8 tips for selecting a Learning Management System

June 2016

 

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Education Review trawls through all the advice to find the top tips for selecting a learning management system for your school or tertiary institution.

1. Determine your overall goals, needs and expectations

Regardless of your choice – and prior to selecting a suitable LMS or LMS alternative – you must list the features that are important to your institution. And you must separate needs from wants and wishes. In addition, you need to determine what impact the selection may have on your current operation. For example, will the LMS solution:

provide the reliability/stability, flexibility, scalability, and security the institution needs?

easily integrate with existing systems — both software and hardware?

require IT staff to receive additional training? If training is required, can it be provided online and how much will it cost?

necessitate the hiring of additional staff with skill sets that differ from those possessed by existing staff? How many staff will be needed to support the LMS solution?

require extensive maintenance and support over time? Do vendors offer tiered support plans that can be covered by existing budgets?

(Seb Schmoller, Educause Review)

 

2. Think of your end user and include them in the decision-making

Try to avoid starting with the technical requirements and then forcing administrators, teachers, and students to buy into those requirements with little input about what they think of them.

(Katie Ash, EdWeek)

 

Introducing or replacing an institutional learning management system (LMS) should involve all stakeholders. Although information and educational technology staff obviously play a key role in the LMS selection process, the successful addition or change in an LMS requires collaboration among IT personnel and the academic staff, as well as the consideration of students’ needs.

(Seb Schmoller, Educause Review)

3. Pilot the systems on offer

As you continue to evaluate the finalists, you may ask for a trial version of the LMS software or access to a ‘sandbox’ installation where you can explore the finalist products. Hands-on exploration will give you a better sense of the user-interface design, features, and capabilities of the product.

(Steve Foreman, Learning Solutions Magazine)

 

You can get a clear sense of how well the learning management system will adapt to your current and upcoming needs during a live demo or trial run. It is essential to ask the vendor about testing the product before you purchase. This can help you to avoid costly trial and error, given that you will be able to see which features are going to be truly beneficial and which may be unnecessary. During your trial you can also gauge whether or not the scalability is in line with the expected growth of your organisation, and if its flexibility, customisation and usability is what you need to achieve desired eLearning outcomes.

(Christopher Pappas, elearningindustry.com)

 

4. Talk to others who are using them

 

You learn so much through collaboration with people who are already in this space. They tell you what to look for and the things that went well in the rollout, as well as things they wish they would have improved upon.

(Katie Ash, EdWeek)

 

5. Cloud-based, open source or proprietary?

Deciding whether to obtain a proprietary, open-source, or cloud-based LMS is like choosing a religion — it depends on what you believe in. Depending on your educational priorities and how the software is configured, any of the three forms might meet your needs. In any case, use care in making general statements about proprietary versus open source LMS software, as they share many advantages and disadvantages.

(Seb Schmoller, Educause Review)

 

People coming to the tertiary sector now are used to working anytime, anywhere, any device. They come with their own tools, their own emails – why would they want to change to infrastructure that’s different from the way they work. So they don’t want to be restricted by server technology.

(Igor Matich, Dynamo6)

 

6. What features will you need?

It’s important to enter the discussion with an idea of what students, teachers, and administrators need from the system. Group options into three categories – don’t need, nice-to-have, and must-have – to narrow the choices and avoid paying for features that aren’t needed or won’t be used.

(Katie Ash, EdWeek)

 

A learning management system may be perfect for your learning and development needs today, but will it be tomorrow? Ideally, you’ll want to choose a learning management system that is going to offer you the features and functionality you need now and in the future. Is it easy to update and maintain over time? Will you be able to integrate other tools and technologies into the platform?

(Christopher Pappas, elearningindustry.com)

 

7. How much support will you need?

Does the company offer round the clock support? Are they going to be able to troubleshoot problems that you may encounter with the LMS in the future? Ask the LMS vendor about the support services that come with your LMS package to ensure that you have access to the help you need to make the most of your new LMS.

(Christopher Pappas, elearningindustry.com)

 

Complex systems often end up adapted to tasks they may not have been specifically designed for. In such a situation it is always a good idea to have a knowledgeable support representative available to ask questions, brainstorm and evaluate the solutions you come up with.

(Teach.com)

 

8. Consider the cost

All schools must take the cost of LMS into consideration as they are all constrained by budget. How much you are willing to spend should depend upon how long you will be committed to using the LMS, and the results you expect to gain. Some LMSs offer free accounts to entice you to sign up, but there is always a hidden cost lurking around the corner. Therefore do your homework to determine if the cost of the LMS is worth the results you will get. The answer should always be the determining factor for buying.

(MrKempNZ.com)

 


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