There’s plenty of choice out there when it comes to learning management systems. There are dozens of companies that can offer a decent solution, so it’s more than likely you can find one that fits your needs perfectly.
However, this degree of choice also comes coupled with its own complications. How do you pick the right one for your business? It’s often difficult to look beyond the fancy sales pages and the glossy UI. Feature sets don’t always live up to their billing and some systems are great for now, but will they still be usable next year?
To avoid being taken by style over substance, we’ve put together a list of considerations followed by a compilation of the best tools out there based on user numbers, customer feedback, and social traction.
The Must-Have and Nice-to-Have Question
It’s easy to focus on the fancy features that give that ‘wow factor’, but they’re often not essential to your business. When it comes to separating the must-have feature from the nice-to-have, be cutthroat in your assessment. Also remember that just because one system offers more features than another, it doesn’t mean they’ll actually work as intended.
Don’t look at the trends and the up-and-coming solutions, but go for the tried and tested. Go for systems that have shown to be reliable and can deliver the must-have essentials without bugs or errors; these are the systems that will help your business in the long run.
Do You Get Support?
Employing a new learning management system isn’t usually a plug-and-play affair. Your organisation will need to spend time getting acquainted with the product, where its limits are, and how it can best be used to help your business.
Bearing that in mind, you’re going to want a service that offers a decent support system. While 24/7 support isn’t essential, we would recommend a vendor that has a ticketing system, extensive training area, and a chat or phone support system.
Does It Fit In Your Budget Plan?
Don’t just look at the price on the label, but consider how your chosen LMS will impact your organisation as a whole. In addition to the cost of buying the system, count up the man-hours you’ll need to spend on training, the potential costs of integrating the solution into existing frameworks, and whether investment is required on third-party tools.
Work with Feedback!
Managers often have the habit of making decisions without getting feedback from the people who will actually be using the system. Not only does this often land employees with unusable solutions, it also makes for a downward trend in job satisfaction.
If you’re making the call on behalf of a group of people, talk to them first. What are their honest opinions? What’s on their priority list? What will help make their jobs easier? Get together and exchange ideas.
Take It for a Test Drive
Some companies won’t advertise live demos, but that doesn’t mean they’re not available to potential customers. Always ask if you can take the potential system out for a spin; do a thorough round of testing to see that it ticks all the boxes and that the LMS is easy to use and intuitive. If there’s no demo, ensure you get a risk-free refund policy in case you don’t like the product.
By the Numbers & The Social Verdict
Now that you know what questions you should be equipped with, it’s time to look at a few specific companies. Because we can’t exactly go over each and every one out there (the list is almost literally endless!), we’ve picked a few of the big hitter based on feedback, user base, and the social metrics of each.
Edmodo comes second when it comes to total customers, while its Twitter account has the most followers compared to any other LMS out there. Its feature set is solid but where the platform really shines is in its simplicity and integration options.
Social learners. This tool is all about communication and building a community.
Coming in third in total customers and fourth in overall followers, this open-source solution is quickly gaining steam. It’s easy to see why, with its dynamic feature set, low price point for the overall setup (the LMS itself is free), and active community that’s constantly working on improvement.
Great for organisations on a budget, but not quite as visually appealing as other solutions. You’ll also need to rely on in-house IT support.
The company was perhaps the first of its kind, being an innovator in bringing technology to the classroom and making online learning possible. It’s been around for almost two decades and is the go-to choice for many of the world’s leading institutions. It has a heavy feature set, however, which can make the initial stages a little overwhelming.
Tried and tested. While some complain it’s a little cumbersome, Blackboard is still one of the leaders in the space for a reason. If you’re looking for functionality and a mature environment, Blackboard may be a good option.
Image credit: opensource.com/Flickr