Considerations When Choosing an LMS or LCMS

by Paul Johnson

A Learning Management System (LMS) can be a tremendous help to companies and organizations in efficiently managing their eLearners and eLearning resources. However, deciding which LMS fits your needs best depends on many factors. If you are only looking to manage your training, an LMS may be the answer. The LMS will monitor your learners and eLearning content, but it will not allow you to change the existing content or create new content. For this, you will need a learning content management system (LCMS). An LCMS allows you to create new courses and edit ones you’ve created already, as well as manage and track your learners’ experience with the content.

Whether it is an LMS or an LCMS, one of the first decisions you will have to make is the delivery method. Do you want the service hosted externally or do you have the capacity to host it in house? If you are not allowed to use hosted services at your company or organization, or need the LMS/LCMS to communicate with other business systems, having it hosted externally may not be an option. It is also possible that an externally hosted solution does not have web services that could appropriately be accessed by internal software. Hosting the LMS or LCMS on your own server has its own set of problems. You need to have a team to set it up and maintain it, as well as purchase the hardware to run it. However, doing it this way does give you more control.

The next thing to consider is the list of administration features you need. Some LMS/LCMS products only allow basic reporting and each user must be registered with the system as a separate process from the addition of the user into the HR system. Other products have the HR process integrated seamlessly with the training an employee needs when beginning work at a company. How users are organized makes a big difference in reporting as well. If users can be organized at the team level, as well as individually, more reporting options are available. In addition, every LMS or LCMS allows training to be assigned to users, but only some also allow prerequisites to be set for courses.

A critical thing to consider is the assessment. What kinds of question types are allowed? Can questions be randomized? If the assessment capabilities of the LMS or LCMS are not fully featured, your ability to test the comprehension of your learners will be severely diminished. The reporting metrics will also mean much more if there is a thorough assessment rather than just a completion indicator for each course.

One other important thing to consider when obtaining or creating eLearning courses is Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) compliance. Courses that are SCORM-compliant can be imported from other sources, enabling the use of many off-the-shelf courses. Courses created with an LCMS should also be SCORM-compliant so they can be exported to run standalone or be imported into another LMS or LCMS.

Cost is an obvious factor, but the most expensive product is not always the best. Many open-source products exist that will satisfy the requirements detailed above and others your company may have. In the end, the decision of which LMS or LCMS to use depends somewhat on the way the features are presented. For this reason, try out the system if possible before making a commitment. The choice that you make will likely have a lasting impact on your company or organization, and as time goes by, switching to another system will become a hardship because of potential loss of user metrics. Spend enough time up front to make sure that the LMS or LCMS you have chosen will meet the needs of the company in the future as well as today.

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