Digital learning has become a powerful tool for institutions and organizations to deliver learning in the modern tech infused environment. This form of learning provides efficient learning at reduced cost with other advantages like, remote access, personalized learning, interactivity and scalability. Digital learning is best leveraged with the use of learning management system or lms, a software to deploy, manage and track online learning. Organizations that impart any form of learning or training can reap long term gains by investing in an lms that best suits their requirement. The difficult question is which one is the best lms.
The answer can’t be one or two or even top five, because learning requirements are unique for organizations and each lms has different but not all the features, and the best lms for you might not be the right pick for someone else. Simply put: one size doesn’t fit all. Currently there are about a thousand different learning management systems available from providers across the world. The search for the right lms needs a good amount of research but it doesn’t have to be an exasperating project. The search can be narrowed down with a step-by-step analysis.
‘Do I really need an lms? or do I need to upgrade from the existing one?’ is the question we ask foremost, the answer requires a little introspection. Organizations can leverage lms if they want to
- offer online learning
- want to track the current learning outcomes and drawbacks
- want all the learning resources in one place
- streamline the administration
- and reduce learning and training costs
The next question is to know what will be the goal with the new lms and what the target audience is.
Online learning goals are defined by what you do and why you need an lms. You could be an academic institution trying to supplement the formal learning with virtual classrooms and reach out to a larger student base; a mid level business who needs a platform to train employees, educate vendors/ clients on products and services; or an mnc who wants to adopt a global streamlined learning and content management for various stakeholders. Your goals should be specific and measurable.
- Most of the learning management systems available today offer all of the basic features and many of the features are similar in functionality but carry different and lavish names. Creating a checklist of features which are necessary to achieve the learning goals is the fundamental part.
- An intuitive and easy to use user interface with responsive web design is a mandate for a modern lms, If your lms doesn’t provide a convenient user experience, no matter how robust it is, it will be a cause of annoyance for end users and admins.
- Mobility is another mandate for any online learning program as over half of the learning is consumed on mobile devices. Your new lms should provide a device agnostic and responsive content support, and should be complemented by mobile apps.
- Young learners are active on social platforms, plugins for social media sharing and social forums for discussion is a valuable add on. Learners want to share ideas and get feedback from peers, collaborative learning is also known to alleviate the drab of exhaustive learning.
- Assessments are an integral part of any learning programme, they help in measuring learners’ comprehension and implement relevant strategies to enhance it. An lms should have tools to take assessments in various ways, depending on your needs. It could be written tests, multiple objective questions, online simulations or scenarios.
- Feedbacks are an important way to get opinions and views on the approval of courses, teaching methodology and the platform.
- An advanced lms also has certification tool, wherein upon successful completion of courses certificates are generated within the system.
- One important lms features for learning providers is the kind of administration it provides, administration control can be managed by one admin (for smaller organizations) or by various stakeholders in case of large institutions. The layers of access control should provide degrees of access, eg, general view, reports access, courseware management etc.
- Customizable and scalable lms may come at a higher cost but the investment is worthwhile for organizations with growing members and who want to add or remove features to their lms as they start to see value in the product.
- An lms for advanced learning can inculcate varying degree of interactivity, training on design courses need a lot of interactive elements while delivering history lectures may not.
- ‘Differentiated Instruction’ is an education philosophy for effective teaching, commonly known as personalized learning, it allows learners within a group to have unique learning path carved out depending on their current awareness on the subject. Artificial intelligence enabled personalized learning is a feature in advanced learning platforms.
Explore the Market
The number and type of features can be exhausting, the key is to identify key features that could add to the learning goals. Every stakeholder’s views should be considered and weighed. Your lms should be cost efficient, not only today, but also 5 years later, and should be scalable to growing demands and changing requirements. As we define the learning goals and shortlist the important features the next step is exploring the market.
Start with basic research on the web, take time, consult with friends and colleagues, and create a preliminary shortlist. Browse through the prospective vendors’ websites, look for the features and alot them some scores. The next step is to know more about the shortlisted vendors, know it from people you know, people who might have used their products, and check for their product documentation, blogs, case studies, user ratings and testimonials. You will have a groundwork to start talking to the shortlisted vendors.
The sales teams are usually enthusiastic about their products, the point is to not to get swayed by the vibrant pitch, instead enquire about the required features, know about after support and more. Ask for a demo and use the tool for a few days, ask volunteering students to use it, let the stakeholders use it, and test for all the features. Upload great amount of content and see how the system functions, create demo tests and download reports, pay attention to all the features in the user interface, and check for other minor features.
After the demo the list of prospective suppliers should narrow down to about five, the next step is meeting the vendors (if possible), if it’s an international vendor they should have a local representative. Onsite demonstrations are an essential part before buying a product, the vendors show all the features and how the learners and the admins use it.
Make the Right Choice
When it comes to lms pricing the variation is wide and there’s a possibility that more than one lms fit all your criteria. Take all the stakeholders view again, ask your colleagues, and the existing users of the product, take time and come to the right decision after rounds of discussion.
Finding your best lms software that rightly fits into your vision is a learning in itself, there might be times when you need niche requirements, however it’s imperative to examine and test the products before you sign the deal. Online learning comes with huge benefits when rightly implemented. Looking at the future, the technology seems imperative in education and training, as we are witnessing the industry embracing technology at a steady pace. If you are not already in the league start your research and find out how online learning could be of your advantage.