As a first time LMS buyer or a replacement-LMS seeker, it is important to ask this one question—how to compare LMS platforms? Additionally, how to differentiate good LMS platforms from the best? The need to differentiate LMS platforms is very simple. As first time buyers, knowing which LMS features are really important to train your workforce is sometimes confusing. Even more important is identifying features that may in fact deter learners from using the platform. A lot of the confusion stems from the fact that LMS vendors market their products very well, and most buyers are easily pulled into marketing traps, unless they know exactly what to look for in their new LMS.
How to Compare LMS platforms?
There are a few sure-shot methods to differentiate good LMS platforms from great ones. A detailed study of an LMS based on the following touchpoints is a good way to get started with the identification process. Think of it as an LMS selection checklist!
Based on Use-Case
To compare LMS platforms, first outline your LMS use-cases. If simple onboarding, compliance, or attendance keeping are your organization’s needs, licensing an LMS with extra features is needless. It may also just be too complicated to understand and cost more than a simple platform.
On the other hand, if sales training, employee soft skill training, or process training is why you need an LMS, selecting a platform with strong analytics and reporting features, or one with good webinar and online hosting abilities is a better option. For sales training, selecting an LMS with good mobile-first technology where the LMS works seamlessly on multiple devices is very important.
And finally, if training third-party members, vendors, resellers or other external bodies is what your organization is aiming for, selecting an LMS with a good multi-tenant feature makes better sense! After all, you wouldn’t want third-party organizations to look into your LMS platform, but at the same time, training these partners is equally important.
Based on Features
The next step in comparing LMS platforms is understanding features that are bloatware, outdated, and counterproductive for the functioning of your LMS. It is important to know what these features are and steer clear of them as they will simply add no use to Your LMS. Rather, they might just confuse your administrators, slow down your LMS, and deter your learners from ever accessing the platform. One such feature is e-commerce related. It is not totally bad to have this as part of your LMS, but it really does not add any value to an organization that has nothing to do with creating eLearning content or selling them.
Another feature that most organizations do not require, but get fooled by the false-promise it holds, is the xAPI and LRS add-on. Not only are these features expensive to have in your LMS, but they also add no significant use to your learning activity—unless and only if your organization needs deep analytics, data on behavioral patterns, and learning trends of your learners. These are used to analyze and improve the learning experience, which for most normal organization’s L&D or HR is too much, and frankly, just not needed.
Based on Pricing
Pricing is probably one factor that plays the biggest role in selecting a platform. From a small organization’s point of view, strict budgets play a huge role in selecting platforms and the features that they may offer. Therefore, it is wise to know the features you need (as mentioned above) and the type of pricing plan that an organization is offering. Whether a vendor charges on a per-active-user basis, or a per-registered-user basis, it is important to know exactly what these terminologies are, what they represent, and how are they used. For a first time buyer, getting stuck in a pricing plan on which they have no clarity can lead to an unfavorable experience with an LMS. In this article – Understanding Pricing Models – we have broken down most of the common forms of LMS pricing that a vendor may present, and how not to get confused during your purchasing process by knowing exactly what each vendor means when they use a specific term.
Based on Vendors
Finally, a subject matter that most buyers overlook very easily, but something that is equally important if not more, is vendor appraising and selection. You read about the product, saw the reviews, and determined that a vendor is a good option: there could practically be no problem with their platform or service given that the reviews online are good, right? Well, there could actually be a few issues here as well. Some of the primary points of focus as a buyer when selecting a vendor should be:
- Are they providing a free trial and how long is it?
- Is the vendor a huge entity and is my organization too small compared to it?
- Is the vendor ready to provide good support during the initial set-up phase?
- Are they providing customer success team support?
But it is not just limited to this, there are a lot more factors that go into selecting the right vendor. Read our article on the vendor selection process.
To just get an idea, sizing your organization to that of the vendor is very important. Large vendors seldom provide enough support and help to smaller businesses with limited billing, as they do not provide much of an incentive to the vendor. Hence, always size yourself to your vendor well, and ensure they are ready to provide you with good aftersales services.
While these factors play a huge role in determining good LMS platforms from the best, let us also take a look at some features that a great LMS platform should have, more specifically, some features that your organization should have! This makes comparing LMS platforms much simpler!
Features that Make Good LMS Platforms Great
Classroom Training and eLearning
The two primary methods of training after on-the-job training are classroom training and eLearning. An organization that does not have a formal training department or that relies largely on on-the-job training may first want to organize their existing on-the-job training to formal classroom sessions organized by a training calendar. Or they may choose to convert their on-the-job training programs to more formal programs and move to eLearning. For those organizations that are already largely doing face-to-face classroom training, moving to a more self-paced eLearning program may be important. Either way, eLearning is not always the perfect substitute for classroom training. So having an LMS that handles eLearning and also helps organize classroom training is almost the minimum feature-set that any LMS buyer must go for. If the organization is located in multiple locations with a small workforce at corporate headquarters, then having eLearning may help with organizing classroom training at various plants or regional offices as well.
