Wednesday, August 1, 2007

LMS Recommendations

The "back end" is where most LMS problems -- and costs -- tend to be concentrated. Unfortunately, few customers get to see and play with the "back end" of their LMS until after they've paid for and begun using the system in earnest.

With this in mind, I recommend doing the following to save yourself time, money and headaches:
  • Determine whether the LMS provides a way for you to export data and produce your own reports. "We have heard of LMSs that have data stored in such a confused manner that it's impossible to retrieve them from the database," says Moser. Worsening the problem, he says, is the fact that some LMSs charge $25,000 for every custom report that a customer needs. ("This is for a single-event report, not for programming a report that you can re-run. So, it is essential that you are able to get the data out of the LMS (in case the LMS goes broke or doesn't have a canned report that meets your needs).")

  • If you are looking at a learning content management system (LCMS), or an LMS with authoring capabilities, will you be able to take your courses and serve them outside the LMS? "Once again, if the LMS goes broke, gets bought, or does an upgrade that you don't want to pay for, it is essential that you be able to take YOUR content and host it elsewhere."

  • What kind of support does the LMS vendor provide? "We have seen many (some of the best known ones fall into this category) where you are routed to a customer support agent who barely knows how to spell 'AICC.' They can waste weeks of your time giving you the run-around. When negotiating the contract, I recommend a clause that if you don't get a satisfactory support response within two days, you have direct access to the product developers/engineers, rather than being stuck with tech support. If you don't get this support, the LMS should pay a penalty."

  • Be wary of contracts that include off-the-shelf content. "As a thought experiment, consider how many off-the-shelf PowerPoint presentations you currently use internally. How many off-the-shelf face-to-face training courses do you use? Your e-learning needs will end up being about the same -- that is, you will need to develop most of your own training. The extra cost for a library of stock courses might be an inefficient use of resources."

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