Buying an LMS? Don’t get ripped off!

Marlene Liontis

Marlene Liontis is the director of Lion Global HR Pty Ltd and a member of eWorks’ team of Accredited Consultants. She also founded her first e-learning company in 2009 and learned a huge amount about learning management systems in the process. Now she is keen to share what she learned in an effort to make life easier for anyone getting started in digital learning. With so many LMS models on the market how do we choose the right option for the short, medium and long-term – without getting ripped off?

LMS stands for ‘like my status’. Doesn’t it?

Let’s be honest. At some point in your life you have asked the question – either to a colleague or a search engine – ‘What is an LMS?’ And it’s a big step from knowing what an LMS is to understanding which type of LMS your business needs – even if you regularly use one. Because part of this understanding needs to include an awareness of what your LMS could be doing for you – either now or as your business expands. So you might think you have the best LMS in the world, until you find out that a whole bunch of things that you have been doing manually could easily be automated with the right set-up. And it can be daunting to approach vendors. A little like buying a car, you want them to at least think you know what you’re talking about so that they don’t take you for a – sorry – ride.


Credits: Guy,s Fine LMS 4-6-0 tender locomotive 3, by Les Chatfield

Seven quick questions for your LMS vendor

Fortunately, with only a few key questions you can ensure that an LMS can do what you need it to do and what you might need it to do one day. These questions have the added bonus of making you sound like you know what you’re talking about – an opportunity to fake it until you make it. And since the answers will help you to understand the concept of an LMS generally and each product specifically, the entire process will be part of your learning curve. Here we go, seven easy questions to ask your LMS vendor before committing to a new system:

1. Is it easy to implement?

A system that can be implemented quickly will reduce costs and roll out time and make life easier for you and your staff.

2. Is it easy to configure and customise?

Make sure the LMS reflects the way your organisation works and not the other way around. More time and money saved and staff grumbles avoided

3. Is it secure?

Does the LMS feature in-built security that lines up with your organisation’s policies? You really want to know this before you sign up.

4. Does it provide comprehensive reporting tools?

Consider your organisation’s requirements for concise compliance reports and performance appraisals. Whatever you want to achieve, there is more than likely a product out there that can do it.

5. What about functionality?

What level of functionality does your organisation require and will this change over time? What are the cost implications of these potential changes?

6. How about scalability?

Can the system grow in line with your organisation? Can it even promote your growth?

7. Does the vendor provide other services?

Ask the vendor if they offer content development? Consultancy? Training? Ideally you want a one-stop shop for all of your digital learning needs.

Need more words of wisdom from Marlene?

Take a look at her other blog posts:

Clear as mud? Feel free to get in touch if you’re struggling.

Integrate your business systems with your LMS

Debbie Scully

Debbie has been actively involved in e-learning since mid-1990—when she moved from being a traditional educator into the e-learning space—and never looked back. Debbie’s focus is on the application of quality driven outcomes through stringent project management processes in the development and delivery of online learning. She is a firm believer that digital learning delivery doesn’t need to be difficult. Read on for one, big example of how to keep things clean and easy.

If I had a dollar for every time…

I meet with prospective clients and they ask me whether our LMS will integrate with a business system that is of high importance to them…well, I would have paid off my mortgage by now. Actually the TVC delivery platform offers far more than a learning management system (LMS), but for the sake of keeping things simple today let’s just say we are talking about whether or not we can integrate an LMS and another business system. The short answer? Yes – absolutely yes!


Credit: arrows, by Dean Hochman

Why the need to integrate?

Businesses don’t want important data sitting separately in several databases. It’s messy, a bit of a headache and wastes time and money. Are you nodding in agreement? In the case of registered training organisations (RTOs,) we are usually talking about integrating a student management system (SMS) with our delivery platform (that includes an LMS). This is because the SMS is the place where all student information is recorded when a student enrols, including course name and dates. Without integration into the LMS, clients would need to manually add student names and teachers would need to create courses and add the relevant students to the courses. Not only is this an unnecessary waste of time in a time-poor education sector, errors can be made during such manual processes.

