LMS Buyer’s Kit: A Comprehensive Guide To Learning Management Systems

Choosing the right LMS for your company’s needs can be a demanding and complex process. Expertus designed the free eBook LMS Buyer’s Kit to provide potential LMS buyers with a comprehensive Learning Management System guide that will direct their LMS purchase decisions. In this article, I’ll present what the free eBook LMS Buyer’s Kit has to offer.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

The Top 9 Questions To Ask Your Prospective LMS Vendor

If the eLearning industry has abundance in one thing that is definitely LMS vendors. This makes the task of finding the right LMS vendor for your eLearning project an extremely challenging one. However, there’s a set of basic questions you can put forward to make sure you’ve acquired as much information about your prospective LMS vendor as possible. In this article, I’ll share the top 9 questions you can ask your prospective LMS vendor to make sure you have made the right choice.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

How Modern Learning Technology Addresses Learning Software Dissatisfaction

People refuse to limit themselves to traditional ways of learning anymore. Learning technology provides everything online learners need to get quality online training without space or time barriers. However, learning technology users are often dissatisfied with the learning software they use. In this article, I’ll present why there is dissatisfaction about learning technology today and how modern learning technology addresses learning software dissatisfaction.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Learning Platforms: The Ultimate Pocket Guide

Learning platforms, more commonly referred to as Learning Management Systems, have witnessed extreme popularity lately, mostly due to a rise in the development of eLearning courses for various industries. In this article, I’ll present what a learning platform is and demonstrate common features and benefits of learning platforms.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

How To Use A Demo To Evaluate Online Training Software

Ever wondered about that big "Request a Demo" button you see on Learning Management System vendors' websites? A demo can actually help you to take weeks off the selection process for online training software. Here's how you can use the demo to speed up your organization's decision-making process.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

The 4 Minute LMS Buying Guide: Deployment And Customer Types, Features And Tips You Need To Know

The 4 Minute LMS Buying Guide

Choosing the right Learning Management System can be one of the most challenging aspects of creating a corporate online training program. This is primarily due to the fact that everything is built upon your LMS platform, and a shaky foundation can put your entire Learning and Development strategy at risk. The Learning Management System is going to be responsible for developing, deploying, managing, and tracking your online training courses, which means that the Learning Management System must be up to the task. But how do you determine which LMS is ideal for your company's online training needs and budget? In this 4 minute LMS buying guide, you'll find key considerations to keep in mind when choosing the best and most beneficial Learning Management System for your corporate online training initiatives.

Basic Deployment and Customer Types Of Learning Management Systems

  1. Open Source LMS
    Learning Management Systems that include open source codes. eLearning professionals can modify and customize virtually every aspect of the code based on the organization's online training needs and corporate learners. The drawback to open source Learning Management Systems is that they are typically require more experience and coding knowledge. They may also lack support services. However, many do have active online communities where you can find FAQs and forums.
  2. Enterprise LMS
    Otherwise known as commercial Learning Management Systems, enterprise LMS platforms are usually much easier to use and offer a wide range of support services. These solutions tend to have an intuitive user interface and possibly even asset libraries that allow for rapid development and deployment of the online training material. Enterprise LMSs can be divided into two distinct categories: SaaS (Software as a Service) and Installed.

    • SaaS LMS
      These are usually web-based platforms that include free upgrades and are completely scalable. The vendor provides support services to the organization and is responsible for storing all of the data on the Cloud.
    • Installed LMS
      Hosted locally on the organization’s servers, which makes it easy to fully customize every aspect of the Learning Management System. However, the internal IT team is responsible for maintaining the system and making any necessary upgrades.
  3. Industry-Specific LMS
    This LMS solution is geared toward a particular industry and features all of the corporate online training materials and assets that organizations require. It will typically include certifications, online games, and other corporate training activities that center on industry-specific skills and tasks.

