Before the introduction of a Learning Management System (LMS), there are many questions: cost and availability, the server location and, more importantly, one’s own qualification strategy and user-friendliness. A guide.
The selection of learning management systems (LMS) is huge: Analysts count over 300 different offers . Their spectrum ranges from simple systems with a clear focus to complex variants, which can often be networked with HR and business intelligence applications. There are both open source offerings and solutions from major software houses; Cloud-based solutions (SaaS) and locally hosted on the company’s own IT systems.
When choosing an LMS, companies should consider three dimensions that determine the requirements:
- the qualification strategy of the company
- the technology and infrastructure in which the software is to be used
- the user experience
The starting point for the selection of a learning management system should always be the specific goals of a company for the qualification of employees, partners or customers and the strategy derived from them.
Who should be qualified? What content and skills should be taught to meet this need? What different learning opportunities does the company offer learners? Are the classic training formats such as face-to-face training and e-training still in the foreground? How important are new forms of learning such as Micro-Learning, On-demand Learning, Social Learning & Collaboration and Employee Generated Content (EGC)? What role do topics like talent management or performance control play – today and in the company’s vision?
However, only on the basis of a qualification strategy can the functional requirements of the searched LMS be meaningfully deduced: How complex is the (international) internal and external organizational structure that the LMS has to map? Which learning formats need to be supported? Which training scenarios? What resources are to be managed? Which processes in the management of the qualification must be adhered to? Which reports and data do management, departments and employees need for their training planning and performance measurement? These are just a few of the questions that need to be answered for a forward-looking decision.
Basically, the more comprehensively the company understands qualification and the more complex the learning offers for the employees are, the more important it is that the system offers flexible solutions even for complex qualification scenarios.
Technique involved in Learning Management System
The question of the extent to which relevant learning management systems fit into the IT strategy and infrastructure of one’s own company is another important decision criterion.
The latter come from major software vendors such as SAP and Oracle or independent vendors such as Cornerstone, NetDimensions, Saba or SumTotal. German suppliers, including IMC and time4you, also offer their products in the ever-growing market.
However, the advantage of open source software lies primarily in the fact that their use is not associated with licensing fees. In addition, the company has full access to the code of the software and can also change it. What sounds tantalizing at first glance, however, on closer inspection causes internal development costs – a financial and organizational effort that should be taken into account. Often this results in costs similar to the license costs of a proprietary solution.
However, in return for a great many requirements, proprietary software already enables out-of-the-box solutions in a provider-maintained and regularly updated system. The basic user support is already included in the license price.
Another fundamental issue that needs to be clarified in the area of technology is that after hosting. However, some systems exist only as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) program and the information is stored in the cloud. For most systems, companies can choose from SaaS or hosting on their own IT servers – including open source systems where specialized service providers host corporate hosting.
An external hosting often offers cost advantages for the company, since no own IT infrastructure and maintenance for the system must be provided. If this is consistent with the company’s IT strategy, it is important to verify the country in which the servers are located and whether the software vendor can demonstrate appropriate security certifications, such as ISO 27001, that are essential for the external storage of corporate data. Also the availability and the expenditure for required interfaces of the LMS to internal IT systems (such as HR, Intranet, Business Analytics) have to be considered.
Although internal hosting on its own servers entails complete control of the system and the data collected. It requires an internal IT effort and corresponding capacities in terms of technical infrastructure and personnel.
If a company chooses its own hosting, it must also be taken into account when selecting the LMS, whether the required server infrastructure matches its own IT infrastructure and whether it has expertise in the technologies and programming platforms used.
Benefits of User Experience in Learning Management System
The user experience decides how much the learners like to use a selected LMS – and thus the learning opportunities of the company: Is the operation of the system intuitive for the users? However, does the system make it possible for employees to provide the learning opportunities they need on an on-demand and intuitive basis? Can the system be used effectively by learners in the office, on the road and wherever they want, because responsive design provides a good user experience across multiple devices? Meanwhile, operating concepts and user interface adapts the usual standards of corporate design?e
Learning management system vary greatly in how far the learner’s user experience can be shaped. For instance, flexible systems give a company the opportunity to adapt the user interface to the corporate design in terms of design and user experience. However, they provide tools to present relevant learning content to a target group. Since content is integrates into individual portals on the Intranet or Internet via interfaces. This makes it easier to use and integrate with other company offerings. While the Learning Management System remains responsible for managing, maintaining and tracking in the background.
Meanwhile, these factors play a major role in the success of a learning platform in the actual target group: the learners. Those who leave them out of the box lose the opportunity to choose a system that does not limit managing and maintaining learning content, but is an effective tool for users to simplify learning and give them new opportunities for development to offer.
Thinking about the future with Learning Management System
However, companies that want to introduce a learning management system or replace an existing system should not look first at the different systems and their functions, advantages and disadvantages and costs. But at their own strategies and needs as well as the technical requirements and circumstances analyze: How should and want to learn our target groups in order to contribute to the company’s success in the best possible way?
The analysis of the answers yields the criteria by which you select the new LMS. The decisive factor here is to align the LMS not with the state of the current qualification measures. But with the strategy for the coming years.