can direct you, even more can tell you why they implemented and what they are using theirs for, but only you can specify your why.

One of my clients was rung by a rather eager salesman who didn’t understand this, fortunately she did. This rather eager young man rang my client and suggested that selecting an LMS was “a complex task that you at don’t have the skills to accomplish”. So, not only was this company trying to sell their particular LMS, but they were trying to sell Consulting business to select their LMS – somewhat cheeky, but I am afraid, not rare! Fortunately, my client told this young man just where to go and how far to jump when he got there.
An LMS at its most simple is a database that stores your Staff’s educational experiences and knowledge assets.

Just what is a “Knowledge Asset”? It is a record of knowledge gained by your staff – yup, that’s right, a simple record in a database that says Johnny has completed the Excel course successfully – don’t be fooled, that’s all it is. The real secret is being able to get at this data in a meaningful and easy way so that you can see just where your assets are and start to make decisions based on fact rather than feeling.

The LMS should also, at least be able to launch and manage training courses, both for offline and online use.

I remember a phonecall I received not that many years ago from a colleague who worked for one of the “Gorilla” LMS’s. This was a somewhat prolonged phonecall, as my colleague couldn’t speak too clearly as his speech was punctuated by howl of derisive laughter… now, what, dear reader, you may ask was the source of such derision, well, allow me to elucidate: He was calling me to inform me that the LMS he had just been employed to support didn’t store Staff’s learning results. Not that that was his source of mirth, his source of laughter was the fact that he had just been informed by the head developer of said LMS that the holding of scoring data was not “core” to a Learning Management System.

In short, selecting your LMS can be a mindfield, but if you keep in mind these three simple an unalienable facts, you wont go wrong:

  1. Know what you want the LMS for
  2. Know what data you are going to report on
  3. You are the buyer

Don’t be bullied and if the salesman starts with the white-belted, check-panted version of “let me tell you what you want”, show them the door.

If the salesman starts with “tell me what you want”, sit down, get comfy and tell all. If they are good, they will listen, if they are great they will let you know what they can do, if they are honest, they will tell you what they cant do. Remember, trust is a two-way street and the most important basis for any ongoing business dealing.
You are the buyer, its your decision, so only select what works for you! Remember to ask questions, ask questions, then ask some more. Be honest in your telling. If both sides are honest, then all will be well with the world and the implementation will be a smooth and pleasant experience.

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