With a CAGR of 7.2, the global eLearning market is set to reach $325 billion by 2015 ; and, switching to cloud-based systems and providing learning-on-the-go are the most prominent trends the eLearning industry is witnessing. While these stats give enough reasons to jump onto the eLearning bandwagon immediately, the mind-boggling number of available software platforms might pose a hindrance.
Choosing the right LMS Software is crucial as well as tough. With more than 600 platforms, the decision-makers feel paralyzed with choice. However, the process can be simplified, if you know your exact requirements. Asking yourself the right questions at the time of selection can be of great help.
While each organization has different needs, below are the ten questions that everyone considering buying an LMS Software must ask themselves, to gain clarity and make the right selection:
1. How effective is the User Interface (UI)?
The user interface is what users see and how they move around when they interact with a platform. The goal is to simplify the interaction as much as possible, making it enjoyable for the users, so that they don’t fear using technology. This means the functionality alone is not a decisive factor, the overall architecture and ease of navigation also play a crucial role. Consistent, clean and slick UI influence the users in favor of the platform.
Therefore, choosing an LMS software that looks appealing and is easy-to-use can help drive technology adoption at your organization.
2. What type of content support does it offer?
Content support is a determining factor when choosing an eLearning solution. Whether you intend to incorporate an audio/visual interactive element within a VR simulation, place a timeline containing historical milestones, or simply embed an active spreadsheet, the learning platform must be able to support all such content types that you wish to include in your lesson plan.
Another aspect of content support is cloud storage. Get in touch with your vendor regarding the storage they offer to enable you to upload all types of content you want to make available to your learners. A cloud platform will allow you and your audience to access the learning material from anywhere on any device, enhancing the overall flexibility. Also, the cloud storage is expandable as per your needs, which again is an added advantage.
3. What are the supported courses?
When considering eLearning software, you should look to support the below five course types:
- Self-paced: Self-paced courses are video tutorials with no timeline, offering learners the flexibility to consume knowledge at their convenience.
- Live Instructor-led: Live courses require the learners to be online at the same time as the instructor on their internet-enabled devices. These are remote courses facilitating a wide-coverage, real-time, face-to-face learning.
- Flipped: In a flipped course, a portion of the course includes self-study. The course material is usually pre-recorded; which learners take before attending a teacher-led lesson. The class time is utilized to solve queries, which used to be homework in a traditional classroom.
- Blended: A blended course is a hybrid of digitalized learning and traditional face-to-face mode of education.
- Scheduled: Scheduled courses are self-paced courses with timelines. Learners can take these courses at their convenience but need to complete the course before the timeline expires.
The reason why you should consider this is that with an increase in customer base, or given the diversity of learners, you’d need your platform to support at least these courses.
4. What are the available communication options?
Collaboration plays a key role in enhancing the learning experience. It enables learners to actively participate in the class, raise queries or communicate with fellow learners. An ideal learning platform offers a plethora of tools to facilitate instructor-learner and learner-learner communication:
- Announcements page: It acts as a sticky note that pops-up periodically to provide updates on various module-related activities
- E-mail: A built-in system for sending emails and class invitations to students assisting in focused communication.
- Discussion board: Discussion boards aid in exchanging feedback and ideas associated with specific courses and focus groups.
- Live Chat: The live chat option enables students and instructors to engage in public and private chats within the learning platform, enhancing course productivity.
Incorporating such elements within an eLearning platform would become a decisive factor in determining the benefits of collaboration of any course module delivered through it.
5. Are all your desired features covered?
A prerequisite to market research on finding the most suitable online platform is to know your specific needs and desired features. Once you have mapped your requirements, dive into the available options. Social networking, API, single sign-on, dedicated storage space for individual learners, and reporting and analytics are some of the tools that you would require for creating an effective learning module.
Apart from this, you might also want to customize your learning portal a bit to give it your branding. Find what customizations your vendor will support. Is white-labeling available?
6. How to measure the institutional financial liability?
A financial estimate of the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) would help in determining the direct and indirect cost of buying a learning delivery platform. Comparing quotes becomes a daunting task when considering multiple approaches towards hiring the desired vendor. You’ll find yourself asking questions like – whether pricing depends on data usage or the number of registered users.
What you need to do here is identify your requirements. How many users do you expect to serve in the beginning? Whether or not would you deliver live instruction? How many instructors will you have onboard? Also, clarify on the conditions laid in cases where the usage exceeds the allotted bandwidth. It is strongly advised to clarify on any hidden costs that may not have been advertised upfront but may bulk up the cost significantly when incurred.
7. Can the learning platform be integrated with the existing IT setup?
It completely depends on whether or not you want to deliver learning from your website or existing LMS. If yes, find out if the chosen online learning platform will work well with the existing infrastructure to provide a seamless experience to end-users. Integration offers several benefits, such as:
- Extension of the capabilities of your existing system, without much investment
- No additional branding efforts
8. Does it allow you to collect online payments?
An online learning platform shall enable you to monetize your courses and modules you develop. An integrated solution eliminates the need to integrate one more plugin into your system. What you need to ensure at this juncture is data security.
Encryption is the most practical and effective method to safeguard the online transmitted data. Also, it should offer multiple payment options, such as net banking, credit and debit cards and eWallets. Additional considerations may include:
- Free trials configuration
- No additional branding efforts
- Multiple pricing options support
- Payment plans support
- Bulk discounts configuration
- Multiple seats purchasing ability for organizations
9. Does it support mobile learning?
Nowadays, when mobile has become an integral part of our daily living, it makes sense to offer mobile learning facility to your audience. Allow learners to access content and attend classes irrespective of their location and device they use. Find out if a selected vendor offers mobile learning apps to help you serve your audience on their personal devices regardless of the time and location. Additionally, elements such as single-sign-on would ensure seamless and unified experience across all devices accessed by a learner through dynamically tracking changes made on each device.
10. Does it offer the ability to scale?
The prospect of an increasing learner base also demands a seamless and uninterrupted online learning experience no matter how many users are on the platform concurrently. This is where cloud technology finds its use. It ensures a hassle-free horizontal (adding more servers to the network), vertical (adding or subtracting resources depending upon the need), and diagonal (adding servers and resources) scaling.
Whether you are a first-timer or are planning to switch, choosing the right learning management system is of paramount importance. Although the overall enterprise architecture of an organization determines the suitability of an eLearning platform, availability of the desired features and accessibility are the essential-most driving factors in deciding upon an LMS.