Important Factors to Consider When Choosing an LMS Platform

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With so many LMS platforms in the market, it is not easy to pick the best option for your needs. One has to document prioritized list of checks/requirements & evaluate options carefully to arrive at a meaningful decision.

Below are some of the important factors to consider when evaluating enterprise grade LMS platform.

Enterprise system integration

Points to consider

Enterprise integration is the most important requirement enterprises have for a new LMS or to replace an existing one.

There is also a strong trend of integration to social platforms, especially YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

For LMSs used in a corporate setting, probably the most important system to integrate with is the human resources management system (HRMS);

For LMSs used in an academic setting, the key system integration hurdle is to integrate with learner information systems (SISs), to handle transcripts, manage credits, etc.; associations (professional and trade organizations), integration with member management systems (MMSs) would be important.

MOBILE DEVICE READINESS

Points to consider

Mobile device readiness is very important factor in a modern day enterprise or school setup. With employees, students, teachers connected to the internet on or off the campus, having mobile app increases its effectiveness by many folds.

Many enterprise & schools are adopting mobile first strategy. Irrespective of how much feature rich the LMS platform is, if the accessibility is limited to desktop or laptops, it will severely limit its usability.

Pricing and/or licensing model

Points to consider

In case you are opting for commercial LMS platform or subscription based platform, licensing model or pricing model will play big role in determining one time and ongoing costs of owning an LMS platform.

• Seat-based – this model uses the number of employees in the enterprise, or possibly the number of employees who will ever need training in the enterprise as a basis for pricing. These “seats” are a maximum number of people who may end up logging in to the system over its life cycle.
• Usage-based – this model is based on the number of learners who actually register for classes. It is not based on the potential number of users who could use the system, as in seat-based pricing, but the number who actually do use it or indicate that they intend to use it. The time period needs to be accounted for in the price as well;
• Storage-based – this model is based on the size of the files that are stored in the content repository section of the LMS; 10 Gb of files will cost more than 5 Gb of files, no matter what the usage patterns of either
• Flat fee – For this model, it doesn’t matter how many users you have or how much bandwidth or file space you need. The fee is the same no matter what.

Open-source or freeware solutions

Points to consider

Open source options are attractive due to the absence of any licensing cost.
It’s easy to be over-enamored of the free license aspect and ignore the required (possibly extensive) customization and support that may be necessary.
It is also easy to overlook the potential advantage of open source systems in that the product can be completely tailored to the particular requirements of the organization. If managed properly, this advantage can make an open source solution cheaper, not just because the license is free, but because the development and customization efforts can be focused solely on the needs of the organization and nothing more. Contrast this with a commercial product with lots of features that your organization may not need (but you are paying for them nonetheless).
The business model for a standard commercial system is to build to the widest set of possible requirements to attract the widest client base. Your organization may not have all or even most of these requirements.

Offline content provisioning and player capability

Points to consider

This concept involves allowing LMS content to be played and LMS functions to be performed in environments where there is no, intermittent, or limited bandwidth or connectivity to the LMS. It often refers to mobile devices, where user network access is less stable and reliable (and can be expensive). Content that is to be consumed must be provisioned to the device at a time and place when there is stable and cheap connectivity, such as on a wireless network (as opposed to cellular data network), then used offline. The local device must have a player capability (a web browser might suffice) in order to play the content.

Hosting options

Points to consider

There are three options for hosting most enterprise learning systems, including an LMS:
• Behind your firewall
• Vendor-hosted
• Public cloud-hosted
Most LMS vendors offer the first two options; a few are now offering the last. A vendor-hosted LMS is installed and managed on the vendor’s server by their staff, rather than behind your enterprise firewall by your staff (the “behind your firewall” option). Public cloud-hosted solutions refer to hosting the LMS not behind your own enterprise firewall but on a public cloud service such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). This could be arranged and managed by your staff, or the vendor’s. In some cases, vendors do not host on their servers but only do so on a public cloud service; in this case, “vendor-hosted” means effectively that also that it is public cloud-hosted.

Security & Cross Domain Considera-tions

Points to consider

Like any other enterprise system, LMSs must meet the security needs of the organization. This is especially true in the current era, where LMS functionality is largely delivered via the Internet, not enterprise intranets or extranets.

In recent years browsers have incorporated a security feature that prohibits a server with which it is communicating to connect to a server on another domain. When users point their browser to a server on a particular domain, there is a presumption of trust, and explicit choice to pull in content based on that trust. If that server unilaterally and unbeknownst to the user gets content (especially client-side scripts) from another server on another domain (that is not necessarily trusted), a hacker who has co-opted the second server can send harmful code to users (by passing it through the primary trusted server). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-site_scripting for more details on this issue.

System Environ-ments

Points to consider

It is important that you institute at least two and possibly three staging environments for your LMS, possibly on separate networks. When acquiring an LMS, you should take this into account. Consideration of multiple environments is often an oversight until after procurement . The environments are:
• Development – for content developers to upload, configure, and test their content, and for administrators to perform “what if” scenarios for major changes to the system.
• Test (also termed Stage) – for content and major configuration changes made in the Development environment to be verified and finally approved before being migrated to the Production environment. This instance of the system should exactly match the Production system in all respects. This environment could be the same as the Development environment. However, you may want it to be different (i.e., Test as described here) so that you can more flexibly make configuration changes to the Development environment to accommodate the needs of testers and developers.
• Production – The live system that learners and administrators use.

