November 22, 2017
    Avoid these 5 LMS shopping pitfalls

    Selecting the wrong LMS is a costly mistake

    By Tracy King, M.A., CAE | 01/05/2017

    Selecting the wrong LMS is a costly mistake. It’s like investing in a new house and figuring out your family doesn’t fit when the moving truck pulls up. With lean budgets and even leaner staff resources, how can we ensure we’re on the right track?

    As you make your move into the LMS market, look out for these five pitfalls.

    Missing stakeholders. Your Learning Management System (LMS) selection will impact the entire enterprise. Organizations that think of an LMS narrowly as a content delivery vehicle miss the mark. This key piece of technology infrastructure must be integrated into your overall member experience strategy. Ensure absolute executive support. Representatives from each division should be appointed voices within your stakeholder team. Incorporating key stakeholders will result in critical insights otherwise missed. And fewer surprises later.

    Unrealistic budget. According to an industry users study, organizations lowball the expected cost of acquiring an LMS by about 59 percent. Profound sticker shock leads to decisions that sabotage success. Such as, selecting a cheaper option but being stung again and again by costly customizations. Or, blowing the budget on a great system but failing to reserve funds for eLearning software, multimedia production, content licenses, and qualified instructional design staff to ensure you are offering the amazing member experience you envisioned. To build a realistic budget [link], multiply your expected costs by 1.59. Consider the type of learning formats you intend to offer and what it will cost to acquire the licenses and equipment to produce them. Don’t forget to save room in your budget for eLearning staff; you’ll need an LMS administrator and at least one instructional designer. And if your team does not have the bandwidth or expertise to lead your LMS acquisition process, budget for a consultant as well.

    Demo debacles. It may seem reasonable to start scheduling demos as soon as you’re thinking about acquiring an LMS to preview what’s out there. Beware. When organizations skip to directly to demos they experience frustration, feature confusion, and are overwhelmed. Why? Because initial demos will by default present all of the features the solution provider thinks you may be interested in vs. the select feature set you need. Before scheduling your first demo, discover what is unique about you. Complete your discovery discussions fleshing out your objectives, needs, and wants. Draft your requirements documentation. And then send out an RFI so you’re only looking at options that may qualify for your RFP. This effective approach allows solution providers to show you exactly what you need so you can compare options based upon your priorities. For more LMS demo best practices, read my blog post here.

    LMS vs. LCMS confusion. Increasingly Learning Management Systems are offering Learning Content Management System (LCMS) capabilities, but these are actually different animals. An LMS will host your content. You produce it and then you publish it within your LMS, which will track your selected reporting metrics. In addition to publishing your content and tracking metrics, an LCMS allows you to build your courses right in the system. Distinguish which you want. Do you want a system that will host content you’ve created with other tools? Take a look at LMS options. Do you want a system that offers the added capability of creating eLearning right there in the admin of your system? Look at LCMS options. Insider tip: When viewing LCMS options, make sure you define the precise learning formats you intend to build. This will prepare you to ask the right questions during feature demos to ensure the system supports the learning experiences you wish to offer.

    Learning experience letdown. One of the top reasons organizations seek to replace their current LMS is because they aren’t happy with the experience it offers.  We can all agree there are systems out there that need a UX overhaul. But it’s important to acknowledge that part of the experience letdown for members is the content design; chiefly, the fact it’s not designed to be eLearning at all. Your LMS or LCMS is a powerful piece of technology, but the software does not design learning. You do. You can fill your LMS with capture recordings, webinar recordings, and PDF files, but these info resources are not the learning experiences that members will bookmark your portal and return for. Online learners bring different expectations to digital learning than classroom training. We must prepare to invest in what it takes to design learning to maximize the native features of digital learning environments. Associations that think beyond acquiring an LMS to what’s required to deliver learning experiences their target audiences will get excited about, set themselves up for the ultimate win.

    Navigate around these five pitfalls to acquire the just-right-fit LMS to deliver upon your vision.

    King is chief learning strategist and founder at InspirEd. She is an author, speaker and education thought leader in the association space. Read her blog Tracy King EdThreads.

    King will present a TRENDS webinar on "eLearning Strategy: Pathway to profit," 2-3:30 p.m. ET Jan. 24. To register and for more details, click here.

    Association TRENDS