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Published on:
March 12, 2021

Tovuti’s Guide to Buying an LMS

Choosing Learning Management Systems for Online Learning and Training should be simple, especially when measuring twice and cutting once.

With so many Learning Management Systems out there to choose from and so many features to research, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, we are here to help you make sure you are ready for all of the opportunities organizations have when choosing learning management systems. 


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Tip #1 - Content is Key to LMS Success

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LMS Content is Key to LMS Success

Many organizations approach purchasing an LMS as the silver bullet for solving all of their training issues. When in reality, finding the right LMS is only half the battle. Your organization can buy the sleekest, most user friendly LMS in the world but if you don’t have a strategy for offering your content to learners, it is going to fall flat. Here are a couple of handy exercises to help you determine what learning content you have and how it will fit into the new LMS: 

  1. On a cloud drive or shared network drive, create a folder for your learning content. This will be a collection of files and data. And then in that folder, make a new folder for each course you plan on hosting on the LMS, then within each of those folders, make a folder for each lesson or module that is part of that course. Now sort all of the PDFs, videos, SCORM modules, Powerpoints, etc. that you have into the appropriate folders. This will help you to organize all of your content and will give you an idea of what areas you may be lacking in. It also helps in building a scope and sequence for your courses and makes it very easy to migrate the data to a new learning platform once one is chosen. 
  2. Now that you know what learning content and media assets you have, are there any that are out of date or of low quality? Now is the time to refresh that material so you start off on a good footing with the new LMS. Odds are, your organization isn’t going to choose an LMS in a single day so this exercise will give you or your team something to do while you’re waiting for everyone to cross the t’s and dot the i’s.    
  3. Covid-19 has forced a lot of training that was once done in person to move to an online elearning format. Do you have in-person training that you will be converting to online as well? Take time to make sure that activities that worked for in-person training are a good fit for the online environment and adapt them as needed. Not all training translates well online and having training that is a good fit for your platform and audience will lead to higher success and adoption rates. 
  4. Do you use a content vendor for your training needs? If so, does that vendor license content that is compatible with the LMS you are considering? 

You wouldn’t go to a restaurant only because they have nice plates and silverware, you go for the food. And if the food isn’t any good, odds are you won’t go back. The same analogy is true for learning management systems. If your learners don’t enjoy or benefit from the content your learning platform is offering, they won’t be visiting it very often. Which leads us to the next point...


Tip #2 - A Good LMS Can’t Solve Bad Learning and Development Practices

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A Good LMS Can’t Solve Bad Learning and Development Practices

The job of an LMS is to ensure that training is automated, delivered, tracked, and reported on. To take full advantage of all an LMS has to offer, your organization needs to make sure your team is ready to interpret the data that an LMS will provide and then use that knowledge to guide decision making.

Here are several activities you or your team can do quickly to help your organization get the most value out of the LMS you select: 

  1. Create a training calendar that shows each training employees normally take, the window of time allotted for them to complete it, and what employees that specific training applies to. 
  2. Now make a spreadsheet that lists each training on the calendar you just created. What interval is it given on? Why is that training important? What goal is it achieving? What metrics define success for that training? What are the consequences for employees who do not take or pass the training? What is the modality of the training (ie: in person, online, blended, etc.)?
  3. Lastly, who are the stakeholders associated with each training? What data needs to be communicated to them and how often? 

Once you have collected this information, you will be in a better position to make an informed decision on how the LMS will be utilized in your organization. 

Tip #3 - Determine Your Organization’s LMS Requirements BEFORE You Begin Your LMS Search

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Determine Your Organization’s LMS Requirements BEFORE You Begin Your LMS Search

If you have done any research on Learning Management Systems, you have found out that there are hundreds of choices to sort through, each with their own features. How do you decide which one is best for your organization?

First, sit down with your stakeholders and create a list of requirements that your organization has for an LMS. Do this prior to looking for the LMS itself. The reason for this is because there are a lot of platforms out there and a lot of features. Your organization probably doesn’t need every single feature that an LMS might provide and so it is important to know what matters to your team. Here are some things to consider:

  1. What technical requirements are needed? Does the LMS need to be cloud-based? Does your organization require Single Sign On (SSO)? Are there software platforms that the LMS will integrate with? What APIs are must haves? Does the LMS need to be SCORM compliant? Is the LMS mobile friendly? If the LMS doesn’t fit into your organization’s current IT ecosystem, what issues will come from that and is it worth the trouble? 
  2. What functional requirements are necessary? Does the LMS support gamification? Can the LMS track certifications? Can the LMS provide you with the correct assessment tools for your organization’s needs? Is microlearning supported? Knowing what you need is the first step toward knowing the additional features you don’t need and might not need to pay for.

