3 Questions to Ask Before Buying an LMS

Think you’ve got a handle on your search for a learning management system (LMS)?

According to a Forrester study, more than 50% of LMS implementations either fail or cost much more than originally planned. That is a pretty sobering statistic if you’re looking for an LMS, but it doesn’t have to be that bad.3 questions buying lms

Just ask Sharon McGee. She successfully implemented the perfect LMS for her flight school, Flamingo Air Academy. “We found a really simple, relatively inexpensive program that we now actually use.”

How did she do it? By asking every LMS vendor on her list the following three important questions:

Question 1: How is my material delivered?

Sharon recommends you ask yourself, “How do you want your particular material to be delivered? Do you want it to be delivered through PowerPoint presentations; do you want it to be delivered through videos?”

Flamingo Air Academy uses a combination of PowerPoint presentations, videos and external hyperlinks to deliver material to their students.

“There’s an enormous amount of information out there on FAA websites that you want to be able to send your students to. Well, if [the vendor] can’t do any of that, then that limits the amount of material that you’re actually going to be able to provide to your students.”

Know what your content delivery needs are and check that vendors can meet those needs.

Question 2: How can I evaluate my students?

Evaluating and grading students is at the heart of an LMS. Unfortunately, vendor limitations can occasionally doom your efforts from the start.

Says Sharon, “Sometimes it’s like, ‘Oh, well, you can only ask true false questions on a test, or you can only do multiple choice questions.’ “

For Sharon and her company that wasn’t enough. By asking vendors to describe in detail what their software allowed for evaluating students she was able to eliminate options that were a bad fit for her needs.

Ask yourself how you want to be able to test and evaluate your students. Does your course require written examples with manual grading, or will you be fine with an online quiz that tests a student’s knowledge?

Question 3: How can I verify my students’ actions?

Using an LMS has great advantages over traditional classrooms and can extend the reach of your material globally, but the absence of face-to-face communication can also present its own challenges.

High among these is the difficulty of verifying that students are who they say they are, and that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

Sharon’s concern about verification was valid and important. “We’re a flight school, and our long distance learning program is through our dispatch course, so when our students do the long distance learning we have to be able to validate to the FAA every single thing that we do. So the better your ability to verify what it is they’re learning, the more valuable your particular learning system is going to be.”

Ask the vendor questions like:

  • “What safeguards are in place to ensure my students are doing what they need to be doing?”
  • “How do you verify identity?”
  • “Can you tell when a student logs on, when they log off, and how long they spend on a particular subject?”

You need to be able to prove to whatever oversight organization you have to deal with, that the students are actually doing the material.

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