The Learning Management System (LMS) market has become huge in recent years. It’s a $2.6 billion market that grew by more than 20% in 2014 (source). In spite of this fact, it’s surprising that many companies (mostly on the smaller side) still haven’t taken the plunge to implement their first LMS. But even for those who have (and larger corporations are now in their third or fourth generation of LMS), many of them are entering a replacement cycle. After all, the average age of an LMS at any given company that has one is 4-7 years old, and as of 2014, 61% of companies were planning to replace their LMS within 18 months (source). Whether a company is preparing to implement its very first LMS, or replace its existing platform, this series of articles will provide insights into how to make that process as smooth as possible.
Why Use an LMS to Begin With?
For companies still on the fence about whether or not they should even try a Learning Management System, it useful to review the benefits to be gained. The benefits tend to fall into five main categories that can be summarized as follows:
- Learning and Training Efficiency. Your company needs to keep its employees up to speed on company processes and procedures, compliance with government regulations, and developing the skills and knowledge they need for peak performance. An LMS helps you deliver your learning and training programs more efficiently, which means tangible savings that impact your company’s bottom line in all the right ways. From attendance to learning records to content storage, the right LMS handles it all.
- Personalizing Learning for Employees. Any LMS worth its weight in salt allows your learning content to personalized to some extent to the individual employee in terms of availability, learning style, and other factors. Personalization of learning and training has been shown to improve learning outcomes for participants.
- Assessing Learning and Training Effectiveness. Are your learning and training programs effective? A good LMS has built-in features for robust learning assessment, and goes on to collect and analyze that data to tell you whether or not your programs are working.
- Uniting Employees in Different Locations. In today’s global business landscape, it’s not uncommon to have staff in multiple regions within its home country, along with staff scattered all around the globe. A good LMS not only helps you manage the development, delivery, and tracking of your company’s learning efforts in one place despite where the participants are located, it can also often be deployed in a variety of languages so that everyone gets the same content in a way they can understand it.
- Calculating Learning and Training ROI. Your company wants to know the return on investment it’s getting from all its learning and training efforts. That’s going to be hard to figure out without an LMS. The platforms available today include robust data collection and analytics that will feed directly into clearer calculations of ROI than have ever been previously possible.
Time to Make a Change?
For companies that already have an LMS, is the one you’re using delivering on all five of those major categories of benefits? If not, you might want to consider switching to one that does. A lot of companies do experience frustration with their LMS platforms, which is part of what feeds into that 61% of companies planning to change platforms mentioned earlier. In fact, one survey published in January 2014 found that fully 60% are unhappy with their LMS, describing it as either “very ineffective” or only “somewhat effective” (source). I wrote a previous article about the Top 5 Signs You Need a New LMS, which can be summarized as follows (read the full article to get the details on each point):
- You and your colleagues routinely talk about how much you dislike your LMS, what you can’t do in it but wish you could, and generally manage to get your job done in spite of your LMS.
- The learning assessment and learner feedback options are less than robust.
- Its “Big Data” functionality feels rather small.
- It doesn’t provide a full range of multi-device access.
- You find yourself wishing your LMS integrated better with your company’s other systems.
Whether your company is looking to implement its first LMS or is contemplating switching to a new platform, the number of choices out there has become nothing short of mind-boggling. One listing has no fewer than 571 different corporate learning management systems (source). While every company’s needs and requirements are unique, when I first started writing about learning and training, I put together a series of articles of LMS must-haves that I think would apply to any company. The two that rise to the top for me are robust assessment/feedback, and analytics (again, check out the full articles for additional details):
- Easy Quiz, Test and Exam Creation and Placement. You should be able to create your own quizzes, tests and specific questions for both. You should also have the flexibility to place quick quizzes within lessons for the most immediate feedback and review that helps learners absorb the material faster. You’ll also want to make sure you have the opportunity to design comprehensive exams that happen at the conclusion of a course.
- Multiple Question Formats. A good LMS should give you the ability to design different types of questions in order to align the assessment you need with the course material. At a minimum, your LMS should support the following types of questions: Multiple Choice, True/False, Sequence/Sort/Order/Ranking, Essay/Short Answer/Explanation, Multiple Choice with Explanation, and Hotspot or Find-the-Error questions.
- Assessment Customization. Your LMS should have advanced settings that allow you to customize the logistics of how your assessments are presented, such as randomizing the order of questions, setting up time limits, allowing re-takes, and so on.
- Plenty of Learner Feedback. At a minimum, learners need to be able to provide feedback about their learning experience at the end of a course, but even better is when your LMS facilitates learner feedback at strategic points throughout the process.
- Learner Progress Indicator: Specific to the course being taken. Your learners should have constant, easy access to a progress indicator that tells them where they’re at in a course and what’s coming next to move them towards completion. When learners have the opportunity to engage in short-term planning that a progress indicator encourages, they tend to be more successful.
- Learner Success indicator: This shows them their current level of relative success. Learners need to know if they are on-track or need additional time with a given topic. This also allows for the introduction of a competitive aspect to the eLearning process, which some may find useful.
- Learner Interactive Engagement Indicator: The more that students can interact with peers and/or instructors, the better their learning experience will be. This analytic can be used to spur increased interaction.
- Learner Participation: Which students are doing well and which need a bit of a push to deepen their participation? Your LMS should be able to provide you with a simple, quick view of learner participation levels.
- Learner Success: Just as students need a snapshot of relative success, your company needs to know if users are learning what’s intended. This will typically be achieved through various kinds of learner assessments (see the article, LMS Must-Have #1: Robust Assessment and Feedback Options).
- Learner Exposure/Success Ratio: How many exposures to a topic lead to a student’s success? Too few may indicate the course is too easy, too many may indicate the course is too difficult, or that the material needs to be presented in a different way. As this ratio is likely to differ among individual learners, it also presents a window into what each learner needs in terms of support.
- Course Quality: Soliciting feedback from students at various points is critical for identifying ways that the course or LMS can be improved.
With the rationale for adopting your first LMS or switching from one that’s not meeting your needs and some key features to keep in mind clearly laid out above, you’re ready to move on to Part 2 of this series on how to implement an LMS.
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