5 Key LMS Features To Look For

  1. Gamification
    Learning Management Systems may also appeal to the competitive nature of employees by offering full gamification. Badges, leaderboards, serious games, and points are just some of the gamification features that you may want to consider.
  2. Responsive Design 
    Responsive design systems automatically adjust your online training content based on the device that is being used. For example, the LMS platform might move the images or text blocks to make it more accessible for mobile users.
  3. App Compatibility
    Ultimately, you need a Learning Management System that will be compatible with other apps, plug-ins, and third party software. This allows you to easily integrate online training content from other tools into your online training course design, as well as make the LMS more functional.
  4. eCommerce
    A Learning Management System that offers eCommerce features, such as a marketplace or built-in checkout system, is ideal for eLearning professionals who wish to sell their training courses online. Some eCommerce platforms even allow organizations to purchase your online training courses in bulk or use a discount code.
  5. Compliance Certifications 
    This feature is key for corporate online training programs. It gives organizations the opportunity to ensure that every employee is up-to-date with their compliance online training and that they receive the necessary certificates.

3 Tips For Choosing The Right LMS

  1. Create a strategic plan beforehand.
    There are a variety of LMS solutions to choose from, which makes it exceedingly difficult to find the one that’s just right for your organization. This is why it’s so essential to develop a strategic plan in advance and identify exactly what you need from your new LMS. Figure out how you are going to use it to achieve your performance goals and fill the gaps. You should also speak with your IT team to determine their level of experience and expertise. Otherwise, you may end up with a Learning Management System that is too advanced or does not offer enough flexibility.
  2. Identify features you WANT vs. features you NEED.
    There are going to be LMS features that you absolutely need in order to create effective and engaging online training courses; then there are those that are optional. Consider creating a two-column list that includes all of the must-have features for your new LMS on one side, and those that are "luxuries" on the other. This will help you find a Learning Management System that is ideal for your needs and your budget. For example, you may want a Learning Management System that offers an impressive asset library, but do you really need access to thousands of different cut-outs, images, and graphics, especially if it comes with a higher price tag?
  3. Determine which support services you require.
    Support services usually come at a cost, but they can be a worthwhile investment for organizations who need that extra assistance. Figure out how much support you actually require, and then pinpoint which LMS solutions offer that level of service. Typically, LMS vendors will offer email or phone support for an additional fee, and most have online communities that can offer assistance without any charge.

Use this 4 minute LMS buying guide to choose the Learning Management System that's a perfect match for your company's needs. Keep in mind that the first step in any successful LMS strategy is creating a solid plan. So, have a clear idea of your goals, objectives, and performance gaps before you embark on your LMS search.

Now you have read this 4 minute LMS buying guide, you might also be interested in learning more about how LMS vendors typically charge for the LMS platforms they provide. Read the article The Insider's Guide To Learning Management Systems' Pricing Models to discover the LMS pricing model for both cloud and hosted options.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Know When You Need These Learning Management System Bells And Whistles

When Do You Need These Learning Management System Bells And Whistles? 

You have finally decided to implement a full-fledged Learning Management System (LMS) for your training initiatives. You have got some good quality content, it is compliant as per industry standards, and you have learners who are comfortable with online learning. Now you would like to bring in the formal tracking element, and a good Learning Management System obviously is required for the same. There is a ton of advice available online, there are thousands of Learning Management System options available (free as well as paid), and there are numerous reports and blog posts comparing the available Learning Management System – so much so that this information can almost confuse you. You are not quite sure which all features you need, you need to work within your budgets, and probably you don’t have a very trained staff to manage the Learning Management System (yet). Well, don’t let these things deter you. Through this article, we aim to provide a little bit of a guideline for your research.

