Your LMS: How to plan, review and select an LMS for your business
Step 1: Create your business case for the LMS
Before you consider purchasing or implementing a learning management system (LMS) for your organisation, it is good practice to develop a business case to support the project.
The business case will be specific to your organisation; however, developing a ROI (Return on Investment) as part of your business case is valid. Discuss your business goals and objectives with core leadership, stakeholders and your IT department. Defining needs will help develop your business case and identify exactly what you need and are capable of having for an LMS solution.
As a guide you may want to consider including the following factors as part of your project ROI. The LMS should:
- save time
- save money
- minimise time away from the job
- be cost effective
- be highly flexible
- maintain consistency
- deliver personalised learning
- offer greater information retention
- offer greater customer satisfaction
- result in a lower employee turnover
As an overview, deploying an LMS to manage your staff induction and training provides you with a scalable platform where your team will can complete the same quality courses without senior staff having to dedicate their time to face-to-face training.
A leading-practice approach is to create a story that illustrates how the investment will add value and pay off over time. The story will allow senior management to visualise the direct connection to the business. This type of business case should include both direct benefits (the outcomes aligned to specific measures) and indirect benefits (other business measures and descriptions of the user experience).
Step 2: LMS data gathering
Once your organisation has developed the LMS business case, the next step is to commence process design and data requirements gathering. You will need to identify what you want the system to do for your company.
As a guide, meet with different stakeholders to identify and collect data that will be the DNA for your Business and Functional Requirements. Consider the role of the LMS to deliver:
- an online welcome from your CEO and/or senior management
- induction training for staff
- induction registration and training for contractors
- induction and onboarding of visitors
- learning and development of staff
- the ability to publish news and alerts to training groups
- the ability to publish policies and key documents to the groups
- the ability to track acceptance and acknowledgement of policies
- the ability to track external training sessions
- the ability to record and manage face-to-face training
- the ability to record and manage webinar training
- the ability for staff and contractors to upload key documents and complete forms
This documentation and appreciation of the current state will help the team assigned to design the process to leverage existing work – and to identify gaps in supporting a more integrated approach to data, process and analytics.
Any process design effort should begin with the end in mind. The business goals identified should determine the process and data outcomes, as well as the overall user experience.
You should try to involve representatives from key stakeholder groups (such as employees, managers, and business leaders) to provide additional perspectives – thus beginning your change management efforts.
You should consider and research new technologies such as cloud technologies, SaaS (Software as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service), as these solutions are secure and mean that your IT team do not have to manage the implementation of the program. There is a role; however, for IT to discuss the need for:
- integration with your Payroll system, talent system or staff CRM
- API synergy to connect systems
- custom webservices to deliver your dataset integration
- Single Sign-on with existing systems, such as Intranets or web portals
Step 3: Create your LMS business and functional requirements document
Once you have collected your data, it is important to craft the Business and Functional Requirements that you require from your LMS.
You can interview the stakeholders or ask them to respond to a list of options in a requirements document. The requirements document should include as much detail as you need to communicate what you require the system to do. Also remember to include budget, IT standards and an implementation timeframe.
Your high-level requirements statements should include both your mission-critical functional requirements, as well as any technical requirements. It is suggested that you include four requirements that are deal-breakers for your organisation – meaning that you would not select a provider which did not support these requirements.
Key benefits of technology-based training include:
Step 4: Create your LMS content requirements
A key part of the assessment of an LMS, which is often overlooked, is the content development tools offered by the platform. This should be an organisational effort: meet with all staff to identify content needs and how content can help achieve success in your organisation.
The following is a list of essential points to consider in order to ensure that your LMS has the agility and the tools to deliver on all of your content needs. The LMS should have the ability to:
- publish courses and modules on your LMS without the need for other software applications
- publish courses and modules in HTML5 format so that you can deliver content to mobile devices
- use templates in the editor to create course content pages easily and quickly
- import and export courses in SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004 format
- support SCORM Tin Can
- import HTML5 assets
- import content from the major authorware programs such as Captivate and Storyline
- embed all video, audio and animation
- add JQuery assets (with all related libraries already in the code)
- upload videos and multimedia assets to the editor
- drag and drop images in the editor
- have the platform customised with your stylesheet to ensure all content is published in accordance with your branding guidelines
- upload all file types to the platform
- add formative and summative assessments
- add surveys to all courses
- add scenario branching activities to your courses
- publish news and alerts with full multimedia capability
- create learning programs with multiple courses and pre-requisites
- set expiry dates with automated email alerts on all courses
- set annual re-induction dates with email alerts
- publish content from the browser
- add a range of interactive assessment questions including short answer, model response, drag and drop reorder, true | false and multiple choice questions. All questions should accommodate the ability to include video, audio, images and other multimedia resources
Step 5: Request and evaluate LMS proposals
After managing the process, select a shortlist of LMS providers that meet your business and functional needs and deliver on your essential requirements.
Ensure the LMS providers align with your business needs by requesting proposals that match their requirements.
After receiving proposals, evaluate your potential providers by using scenario testing. Using an LMS checklist will help to identify if the provider meets or exceeds your minimum requirements.
Consider a range of webinars and onscreen presentations that can be recorded and retained on record as part of your assessment process. Stakeholders that are unable to attend the meetings can access the content at a later stage and assist in the selection.
Also consider any free trial offers given by potential LMS providers. Exploring the program and testing out how you would utilise the software in your business will help you to visualise how the LMS could impact your organisation.
Step 6: Choose an LMS provider
After you have identified the best LMS provider for your business, we suggest that you request and review the terms and conditions that relate to the following areas:
- Service Level Agreement
- Hosting services
- Data back-up and recovery
- Development and production servers
- Data security on server, application and database
- Project Management arrangements for the build
- The level of customisation
- Your role and deliverables in the project
- Referees – contact existing clients
Once all of these additional areas have been sighted, documented and reviewed, you can sign with the selected LMS provider.
Step 7: Negotiate LMS build and release schedule
As part of the deployment phase, it is important to set your expectations. Consider the following areas:
- Time taken to build and release your project
- UAT (User Acceptance) and testing phases where you have approval gates
- Reporting schedule and weekly meetings
- Project documentation
- Options, such as applying SSL certificates to your site
- Preparing your sub-domain for domain for the launch of your training site
- Administration training
- Data integration and training group set up
- Establishment of web services
- Integration of API and single sign-on
- Test case implementation to validate datasets
- Prototype testing with an internal group of learners
Step 8: Build your courses and content
The content phase is often overlooked; however, building content needs to be factored into your pre-release phases. Some of the better LMS providers understand that the content phase can co-exist with the release phases. As building content on your LMS we would recommend the following:
- Request access to the platform in week one of the release so that your content team can commence the development of their courses
- This stage can occur before the designs and stylesheet have been added to your LMS
- Organise content training webinars and ensure you have access to training courses and user guides
- Find out if your LMS provider also provides content development services as it may be more economical to factor instructional designers to be involved in the development of your training
- Find out if your LMS provider offers a library of existing courses that you may wish to review and license as part of your deployment
- Gautman, A. (2017). 10 LMS Best Practices to Select the Right Learning Management System. eLearning Industry. Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/lms-best-practices-select-right-learning-management-system
- Pappas, C. (2014). 11 Tips for Choosing the Best Learning Management System. eLearning Industry. Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/11-tips-choosing-best-learning-management-system