How does integration work?

Integration from an SMS to an LMS usually means that each night or early morning all new students who have been added are rolled over into the LMS automatically. Some integrations include enrolment into courses and, in a few cases, the integration process actually creates the course shell with the students already enrolled.

What about student results?

The next level of integration would be to push the student results back into the SMS. Since the SMS is the key area that auditors review, the LMS seamlessly provides the evidence required as part of an audit. Suddenly your job becomes so much simpler.

What else is possible?

Just about anything really. Our Moodle-based LMS has the flexibility to integrate with many systems. HR systems are an obvious integration option, where the LMS stores business critical information about staff. If you’re not sure, simply ask us.

Contact eWorks to discuss your integration needs.

MOOC – Is open technology opening education?

If you follow education or technology news, you might have heard the acronym MOOC bandied about recently. There are already a huge amount of blogs and discussions on MOOCs, but this article aims to summarise Massive Open Online Courses for eWorks’ clients and followers by looking at each term in the acronym and the meanings behind them.

Massive

This term emerged in other internet-related acronyms, particularly in the gaming community where MMO or MMOG represents Massively Multiplayer Online Games. These games are played via the Internet and can involve 4000+ players simultaneously, often with vast virtual game worlds.

Unlike the space limitations in a physical classroom or auditorium, MOOCs are typically designed in such a way that there are no limits to how many people can participate. An example is Udacity’s CS101 course having 314,159 students enrolled in May 2013.

Open

This term might look fairly innocuous when viewed as publicly open to registrations, however when we look at what open means in a broader sense, the impacts are huge. With the ability to create learning environments that can scale to hundreds of thousands of people, should/could/would there be a charge for entry? This boils down to the age-old question of free education, a global discussion which has been re-fuelled by the emergence of MOOCs.

An example of the power and scale of open learning is Kahn Academy, which started in late 2003 when Salman Khan began tutoring his cousin in mathematics using Yahoo’s Doodle Notepad. He opened an account on YouTube in 2006 and since has delivered 300 million video lessons in a range of topics spanning from history to computer science. There is no charge for access to Khan Academy, however 1.4 million dollars of funding has been provided by the Gates Foundation.

Online

The audience for Khan Academy and other MOOCs such as the ones launched by Harvard and Stanford? Everyone that has access to the Internet. This is a rapidly growing number according to the Wikipedia estimation that shows internet access penetration still only covers 39% of the global population in 2014. MOOCs are a great source of education for developed countries, but those learners in developing countries miss out on the opportunity, and you could perhaps argue that free education is needed the most in developing nations.

For those of us that have access to the Internet, online self-paced learning offers the opportunity to work and study at the same time; a choice that in the past may have meant one or the other.

Growth in the use of online digital technology is changing the way we communicate with others. This is shown in the large amounts of people using social media services like the 1.3 billion users on Facebook, sharing photos and conversations often immediately via their smartphone.

Course

With the growth in online learning, it stands to reason that the traditional associations of the term course will change with it. Often, the term is associated with going to a physical place with a number of other learners and a teacher. When attending a MOOC, this activity transforms into an online interaction in a virtual space. My recent experience attending the Coaching Digital Learning course from mooc-ed.org has involved reading articles, watching videos, writing assignments and having Twitter conversations with other participants following the conference hashtag. This seems to me to be a good balance between the two emerging MOOC models:

  • connectivist MOOCs that focus on enabling a large-scale dialog via social media, and
  • constructivist MOOCs that provide a collection of learning resources for an individual to progress through at their own pace.

Even though MOOCs have received some bad press primarily due to low completion rates, they appear to be here to stay as a large-scale method of delivering education.

Find out how to start or improve your e-learning by contacting Darcy Nicolson, our E-learning Consultant and representative of the National VET E-learning Strategy.