The fifth circle of hell: seeking a new LMS.
If you are seeking a new LMS, I feel for you. The prospect of evaluating them is the fifth circle of hell.
I’ve been on both sides of the fence in my career, and this gives me some interesting perspective. I’ve had to participate in developing requirements, participate in evaluating options, and then ultimately using the choice (I’ve used three different LMSs as a Learner, Instructional Designer and Professor).
To my great horror, I’ve also responded to RFP requirements for LMSs. The one that burns most brightly in my brain is the spreadsheet that had 50+ requirements on pages numbered A-Z – 1300 items. This spreadsheet was only one of 10 within the RFP response. I was a broken woman after that. I am also confident that no committee could have possibly reviewed that information with any level of detail — without also losing their collective minds.
Objectively, let me break it down into the simplest components: SEXY, ENGAGING/DYNAMIC, and REAL-TIME REPORTING.
Your LMS needs to be sexy. It needs to be current, it needs to be inviting, it needs to have pictures – both on the landing pages and within the content. The 3 most popular LMS environments have some limitations: several are rigid structurally and text-heavy; Moodle, the most flexible, often appears ugly because it is being used in a vanilla format (no themes are applied). Moodle can be unbelievably gorgeous, as per this example: http://www.gloexpertstudio.com/ .
ENGAGING & DYNAMIC
Your LMS needs to be engaging. The environment for the learner should be easy to navigate – with little to no training for the average learner. The environment should be configured to your learning culture. Frequently, organizations must adapt to out-of-the-box LMS environments, instead of configuring that environment to how your organization works. Which bells and whistles do you need? Your LMS must also be dynamic. Yeah, sure, the 1300+ items you’ve identified probably make sense right now, but what about in 6 months? Six months from now you’ll have dozens more courses, more adoption, more demands from your learners, instructors and course creators about what the LMS can and should be doing. What then?
Although cliché, “starting with the end in mind” is mission-critical for the LMS. Knowing your end-game and whether or not you’ve won it – invaluable. As such, reporting becomes paramount to almost all other features; if your LMS isn’t sexy, but you are achieving all your desired outcomes with your LMS – you’re winning (but I’ll argue to the death that without a sexy LMS, you’re making it harder. SO. MUCH. HARDER). Having reporting validates your efforts. If you are in higher ed, you need to validate for your institution, and likely your accrediting association. If in training, you need to validate for CEUs, for certifications, for OSHA, for HR; the list is nearly limitless.
To know that you are accomplishing your goals, the reporting from your LMS should be extensive, broad, accessible by multiple roles, and potentially customizable – meaning that new reports should not break the bank with development fees. How can you know what reporting needs you’ll have 6 months from now? Why should you be punished later?
Here’s to hoping that heaven awaits you: your LMS brings you sexy, engaged, dynamic results – results you can see.