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Ensuring success with the right LMS – feature


Karina Ward, marketing manager at Netg, looks at how and why a Learner Management system can help improve organisational learning, and how to choose one.

More and more companies are realising that to ensure they get the most out of their training programmes, they need to think about more than just putting the training in place. How a programme is managed and measured is just as important as the training itself. Implementing a third party Learner Management System (LMS) is one way in which companies can help ensure they maximise their training programmes. The right LMS can dramatically save time and money, and guarantee better return on investment. In fact in a recent survey, 33% of training managers said they intend to spend more on learner management systems in 2003 .

But investing in a learner management system is a big decision. If chosen and implemented properly, the right LMS can vastly improve the management of your training programme. However, make the wrong decision and you face a costly mistake which won't do you any favours next time you want extra budget for your training programme!

But what exactly is an LMS?

As a training manager, an LMS will help you to effectively manage your whole training programme from e-Learning to instructor-led training. It can launch learning content, track usage, provide reports, schedule training classes, and even record information about each learner’s performance. Some also provide a skill or competency system so you can carry out a skill gap analysis. The right LMS can be extremely valuable in helping you to gauge how effective your company’s training is and whether or not your training strategy is successful. Measuring learning is an integral part of the success of a training strategy and your learner management system above all else must be able to do this effectively.

And an LMS doesn’t just make your life easier – it also benefits your end-users. It allows your learners to view their training history, check their scores, and access and launch courses.

But before you take the plunge, make sure you really do need an LMS and that you can cope with the implementation internally. Investing in an LMS is a time consuming and costly exercise so you need to be sure that it’s the right move. And if it is and you do it right - you won’t look back.

So think you need one?

Choosing the right LMS requires careful thought and planning.

The key to getting it right is personalisation. Just as every learner you're working with has her/his own needs and learning style, so all learning programmes are different, and need a specific kind of LMS. The worst way to select an LMS is to be arbitrary. What's good for one company might not be so good for you. So make sure you research the market carefully - it is important to understand the types of management and deployment solutions that are available, and which one will best suit your content, infrastructure, management and most importantly, the needs of your learners. Think carefully about your requirements before approaching vendors – this will help you narrow down the providers to just those who you think can best meet your needs.

It is also critical for your success that you choose an LMS that functions seamlessly with your e-Learning content. If your LMS and your content aren’t interoperable, you may lose some friends in your training and IT departments as they battle at trying to make them work together. A variety of standards and guidelines have been established for interoperability, such as AICC and SCORM, but be aware that these can, in some cases, restrict and impact content functionality. If you are using any industry guidelines, ensure that your content and your LMS vendors conform to the same version. (The current version of SCORM is 1.2.)

So what next?

Well if you’ve found the right LMS for your organisation and your learners, now you need to make you sure that the implementation process goes as smoothly as possible. How do you do this? Well you could try following these five simple steps:
- Build a solid relationship with your LMS vendor – Developing a good working relationship with your vendor will often work in your favour, as your vendor will want to help you succeed for your own sake, not just theirs.

- Evaluate your LMS project manager – Your project manager should have the experience to help you make wise decisions about how to configure and use your new LMS. Don't hesitate to ask how other clients have dealt with the issue you are facing, and even go so far as to ask to speak with those clients.

- Carefully select your internal project manager – He or she needs to be able to communicate well with everyone: your vendor's project manager, your internal IT personnel, your key customers, and the end user community. They also need to understand the LMS functionality and how it will support your business practices. This person should be able to clearly convey the new system's functionality to each target audience in a way they can understand.

- Don't try to implement the whole thing at once! – Phase your project so that your key users (typically your training department) can become familiar with the system step by step. They will help you uncover issues that need to be addressed in later phases.

- Make sure your key users know how to use the system when you begin rolling it out – Begin documenting your business processes as soon as possible and how to use the new system to support them. Don't forget to include your help desk if they will be fielding the calls about the system. Also be sure that you know how to produce the information you've historically provided using the new system. The less interruption in service that your staff see, the greater their perception of your success will be!
So if you want to implement a learner management system don’t be daunted by the task. Tackle it step by step, and remember - it will make your life a lot easier in the long run and will help you prove that your training programme really is a worthwhile investment!


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