If you’re just starting the process of selecting and implementing a new Learning Management System (LMS), the process can feel a little overwhelming. This is especially true for organizations who don’t currently have an LMS and are starting completely from scratch.
I often see organizations struggle to even identify what questions they should be asking. They “don’t know what they don’t know.” Unfortunately, failing to sufficiently analyze your needs and identify your use cases can result in a very expensive and time-consuming mistake. After all, the process often takes a year or more, and the systems themselves can be quite costly. Use these resources to guide you when you need an LMS.
Process Overview and Needs Analysis
These resources provide an overview of the LMS selection process and help identify what questions you should be asking.
- Five Steps to Evaluate and Select an LMS: Proven Practices is the first in a series of five articles on how to select and implement an LMS. This first article explains the selection process; later articles explain implementation, ongoing operation, and looking to the future.
- The Learning Guild (formerly the eLearning Guild) has published several research reports on LMSs. Start with Getting Started in eLearning: Learning Management Systems, then read Evaluating and Selecting a Learning Management System. (Free membership required)
Several years ago, the team I worked with presented on our process for selecting and implementing an LMS. It may be easier to read the text in full screen view. (If you’re reading this post in email or in a feed reader, you may need to view the presentation on Slideshare.)
Templates and Checklists
- The Must-Have LMS Checklist for New Buyers: The initial list at the top of this post is often where people start, with SCORM, quizzing, and reporting. The problem is that these features are nearly ubiquitous, so it doesn’t help you narrow your choices. The second half of this article, the “Nice to Haves,” will help you think more about how you will use your LMS. Which of those nice-to-have features are actually critical for you, and which ones can you skip?
- David Glow created a fantastic Excel template for evaluating LMSs several years ago. You can identify your requirements, then send this to vendors to have them show how they meet your needs.
- The LMS RFP Template from E-Learning 24/7 is another option with a small list of features you might consider.
- Five Tips and an RFP Template: Choosing the Right LMS is another article from Learning Solutions Magazine with tips for selecting the right LMS. Even if you don’t plan to do a formal RFP, this template can help you think about questions you should be asking.
After you read the articles above and have made good progress on your needs analysis, you can start narrowing down the list of choices. With over 800 LMSs on the market, you have to start narrowing down the list quickly.
- Capterra’s database of LMSs allows you to filter based on the features you need. Their reviews from users may also be helpful as you narrow down your list.
- If your budget isn’t enormous, these alternatives to Moodle for small and medium businesses may meet your needs and fit your budget.
- If you’re a really small organization (like a sole proprietor selling a handful of courses as part of your consulting work), you may not need a full blown LMS. A WordPress plugin may be sufficient. Chris Lema has reviewed and compared the WordPress e-learning plugins. Check out his comparison of WP Courseware and LearnDash, and follow the links to his other reviews. You can also read all of his posts on e-learning with WordPress sites.
- LifterLMS is another WordPress LMS plugin, similar to LearnDash (but not included in Chris Lema’s comparisons above).
Usability testing isn’t necessarily a required step in selecting an LMS, but I recommend it, especially for medium to large organizations. Small scale usability testing with 5-10 users will give you a significant amount of information without requiring immense investment of time or money. This can be especially helpful if you’re down to 2 choices with no clear winner.
Don’t forget change management! You can run into a surprising amount of resistance to an LMS; it can mean big changes in how people work and learn. I gave a presentation on “Why an LMS” for one client as part of their change management plan. (As before, email and RSS readers may want to view this on Slideshare.)
Like many of my blog posts, this one started as the answer to a question I’d heard from several people. I love great questions, so ask me yours in the comments.
Originally published 5/14/2015. Last updated 5/14/2020.