The hardest part about using a Learning Management System (LMS) is choosing the right one. Perhaps that’s why 42% of organisations who use an LMS are thinking of replacing theirs, according to a study by Brandon Hall Group.
A Learning Management System is a tool that helps you create, manage, and deliver training content to employees. The pandemic accelerated the need for this kind of remote-friendly training solution, especially with the many benefits it offers in consolidating training materials, boosting knowledge retention and employee engagement, and increasing ROI on training programmes.
But with hundreds of LMSs to pick from, each with different features, pricing, and interfaces, it’s hard to decipher which will best suit your unique needs (and continue serving you in the long term). So, we created this list of questions to help learning professionals like you choose an LMS that you can stick with.
Before you decide which to select, take a moment to confirm whether an LMS is the right choice for you.
Traditional training methods like instructor-led training and presentations are fast becoming outdated, especially with the transition to remote and hybrid work. Even before the transition to remote work, only 12% of employees applied skills from L&D programmes to their jobs. So, organisations are adopting LMSs in record numbers to create robust and scalable online training programs.
An LMS is a key enabler for just-in-time learning, a method that employees prefer because they can access the right knowledge when they need it.It enables employees to source personalised information by requesting a quick course or asking a question to internal SMEs and immediately apply the learning to their tasks.
An LMS can help you address the following issues that may arise with your organisation's training:
When you may not need an LMS: If you are a new company with just a handful of employees, you may not need an LMS just yet. In this case, you could build learning experiences through a microsite (a small cluster of pages within a website) until you develop a need for more extensive training materials. That said, even small businesses would greatly benefit from an LMS for storing and securing data, personalised training, and cost-saving measures.
Every organisation has different learning philosophies, but we categorise them broadly into top-down training and bottom-up training.
Top-down training puts decision-making in the hands of a few leaders at the top. Those few executives decide which training to create and deliver. It might work for companies that have rote processes and routine tasks, like retail and manufacturing. An LMS that facilitates mandatory training like compliance, for instance, would be ideal for companies that have this learning philosophy.
Bottom-up training is made up of peer-led and self-directed learning. In peer-led training, employees collaborate through knowledge-sharing activities like brainstorming sessions, coaching relationships, and peer reviews. Self-directed learning empowers employees to identify their own learning needs, create learning goals, design their learning pathway, and evaluate learning outcomes—all with the help of a facilitator.
This type of training is popular with companies that prioritise innovation and individual growth. It’s great for startups, enterprise-level companies, and organisations in other knowledge-heavy industries. An LMS with a focus on collaboration could be a big hit with employees that embrace this learning philosophy.
Different LMSs favour different learning models. So, determine whether your company prefers to deliver learning materials in the form of virtual instructor-led training (VILT), offline training, interactive courses, or through a new blended learning approach that combines synchronous and asynchronous online courses.
VILT is instructor-led training that is conducted virtually. It is live interaction in the form of webinars, group workshops, or lectures. Done right, it can improve learning outcomes by 600%. An LMS can allow trainers to assess their courses through learner responses and reactions that are stored on the backend to gather feedback. Some LMSs make VILT sessions easier to organise because they integrate with webinar-hosting tools like Zoom or Google Meet (we’ll go into detail on integration capabilities below). If the majority of your training is live and instructor-led, choose an LMS that makes live training easier to deliver: this could be in the form of distribution and availability of resources, or offering a forum to come together after and share insights.
On the other hand, you may prefer offline training, which means learners can download the content and access it at a later time even if they don’t have internet connectivity. An LMS with offline access will still be able to track course completion and automatically sync progress when a learner logs back on. This makes it perfect for a remote and distributed workforce that cannot be online at the same time or employees in rural areas with connectivity issues.
A blended approach is no longer a combination of physical and digital training. Instead, it marries asynchronous and synchronous collaboration so that learning is quick, engaging, and digestible. Hence, if your organisation prioritises training through social interaction and collaboration, choose an LMS that supports blended learning.