  1. Gamification.
    Don’t be surprised to find this item in this list. Gamification is great. We know that it keeps the learners engaged and motivated to complete the training. The rewards, badges, leader boards, points, all are good things to have in the Learning Management System. There is a good chance that these things will make the learners like the Learning Management System interface more. But as an enterprise implementing the Learning Management System for the first time, you need to remember that this involves a bigger onus on the Learning Management System administrators and managers. They need to configure the Learning Management System appropriately to introduce the right amount of interaction which is just enough for the learners to engage and does not distract them. Secondly, the gamification needs to have a strategic connection with your overall training objectives. It also needs to align with your training material. Introducing gamification in the Learning Management System (just because it is cool to have) won’t give you the desired results unless you have that as a part of the overall training strategy.
  2. Collaborative Learning.
    Most of the learning technologies for enterprises are designed to support a more formal and structured training. Introducing collaborative learning in the enterprise means offering more “responsibility” to the learners and allowing them to contribute in the process of education. Many learners may not be ready immediately to handle this additional responsibility. It also requires understanding and thorough knowledge the tools and technology (the Learning Management System features), so that the features can be used most efficiently. Since the success of collaborative learning completely depends on the participation of the learners, the enterprises need to take a call as to when they think their learners are ready for this additional responsibility.
  3. Social Learning.
    I know. I know. We are living in a social era. Everybody is on social media and there are arguments out there as to why learning should not be social. Point taken. Social is great. It helps in collaboration and it makes learning more collaborative and engaging. But I wouldn’t recommend joining this social learning bandwagon unless you have figured out your measurable social learning plan. Unless you have clarity on how and who will use the social learning features of your Learning Management System, what is the business impact it is going to create, and if you do really care for that impact – I would recommend skip it entirely.
  4. LRS - Tin Can.
    Learning Record Store (LRS) - Tin Can is the new kid around the block and everyone is talking about it. While LRS - Tin Can APIs offer a lot of new functionalities such as better organization of content with skill specific tags, easier transition between platforms, simulations and serious games etc., do note that it does not offer several other features such as calendar integration, email integration, e-commerce of course enrollments, enrollment approval workflow, management of users, roles, facilities etc. Do a complete analysis of your requirements before checking out additional features which various Learning Management Systems offer.
  5. Competency Management.
    Competency management is being discussed extensively during several learning and training development events. But to get the real benefits from the competency management initiatives, multiple products and technologies in the learning system need to flawlessly communicate with each other. The Learning Management System delivers the courses to the learners, assessment systems provide feedback to learners, the grading systems provide information on learner achievement – but unless all these systems talk to each other, it is of no use if only the Learning Management System has ‘support’ for competency management.
  6. Video Courses.
    Video courses are great to bring together learners and teachers from different places together. However, a lot of onus of making the most of the video courses lies on the learners. For starters, videos lack the real-time student/ teacher interaction, students need to be really self-disciplined to complete the video courses, and videos are not useful for technical courses which require real-world hands-on practical training. Another factor to consider is the costs – because of the need for a streaming server, the hosting charges of video courses is on a higher side. Unless you have training material which relies heavily on the use of video courses, this feature of video courses in the Learning Management System is probably of not much value to you.

Your Learning Management System evaluation needs to be much more than checking the check box items or getting impressed with the “number of features”. Your evaluation needs to be inside out – first identify your needs, requirements, capabilities, business goals and plans and then evaluate the Learning Management System based on those criteria.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

The Insider’s Guide To Learning Management Systems’ Pricing Models

The Top 6 Learning Management Systems' Pricing Models

If you've been exploring the many LMS options that are available, then you probably have already discovered that the vast assortment of features, functions, and support services can make the decision process anything but easy. However, one of the key concerns that weighs on the minds of most eLearning professionals is the cost. Does the LMS fit into your budget, and is it going to offer you the flexibility you need? In this article, I'll highlight the Learning Management Systems' pricing model for both cloud and hosted options, so that you can narrow down your list of potential LMS solutions.

