When you start shopping for learning management software, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the options. So many features; so many choices. How can you know which ones you actually need?
A while back, I made a list to help buyers determine which learning management system (LMS) features are must-haves, and which features are merely nice to have, or can be skipped altogether.
However, each business is unique, and with that in mind, I’ve created a series of questions to help focus your search toward the features you need the most for your specific needs.
What are the core LMS features?
Most LMSs are, at their core, pretty similar. They host coursework material that can be uploaded, edited, assigned, and graded by an admin user. General users can access and read that material and then complete quizzes or assignments for each lesson.
Different software products may focus on different aspects of this core functionality, take a unique approach toward these functions, or add additional features on top of the core. But that standard functionality is the starting point for nearly all learning management systems.
Depending on what your business needs, you might be able to stop there. But what if you need to make sure your lessons comply with government or industry standards? What if you have an extremely tight budget? What if you have a ton of remote and traveling employees who need trained? What do you need then?
Read on to find out!
What LMS features do you need?
Answer the questions below and use the recommended actions items to come up with a list of features and considerations for your LMS!
1. Is worker engagement with your training program low?
If your reporting reveals that completion rates are low, that might indicate a lack of interest, so you need to find a way to engage your employees. One great way to do this is by gamifying your learning material.
Gamification is a method of presenting training material that borrows elements from video games, such as scoreboards, achievements, and point systems.
This can add a fun, competitive edge to corporate training and make a sometimes-tedious task more fun.
If you said yes… Check out our list of gamified learning management software solutions right here!
2. Do you rely on programs such as Gmail, Office 360, or Google Docs?
If you know that your lessons are going to rely on a third-party software—such as writing worksheets using the Microsoft Office Suite or sending emailed lessons using Google’s business offerings—look for an LMS that integrates with the programs you already use. Not all learning management software offers integrations, and some LMSs play nicer with certain business tools than others.
If you said yes… Make a list of the applications you are already using, and which ones you think will need to integrate with your LMS, so you can keep an eye out for those integrations as you shop around.
3. Do you have (or are you) an in-house or third-party course content designer?
If you’re lucky, there’s a dedicated course designer on staff. (Maybe you even are that course designer, researching ways to improve your offerings through software.) If you do, you can make their life way easier by getting an LMS with a built-in course authoring function.
This will allow you, or your designer, to make snazzy, useful lessons in-app instead of fighting to make lessons written in a separate document fit cleanly into your software’s interface.
If you said yes… Try looking here: All of the LMSs on this list have in-app course authoring.
4. Is your training budget extremely restrictive?
What “restrictive” means could differ from person to person, but if you find yourself struggling to find the budget for company training, you should know that a paid option isn’t your only choice.
If you said yes… Try looking at free or open source LMSs. They aren’t difficult to find, and many free or open source offerings are as popular, or more popular, than their paid counterparts. (Moodle, for example, is consistently one of the most popular LMSs, according to our research, and it’s free and open source.)
But, don’t fully write off paid choices. You might be able to find all the robust features and options you need at a surprisingly low cost. To find an inexpensive choice, check out Capterra’s list of the most affordable learning management systems on the market.
5. Do you have a lot of remote employees or employees who travel heavily?
Getting everyone to do training sitting at their desks is hard enough. What do you do if your employees are more far-flung? Or if they spend a lot of time on the road, such as in many consulting, delivery, or repair businesses?
If you said yes… Mobile eLearning might be your solution. Mobile apps are a feature of growing popularity in the LMS world. They’re convenient, and employees appreciate the flexibility they offer.
Keep an eye out for mobile options when searching for an LMS, and make sure to check whether apps are designed for iOS, Android, or both.
We have a whole list of mobile-friendly LMSs right here.
6. Do you need to ensure compliance with industry or legal benchmarks?
In some industries, compliance isn’t an issue. But, if it affects your organization, you probably already know how important it is.
Maybe you have spreadsheets full of certificate renewal and expiration dates to remember, or you set reminders for yourself on your calendar when your employees need a refresh training. Managing all that can be a pain.
If you said yes… One of the best ways to check if your material is compliant is by using an LMS with an API, usually SCORM and xAPI. Making sure that your LMS is compliant with one (or both) of these APIs will save you tons of time in maintaining compliance.
7. Is communication between your learners and instructors a necessity for you?
If you want learners to communicate with instructors when they have a question or encounter an issue—even when they’re in different offices or the instructor is not in your intramail system—you’ll need in-app messaging in some form.
If you said yes… There are several approaches you can take for this, from Gmail integration to an intramail system, or an in-app chat function. Most LMSs will have this in some form, but consider whether your employees are more of a chat box group or a formal email group, so you can get an LMS with a messaging system people will actually use.
8. Do you want your learners to communicate and collaborate on lessons?
Similar to the above point—but not exactly the same—you need to decide if you want to encourage collaboration between employees during lessons.
Social learning has been shown to help with retention and enjoyment of lessons, and it can help strengthen relationships between teammates and coworkers.
If you said yes… Consider an LMS with forums or group lesson plans, and check out a list of social learning management systems here.
9. Do your employees use multiple operating systems on different devices? (Mac, Windows, Linux, mobile, etc?)
If you have standard company computers, and your workers only use those to work, that’s one thing.
But if you work in a bring your own device (BYOD) environment, you might struggle to find an LMS that plays nice with everyone’s operating system.
If you said yes… Look for a web-based deployment. Web deployment (sometimes called “cloud-based”) simply means that users can access the LMS via any internet-enabled device.
There’s an ongoing debate about the superiority of cloud-based vs. installed software, but if you have a mixed-device office, you’ll be better off with web-deployed.
You can find a list of web-deployed LMS options here.
10. Is promoting your brand internally important to you?
This is an entirely cosmetic choice, but if it matters to you try to find out if it’s an option before you make a software decision.
If you said yes… Consider a white-labelled LMS. White-labelling is a design choice where the LMS’s logo and design does not appear in or around your lessons. Instead, any logos are replaced with your company’s own theme and name.
There’s another, less complete version of white-labelling called “gray-labelling,” which features your company’s logo, as well as the LMS vendor’s logo, typically just smaller or in a less obvious way. Gray-labelling is often less expensive.
What are the LMS features for you?
Do you have your shopping list ready to go? Do you feel like you know what you need? Or are you still full of questions? Tell me about it or ask what you need to ask in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter @CapterraHalden.
Looking for Learning Management System software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Learning Management System software solutions.