Ask the Expert: Which Learning Management System?

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A learning management system (LMS) is a big investment, and one not to be taken lightly. Mike Morrison has some advice on how to choose the one that is right for your organisation.

Question: We are looking to implement a large LMS system for about 1000 users for a blue chip company (up to possible 13,000 worldwide). Does anyone have experience of the best LMS systems available in the UK? It must include scheduling, enrollment, admin, online classes, reporting, course statistics, assessment and measurement, course completion, integration of hr, TNA etc I have a shortlist of six in the US, however possible looking to implement to UK users ahead of the worldwide implementation?

Mike Morrison responds: Learning management systems can add a lot of value to an organisation, or cause it a lot of pain.

In the past six years the number of LMS providers has diminished dramatically. This is because the world wide take up is not as comprehensive as expected. In addition even when they are implemented they rarely deliver what was expected. For example, one large public sector organisation in the UK has three of the largest systems implemented, with different content on each. This is because they could not effectively deploy the content they wanted. This means three times the administration to keep the systems running.

Most of the larger systems can deliver the functionality you require. I am aware of only two UK based systems that come close to meeting your requirements - Epic and Redtray.

Support for systems like this should not be underestimated. They are very resource intensive. For example, I had to recently deploy a small piece of e-learning on a telecoms organisation's LMS, and even they had two systems, one for mandatory training and one for developmental learning. The deployment was difficult because the one person who used the system was off on leave and the supplier was short on resources. This meant a four-day delay in implementation - almost putting a large software release behind schedule.

If your implementation is to be world wide, then ensure that your vendor can support the various time frames, and that the LMS can handle e-learning in a range of languages - not as common as you may expect!. In addition factors like DDA regulations are different in different parts of the world - makes sure your vendor is aware of this (and anyone that is developing your solutions).

As for what is the best solution - well they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. What is best for one organisation is not the best for another. When budgeting for an LMS think about:

  • 30% of costs for the deployment of the LMS systems itself;
  • 30% of costs for content to launch their system with;
  • 30% of costs to manage the system on an ongoing basis;
  • 10% of costs for employee communications in the first year.
  • So... if a system costs £100K - the total project cost will be in the arena of £310K (for the first year) with annual ongoing costs exceeding £200k - maintance, new content, administration etc. Any less and the system will slowly wither and die.

    When looking at a system for a large UK-based construction company (20,000 employees), I put together a specification of features, sent this to the many providers, those that responded were invited to give a presentation of how their system could deliver our requirements, and I took the process from there. They were given just one hour to showcase “How you can meet our needs?” Then I asked for visits to three existing installations in other organisations. Ask questions like: “How many LMS's do you have? If you could only have one which one would it be?”

    The one overriding factor that I included was that the functionality had to be available 'out of the box' we did not want to pay for development as this type of enhancement rarely functions as expected.

    This is a major implementation and I would strongly recommend that any organisation considering this type of purchase and implementation fully involve, finance, IT and operations in the decision. Think of it as a change management process - the better the ownership, the greater chances of success. One statistic you will not see published is how little systems are actually used in reality.

    Mike Morrison is an organisation development specialist with many years experience in a wide range of sectors supporting the development of learning and development functions. His experience as an accredited Business Advisor had provided him with a unique holistic view of organisational development and how learning strategies can integrate with the wider functions within an organization. For more information visit www.rapidbi.com/created/mike_morrison_consultant_coach.html.

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