Mistakes to AVOID when purchasing LMS platforms/software: Discuss/rant :)

Hello you amazing community of learning and LMS experts!!

I’m doing a bit of research on that ole 20/20 vision thing – All the things you’ve experienced that could have been done better, or mistakes that are commonly made or more to the point avoided – When companies look into buying / choosing an LMS. 

I’ve been working with LMS software/ platforms for the last 10 years with more face-palm stories than good ones – and I’m interested to hear what you all think, any tips you think people should know!

Here is a basic list I’ve put together to start off with (please feel free to add / elaborate)

  1. Scope your functionality properly.  Do you or will you need:
    • Custom branding
    • Gamification (and what does that mean to you?)
    • Social (and how do you define that?)
    • Integration with other systems
    • Functionality –Scorm/TinCan or other eLearning applications
    • Reporting (and what level of detail you want)
    • A payment gateway
    • Support (and does it need to be available in the same time zone as you?)

2.     Using expert recommendations vs. the top results in Google

  • Make sure you factor in the cost of this expert opinion, this is an amazing investment in future proofing (i.e. not starting again from scratch in 2 years)

3.     Budgeting for your LMS

  • Take account that most LMS platforms will have on-going costs
  • Set up and customization can be expensive,
  • Expect a compromise between a price you can afford and the functionality you need

4.     Going to Market with a tender

  • Take your top picks and ask them to tender
  • Healthy competition between LMS software providers can get you a better deal
  • This is a great way to set the terms of a working relationship from the get go

5.   In house technical Team or Software partner support

  • As alluded to in point 1.g
  • An internal resource can be cheaper than paying a partner for any change or custom development to a system
  • Admin team training or experience with a system / super users

6.     Take into consideration the size of your company and your future growth

  • Large companies and Industry standard vs. Scalability
  • Universities/Education providers Consider Multi-Tenancy not multiple LMS instances (or just use hierarchical users/teachers/manager groups the way is supposed to work!)
  • Small companies, using less traditional software/ sites can be more effective
  • Individuals – Self hosted course ware platforms vs subscription course ware platforms (there’s hundreds) depends on your budget for overheads and projected student numbers.

7.     WHAT HAVE I MISSED?

Would love to hear from everyone your thoughts and experiences...  :)

9 Replies
Bob S

Couple of other common pitfalls...

  • Checking only that it can do something, not HOW it is done in the system
  • Documentation, Online Help, Healthy/Active User Community for support
  • Clarity on what roles are possible in the system and how/if they are customizable
  • Understanding the difference between standard canned reporting and custom/configurable reporting  (some are great at one but not the other, few are great at both)
  • What "compatible" really means for your learners platforms and browsers
  • Forgetting to check on how to delete/remove courseware in that system and what it means to learner history etc
  • Failing to have a deployment strategy, and only buying a deployment platform. You should have an idea on how you want to manage curriculum (by profile, by group, by rule, etc) first
  • Ability to leverage , at the Admin level, not through vendor, additional custom data fields in the learner record so you can add the inevitable missing info you didn't think you were going to need to properly sort/classify learners.... Not that it has ever happened. ;-) 
  • Ensure that the LMS can fully sort on, deploy content from, and report against the custom data fields; not just the standard ones.
Ant Pugh

Really like Bob's points on how to do something in the system rather than just if it's possible. I recently had a conversation with an LMS vendor who claimed his system had an option - when I dug a little deeper, it turned out that wasn't the case at all, and he was saying that their team would be able to develop that feature for an additional fee! Cheeky swines!

Another very valid comment he made is the User Groups comment. I have found a huge amount of value from the LMS vendor supporting user groups where you can meet other LMS administrators who have the same challenges as you. This can also be useful if they are not associated with the vendor too - you might get more honest opinions if the members don't think the vendors are listening!

Some more ideas that I have found to be important:

  • How customisable is the interface? (Can you see some examples of different branding? I don't want my LMS to look the same as all the others with a different logo).
  • Each piece of content can be assigned a unique URL (this allows you to direct learners to specific content via email).
  • Support in your geographical location (I wouldn't go near an LMS that didn't have support in my country).
  • Single-sign on (with all the microsites learners have access to these days, removing the barrier of a login screen is huge).
  • E-commerce features (you may not be in a position to sell your training now, but don't rule it out as a new revenue stream in the future).
  • Can you change the From email address of system emails? (so instead of being sent my system@yourlms.com, they can be sent from an internal email address at your company - I recommend setting up learn@yourcompanyname.com and then there is a central inbox to manage all LMS communication).

I should also add that I've just launched a free crash course for increasing engagement of your elearning programme - you might find that useful.

Chris Wirick

The greatest deficiency I find with our corporate LMS is the lack of direct linking to courseware. Learners must enter through the log-in screen and manually search for a course. We cannot provide them with a simple, direct link to a course in our marketing/communications. How many learners do we drive away by making our courseware too difficult to access? Too many.

l l

Hi all,

 

I wanted to add my piece and say CUSTOM CONTENT STORAGE FEES (if any). I am currently using a vendor that is charging us a ridiculous amount of money for just 15GB of custom data hosting storage..it's a total nightmare. Make sure you think about the expansion of your learning program when you decide on an LMS! Not just the implementation price!