Since first introduced decades ago, the number of learning management systems has snowballed. Here are seven top picks for your SME LMS Features Checklist.
Since first introduced decades ago, the number of learning management systems (LMSs) has snowballed, and feature sets have evolved to keep up with the times. Still, the core purpose of an LMS remains unchanged: deliver, track, and manage employees’ training. What should small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) look for in an LMS today? Here are seven top picks for your SME LMS Features Checklist.
Not Your Father’s LMS
An LMS typically delivers three main capabilities:
- Content delivery – getting the training material in front of the learners.
- Assessment – testing the learners’ comprehension of the content or mastery of a skill.
- Recordkeeping – tracking and reporting on learners’ achievements.
If a system doesn’t have all three, it’s not an LMS. YouTube, for example, is an excellent content delivery vehicle, but it doesn’t offer tests or transcripts or grades so cannot be considered an LMS. Conversely, while content creation (or course authoring) is critically important, it is not a must-have feature for an LMS. Some LMSs have authoring tools, but it’s not a requirement.
The first LMSs delivered all three capabilities – and not much more. Over time, the industry standardized content formats so LMSs could reliably deliver AICC- and SCORM-compliant content. The biggest areas of recent innovation have to do with just-in-time learning on mobile devices. An LMS must get the training that employees need into their hands, whenever and wherever they need it. For the modern learner, mobile devices are everywhere, and they have become the delivery platform of choice for many enterprises. This is not your father’s LMS.
LMS Features Checklist
For SMEs, here is an LMS Features Checklist to support modern-day learning content delivery, assessments, and record-keeping (and more):
1. Web-based content delivery. The LMS must be web-based and browser agnostic. In the early days, custom browser plug-ins were required – or proprietary apps were used. Today, learners must be able to access the LMS and its content from any browser, seamlessly.
2. Assessment capability. Some content will have built-in quizzes, tests, or other assessments and the LMS must be able to capture and record the results from these courses. An LMS should also have its own testing capability, independent of courses, to enable a consistent ability to test learners’ knowledge before, during, and/or after course completion.
3. Bullet-proof recordkeeping. Learners’ achievements must be tracked with 100% accuracy and be recoverable years later, if needed. It all becomes irrelevant if you lose the learner achievement data. Ideally, learner records are saved “forever” – even if they are archived. Check with the LMS vendor to discuss options for storing and archiving older data before deciding whether you prefer that the vendor or your company maintains the records and transcripts.
4. Flexible reporting. Any LMS will provide some level of reporting on learner activity, completed training, and test or assessment results. Leaders looking to monitor and improve a learning program, though, may have a series of nuanced questions. Which instructors are most (and least) effective? Which type of content (online asynchronous, virtual synchronous, hybrid, in-person) is best for a particular topic? Which category of learners (new, mid-career, or seasoned employees; virtual, hybrid, or in-person workers; sales or service personnel; or different generations in the workplace) are most engaged in training? Every organization will have its own set of questions and an LMS should support flexible queries and reports to help find the answers.
5. Integration with competency management tools. An LMS will only be successful for an enterprise if it improves employees’ abilities to do their job well. No company can afford to train employees simply because they want to know more. You must be training employees so that they get better at their current jobs – and to support their readiness for the next step in their careers or for what’s happening in your industry. Integration with a competency management system will provide feedback to confirm that employees are building the skills and competencies you (and they) need. A bonus benefit of an LMS-competency management tool integration is that you will be able to see which training works best (and which does not work well).
An LMS will only be successful for an enterprise if it improves employees’ abilities to do their job well.
6. Affordable cost. Budgets for an LMS can vary widely from one organization to the next. Likewise, LMS costs span a wide range. Whatever the budget, price cannot be a barrier to training delivery.
7. A track record of success. When selecting an LMS vendor partner, you’ll want to work with a company who has been making customers like you happy for many years. This technology class is too mature for you to work with a company or technology that’s just getting started. Whether you’re a government agency, a nonprofit, educational institution, or commercial SME, ask the LMS vendor about their experience with organizations like yours. Ask for examples of how they’ve helped to address some of the workforce issues your organization is facing. Working with an established and experienced vendor partner, you’ll not only get the right technology you need but you’ll also benefit from the wisdom and best practices they’ve gained over years of working with other clients facing similar challenges.
Tips for Finding the Right LMS for Your SME
To find the right LMS for your SME organization:
- Start with the list of features that are most important to you. Don’t be distracted by additional functionality if the LMS doesn’t meet your core needs first.
- Get references. Don’t simply rely on ads or sales representatives. It helps to talk to others who are using the LMS every day.
- Ask for the support you need. As a rule, the bigger LMS vendors are set up to support a “one-size-fits-all” solution, with a support team that is adept at tackling technology and integration issues. One thing we hear from our WebMentor LMS™ customers is that our team is interested in solving your learning or workforce problem, not just in getting the technology implemented well. If you want a vendor partner that engages with you to address your questions or challenges, be sure to vet for that level of support when selecting your next vendor.
- Start slow. Too many companies underestimate how much work is required to get results. If you’re looking for your first LMS, start by implementing something that fits your needs today. Over time, you can activate more features or integrate with other systems, such as a competency management system, as your learning program matures.
Avilar’s WebMentor LMS was the first SCORM-compliant LMS in the market and today supports private, public, and government-sector organizations with users ranging from 50 to over 100,000.
If you’re wondering how to update your training program, download our “How to Know When It’s Time to Update Your Training Program” resource. Or contact us to see if Avilar’s WebMentor LMS™ is a good fit to support what’s next.
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