Learning management systems (LMS) have been around forever, and it appears, at least in my anecdotal observations, that public library land is jumping on the bandwagon.  

An LMS empowers an organization to manage, track, and quantify all learning activities. 

 

No system is perfect, but there are several things to consider before purchasing an LMS.  We recently acquired an LMS here at Gwinnett County Public Library after evaluating several vendors.  I began this process very green, but have learned several valuable lessons along the way.  Here is some wisdom I’d like to share:

 

v     What exactly do we need from our LMS?

Sure, as the training manager, I have many ideas for what I want the system to be able to perform, but this purchase isn’t just about me.  Does HR have specific needs?  What role will the IT department play in the implementation?  What strategic benefits do the Executive Director and other department heads hope to reap from this large purchase?  Know your core needs before contacting any vendors.  You’ll be quickly embarrassed if you don’t.

 

v     What features must the LMS have?  What’s optional?

After you know your business needs, you can begin thinking about core features of the LMS and any extra bells and whistles.  What kind of reports do you need?  Does your LMS come bundled with courseware?  How scalable is the system?  Is the LMS SCORM and/or AICC compliant?  Only you know your budget.  It goes without saying that you cover the core features first.  Do not go gadget crazy and purchase features you don’t need (ie, learning management system vs. talent management system).  There are some thirsty sharks out in the ocean of sales reps.

 

v     Who is this company, anyway?

Be sure that you are buying from an established company.  Can your vendor provide references of clients who have benefitted tangible returns after implementing the vendor’s LMS? 

 

v     Should I buy or rent?

Buying your LMS software may sound appealing, and if you have the IT resources in your organization, maybe this works for you.  If you purchase your LMS, it’s yours.  The implementation, upkeep, and upgrades also become your sole responsibility.  However, if you rent, the vendor implements, upkeeps, and upgrades using this software as a service model.  The LMS is hosted on the vendor’s servers, and you don’t have much to worry about… except the yearly fee for service.

 

v     Will the LMS work with other systems our organization uses?

This is a huge consideration, especially if your library already has a human resources management system.  Is it important that your LMS be able to communicate with your HRMS?  Can the LMS talk to the HR system?  If so, how much will it cost to customize the LMS?  Customization is expensive!

 

 Hopefully these tips will save you some grief.  If only I knew then what I know now.

 

~Jay

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