  1. Pay per learner (Cloud-based).
    Cloud-based learning management systems do not require any software downloads. Learners can access the LMS anytime, anywhere, as long as they have access to the internet. A pay per learner cloud-based Learning Management System’s pricing model is ideal for smaller businesses or entrepreneurs who are looking for a more affordable option, especially those who have an established audience base and know roughly how many learners will be accessing the system. In essence, organizations pay for the number of learners that access the eLearning course each month. For example, if 500 learners register for the online course the first month and the service charges 50 cents per user, your bill would be $250. The downside to this is that you typically won’t use all of the features included in the LMS, but you still have to pay for them.  Also, if your learner base suddenly spikes, this option can become quite costly.
  2. Pay per use (Cloud-based).
    Every LMS provider has a different definition of “use”. As such, this pricing model is a bit more flexible than the others, and even confusing in some cases. For example, one provider might define “use” as a module, while another considers it to be an online course. This is why it’s important to verify what they mean by “use” beforehand, so that you don’t end paying more than you anticipated. This option is best for organizations who don’t necessarily need a wide range of LMS features and have a larger audience base. However, it’s difficult to know exactly how much you will be billed when all is said and done, as it greatly depends on the enrollment numbers.
  3. Pay per active learner (Cloud-based).
    Instead of paying for every learner who is enrolled, this LMS pricing model only charges you for the learners who are actually active in your online course. For example, if you have 500 learners enrolled, but only 300 are accessing the online course, you won’t have to pay for those 200 inactive learners. This is a great option for those who do not have a clear estimate of how many learners might actively attend the eLearning course, or have attendance rates that frequently fluctuate.
  4. Limited Time Licensing (Cloud or Hosted).
    Rather than paying per learner or per use, the limited time licensing pricing model involves an annual fee that organizations pay to use the LMS. No matter how many learners access the online course, or how many eLearning modules you create, you will be charged the same flat fee. This model can also be on a monthly basis, in some instances. When the licensing fee time runs up, you will have to pay to renew it in order to continue accessing the online course. It is ideally suited for organizations that have large learning audiences and online course libraries, or those who are planning on expanding rapidly, as it is a more cost-effective option.
  5. Perpetual Licensing Fee (Self-Hosted).
    When most people think of installed LMS solutions, this is the pricing model that springs to mind. In this case, the organization pays a one-time flat fee that covers every aspect of the product. They download the software, host it locally, and can use it for however long they like. There is no expiration date, and in most cases upgrades are included as part of the deal. This is typically the best option for larger enterprises that prefer to own the software outright, rather than having to worry about paying annual or monthly fees. In some instances, the provider may even host the LMS for an extra fee, if the organization does not want to host it on-site. If you are planning on sticking with the LMS for an extended period of time and have a vast learner base, then this may be the way to go.
  6. Free Learning Management Systems.
    Last, but certainly not least, we have the free options. There are a variety of learning management systems that are absolutely free to use, particularly those that are based on an open-sourced model. You do typically have to a bit more tech savvy in order to use these platforms, but the price is definitely right if you are familiar with the design software. Organizations working with a tight budget and those who are willing and ready to maintain the system on their own, or even hire an LMS specialist to get you started, may find the a free model is the best choice. However, you should bear in mind that these options don’t come with support services and the upkeep expenses can become quite costly.

Now that you know the ins and outs of LMS pricing models, you may want to compare the LMS features for the solutions in your budget bracket. What model offers you the accessibility and support you need, and a pricing structure you're comfortable with?

Looking for tips on how to choose the best LMS for your eLearning project? Read the article 11 Tips for Choosing The Best Learning Management System to discover 11 top tips for selecting a learning management system that offers the features, functions, and flexibility your organization requires.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

14 Things That Your Learning Management System Doesn’t Do (But TalentLMS Does)

What Your Learning Management System Doesn't Do (But TalentLMS Does)

eLearning is a very competitive industry. Vendors compete on features, performance, ease of use, stability, extensibility, support, pricing, and lots of other things.

That’s part of what keeps us motivated to work on new TalentLMS features, enhancements, and updates (like the recent update about TalentLMS in Cloud that we've released mid-May). And, judging from the results, we are probably doing a few things right.

Besides the seamless Cloud-based turnkey experience and our well praised support, here are 14 things TalentLMS does that your Learning Management System doesn’t.

