As the creators of an eLearning authoring tool, we understand that many businesses take the traditional approach to eLearning and learning infrastructure: looking for an authoring tool to create content and an LMS to host it. There are a load of alternatives, but an LMS is certainly one of the most popular ways to do it. If you’re tasked with finding and implementing an LMS, however, it can be quite a tricky process – there are a lot of LMS vendors out there who offer many similar but also very different products. Bear in mind that an LMS isn't the sort of thing that's easily changed once it's in place, though, so it’s super important that the fit is right before you’re tied in.
What is an LMS?
There are load of ways to look at an LMS, but at its most basic, an LMS hosts your eLearning content, with front-end access for your learners to log in and learn. It can be as bare-bones as that, simply acting as a portal to access and track eLearning, or it can get as big and as complex as an organization requires.
Some LMS’ are capable of storing and supporting a whole curriculum of learning, connecting events and lessons with a load of online learning. This is the kind of thing that universities and school districts use to manage their students' progress, giving you an idea of just how big you can go.
Do I need an LMS?
You might think you need an LMS, but if you are looking to keep things basic, there’s a chance that all you need is a content repository for your eLearning, somewhere to store courses that can be accessed in a way that suits your learners. After all, it's possible that every extra feature that comes as a part of your LMS package will cost you, so if you aren’t using it to its full potential, it could prove a costly business expense.
Of course, if you have a very large, complex or specific requirement, then an LMS may be exactly what you’re looking for. As covered by our sister company LEO Learning, over a third of LMS customers are dissatisfied with their choice of learning platform, so it’s important that you make the right decision.
Finding the right LMS
As an eLearning authoring tool, we’re used to being asked about how our courses will 'play' with an LMS. Authoring tools, like Gomo, generally output SCORM files, which can be uploaded and played on a SCORM-compliant LMS. SCORM is a standardized form which allows completely unrelated authoring tools and LMS’ to work seamlessly together. SCORM is also what allows a level of tracking (not too much, though, if you want a lot of that, you should look into Experience API, or xAPI as it's known). So, all in all, it’s probably pretty important that your LMS is SCORM compliant.
Here are some further high level pointers to consider as you evaluate what you need from your learning platform…
- What eLearning content do you have and what do you plan on building?
- What file types do you need to upload?
- Cost of ownership – you may find what looks like a cheap solutions while you only have a few users, but what happens in the future as you need to increase your package? Does your solutions scale as you do?
- Cloud-based, in-house or external hosting? Hosting can add a recurring cost, so it’s important to factor this in or consider a SaaS solution, which will cover the hosting cost as everything is based in the cloud.
- What data do you need back from your learners? SCORM or Experience API? If you’re looking at multi-device courses and access, then you are probably going to need xAPI tracking, as this will track across devices and not just per course per sitting. It’s worth mentioning that this is more of an authoring tool output requirement, but certainly something that will inform your platform choice.
- User experience and usage – it’s important that the LMS is easy to navigate and your workforce will want to use it to their benefit.
- Multi-device access – even though the world of learning technologies lags behind more than some industries when it comes to embracing mobile and multi-device, your learners will expect to access learning content when they’re away from their desk or on the move. This feeds into the usage and experience of your LMS, but it’s certainly an issue of its own. You’re not going to get the same experience on mobile as you would on a desktop, but it’s important that the key features are there and that the experience is great.
On top of this, it’s good to make a list of key features that you need, would like and don’t need your LMS to do in order to keep you focused during what can be quite a confusing selection process. Calendars, grading, blogs, forums/ community, instant messenger… the list of possible features goes on. Putting in some time to work out exactly what you need can make things much easier for you and your team further down the line.
With Gomo, there are several ways to publish your course. This can be through direct link, QR code, embedded into a website or Intranet or via an LMS. To find out more about the different course distribution options, click here.