Learning 4.0

What to consider when choosing Learning Management Systems.

© Rawpixel.com / Fotolia

© Rawpixel.com / Fotolia

Let's imagine the following situation:

The continuing education at Wir-sind-am-Puls-der-Zeit GmbH needs a change!

Learning must be more efficient; more individualised, and be on-demand. Learning content should be more compact, multi-media in nature, and more flexible – everyone agrees on this.

Options were discussed, both pros and cons were weighed several times; costs pushed back and forth... The decision has now been made: A Learning Management System (LMS) for the digital provision of self-contained learning units, and the organisation of learning processes should be established across the entire company.

The timetable for it is ready, and the to-do list has been diligently checked-off:

Recognise qualification gaps – done.

Determine learning needs – done.

Interview target audience – done.

Define learning objectives – done.

Select learning platform – Oh Boy!

If you Google the term "learning platform" you receive 421,000 hits, and on the search for "e-learning" there are 253,000 results; also in the search for "learning management system" (190,000 hits) – the world of digital learning still seems boundless.

Making a sustainable, qualitative, and at the same time financially-sound decision with the myriad of system manufacturers, can support a long list of criteria. Of course, the criteria that this list contains in concrete terms, and with which weighting the criteria, influence the system selection depend of course on the appropriate project requirements.

Consider the user situation!

If, for example, you want to provide the learning content in various countries and languages, you should ensure that the system allows for the easy management of all language variants. The following also plays a role in content creation: If the learning content is written in an XML-based authoring tool, it is therefore no problem to channel data packages into translation software tools.

When it comes to the question of where, it is also worth examining the specific user situation. Whereas almost all systems are web-based and can be accessed from anywhere, and at anytime via a web browser, access to the learning content via tablet or mobile is not always a given for all providers. For precisely this reason it is essential to check for which devices a system is suitable and what extra effort (if any) is necessary to optimise the content for the various devices (keyword: single-source publishing).

Determine your user audience!

In most cases, when introducing an LMS, the focus is internally on the continuing education of the company’s own employees. However, more and more companies are recognising the potential for customer retention with the introduction of digital learning modules. Instead of classic product training during face-to-face events, digital learning modules are either being provided free of charge as part of the customer service offering or even added to the portfolio as an additional product. In the latter case, for example, the absence of an eCommerce interface would be a deal-breaker criterion in the choice of the tool.

In addition, one should have a general idea of the number of licenses required early on, because this accounts for a large proportion of the total cost of the system, but on the other hand, some tools with several hundred users already experience performance problems.

Decide which medium you want to use!

One goal that all system manufacturers are committed to is the integration of multimedia content. All multimedia is not necessarily the same multimedia. While the integration of text, image and video is usually already common practice, podcasts and animations are still far from being able to be integrated. Not to mention Augmented or Virtual Reality.

Also the option to import already-existing data (e.g. presentations) or to export the created content (e.g. as PDF), can play a role in the choice of the tool.

Question what role motivation and performance culture play!

Companies in which a pronounced competitive and performance culture predominates will presumably also include criteria such as gamification, challenges, or reporting in the list of criteria. Reward incentives such as progress indicators, virtual bonus points or badges and certificates can play a role, as well as competitions, rankings, and prizes.

Many systems collect a large number of data in the background, belonging to the respective learning process: Dwell time on individual pages, time spent on tutorials or learning success checks, patterns of movement between modules or pages of individual modules, etc. These data are compared with the profile-related data, test results, and average user test results to make learning more individualised and comprehensive; better to meet the appropriate learning needs. This learning of the system is usually best summarised by the term "Learning Analytics".

The selection criteria listed here represent only a fraction of all possibilities. Of course budget, support offers by the provider, or the adaptability to the corporate design also play an important role in the decision. The price segment for Learning Management Systems is wide-ranging, and the most expensive tool is not necessarily the best.

If you, too, are faced with such a challenging decision, we can only recommend that you calmly create your own list. Because you know: Only those who know where they want to go, can also arrive there.