  1. Converts presentations to videos.
    If you've been doing seminars, internal training, and so on, you probably have tons of PowerPoint presentations. Problem is, they are not that exciting as a training material, and they also require a compatible viewer program. TalentLMS lets you automatically convert these presentations to video for incorporation in your online lessons.
  2. Consumes content directly from Wikipedia, YouTube, Prezi, etc.
    Speaking of incorporating external content into your courses, internet is filled to the brim with excellent eLearning material in all kinds of formats. Instead of manually copying and pasting or making do with links to it, TalentLMS allows you to directly consume content from Wikipedia, YouTube, Prezi, SlideShare, and many more sources. Content can be seamlessly integrated with your own material and reused in many lessons and courses.
  3. Sends reports at scheduled intervals (to anyone you choose).
    You probably know that TalentLMS has a powerful reporting system that gives you insights to all aspects of your eLearning portal and its users. But did you know that you can also automate your learning reports in TalentLMS and have them sent at scheduled intervals to specific recipients? Perfect for keeping your instructors or pointy-haired boss in the loop.
  4. Lets you build custom reports and perform mass actions.
    Besides the default report types that TalentLMS provides, you can also go wild creating your own custom Learning Managent System reports (using the same powerful filters and tools that are available for the default report types). Even better, TalentLMS lets you perform mass actions on the results of a report, updating, notifying, or even deleting multiple items (students, instructors, groups, courses, etc.) at once.
  5. Integrates video conferences.
    Web based eLearning is great for giving students the freedom to study at their own pace. Sometimes though, a little face-to-face (or “real time”) session is indispensable.
    With the video conference tools TalentLMS offers, you can have the best of both worlds. You get not only audio and video conference capabilities, but also real time chat and a virtual whiteboard to boot. Even better, video sessions can be scheduled and handled just like normal lessons, through TalentLMS’ support for instructor-led training. What distinguishes us is that video conferencing comes as part of the main TalentLMS offering. You do not have to integrate, install, or buy a 3rd party video conference subscription; it just works for you!
  6. Lets you collect subscription payments.
    While TalentLMS is ideal for internal training inside a business, it also allows you to build your own full blown eLearning school and sell courses. And when it comes to getting paid, it also allows you to offer subscription based courses. Subscriptions allow your end-users to have access to all of your paid courses by paying a single monthly fee, as opposed to a per course, one time purchase. Subscriptions currently only work with the Stripe payment service, but they will soon be available through PayPal too.
  7. Lets you build custom user types.
    Besides the default built-in user types (Instructor, Student, and Administrator) TalentLMS comes with, the software also lets you build your own custom user types. You can add your own fields and information to these custom user types (depending on your business needs) and define their privileges and permissions in excruciating detail (if that’s your thing).
  8. Integrates with Stripe.
    For those of you selling courses, TalentLMS offers built-in integration with Stripe, the fastest growing payment processor in the world. And for those whose region is not covered by Stripe, we also offer PayPal support. Between the two services, TalentLMS covers 99% of the world (the rest is probably Antarctica, so not much business interest there) and allows you to handle payments from all major credit card companies.
  9. Offers gamification.
    Adding a little bit of competition makes for a more interesting and challenging learning experience. In modern web terms this is called “gamification” and TalentLMS offers that too (surprise, surprise). Gamification takes the techniques that game designers use to engage players, and applies them to non-gaming experiences such as learning. TalentLMS's built-in gamification options include “points” (score), “badges” (medals), “levels”, “leaderboards” (high score lists), and “rewards” (bonuses).
  10. Connects with 200+ services through Zapier.
    TalentLMS was the first learning platform to offer integration with the Zapier platform, a service that enables web apps to communicate letting the user easily build coordinated tasks. This enables TalentLMS to integrate with any Zapier-compatible web app, a list which includes Dropbox, Evernote, Salesforce, Gmail, Twitter, MailChimp, and Trello.
  11. Lets you share courses even with non-registered users.
    TalentLMS was designed with flexibility in mind, and the knowledge that one-size doesn't always fit all. So while some other platforms may force an impenetrable wall between registered and non-registered users, TalentLMS allows you to share a course with anybody, regardless of his registration status, if you so wish.
  12. Offers social signups for your end-users. 
    Why force new users to open another account for your eLearning portal? TalentLMS lets them register through their social accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.), removing one extra step that doesn’t offer much (if anything) to their experience.
  13. Offers a free account for life.
    While we run a commercial service (and a very successful one at that), we still understand that some people want to evaluate our offering risk-free, while some small businesses, especially in developing countries, might not be able to afford our full featured plans. Instead of just offering a limited-period demo account, we did something better: we offer a starting plan that allows for up to 5 users and up to 10 courses, free for life.
  14. TalentLMS isn't superstitious.
    But we added a 14th item in this list, just in case you are :-)

Conclusion
Here we are: 14 things TalentLMS does but your Learning Management System doesn't. Sure, you may find that the latest version of some competitive Learning Management System does a few of them. But I guarantee you that it doesn’t do most. And then there’s our ease of use, performance, stability, and pricing to consider.

So, take TalentLMS for a test online drive (now, with our free-for-life starting plan) and see for yourself.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.