Learn about systems and options for delivering learning solutions.
- As you grow and develop your learning program, you'll inevitably use various learning management systems. These can range from the very simple and low-tech, when you're small, to the very complex, as your talent pool gets bigger. What is a learning management system, or LMS? Well, in its most basic form, it's using some kind of software to deliver learning, including all the elements of registering and enrolling participants, tracking attendance, and engaging in some kind of evaluation. If you're small, you might be handling all these pieces using the Google and Microsoft suites.
Trust me, I've done it. But in today's learning industry, the term LMS usually refers to a cohesive software application that does all kinds of things. In fact, there are over 100 different features you can explore and now, there's over 700 providers offering more than 1,000 different solutions. These solutions can offer all kinds of options, including authoring tools, certification and classroom management, compliance tools, skills tracking, podcasts and videos, and job hierarchies, just to name a few, as well as multiple languages and currencies.
If you need help wading through the robust but overwhelming options, I recommend reading articles on elearningindustry.com and reviewing the LMS reports by Bersin and Associates. Both provide helpful tips and information on how to make a choice, as well as excellent reviews of the market. The larger professional conferences will have vendor expos, where you can explore many options at the same time and place. Let's get you started with a few key considerations. Just like any major purchase, you first should start with your needs.
Review your learning strategy as it maps to the Greiner Curve. You'll want to get something that can grow with you for a period of time, but as your needs change, you will very likely shift vendors, because many vendors serve a certain size range of organization. Consider your audience and what works for them. The solution will need to work for how people work in your organization. It should be easy to use and have an interface that is intuitive for your context and culture. Another audience to consider is your L&D team.
They'll be engaging with the backend features of the system, so it should work for their skills and needs as well. The good news is that most vendors provide training, but you should explore what integration support they offer. Definitely explore the data tracking and analytics features. Look into how well they do or do not interface with other key HR and talent management systems. If the systems play nice together, you can reduce a lot of hassle and may even get an added boost of functionality as data can migrate and be used by different users in other talent functions.
Be sure to explore the technical aspects of your choice early on. Engage your tech team as soon as you can, since there may be core stipulations or systems that must be aligned and you don't want to get down the road too far to discover this purchase cannot be approved. There's lots of protocols now, including AICC, SCORM, and Tin Can. You don't need to know what all that means, I certainly don't, but be sure to involve your tech team in the evaluation and adoption decision process. You also need to consider the delivery side of the technology.
For example, more and more employees want mobile access on their smartphones and tablets. If this is a priority for your talent, then make sure the LMS can deliver. As you start to get clear about the above items, you'll gain clarity about the options and features that are important to you. Once you have that list, you can narrow down to a handful of vendors and then dig deep into the differences. Run several demonstrations, both with your own team as well as some key stakeholders across the organization. Do a reference check by asking to speak to some of their current customers.
You can also leverage your network on LinkedIn and seek informal feedback from your peers. Get really clear about what your organization will need to do to adapt and maintain this system. Find out what support services the vendor offers and how often they roll out updates and upgrades. And last but not least, you need to consider your budget and time frame. Doing a thorough job of researching and evaluating vendors can take many months and then roll out takes some more time. This process can take six to twelve months from start to finish.
But all this effort will be worth it because the right LMS will not only save your time and energy, it will be part of creating a cohesive and enjoyable learning journey for your talent.
- Discovering the importance of L&D
- Identifying your L&D role or function
- Engaging employees with succession planning
- Uncovering organizational and employee potential
- Achieving a competitive advantage
- Delivering critical results
- Building a culture of learning
- Understanding the brain's natural system for learning
- Implementing on demand, embedded, flipped, and blended learning
- Choosing the right format to achieve results
- Adapting to an organization's maturity level
- Empowering practice and accountability
- Measuring the impact using the five levels of evaluation