LMS 101

I have developed many eLearning courses over the years and have loaded a few for clients into their Moodle sites, but usually I hand the courses off to someone who is responsible for the relationship between the course and the LMS.  However, I know that to offer better services to my clients, I need to educate myself about LMS's, so I have a few basic questions I hope ya'll can help me with.  These questions are specific to non-Moodle, paid-subscription type LMS (SumTotal, Docebo, etc.) for use with eLearning courses.

First of all, when purchasing an LMS, do most companies provide support and/or training to the purchaser so they can upload courses, set up enrollments, etc.?  I mean the LMS provider doesn't do all that for you, do they?  Or are there options for that?  Does the provider do the initial setup, or does the purchaser have to learn and do that?  How long does it typically take from the time of purchase to load in a single eLearning course and have it set up for students to enroll?  If someone could just walk me through that process, I'd really appreciate it.

Also, if students have to pay to enroll, can that be handled through the LMS, or does the seller need a separate website for that?

That should get me started.  Thanks for your help!

7 Replies
Bob S

Hi Katie,

Lots of great questions in there that I'm sure some of the heroes will weigh in on. It might also be helpful to think about just one narrow (but critical) area those new to the LMS world often forget... managing learner enrollments.

For example... You will want to decide if you allow unrestricted enrollment (ie learner can create new accounts on their own as often as they like).  While this may seem preferable, what is the plan for reconciling accounts on the backside as the learners may simply create new ones rather than trying to remember log in credentials?  As a result a learner might have several records (and no visibility on what courses they really took and didn't) and this can impact reporting and more. Alternatively, do you want to pre-create accounts and assign them out?  Or perhaps you want to allow them to enroll but require admin approval?  All of these have pros and cons.

It's been my experience that while loading courses is often the first concern new LMS Admins have (and understandably so!), it typically winds up being "old hat" fairly quickly and it is the other things such as learner enrollments and content/curriculum management that become the real challenges. This is why many organizations often carve out an LMS Admin Role or partner with providers that will manage these other pieces for you.

Not sure if this helped, but hopefully it will spur further conversation for you at least.

Katie L.

Thanks, Bob.  If it helps narrow the discussion, for today's purposes I'm focusing on a small niche organization that wants to provide continuing education type courses (1-5 courses total) to customers in the industry who may want the specialized training.  So the LMS purchaser is a SME whose focus is on sharing their knowledge, rather than an LMS admin or course developer.  This is an increasingly common scenario in my business and I want to be able to provide useful counsel to these clients.  

Dave Goodman

Katie - some answers:

First of all, when purchasing an LMS, do most companies provide support and/or training to the purchaser so they can upload courses, set up enrollments, etc.? Yes - the LMS vendor will provide support to your client's LMS admin. This may be an actual class face2face or through webinars or video sessions. It depends upon how big your client is.

 Does the provider do the initial setup, or does the purchaser have to learn and do that?  The vendor might ask you or your client to provide them with an CSV/Excel sheet of their employees, contact info, ID numbers, titles etc. You/your client will forward that to the lms vendor who who uploads those names. That is the easier part. Next you/your client must start to build a curriculum or syllabus for which employees are assigned to which courses, or create groups by job titles, etc. Then you need to understand in detail the one offs, e.g., suppose you have an external vendor in the client's corp who is required to take certain corp courses (safety, cybersecurity, compliance, HIPAA, how will they be accounted for. Do you need to set up an ecommerce account so people might pay for courses? You will also need to know if there is any data required from your HRIS to the LMS or reverse.

How long does it typically take from the time of purchase to load in a single eLearning course and have it set up for students to enroll? Based upon the above brief notes, it could take 3-5 weeks or more to get things up and running. If you have a small client with a small number of courses and no outstanding issues, you might be up and running within 1-2 weeks or even hours. If you have a large client, it might take 6-12 months.

Some cautions:

1.you might have a client that has an LMS that does not cleanly accepts a SL course. You will be responsible to correct the issue, change code, modify some of the files.

2. if you have a large client who has more than one LMS, you will become involved with trying to correct SCORM/AICC issues between those LMSs without creating multiple copies of courses required for each LMS.

3. If you are involved with helping your client select and implement an LMS, the client will look to you to solve all of the issues.

 

If someone could just walk me through that process, I'd really appreciate it.

Also, if students have to pay to enroll, can that be handled through the LMS, or does the seller need a separate website for that?

 

You might receive better responses from the forum if you stated the size of your normal client, the average number of employees, the average number of courses, etc.

Dave Goodman

Katie - I just read your follow-up. Disregard what I wrote above - it applies to larger clients. In your situation, you are probably talking about a smaller LMS that has ecommerce built in to pay for 1-5 courses. There are many online LMS vendors who are set up to handle your situation - basically selling courses. This type of an LMS could be up and running in a few hours/days. Sorry for any confusion - I should read all of the comments before replying.

Dave Goodman

There are close to 2,000 LMSs - so the first step is to create what you think will be your top 10-15 requirements, e.g., need classroom management, ecommerce, multi-lingual, small business  oriented, open API, links to association management registration, customization, multi/subdomains (you might buy the LMS and then lease it out to each of your clients), certifications, games/points, management dashboards for reporting, etc. Drop me a note if you need other info.

Below is a short list of vendors that you might wish to research. I can not vouch for each of them but this might get you started. Decide your requirements and price point first before contacting anyone

eLogic

Create

Inquisix

Learndash

Firmwater

Ann Williams

For smaller businesses, stick to Moodle as they are usually very money conscious and it is quite easy to learn how to manage a Moodle environment once it has been set up.
For larger ones then start having a look at those where you pay per user or per user/course (which may turn out to be expensive).
Don't go for something like SUMTOTAL unless it is a very large company that can afford to have the local LMS vendor look after the whole LMS environment as well.