Selecting a Learning Management System (LMS)
One of the main items that you will have to give a lot of consideration to is what LMS should you use for either your own company or for your clients. And while most manage system is designed for two reasons, 1) Corporate Sector 1) Education Sector.
It is so important to trial any LMS that you may have an interest in and to contact current users of the system to gauge what the software, company and support are like before you purchase the LMS. Research is key to finding out what the best system is and you can do a lot of that with this forum and the support of the members.
While having an LMS will make managing your courses and eLearning content a lot easier, you will have to consider the following to decide what is right for your requirements today:
- Free or Paid
- Number of Trainees Allowed
- Length of Agreement
- Support Costs
- Company Intranet or Hosting
- Cloud-Based LMS Systems
- Level of Technical Skills Required to Set Up the LMS
Free or Paid?
Should you go for free or paid subscriptions to an LMS? This depends on a number of factors in do I have the ability to set up and manage the free LMS, as these usually come with no support other than documentation and/or support forum. On the other hand, the paid LMS system usually comes with setup and support provided for at least 30 days. Two examples of a free and a paid are as follows:
Moodle – a very robust system that offers a lot under the hood and comes with very well documented support material, that said you will have to interpret the documentation or post on the forum with any issues you encounter. While Moodle is one of the best systems on the market and is Open Source, you will find that it has a very steep learning curve to get it up and running.
Totara – This is the “PIMP MY MOODLE” version that comes at a price. The learning curve is about medium and will take you time to master all of the options available. This system will allow you to create groups, cohorts and learning plans and appraisals systems very quickly. However the basic price can cost you from €4500 for up to 300 users, the price includes setting up the platform on your own hosting only. If you require a support agreement it will set you back €1500 for 10 hours of support. You will also have to pay for customisation of the template to match your own colours and corporate identity. SO while you do get an up and running LMS, you will initially have to spend around €5000 to €12000 to get up and running. There is other paid LMS system out there that cost more and some that cost less, a quick search for LMS systems will give you a lot of information.
Number of Trainees
This is important as many LMS providers will allow you to purchase a system based on the number of employees that you have in the business right at this moment. Other providers will insist on a minimum of employee anywhere from 99 + number of users. One of the best systems for any company is Captivate Prime, which has a minimum of 10 trainees at a cost of $4, per month, this is really cost effective and comes ready setup to start your online training in around 90 minutes (Check it out here).
Length of Agreement or Contract
Many of the main providers of Learning Management Systems will try to tie you into a three-year agreement offering you a lower price for the longer agreement. You need to be very careful here with this type of agreement as you may find that overall the system is not suitable for your requirements and then you are stuck with the longterm contract that you will have to pay for, even if you stop using their system.
The hidden extras in many software purchases. You need to make it clear from the outset what type of support you will receive from the vendor, is there an initial amount of support built into the original purchase price or subscription price? How will you be charged for the ongoing support (many vendors have a 10-hour minimum that can set you back around €1500), other vendors have a monthly, quarterly or yearly support cost and you need to know how much this will cost.
Support hours – what hours do the support teamwork, will these hours fit in with your business requirements, if the vendor is located in a foreign country, what effect will the time difference have on your support when you need it (will you be able to call during your working hours?).
What type of support is offered? This will range from immediately to 4 hours to 24 hours or even within 72 hours. Again will this fit your requirements? What if your system goes down and you need to have it back up within 2 hours, is this possible with the software vendor?
There are many cloud-based systems that you can research on the internet, with prices ranging from a few dollars to thousands of dollars per month, however, my personal choice is Captivate Prime from Adobe for the following reasons:
- Easy to setup
- Cost effective $4 per trainee per month
- Minimum Trainees is set at 10
- The LMS Grows With Your Business Requirements
- Support is Excellent
Cloud-Based is the best way to go as you have no issues with web server speed, issues or maintenance of the platform.
Ready for GDPR
Your Learning Management System must be compliant with GDPR, this is no longer an option. You as the company and individual must protect your employees information and ensure that it can be easily deleted by the company and/or employee when required.
Level of Technical Skills Required to Set Up and Maintain the LMS
Have you or your team got the technical expertise that will be required to set up the LMS system from out of the box to full working on a server? Can you handle all of the issues that will pop up over the course of using the LMS? While it may seem easy to install an LMS you can encounter a lot of issues that may have nothing to do with the software but more to do with your hosting company or company server. These issues can cost you extra expense to have them sorted as something as simple as having your memory increased in the PHP configuration will set you back $50 to $100. Then there is the issue of ongoing maintenance as your LMS grows, is this something your team can handle or will you need external support?
Do your research before settling on an LMS for your business, talk to other users read the reviews and try to try as many systems as you can before purchasing. THink before signing up for any subscription longer than a year and remember that Cloud-Based systems take away a lot of the hassle for you as a developer. Finally, understand that all paid subscriptions do not include ongoing support and you will have to include this in your yearly budget.
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