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“Our learning management system (LMS) is just what you need to work smarter – not harder.”  – Some random person at a learning conference event

Have you heard this one before? Or maybe some other version of this statement? While an LMS will help you work smarter in many ways, you should spend some time up front really diagnosing what you need before you make a decision and invest.

Review and understand what is really happening with your learning system today.

This first step is to conduct a full and complete analysis of your current learning system.  To really be effective, you will want to gather the information and partners that you need to review your current learning system. As you review, consider all the components that you are bringing together to facilitate learning, including usage data, processes, platforms, learner and administrator feedback, and current unresolved issues. Once you have all the artifacts in your sight, look for answers that will deepen your understanding and flesh out the scope of what you have in play now. Answer questions like:

  • What is the learner journey from course launch to course credit?
  • What is the cost (including the time spent) for that learner journey?
  • What kind(s) of content do we host and how is it hosted?
  • What is the process (including cost and time) for updating content?
  • What are we doing to track completion?
  • Are learners able to socially interact in order to learn more?
  • What issues or inefficiencies are we currently aware of?
  • Do we have day to day problems that go unsolved with our existing system?

This review will be time-consuming but important to paint the full picture of your current learning system situation – including pain points and efficiencies.

Make a customized wish list of what you require in a learning management system.

Now that you are refreshed on your current learning system, it’s time to consider what you want going forward. Make a list of what you ideally want in an LMS. This is the time to think BIG and with no restrictions. Consider the answers to these questions:

  • How do you want the system to function for the learner and the administrator?
  • What steps do you want to eliminate in the learner journey?
  • What content types do you want to host that you are currently not able to?
  • What is the overall cost you are willing to incur?
  • When do you want to implement this new system?
  • What level of ease of use do you want to achieve for the learner and the administrator?
  • What functionality do you want that you currently do not have?

The wish list should be exhaustive and customized specifically to your organization’s learning needs. When the list is complete, prioritize each item and mark those that you are unwilling to compromise on. These items are dealbreakers – you would not move forward without this feature or requirement. If you find that you need to make a generic list item more specific, take the time to break that item down and prioritize again. Keep the final list straightforward, purposeful, and resolute.

Research and decide based on your unique and custom needs.

The benefits of having an LMS are worth the research to find the right one for your needs.  Many companies offer free or low-cost versions, or you may need a more robust system that is priced for enterprise usage. Whichever you require, use your customized list of must-haves when researching LMS platforms. Learning conferences are typically sponsored by LMS platforms and may be a good place to start. Be sure to take the time to look for a system that ticks all the boxes on your list. If you exhaust all possibilities, you may want to revise your list of dealbreakers – but only do this if your list becomes impossible to find.

How to select an LMS that will grow with your organization

Choose an LMS based on your unique needs, not a generic list of considerations and capabilities. Making an informed choice based on these needs will result in a satisfying long-term investment that meets the needs of your learners, administrators, and organization.

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