Most LMSs don’t have built-in features to conduct a training needs analysis. So, if you are locked in on all the content you’ll need for the next five years, you don’t need to discriminate based on LMSs.
But a new method of employee-guided training needs analysis might interest you. Imagine a typical day at work—an employee runs into problems during their workflow and is looking for a solution. Through their LMS, they look up a course recently created by another team member who faced (and solved) a similar problem. Or, if it doesn’t exist yet, they are able to request a course, and other team members can upvote it. Peers who have the relevant knowledge can volunteer to create a course on the topic, thus playing an active role in creating content.
The LMS helps crowdsource the training need and prioritises training material that is most useful and relevant to employees. If that sounds like a more effective/appealing way to come up with ideas for training content, then consider looking for an LMS with bottom-up needs assessment features:
An LMS is a technology, and not everyone in your company may be digitally up to speed. So, before you introduce a new tool, study the digital skill sets of your employees through a survey or a meeting with the groups (trainers and employees) that will be using the LMS.
In 2020, millennials comprised more than 50% of the workforce in the UK. So, if your company employs a mix of older and younger generations, you want an LMS that is user-friendly across age groups. Employees cite poor user experience as a significant barrier to satisfaction with their LMS technology. Search for a tool that has an intuitive user interface, 24/7 customer support, automation, and search functionality.
If your employees are comfortable with technology, an LMS with advanced features like customisation and mobile-friendliness will engage modern-day learners.
Most companies underestimate the cost of an LMS by 60%. LMS providers usually have pricing tiers, but a host of unforeseen costs in add-on support services and online asset libraries can break the bank.
Here are the five most common pricing plans you will encounter:
To set a realistic estimate for your budget, it’s best to use a comparison tool like Capterra to layout pricing plans and the solutions they come with.
It’s easy to be attracted to the LMS that has a rich lineup of features. But having the most features is not as important as having the right features.
For instance, if you intend to create and deliver continuous training, an authoring tool should be at the top of your must-have features. All LMSs have a basic authoring tool, but there’s an important distinction: An authoring tool could be stand-alone, which means you will have to ensure compatibility with the LMS when importing or exporting files. This can be an unnecessary blocker if you plan to create continuous training courses. In this case, choose an LMS with a built-in authoring tool so that any learner can create, upload, and iterate learning material in minutes without having to worry about compatibility.
Ideally, your selection process doesn’t stop short of one amazing feature. Make a list of must-have, nice-to-have, and don’t-care-about features. Then, you can evaluate which features you absolutely need, which you could sacrifice if the tool exceeds your budget, and which ones don’t really matter to you.
And if you want to go deeper into the collaborative route, these features might make it to your must-have list:
Not all LMS platforms can manage different types of content formats. So, take a look at your learning content to assess whether it mostly includes documents and slide decks or diverse formats like quizzes, videos, and webinars.
L&D teams everywhere are taking note that an average employee forgets 65% of the material you share within a week and 90% within six months. Moreover, in a survey of 1,200 employees, 69% reported they would prefer learning through video rather than reading a written document.
On top of video, you might deliver training in the form of podcasts, games, and live and recorded training sessions. If you plan to venture into different types of media to improve knowledge retention, select an LMS that supports those formats.
52% of L&D professionals cite the inability of LMS to integrate with other software as a big barrier to satisfaction. Modern-day learners work with a variety of tools, and a lack of integration capabilities could mean you end up losing critical information and wasting time on extensive data management.
Take a look at the lineup of tools your learners already use for business, for HR needs, and for accessing training content. Businesses commonly work with software like Slack, Zoom, Salesforce, BambooHR, Coursera, Google Drive, and Genially. If you already have a number of tools, look for an LMS with integration capabilities so that the new system doesn’t disrupt established ways of functioning.
Let’s say you use Salesforce as your customer relationship management tool. When you integrate your LMS with this existing tool, you are able to easily deliver training to your customers and partners. Your sales team, too, wouldn’t need to leave the CRM to access their learning. This seamless integration is advantageous for mid-sized and enterprise companies with multiple teams and several external partners.
