Online Training and e-Coaching Tips

7 Guidelines to Select an LMS for Trainers

October 1, 2015 9:04 by
Autumn Tree beside Lake

Photo credit: Rula Sibai, published under CC

If you want to support your “live” training sessions with online training, then a learning management system, or LMS for short, is a perfect solution for you.

Here’s a short excerpt of the many benefits an LMS has to offer for trainers:

  • Increase ROI on Training. An LMS allows you to keep track of skill deficiencies, increases in competency levels, and lets you send out automatic reminders to apply the newly acquired skills, knowledge and abilities on the job.
  • Motivate Trainees. Many LMS systems let you encourage trainees by sending out text messages (sms) and email. They also offer a platform for engaging interactive training content.
  • Measure Results. All LMS systems offer some form of score keeping.

In addition to supporting all the “traditional” forms of training, an LMS can also be used to provide you with an additional source of revenue, if you create standalone training materials behind a paywall.

Autumn Leaves Falling Down

Photo credit: Autumn Mott, published under CC

How do you select the right learning management system? First of all, determine your needs. If you don’t know anything at all about LMS systems, then this a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem. After all, how can you know what you need if you don’t know what is on offer?

To help you out, we’ve created 7 guidelines specifically meant for (corporate or independent) trainers and coaches.

Look for Strong Collaboration Support

Training is far removed from learning and studying. Training usually involves interaction between participants. Make sure the LMS supports this by offering collaboration features. Examples are group based file exchange, chat, wikis, blogs, workshops, and forums. Does the LMS have the option to divide participants into smaller groups who each get “their own space” in the online training platform?

Insist on Good Reporting Tools

If you’re a corporate trainer, this feature is especially important. An LMS should make it easier to report to management by creating and sending out automated reports. If you’re an independent trainer, your customers increasingly demand accountability for the results of your training, right? They may ask you to prove the effectiveness of your training. Reporting options in the LMS should at least partially help you out here.

Let’s Automate Registration

If you’re going to use software to help you out, you may as well automate trainee registration. As an example, some LMS systems let your trainees register through their LinkedIn accounts. Just send them a token for a specific online training by email, ask them to register through LinkedIn and then use the token to enroll in the online training. This way you’ll be able to collect names, addresses and other relevant data without any effort on your part.


Photo credit: Genta Mochizawa, published under CC

You Need Assessment Tools

Many LMS systems provide assessment tools, but the best embed these tools in a skills tracking system which allows you to define competencies. This means, for instance, you can conduct a 360 degree feedback assessment and compare the results with historical data you collected earlier for that specific participant.

You’ll Want Easy Video Embedding

Embedding a video in an online training course is pretty standard nowadays. But it’s also very important for most trainers, so it’s worth mentioning: your LMS should make it very easy to include a YouTube, Vimeo, Wistia or Kaltural video.

Look for Custom Looks

Customization of the user interface (‘skin’, ‘theme’, ‘template’) is important because it allows you to implement your brand (or your customer’s brand if you’re an independent trainer) in the LMS.

Avoid Inflexible Vendors

Some LMS systems come in only one flavor: plain vanilla. Even if the features of such an LMS exactly match your current needs, what are the chances such a system will be future proof? You’re looking for an extensible, customizable LMS instead.

Photo credit: Grzegorz Mleczek, published under CC

Photo credit: Grzegorz Mleczek, published under CC

Not to belabor a point, but you to avoid inflexible vendors you really need to go with an open source solution. Open source means you can legally download the actual programming code behind the LMS yourself, for free, and adapt it. I know, you didn’t plan on ever doing that. But with the more popular open source LMS systems, there is support from multiple vendors, instead of just one reseller in your region or country – as is the case with “commercial-only” LMS systems.

Besides having multiple vendors to choose from, open source LMS systems are also cheaper because you don’t have to pay for an expensive license. And it’s a lot safer because there are usually many more developers (i.e. computer programmers) involved in the project. More experts looking at the programming code means: less bugs, less security issues, more stability and safety.

Photo credit: Rula Sibai, published under CC

Photo credit: Rula Sibai, published under CC

As a matter of fact, many large tech companies build their products and services on top of open source technology (not just LMS systems), among them Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

A final issue to deal with is: should you “own” the LMS? In other words: do you need to buy a dvd-rom and install the software on your own web server? The answer is emphatically no. Even if you have an in-house it department, insist that everything is hosted for you. You are looking for software as a service (abbreviated to SaaS). This means you get to use the LMS for a fixed price (hopefully) per month (or year) without any technical hassles. In this way, modern LMS systems are accessible by PC, smart phone, and tablet – regardless of what operating system you’re using (iOS, OSX, Windows, or Android).

Following these guidelines, you should be able to select the ideal LMS for your training business.

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