The LMS is an integral part of the learning ecosystem that enhances teaching, learning, and training effectiveness for institutions and organizations in various markets. Alas, figuring out which LMS is right for you can be an intimidating task that leaves many consumers asking, “Where do I start?”
Step 1: Every college or business will have a different need set. Identify your specific e-learning goals, and think about what LMS features you will need in order to realize these goals.
Step 2: Don’t forget to consider the type of technology your LMS uses. Whether a learning platform uses closed-source or open-source technology will affect the freedoms you can enjoy with your system.
Step 3: Keep in mind that there are few must-have features that will be important for any organization to maintain a flexible and scalable platform. Check out the following five must-have LMS features.
IntegrationTight integration between your LMS and your current IT infrastructure is essential to bringing current systems together in a seamless fashion. As the central hub for providing and tracking learning, you will want your LMS to talk (or pass important information back and forth) to your secondary systems. For example, enjoying a real-time integration between your LMS and your student information system (SIS) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is a life-changer when it comes to automating processes and saving time.
That said, when evaluating LMS platforms, you will want to keep integration capabilities in mind. As an open source platform, Moodle can easily be integrated with a variety of other programs to meet the various needs of an organization.
ReportingReporting is one of the most important functions of an LMS. If you have formal compliance requirements, reports are essential for recording that learners have passed mandatory training and assessment modules. Reports also can drive your team to take action, prompting learners to complete outstanding training before deadlines pass. Without adequate reports, it is hard to measure the success of training programs and to pinpoint where improvements need to be made.
Your LMS should allow you to track learner progress, course activity, and completion rates to produce canned reports, custom reports, and key analytics. Some examples of custom reports include:
- course reports—information regarding courses
- categories reports—information regarding categories and a courses report can be embedded in this type of report
- user reports—information regarding users and their activity in a course
- custom SQL reports
- advanced features—filters, pagination, logic conditions and permissions, plots, templates support, and export to Microsoft Excel.
Mobile CapabilityToday’s LMSs must have a responsive design and a mobile app for learners to access educational resources anywhere, anytime. Many LMSs have created their own mobile applications to enable access on portable computing devices, such as iPads, tablets, PDAs, and smartphones, enabling teaching and learning to extend to spaces beyond the traditional classroom. Choosing an LMS with mobile capabilities gives you the power to use tech-centric mobile learning strategies like microlearning.
Standards CompatibilityLMS usability goes much deeper than a pretty user interface. Because most current course content building tools, such as Articulate and Camtasia, adhere to common standards like SCORM, xAPI, and AICC, you will want to make sure the LMS you are considering works with those same standards.
An LMS that supports these standards ensures that all content developed within this framework will operate properly in your LMS. It also protects your investment in content down the road when looking at software upgrades and portability to other systems.
How can you be assured the LMS you are considering meets these standards? Simply ask the LMS vendor to provide a demo in real time. Have the vendor show you how to import content into the LMS and then launch it in a course. If it works, great! If not, then it’s time to evaluate a different system.
Accessible DesignAccessibility—or ensuring that content within the LMS is accessible to every learner—is a major focus in distance education. An LMS should be built with accessibility in mind so that it can meet different user needs and learning preferences. Accessibility not only helps to increase LMS adoption rates, but often it is legally required that content within the LMS be Section 508 compliant to prevent discrimination against learners with disabilities and to provide all users with equal opportunities to learn.
All in all, the must-have LMS features will depend on your specific training goals and requirements. When choosing an LMS, be sure to identify the features you want as well as those you will need.
Want a deeper dive into the LMS evaluation process? Join eThink at the ATD 2019 International Conference & Exposition in Washington, D.C., where eThink’s CEO Brian Carlson will be presenting on Hacking the LMS Evaluation Process: Strategies and Considerations for a Smooth Selection on Sunday, May 19 at 3-4 p.m. in Room 151.
Editor's Note: Adapated from the post, "LMS Evaluation Checklist: 5 Must-Have LMS Features," on the eThink Blog.