This week, I was inspired to write about Learning Management Systems (LMS’) after experiencing several frustrating days lodging support tickets with a client’s LMS of choice (well – with the folks in charge of support; I doubt very much the LMS would have been able to respond to my queries, especially once they became a bit more emotionally charged). I was explaining my frustration to a friend, who was perplexed by the acronym, so I decided that 1 – I was being ignorant, assuming that everyone was privy to its meaning, and 2 – that it would be a good term to define on this week’s edition of Terminology Tuesday!
So, “What is an LMS?,” you ask.
Ryan K. Ellis defines an LMS as “a software application that automates administration, tracking, and reporting of training events.” (2009) While this definition is quite broad, it does the trick at describing the basic functions of an LMS. Basically, an LMS is where individuals may house and deliver their training materials (administration), track student progress (or even the progress of courses in development), and generate reports (varying from storyboards to student progress to student achievement). It really depends on how robust the LMS is, because all LMS’ are not one in the same. While they may all serve similar functions, there’s a market, and organizations developing these LMS’ want to stand out from their competition, so there is usually some variation from LMS to LMS.
Alright. It sounds like I need to get me one of them LMS’; how do I decide?
Choosing an LMS is like choosing the type of underwear you prefer – it’s really about preference, what meets your individual needs, and what you’re most comfortable with. There are many variables to consider when selecting an LMS, and I could talk your ear off for hours, so for now I’ll just narrow it down to a few guiding questions you should ask yourself:
- What is your budget? There are several reliable open-source options (Moodle, for example), which are free. But free comes with it’s own limitations. Moodle has been around for many moons, so there is a fairly large support community in place and a lot of equally free plugins to leverage the LMS’ out-of-the-box capabilities. If you’ve got some cash to spend on the infrastructure, you can choose between smaller or larger scale LMS’ – you also have the option to select an LMS on a per-user type of pricing model (e.g. many post-secondary institutions use the per-user pricing model because it turns out to be more cost-effective than spending say 100,000+ on a large enterprise priced model (which are often used by larger organizations like the Department of National Defence or other government entities).
- What do you need from your LMS? Do you need an LMS that is easy to set up and more or less idiot proof? Do you need one with robust reporting capabilities? Do you need one that will allow you to easily control access to courses? Do you need one that can handle a large volume of students?
Ahhhh! I’m Overwhelmed – Help!
Take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. LMS’ are like any other technology – when it’s new to you, it can seem overwhelming to make a decision, but there are plenty of resources out there to help you out. Here are a few:
- Five Steps to Evaluate and Select an LMS: Proven Practices – Learning Solutions Magazine
- Choosing a Learning Management System – TrainingForce
- How to Choose the Right Learning Management System – Edweek
Alternatively, I am happy to provide consultation services, should the need arise. If you’re interested – hop on over to my contact form and send me your queries!