Picking the perfect learning management system seems like an intimidating task, and you obviously don’t want to regret it. This five step guide is here to lend a hand!
Education is taking a digital turn. But the question is, how long can institutions rely on multiple applications for teaching and learning? A platform that serves as an exhaustive ecosystem consisting of all the facilities in one single medium, is a dire necessity today.
That is where a Learning Management System (LMS) comes into picture. Every academic institution is in search of one that suits their needs, but this comes off as an unfamiliar ground for many administrators. A good LMS proves to be a great investment, especially in this digital age, where avoiding technology is next to impossible. But you can’t just purchase one randomly, can you? Choosing an LMS for the whole institution is a big decision. So, we’re here to help you figure out how to go about finding the right one for you!
Frame your Requirements
Before actually rummaging through the internet for a suitable LMS vendor, it is essential to put out your demands and expectations from it first. This helps in selecting a software better, because instead of being bedazzled by the array of unnecessary features that the given LMS provides, you can just check for your specific requirements.
How to go about laying your requirements? Easy. Ask the right questions.
What are the objectives that the LMS must fulfill?
These include the future goals that the LMS must contribute to. Objectives can look like :
The LMS must increase student retention by 15%.
It must decrease the time taken for creating and grading assessments from 3 weeks to 1 week.
It must improve the overall student performance by 10%.
The objectives should follow the SMART criteria, that is, it should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time limited. So instead of vague, descriptive statements, use quantified sentences to make the targets clearer.
What are core features that cannot be compromised upon?
Do most students and teachers in your institution use mobile phones to participate in class? If so, mobile friendliness must be a key feature that you should look for.
Similarly, do you need an inbuilt exam engine to remove the hassle of scanning and uploading answer sheets? In this case, look for a software that provides one.
Security features like separate accounts and profiles for each user, authentication, accessibility of data, etc. must also be taken into account while framing the list of core functionalities.
What is the nature of the faculties and students?
Are they tech-savvy or will they need a lucid interface? This plays an important role, because a software that is easy to use for some, might be complicated to someone else. The tech skills usually vary greatly in academic institutions.
Thus, You need an LMS that caters to the needs of every student and teacher. For this, you might want to conduct surveys to know where each individual stands, to choose an LMS that doesn’t actively inconvenience anybody.
What is the scale at which your institution functions?
The size of the people that you are expecting to move to the platform matters a lot. If the number is far too great or far too less, not a lot of systems can host it.
Additionally, the scale at which you are looking to function affects the pricing plans as well.
What are the cherry-on-top features?
Social Learning: This feature isn’t exactly contained in one particular domain, but can be present in different forms in different learning management systems. Any functionality that brings the social aspect to virtual learning, through discussions, competitions and the like, is something worthy to consider as an add-on to the mundane learning methods.
Gamification: If you’re willing to introduce fun to regular classroom assessments, gamification is the way to go for you.
Inbuilt Messaging Forums: Although most video conferencing platforms do contain a chat window, if you are looking to cut down on as many external applications which can cause distractions, this feature can be something that you can look for.
Performance Tracking: To see if your objectives are being met, and to keep a close eye on each student’s progress, performance tracking features are used. You can check for terms like ‘SCORM’ ‘xAPI integration’ to see if the LMS you are looking at provides it.
Do a Market Research
Once you have a solid list of requirements, you can go ahead and look at all the options. You can surf the web, take recommendations from fellow institutions and go through online reviews to create a rough list of vendors that provide services to academic institutions. Since most of the existing learning management systems only cater to businesses, please make a note to filter through those to find one for educational purposes.
We suggest using a spreadsheet to keep track of all the vendors, their reviews, pricing and compare those with your requirement checklist.
Since the curated list after your market research might be quite long, narrowing it down might be a little tedious considering all those that are present in the list meet at least your core needs. Here’s where you can utilize the testimonials! Most vendors provide those in their websites, so you can know which organizations they have as clients. You can also research their track records, innovations and upgrades. Checking how well they provide support to their clients, can also be a good way to shortlist.
Bringing the list down to a maximum of 3-5 vendors is the objective in this stage. Then you can go further and test them out!
Contact the vendors
Most vendors welcome queries. They might have contact forms, or email addresses that you can use to schedule appointments for a conversation about the product. You might want to prepare a list of questions that you have with respect to the LMS beforehand, to not miss out on any important details.
Tip: Do ask about hidden costs and user data protection.
Try out before purchasing
The real test of the LMS is if it actually does what the vendor promises. Get a trial or book a demo session with the vendors and test the products for all the use cases that you framed, as well as the additional ones. Check for easy usability and support mechanisms as well. If you’re finding it difficult to use, chances are that your staff and students might too.
You can try out all the shortlisted ones and then select one that suits you best!
And done! Although the process is long, it will ensure that you don’t end up with an expensive software that you regret within a month’s time. Now that you practically know all the what’s and how’s of an LMS, start exploring your options today!