Virtual Instructor-Led Training
This feature of the LMS works exactly like a traditional classroom. The only difference is that trainers and students are engaged in training activities from different regions, sometimes from the comfort of their homes. It is a combination of video conference and e-learning, where the instructor delivers training, followed by regular assessments and tests. The need to arrange for a physical trainer, pay for the cost of transport, training fee, and venue, are all eliminated. As a corporate looking to instil a culture of development, where workforce training is absolutely required, having this feature makes training employees an effective practice. This feature is crucial for organizations that have a multi-location workforce or remote workers, especially where coming to the corporate headquarters is not feasible. Large software companies that need to train their customers, resellers or even their sales teams use virtual ILT or virtual classrooms very effectively.
Trainers can now record videos of lectures and upload it onto the LMS. This allows employees to access course material at their convenience and helps them in self-paced learning. Video training allows L&D Heads/Managers to break complex lectures into bite-sized formats, which boost the training retention rate and make the LMS learning process more appealing to the employees. In organizations where complexity is the nature of the training, video-based courses provide an extra dimension of visual learning which boosts the effectiveness of the training by more than 60%. Video courses also offer the trainers the ability to check their training for maximum accuracy and effectiveness.
For organizations that are highly regulated or have a high-risk profile, often compliance courses are just as integral as induction or onboarding courses. Safety training may be a high priority in oil and gas, manufacturing, and chemical industries. Food safety is a major issue in the food and beverage industry. Employees need to be certified before they can be fully operational. For such companies, having an LMS that handles certification and recertification is a key feature. Having the ability to set expiry dates and set up reminders for recertification are very important, especially in organizations with thousands going through compliance training every year. An added plus is the ability to print certificates, and even import previously acquired certificates to the system in case the industry has a professional body certifying specialists in that industry. So if someone joins your organization in the middle of the year and has a certificate that is going to last another year and a half, it makes sense to be able to import that certificate instead of asking the person to recertify. If your organization has high certification needs, specific attention must be paid to how the LMS will handle these requirements.
Employees seldom have the time to balance work and personal life, which is why an LMS is a practical approach to training. And now, LMSes have the ability to deliver training when needed, wherever needed, even while on the move. Research by Statista shows the number of smartphone users has increased from 2.1 billion (2016) to 2.53 billion (2018). This number is said to increase by 100% in 2020. Currently, 223 million smartphones are used in the US alone. UK has 53 million users and Western Europe has 271 million users. With figures like these, every corporate LMS should have the ability to integrate onto a smartphone to boost its training initiatives. This also opens a new avenue where learning is not a tedious, time-consuming activity anymore. Mobile could mean tablets or smartphones. Between 2010 and 2014, it was thought that tablets would be the ultimate training device, but with declining demand for tablets and larger smartphones, it is necessary that regular smartphones must also be supported by the LMS.
A method of applying traditional game-playing elements to training initiatives, such as scoring points, competing with peers, and earning rewards, makes training fun and impactful. According to Gartner, more than 60% of organizations that manage innovations will use some form of gamification to boost their productivity. This shows that the future of gamification-based training will only become brighter. As learners interact with the LMS, completing courses while earning badges, points, and securing positions on the leaderboard, creates an environment of social learning. The success of peers at training activities boosts the internal competitive nature of individuals, motivating them to compete and train more. Organizations that hire younger workers or millennials should also pay careful attention to these features. Besides certification, recognition via badges or leaderboards are an important aspect to help motivate and create a culture of learning within the organization.
Course Integration with Legacy Software
Many organizations have course materials which were designed using legacy software. These courses may still be relevant, and as the organization implements an LMS, they need it to integrate with the system. It is then important to select an LMS that allows seamless integration of legacy courses while saving costs, time, and efforts. This holds true when organizations have a repository of courses that can be re-used. The ability to re-use courses is actually future-proofing the system. As old courses lose their relevance, they can be stored for future use.
At the core of an LMS is its ability to track, record, and maintain the employee’s progress. This allows the L&D and HR teams to maintain comprehensive reports on the performance of employees with respect to the training provided organization-wide. Reporting features allow authorities to identify skill-gaps, employee competency at given tasks, the ability to understand new processes, and the ease in executing all that is learned. It is vital for the corporate LMS to have comprehensive reporting features. It is a feature that can track the performance of the training program on a micro level for individual employees and managers, to a macro level for division/branch wise performance, and compare them.
At Abara, we focus greatly on matching clients’ needs with our products to form the best fit. Our LMS is a world-class platform that is recognized by multiple third-party reviewers and websites as one of the best LMS platforms. We provide the best care your organization needs when deploying its first LMS platform and also let you test our system for a period of 30 days! Go ahead and click on the link to sign-up for a thirty-day trial and start your learning journey. You can even compare LMS platforms! Also, visit eNyota Learning for all your custom eLearning development needs.