Recently someone posted to an ASAE listserv asking for case studies of LMS implementations at associations and, in general, “what others have learned from their launch of a major system/service that an LMS often evolves over its lifespan.” In response, I put together a list of common issues and challenges we have encountered across a wide range of clients, particularly in cases where the organization was seeking to replace an LMS they had outgrown or that simply was not living up to expectations. I thought it might be of value to share those here. So, here’s the list:
(Please note we’ve also developed a companion resource, complete with pitfall-by-pitfall guidance for avoiding them. Download the LMS pitfalls resource.)
1. The LMS does not fully support key administrative processes
This can be particularly true with the handling of continuing education credit. An organization may need to award different types of credit based on the type of learner, for example. Or, there may be reporting requirements for which the LMS does not easily provide the necessary data. Importing courses as well as authoring and managing assessments and evaluations are another area where you want to be sure an LMS supports what the organization really needs.
2. The LMS does not fully support the necessary sales/e-commerce models
For example, organizations may need to provide discounts for bulk sales, or bundle various products together (books + courses, etc), or issue codes so that multiple employees at a member organization can enroll in a course.
3. The LMS does not integrate in an optimal way with other key systems
Historically this has meant mainly the AMS system (and, as such, tends to go along with the two points above) and Webinar/Webcast systems, but increasingly it also means social media, event management systems, and various tools for managing knowledge and collaboration.
4. The LMS does not support marketing effectively
At a minimum, having good ability to manage e-mail communication with learners – whether through native capabilities in the LMS or good integration with popular e-mail systems – is a must. Suggestive selling, recommendations and rating – basically “Amazon-like” stuff is also becoming increasingly desirable.
5. Content cannot be gotten out of (or into) the LMS easily
Sometimes LMSes have proprietary authoring environments from which content cannot be exported or cannot be exported in a way that makes the content usable in another system. Even if the on-demand content in a LMS is SCORM-conformant, it may be difficult to export other content that is associated with the SCORM modules (discussions, documents, etc.) In some cases (thankfully fewer these days), LMSes are not SCORM-conformant, so you cannot easily track activity in the content you import into the system. (For more on SCORM, see our overview of key e-learning standards.)
6. The LMS support for anything beyond on-demand training is limited or non-existent
Most LMSes were developed originally as “launch and track” databases for self-paced training. Vendors vary widely in how well they have evolved to support more interactive forms of learning.
7. The LMS does not easily support usage by chapters, components, etc.
Most LMSes are not really designed to “cascade” access to the system in a way that makes it possible for chapters, components, and other key groups in the association ecosystem to have the ability to manage their own branded instance of the system.
8. In general, the usability is not what it could be.
Basically, the users find the system hard to use and/or the administrators find the system hard to use. Probably the most common complaint we encounter.
For everything listed, the high level (but perfectly straightforward and achievable) solution includes:
(a) spending sufficient time up front internally, with a cross-functional team, to fully understand and document the needs in each of these areas as well as others you may identify in the process. (Note: we’ve written a number of times about the need to break down silos and work cross-functionally: http://www.tagoras.com/tag/silos/);
(b) engaging only with vendors that already have a record of having addressed most of these areas. (The majority of LMS vendors have no real record or competency in working with associations. For a list of some of the ones we currently track, see http://www.tagoras.com/lms-vendor-list/); and,
(c) spending demo time with vendors really focused on how they would address these key needs, whether through off-the-self capabilities, configuration, or customization. (We recommend development of detailed use cases to help drive the demo process. See https://www.tagoras.com/whats-the-use/ and http://www.tagoras.com/lms-selection-use-cases/.