What support is needed from the vendor? What does tech support look like? How long does it take to implement the system? What lifting if any does the vendor do for you? Is there coaching provided to new users? How often are new features added to the LMS and is there a cost associated with them? Is there a cost for ongoing technical support or coaching? Figuring out what you’ll need help with will help foster a conversation that will be indicative of ongoing support expenses and ease of use of the system.

Tip #4 - The Perfect LMS Doesn’t Exist But The Perfect Fit Does

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The Perfect LMS Doesn’t Exist But The Perfect Fit Does

There is no perfect LMS! There just isn’t. And you know what? That’s okay! You don’t need the perfect LMS, you need an LMS that fits your needs most perfectly. Every learning platform is going to have quirks and it is up to you to decide which quirks you can live with and which ones are going to drive you crazy. 

Again, this is where knowing exactly what your organization needs from a learning platform is going to drive your decision making. For example, you may not like the user creation workflow of a particular learning management system. When you try to make users manually, it feels clunky. But then you remember that one of the requirements your organization has is that the LMS is capable of single sign on and so the odds of you needing to manually create users may be pretty low. Therefore, manual user creation may not be that big of a deal as long as the platform does SSO (like Tovuti does). It all comes back to knowing your organization’s requirements.  

Try to choose a learning management software that is flexible enough to accommodate your needs today and scalable enough to be able to address the needs of your organization in the future. Things to consider when looking for flexibility in an LMS: 

  1. Can you create and customize reports? If you can’t, does the LMS give you all of the reporting tools you need out of the box? 
  1. What integrations does the LMS offer out of the box? Can you easily plug your meeting platform into the system? Will it talk to your HR or CRM software? As an example, Tovuti offers Single Sign On, an Open API, and Zapier integrations at our Pro Tier. These tools make it possible for Tovuti to communicate with a wide variety of other software.  
  2. Are there costs associated with branding the system? For example, Tovuti lets you brand out your instance of the learning management system for no extra cost.
  3. Can you sell courses or subscriptions to the LMS? This may not be a need for all organizations but it is important to know whether or not a particular system allows for this kind of revenue generation. Tovuti does offer this ability at the Tovuti Pro tier.

Tip #5 - Understand Your LMS’s Pricing Model

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Understand Your LMS’s Pricing Model

For as many learning management systems that exist, there are equally as many pricing and licenses models that exist. No two LMSs price their platforms the same way and while this makes comparing and contrasting different platforms difficult at times, it is very important that you understand the pricing model that the LMS you select uses. 

For example, some learning platforms charge you based on the amount of unique users that access your instance of the platform over a given period of time. Other vendors charge you for a certain amount of concurrent users or seats, regardless of how many unique learners are accessing the system. A very common practice throughout the LMS industry is to charge fees based on the number of active users on your platform. Tovuti also uses this model because we believe our clients should only be charged for the users who are engaging and active on the learning management system. 

It can get a little confusing! 

This is why it is very important to read all of the fine print for each learning platform you look at. Understand their contract terms, their definition of a user, and how pricing works. And if there is something you don’t get, just ask your sales representative and have them break their pricing structure down for you until you are confident you understand what you’re buying. 

It is also important to understand how your organization will use the LMS. Does your organization’s employee count stay relatively static throughout the year? Do employee levels fluctuate depending on the season? Does your organization have high turnover rates? Do you need employees to go into the LMS regularly for training or will each employee only go in for specific training at specific times throughout their tenure with your organization?  Most organizations require their employees to certify annually at a minimum to satisfy state mandated compliance. This is why when Tovuti looks at a client’s number of active users, we do so in a twelve month window of time.  

All of these usage trends and patterns are important to be aware of because they can play a vital role in determining how much an LMS costs your organization over time and how much value each employee will receive from the LMS.

Conclusion

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Conclusion

The choice to incorporate an LMS into your organization’s training tool belt is not one to be taken lightly. There are very real financial and institutional implications if your team chooses an LMS that isn’t a good fit. 

The flipside to that is when an organization chooses the right LMS, the benefits can be huge! Higher employee satisfaction and retention rates, fewer legal risks, and higher compliance to industry standards just to name a few. With the right planning and diligence taken to making the right decision for your organization, you will be on your way to reaping the benefits of a great learning management system.

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See Tovuti LMS's Pricing

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Author:
Tyson Chaplin

Tyson Chaplin earned his Master of Educational Technology degree from Boise State University in 2014. He also earned a graduate certificate in Technology Integration and holds teaching certificates in online teaching, special education, and history.

Tyson is an Idaho native who is passionate about technology and how it can help all people learn and better themselves. He has worked in both public and private sectors. Tyson enjoys cooking and traveling with his wife, Malia, and restores vintage video game systems in his free time.

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