Standards Support

Points to consider

SCORM , Section 508 , Aviation Industry CBT Consortium (AICC) ,
Standards for metadata , Learning Tools Interoperability™ (LTI) ,Common Cartridge , QTI , ADL Training & Learning Architecture (TLA), including xAPI, Learning Record Store (LRS).

Internal Assessment Authoring

Points to consider

ADL recommends that you create assessments within the content so that they are portable and interoperable; however, in some cases, you may want to be able to create assessments through tools offered within the LMS. Many LMSs offer this. The vast majority of LMSs offer internal assessment creation and delivery capabilities. The downside to using this internal authoring function for assessments is that these assessments are often permanently resident in the LMS and cannot be exported for use in another system or with other content.
The standard types of eLearning assessments that are offered are:
• Multiple choice (both single and multiple answer)
• Fill in the blank
• Matching
• Drag and drop
• Ranking/Ordering
• Image selection
• Essay or Short answer (this usually requires instructor intervention to score answers)

Internation-alization

Points to consider

If your learners include international audiences (especially including foreign language speakers), you will need to consider features of the LMS that will support it, as well as plan your LMS implementation accordingly
There are many factors you may need to consider, in addition to language, such as:
• U.S. export laws governing dissemination of information in areas of technology that is deemed of strategic importance to national security (this applies to information that is not classified or marked as FOUO)
• Local government rules and regulations that may lead to non-compliance of content
• Government requirements for training record storage
• Accreditation differences
• Cultural norms
• Local and country-wide IT environment
• Currency and currency exchange, and financial market operation, if charging money for training.

LMS Sharing

Points to consider

There are two ways LMS sharing can be achieved: one is where an organization is paying for a greater capacity on an LMS than they are using and another organization can fill that capacity up to (but not over) that maximum. This can result in no extra cost to either organization except for the maintenance and administration associated with using that larger capacity. This arrangement is enabled by a seat-based pricing model and a license with the LMS vendor that allows the purchasing organization to share with other organizations.
The other arrangement is necessary where there is not enough unused capacity. In this case, the LMS purchaser organization buys more seats or a higher capacity tier on an LMS, with the organization using the higher capacity covering the cost. This can be highly economically advantageous for the organization using the higher capacity, since it is almost always a net savings in cost to share an existing LMS in this way rather than buy a separate product or hosting package from the vendor. This arrangement can be used when the pricing model is either seat-based or usage-based and is also subject to licensing rules

Data Migration

Points to consider

If you are switching LMSs or moving data into a new LMS from an HR system, you will need to plan carefully for data migration. The goal should be no loss or corruption of data in the process. You may not need to migrate all data; some of it can be archived and accessed only if and when needed. Be careful in making this decision, however. Some of the data that you need to keep may have dependencies on data that you might otherwise archive, for example, course prerequisites.
. There are four categories of data that you may have to migrate:
• Content. An analysis of how the new LMS stores and delivers content differently might uncover discrepancies that have to be addressed by modifying content or even converting it to another format, which can be costly. Data mapping, data cleaning, con¬tent ownership, and content portability are important issues that may need to be addressed.
• Logical entities. This includes logical entities stored in the system like learning paths and certifications. The mapping from the old system to the new could be complicated due to different databases, definitions, dependencies, and rules. Moving these to the new system will probably involve recreating them in the new system.
• Training records. These are the records (i.e., transcripts) of all training sessions. It includes not only past records, but in progress training as well.
• User-generated content. There may be types of content related to peer to peer sharing in the old system that need to be migrated. This includes discussion forums, chat rooms, expert exchanges, etc., as well as documents and media files generated by users stored in content repositories.

Bandwidth to the users

Points to consider

For many organizations, bandwidth for traffic in to the LMS server is not much of an issue except perhaps during peak usage times. There are various possible solutions to that problem; a simple one is to stagger course completion deadlines between courses or groups within a course such that the users are not piling up on the server all at once. Content delivery networks (CDNs) can be helpful in these cases as well.
However, bandwidth to the users from the LMS could be a problem, especially if they are in remote areas or using BYOD data plans on mobile devices. There could even be a problem within retail outlets, where employees taking training onsite at the outlet are sharing bandwidth with point-of-sale (POS) systems, security systems, customer Wi-fi, etc. With greater and greater use of video (especially high definition) for training, there could be a significant slowdown for all users within the store. This could cause problems for not only trainees who experience latency in their training videos, but for customers trying to complete purchases, etc. in the store.
Provisioning content in advance could be a solution to bandwidth problems, so that the delivery of content media is done at an optimal time and place and is stored for use when needed later.

LMS skins and templates

Points to consider

LMS skins are generally style sheets that globally control the appearance and format of the LMS interface They usually include banner graphics, logos, color schemes, etc.

Have questions?

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