70% of learners say they are more motivated to learn when using a mobile device rather than a computer. 72% say they are more engaged when they access modules via mobile devices. This is because a mobile learning solution offers flexibility and convenience by letting your employee's access content anytime, anywhere.
A number of LMS platforms are still optimised only for desktops and laptops. If your employees prefer to learn on their mobiles or tablets, they may find this too limiting. Mobile learning is especially suited to bite-sized training, which means learners can take a one-to-two-minute course on a topic that’s relevant to a current task. Employees who are remote or in- the-field may need a quick update or have a question before a client meeting. They can sign in to the LMS and access the relevant training material on their mobile phones without needing to be in front of a computer.
Organisations of all sizes benefit from a mobile-friendly LMS, but it is especially useful if you are a large enterprise with extensive training content and in-the-field employees. Check to ensure that the LMS mobile app is available on both iOS and Android.
66% of LMS users want programs with better customer and technical support. With a comprehensive onboarding and training process, your learners make better use of the product and are able to navigate the tool independently.
For large and mid-sized organisations, onboarding is even more important, especially if the LMS will be used across departments. To vet each LMS vendor’s onboarding process, ask questions about the timeline, the scope, and the availability of their representatives. Some LMS vendors provide 24/7 live support, while others offer asynchronous customer service.
In addition, look at the vendor’s customer support team to see who is included. Your learners can benefit from the presence of onboarding specialists, dedicated Customer Success Managers, and technical customer support reps. Read online reviews from other customers who have received exemplary support so that you can rely on the vendor you choose.
It would be best to go through a trial run of the LMS before you invest in it. After all, you don’t want to be stuck with something that turns out to be a misfit with your learners.
But not just a surface trial will do. Look for vendors that offer a fully functional pilot along with support so you get a real-time view of what the training process will look like. This is best for small and mid-sized businesses that can vote on their collective experience of the LMS.
A no-strings-attached trial is especially useful for large organisations. Include representatives from diverse departments for the trial so you get their feedback on user experience before making a decision.
Purchasing an LMS is a long-term partnership that you hope will serve your training needs as they evolve. An LMS may be a great fit for you today, but may not be able to support your business needs tomorrow.
Think about your long-term business objectives and view them alongside the LMS product roadmap. Inquire about future upgrades, additional features, and the vendor’s overall investment in R&D to see if they will be able to support your growing training needs.
As a small startup, your LMS may not play a central role in your content offerings, but as you grow, your users, certifications, and training material will expand. Similarly, if you are a mid- or large-sized org with plans to offer personalised learning in the future, select an LMS that has a detailed plan to utilise AI (Artificial Intelligence) to cater to individual learning needs.
The ROI of your investment in an LMS depends on your end-users—your learners. Choose an unwieldy tool that learners dislike, and you waste precious resources. So, strengthen your selection process by examining the USP (Unique Selling Point) of each LMS.
Hopefully, your trial run would have given you a sense of what the LMS can do best. But it is important to explicitly tie it to a goal. If your goal is to improve employee retention, look for an LMS that makes training easily accessible and engaging for employees.
If your goal is to boost course completion rates, look for an LMS that fosters social interaction and collaboration. Consider this: The industry average for course completion rates is at a disappointing 20–30%. But data gathered by 360Learning, a Collaborative Learning LMS, shows an average of 91% course completion rate across 1,500 companies that use the platform.
Once you’ve asked (and answered) the above questions, it’s time to pick the winner from your shortlist. The introspective process would have guided you to the closest match for your needs.
The decision to purchase an LMS is only the beginning. There’s more to the process than filling it up with training material. You need to follow a carefully designed implementation process by setting goals, planning, and laying out a strategy so that your LMS does what it is meant to do—win over your learners.
The LMS market is expected to reach $28.1 billion by 2025. In the UK, too, the market has been growing steadily. Among the myriad of options, however, the LMS platforms that are future-ready are the ones that have made huge strides in the areas of Collaborative Learning and social engagement. As you consider our 15 key questions guiding your LMS selection, why not find out more about how Collaborative Learning can help you drive greater outcomes?