Learning Management Systems – How to Avoid Wet Socks

Learning Management Systems – How to Avoid Wet Socks

I live in Ireland. It rains here. As I’m getting soaked waiting for my bus, another one pulls up. Not as convenient as my preferred bus, but close. Wet socks and cold feet are certain if I stand here much longer. A quick decision and I hop on the bus in front of me hoping I can avoid wet socks at the other end. That sums up the process to select a Learning Management System (LMS). Most clients become understandably bewildered by the options and management often ends up just hopping on the first bus.

It may work out for the best, it may not. The LMS may be flexible enough to bend to your requirements or maybe your requirements will need to flex a bit or a lot. Wet socks now because you waited for the perfect bus or wet socks later because you picked the bus in front of you?

Picking the right LMS is complex, so here are a few pointers I’ve picked up along the way.

You need an LMS because you want to upskill or reskill employees/clients/partners by hosting training courses and tracking learners. The courses might be bespoke eLearning courses or PowerPoint click-through content delivery vehicles. If you have a bunch of PowerPoints you want learners to view, then it is best to pick an LMS that lets you just upload the PowerPoint files. (This is not eLearning, this is not even training, but it is what many companies need as they make the transition.) PowerPoint will let you export to several formats, including video. You might let PowerPoint fill an LMS gap, but don’t underestimate the effort this ‘translation’ will take.

If you intend to create eLearning courses (the traditional click-through with audio, animations, and interactions) you’ll want the LMS to support SCORM content. That’s a fairly low bar these days, so almost certainly supported, but be sure to check. Not sure if you’ll go that route? Assume that you will. (One client made it clear at the beginning of the consulting process that classroom-based training was the only solution for them. Six months down the road, 90% of the developed content was for eLearning.)

What about video? If you have existing video you want to host on the LMS, ensure the format you’ve been using is supported. Converting the old video to a supported format takes more time than you think.

Have you a repository of content such as implementation guides, guideline documents, anything employees use to do their jobs? In some cases, it’s valuable to wrap these in a learning path to help new hires or ‘new-to-role’. Does the LMS allow you to upload these documents or do they have to be converted? (Do not make the mistake of using the LMS as a document repository nor of placing duplicate copies of documents into the LMS. That way madness lies.)

How will your learners access the content? If they remain dutifully at their desks from 9-5, then most LMSs will meet the need. Most likely many will use tablets or phones. How usable is the content on those platforms? What about bandwidth for road warriors? Test the LMS under real conditions to see how it works for you and your content. (Do you have early-adopters in your organisation? Enlist their support to test the LMS. Dig through log files to find out which platforms learners currently use.)

Will the LMS produce the level of reporting that you need? The most basic should at least tell you what every learner started and completed. That is often the minimum that companies ask for at the start. Once they get a taste of the data capture possible, they always want more. But it is easy to become awash in data that does not enlighten. (And always ask what does ‘completion’ mean for your LMS. For many, just clicking on a video equals completion—not watching it to the end, just clicking on it!)

All that is the bog-standard stuff. (With the rain, we have bogs in Ireland. Lots of bogs.) This is where the difficulty and complexity really start to come in. Decision-makers often become daunted by the options at this stage and end up just picking something and hope it’ll work out—the ‘wet socks later’ approach.

A primary consideration for me at this point is integration into your ecosystem. Does your company have HRIS, internal social media, CRM, a support desk (especially relevant for client services or software companies), etc? As much as possible, you want you LMS to integrate into these systems. Integration makes management and reporting so much easier. (The LMS you’re considering may not support full integration out of the box, but it may have APIs exposed you can make use of.)

Integration and the type of training content you are going to deliver converge here. If you are going to use only 30 minute or longer traditional eLearning courses, then ignore this paragraph. But that type of learning is quickly going the way of the dinosaur to be replaced by microlearning—short, focused learning content. For example, if your competitor releases a new feature, you may want your salespeople to have a ready response. A 3 minute video or short interactive game will be more timely and effective than a 30 minute eLearning course.

So can your LMS host these types of microlearning events? (If learners have to click through login screens or folders of courses and modules, they’ll be less likely to engage.)

Can the LMS integrate these microlearning events into an existing stream? For example, if your company uses CRM, can the microlearning be fed into the streams the salespeople use everyday? If they can click-to-play in a stream they already use, they are far more likely to engage and benefit. An LMS isolated from everyday workflow is a barrier.

This short(ish) article is intended to offer a few travel tips I’ve learned from consulting with a range of clients over the years. A proper software evaluation checklist for an LMS covers a lot more ground.

But I do hope this gives a little more info to help you avoid sitting around in wet, cold socks because you jumped on the wrong bus. (I deserve wet socks for pushing that metaphor too far.)

Michael McGovern