6 Critical Things to Look For When Choosing an LMS

6 Critical Things to Look For When Choosing an LMS

September 28, 2017 Learning Management System 0
student in classroom holding a book up to her face

How to choose a learning management system for your online course.

When it comes to online education, very few decisions are as critical for the success of your course as your choice of Learning Management Systems (LMS).

Of course you have to create a good course, market the course, and hire the right staff to help you teach and administer the course. But your LMS is the engine that makes your course run.

Your learners will access and engage with your course material through your LMS.

If you can’t use it, or if it doesn’t do what you want, it will limit your ability to deliver your ideal course. And if your users struggle with the LMS interface, it will impact their ability to learn the material and affect their satisfaction with your course.

So, given the central role your LMS plays in delivering your content, it’s important you make the right choice. Here are six things to look out for when choosing an LMS to help you decide what platform Is right for you.

1. Functionality

Features you should look for in a good LMS include user profiles, course forums, membership access, and the ability to present your course across a variety of rich media files.

In fact, a good LMS will probably present you with more functionality than you’d thought of. After all, if this is your first online course, you may not have considered some of the key administrative functions you will need to make it work.

But your LMS provider will have thought of them, because that’s what they do.

However, just because an LMS offers these features doesn’t mean you need them. Instead, think strategically about the features and functions you actually need to offer your online course.

For instance, is your course straightforward, or complex? Some LMSs offer a service that trims away some of the bells and whistles in favor of a simpler program at a more affordable price point.

Others are high-powered tools designed to accommodate a variety of course materials and program offerings. Don’t pick the cheaper option just to save money if it can’t serve your needs. But at the same time, don’t overpay for functionality you’ll never use.

2. Usability

Usability matters on both the front end, where your learners will be accessing their courses, and on the back end, where you and your team will conduct administrative functions.

You should expect some form of training from your LMS supplier to create and manage your course material, even if it’s just an online tutorial. But you shouldn’t find the program frustrating or complicated to use.

Well-designed LMSs are proud of their usability. For this reason, they’re happy to offer a demo of their software so that you can get a feel for how it works before you commit to it.

This is the software you will be using as the primary platform for your online course material, so you can’t afford to find out mid-term that it doesn’t work as well as you’d thought it would.

3. Communication

Are your learners able to communicate with you through your LMS? Are you able to communicate with them?

And can they connect with other course attendees?

In most online programs, learners expect a high level of communication with their educators. For their part, instructors need to be able to communicate with learners about important course updates or approaching deadlines.

Student-to-student communication is less crucial, but still important. A class forum allows learners to discuss and help each other with course content, and it creates a sense of community that is sometimes missing from an online class experience.

4. Access

How do you plan to manage access to your course content? Do you want students to move through content at their own rate, or would you rather drip feed course materials on a schedule?

While the former model will appeal more to self-motivated learners, the latter ensures that students move through your course at a similar rate.

This subject touches not only on the way you deliver your course, but on the pricing model you chose as well. For instance, you may want to offer your course as a one-time purchase with unlimited access to course material.

Or you may wish to have access expire after a certain date, or offer subscription-based service. All of these decisions will affect how you create, manage, and market your course.

5. Tracking

Being able to see how your students perform on tests and quizzes is one of the basic features your LMS needs to be effective.

This is important for grades and student evaluation, but also for the bigger picture view you will need to find areas in your course that might need supplementary material, which can help you lower your dropout rate.

User feedback is also crucial for making improvements to your online course. That means you need an LMS that can give you detailed data about how your learners use your course.

Find a platform that can show you the progress students make through the course, as well as how long they spend on lessons.

6. Compatibility

If you use other software or programs to run your course, make sure they are compatible with your LMS. A good LMS will support developer APIs so that you don’t have to change programs to accommodate it.

After all, if those programs contain content, data, or tools you need to make your course work, switching to a new program may be more trouble than choosing a different LMS.

However, compatibility isn’t just the responsibility of your LMS. The supporting software you use should also be cooperative with other programs.

That’s why we designed SimplyCertify to work with any LMS. Our software shouldn’t have to determine what platform you choose.

Choosing the right LMS can set you up for success.

There are many elements you need working together to create a strong online course.

While your LMS is just one piece of the puzzle, it can make the rest of your work a lot easier. By focusing on the needs you have for your course and trying out some of the options available, you will be able to find a solution to fit your course.


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Author Bio

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of SimplyCertify. Justin has spent the last decade consulting individuals and Fortune 500 companies on how to get the most out of their continuing education programs.  Twitter | LinkedIn