7 Steps to Guide Your Learning Platform Buying Decision
With 700+ learning technology vendors on the market, a buyer can easily feel overwhelmed.
How do you choose? And, more importantly, how do you choose the right learning platform for your organization and your learners?
The one that will provide you a great ROI, a highly engaging learner experience, and an easy-to-use interface for your admin staff.
Our 7-step buying guide will lead you through the process of picking an LMS that’s a great fit for your organization.
Step 1 — Map Out Your Learners’ and Organization’s Needs
A learning management system (LMS) should meet the needs of not just your learner, but also your organization.
In fact, it should impact your organization’s bottom line.
Here are some questions to think about when buying an LMS:
- Will it build your brand or expand your organization’s reach?
- Can you upsell current clients with educational resources?
- Will it help you sell more digital learning products?
- Does it have features to support a subscription-model?
At the same time, an LMS needs to meet your learners’ needs. Modern learners are distracted, impatient, and overwhelmed. They need a learning program they can access whenever and wherever they want. Plus, it needs to be engaging enough to drown out the noise of modern life. Most learners find relevant information gains their attention most quickly.
Below you’ll find some questions to help you map your learners’ needs:
- What is your user’s pain point?
- How can an LMS address this pain point?
- Can they easily access the content on mobile?
- What features will your learners find engaging?
- Is microlearning a better fit for their busy lives?
The answers to these questions will help you select the right LMS to fit your organization and your users’ needs.
Step 2 — Talk to Your IT Department
Since an LMS is sophisticated learning software, you’ll need to talk to IT about how a new software will fit into your current learning ecosystem. They’ll also need to be on hand to help with implementation and technical support Also, you can ask them which IT learning standard to choose (SCORM, xAPI, LTI, etc).
IT also understands what other applications within your organization will need to be able to plug and play into the new LMS. This may include:
- Your organization’s website
- An existing association management system
- Webinar tools (i.e. Zoom, GoToMeeting, or Webex)
- An existing ecommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce
- Badging tools like Credly
- Data and reporting tools such as Google Analytics
Step 3 — Make a List of Must-have LMS Features
Since you’ll probably need similar features, asking industry colleagues is a good place to start.
Be forward-thinking when you consider which features you need in your new learning technology. What does your product roadmap look like? How will your business grow and scale? You want to be sure you are setting yourself up for long-term success instead of short-term results.
Maybe you need to be able to push content to multiple audiences. Or, perhaps, you want to engage learners through gamification. Maybe your organization needs to assess and test learners so you need robust grading capabilities.
A list of must-have features can help you rule out vendors quickly.
Step 4 — Research LMS Platforms
In any buying decision, people usually think about cost first.
With an LMS purchase, expect sticker shock. LMS buyers usually spend 58.9%more than expected on their purchase.
Given the 6-12 month implementation time, you don’t want to be one of the 26.5% of dissatisfied customers. In fact, you should pay a little bit more so you don’t find yourself in that unenviable position.
But how do you avoid a poor purchase?
An important thing to keep in mind is that your list of capabilities needed will grow as your organization grows. And you want to be partnered with an organization who is also focused on growth. As you are conducting your research, keep in mind that you will want to have an understanding of the capabilities you need now and in the future.
Here are some things to consider...
- Understand the LMS’s product roadmap
- Can the LMS be configured for a variety of different use cases? (i.e. if you are selling B2B, does the platform support that functionality? Can the platform be white labeled with your branding?)
- What does the support and service of each vendor look like? Is there training and onboarding included or after you purchase, will you be left on an island to figure things out for yourself?
- How is the business model set up to ensure it’s a win-win for both the LMS and your organization? Is the vendor willing to tailor pricing based on different use cases? For example, you may not know how many users you’re going to have. Will the LMS give you a pricing model that allows for flexibility?
- How does your technology enable my use cases? We’ll talk about this in more detail in step #6.
Step 5 — Try a Demo
The most-cited reason for a poor LMS experience: It lacked features.
Throughout the demo, keep your user in mind. Are they busy professionals who need mobile learning solutions? Are they businesses training employees in a blended learning setting? Are they high-stakes, test-prep candidates?
After you’ve nailed down the learner experience, think about the user experience for admins/instructors. How tech savvy are your instructors/admins? Can they use a complex LMS? Do they need built-in authoring tools? Can they use advanced data analytics?
Data analytics and reporting features are some of the most important features to demo. Ask the company what data is included within the platform and see if what’s included meets your needs. They’ll also be able to tell you ways other companies use data to drive business decisions.
Step 6 — Ask Your Vendor How to Implement Your Organization’s Use Cases
If you’re happy with user experience in the demo, then you want to see exactly how the vendor’s software will work in your organization.
So ask them how they’d implement a few use cases.
In all of these use cases, you might want to keep the system's ability to handle multiple users in mind. How many users can you expect at any given time? Will it overload the system?
Here are a few sample LMS use cases:
Your association wants to provide yearly mentorships with blended learning components.
Ask your vendor to create user logins, the mentorship class, admin privileges for mentors and discussion boards for the mentees and mentors. You may also want to ask about video capabilities.
As a credentialing body, you want to develop test prep materials.
Ask your vendor how to upload content, as well as create assessments. Then, ask about personal pathways to give learners content at their level.
You want digital materials to complement a textbook program.
As your vendor to see gamification or microlearning capabilities. Also, ask how your buyers will access content.
Step 7 — Choose a Long-Term Partner, Not a Short-Term Vendor
Not every LMS from a platform standpoint is going to meet your needs. But do they have the team and organization that’s willing to work with you and enable you to grow your programs?
Most LMS providers consider themselves business partners. They’re also learning experts. If you’re transparent about your needs, they can help you find the best solution to fit your business.
The right LMS partner will be invested in growing your business and giving you a great return on your investment.
Why Buying an LMS Should be Worry-free
Here’s why you don’t need to worry about picking the right LMS:
If you understand your business needs, it’ll pick itself because you’ll know the LMS features you need.
Remember, you’re the expert about your business. And, if you pick a partner you feel good about, it’ll probably work out.
The odds of being satisfied rest in your favor.
Choosing an LMS remains a difficult choice. You need a cheat sheet. Download our buyers’ guide, " The CLO's Handbook for Choosing Learning Technology to Grow Your Business”, to help you pick the right LMS for your organization.