If you’re searching for a learning management system (LMS), you face a market that offers almost 700 options to evaluate. Navigating through even a fraction of those LMS’s is a daunting prospect—and only a fraction of the platforms will suit your requirements in the end.
It isn’t always easy to recognize those systems quickly. To do so, you need to create a selection process that’s both thorough and manageable. We’ll begin by defining criteria to help you quickly rule out the platforms that won’t work for your needs. This list will help you to focus on the factors you need to compare platforms on the same terms that are the best fit for you.
Rule 1: Don’t pay for unwanted features
A needlessly complex LMS arrives with many unwanted features you don’t need and won’t use. These features can prove costly, depending on the pricing model the LMS vendor offers. The more unwanted features that are included as standard, the more expensive an LMS is likely to be. Unwanted features can also have a negative impact on user experience, confusing learners and distracting them from achieving key goals.
The more complex an LMS is, the longer it will take to train new users. Delays can threaten the continuity of learning programs if a key administrator leaves. Too many unwanted features may also force you to invest in additional training in an attempt to minimize user discomfort.
Rule 2: Decide which devices you want to support
The demand for mobile learning, or mLearning, as it’s also called, has exploded over the last few years. Today’s learners want to complete courses on all kinds of phone and tablet devices, as well as desktops. To achieve successful outcomes, you need to offer learners the widest range of options you can support. That means making courses available when and where learners want to access them. If you want to offer flexibility, research the range of mobile options that your shortlisted vendors offer.
An LMS developed with responsive design will adapt to the range of screen sizes that learners require. If you decide to offer access to your LMS through mobile apps, make sure that the vendor has fully considered all of the implications of mobile functionality. For example, if learners can access content on multiple devices, the LMS must be able to track behavior across each one.
Rule 3: Agree which platforms you will integrate with
Integrating existing platforms and systems can help to make your eLearning processes a lot more efficient. If available, features like an application programming interface (API), single-sign-on (SSO) and webhooks allow you to customize an LMS to suit the unique needs of your organization. At LearnUpon, we offer many popular integrations with platforms like Salesforce, Shopify, Google Analytics and LinkedIn, to name a few. Customers also use our API to integrate with third-party apps and create things like gamified leaderboards.
LearnUpon’s SSO feature allows learners to access their LMS with the same set of credentials they use for other applications. Furthermore, customers use our webhooks feature to push real-time information from their LMS to related systems. If that functionality interests you, ask vendors about important factors like cost and security. Some will offer integration services for free, while others will incur significant charges. Task a technical team member with researching vendor specs to make sure they follow standard industry protocols.
Rule 4: Only accept the best customer support
The quality of customer support a vendor delivers should play a big part in your decision-making. To fully evaluate support, dig past the vendor’s marketing blurbs and put the service to the test during your trial period. The availability of basic information about its hours and channels of communication will give you a sense of how much the vendor invests in support. Check if public holidays and times outside of standard office hours are covered.
Requesting metrics like average response times will help you to compare services between vendors. Also, take the time to assess your own experience, from the point of your initial inquiry to the vendor, and onward. The speed and care with which your questions are handled will indicate the quality of support you can expect to receive if you become a customer.
Rule 5: Understand the value of a pricing model
There are many different pricing models in use in the LMS industry. The differences between approaches can make it difficult to compare quotes from multiple vendors. Common approaches to pricing include charging by usage volumes or the required number of “Active” or “Registered Users.” Other pricing models are feature based. Depending on your usage needs, different pricing models can return very different costs.
Start by mapping out your organization’s projected usage. Later you can plug it into your shortlisted pricing models. If the pricing model you’d like to select is based on user or usage limits, ask what happens if you exceed the limits; automatic lock-outs can cause inconvenience and embarrassment for you and your users. Once you understand the pricing model itself, ask for a full list of additional costs. Charges for things like set-up, installation, training and cancellation aren’t always advertised up front and can radically impact the perception of value.
Related: 7 essential questions about LMS pricing
These rules are just the start. Your next step should involve thinking about the other essential factors you need to consider to ensure you select the right LMS for your organization.