Is your learning management system providing the same return on investment that it did a year ago? Three years ago? Even if your system still technically gets the job done, it’s important to conduct a periodic LMS evaluation. If your engagement and participation rates are slipping, if your business is scaling up faster than your LMS can accommodate or if you just aren’t quite achieving the outcomes you hoped for, it might be time to consider a new LMS provider.
There are 7 basic steps for carrying out the LMS evaluation process.
1. Conduct a needs analysis
A thorough needs analysis should be your first step whether you’re thinking of replacing an existing LMS or investing in one for the first time. For this, you’ll want to gather all relevant stakeholders.
Start by determining what your organization needs to accomplish and how it all relates to the knowledge and skills of your team. This information will inform your ideal learning strategy. Then, using that information, you’ll want to determine the factors that are essential in an LMS.
For example, if the company is growing at a rapid rate, scalability might be a top priority. If your workers are mobile as opposed to being tethered to a desk, an LMS must offer an engaging mobile experience. If you need to cater to learners across multiple facilities in multiple regions, you might opt for a SaaS system that’s universally accessible while still centrally managed.
Some businesses will also benefit from an industry-specific LMS that’s tailored to the challenges and needs of a particular market. For instance, if you operate a chain of grocery stores, you might choose an LMS that’s optimized for such operations. For example, Axonify combines a mobile-first LMS with hundreds of ready-to-go content topics designed specifically for frontline grocery workers.
If you already have an LMS in place, you can determine whether your professional development needs are adequately being met or if it’s time to upgrade.
2. Determine your training costs
Did you know that companies spent an average of $1,111 per learner in 2020? For an organization with 10,000 team members, that’s over 11 million dollars per year on training alone.
If training costs are cutting into your bottom line without showing clear ROI for the business, the problem might be an outdated or inefficient LMS. For example, if you’re currently using an on-premise learning system, the ongoing maintenance and IT costs can be enormous.
By switching to a quality SaaS LMS, you can significantly reduce your per-employee spend even when you account for the subscription fees. With a cloud-based infrastructure, you can produce learning materials more quickly and get them into the hands of more people (across all facilities) with less time and effort.
Upgraded technology can also maximize your efficiency and save you money in other ways, such as by reducing the number of hours required for training, increasing the amount of information retained by trainees (and thereby increasing customer satisfaction, reducing safety incidents, etc…) and enabling you to create and modify courses in less time.
To determine if your training costs can be reduced, start by estimating your current spend. You’ll first want to estimate the total training cost and then determine how much of that cost is LMS-related. Consider factors like IT costs, development, administration and authorship.
Once you know what you’re actually spending, you can determine if a more streamlined solution may reduce your investment.
3. Assess your learning outcomes
Is your current LMS contributing to effective knowledge retention and skills development? More importantly, is it translating to the desired behavior in the workplace? Positively impacting customer satisfaction? If not, part of the problem may be the content delivery.
A traditional LMS hosts and delivers online and in-person courses. When combined with quizzes, it’s a solid way to improve short-term knowledge. However, this one-and-done approach doesn’t promote long-term knowledge retention or on-the-job application.
When determining if it’s time to upgrade your LMS, consider the following questions:
- Does your current LMS use microlearning (training delivered in short bursts) and gamification (the inclusion of game mechanics) to fit training into the workflow and keep people coming back?
- Does your current LMS tailor the lessons and questions based on the needs and progress of each learner?
- Does your current LMS serve up reinforcement activities at regular intervals to promote knowledge retention?
- Does your current LMS have built-in social features to keep everyone connected?
If your LMS doesn’t support all of these features, it’s probably time for an upgrade. You want a system that not only engages your trainees in the moment but gets them excited to log in each day.
4. Assess your current engagement rates
How often do people actually use your current LMS? Do you have a ton of content that’s just sitting on the digital shelf? How easy or difficult is it for people to access information when and where they need it? And how does all of this inform your tech strategy so you can boost engagement?
Refer to your LMS reports to determine your participation rate. What percentage of team members are using the system, and how often? Does it fall short of your goals or needs?
Most LMSs have low engagement rates, and low engagement breeds low participation. Many LMSs sit below 20% participation, meaning the vast majority of employees almost never log in. Some companies are adding learning experience platforms (LXPs) to their tech stacks to try and improve employee engagement, but this still won’t solve the problem when people don’t have time to browse through thousands of assets to find the information they need. If you really want to boost engagement, you need to start with the content delivery.
There’s a psychology to engaging learners. For example, research shows that microlearning can lead to much higher levels of engagement, especially when the bite-sized lessons are delivered on mobile devices. Microlearning is short, to the point and fits seamlessly into even the busiest workday. If your system doesn’t accommodate this type of learning, or if engagement is low due to other factors like poor usability, mobile inaccessibility or outdated modules that can’t be easily updated, it may be time for an upgrade.
As a mobile-first LMS that uses customized microlearning and gamification, Axonify leads the industry for engagement and participation. On average, Axonified organizations record 83% participation with learners logging in two to three times per week.
5. Conduct surveys
Surveys are commonly used to measure learners’ reactions to the course content, but they can also reveal what’s working and what’s not working with the LMS itself. For example, administrators can incorporate survey questions about the user-friendliness of the LMS, what they would like to see improved and whether they find the content delivery to be effective or satisfying. These surveys can be conducted on their own or as part of a focus group.
Sometimes you can use the feedback to improve your existing LMS. For instance, if certain lessons are hard to understand or if certain modules are too long, you can rework them or break them up into shorter segments.
In other cases, the feedback may indicate that the LMS itself is failing to resonate with users. This may be the case if users consistently comment on frustrating technical issues or request features that aren’t available.
Axonify makes it easy for administrators to include short surveys within the lessons themselves. In addition, Axonify’s deep experience data helps organizations understand how employees use the platform and which features they value most.
6. Determine whether your LMS is keeping pace with marketplace innovation and demands
Does your LMS still have basically the same functionality as it did five years ago? That in itself can be a red flag. Even if your trainees have no specific complaints about your LMS, outdated features may be preventing them from achieving the maximum benefit.
We’ve talked about the emergence of features like mobile learning, gamification and microlearning, and those are all important. But a truly sophisticated LMS takes things even further. For example, most modern learning management systems claim to tailor the experience to each learner, but the best ones are using artificial intelligence to more precisely optimize each participant’s learning experience.
- Your LMS should be able to learn your trainees’ strengths and difficulties and tailor the experience accordingly with the help of machine learning.
- Your LMS should be able to easily integrate with all of your essential HR, CRM and project management software.
- Your LMS should look less like corporate technology and more like a user-friendly social platform. LXPs have been doing this for years, and it’s extremely effective for engagement.
LMSs have become a lot more advanced in recent years. If you haven’t updated in a while, you may be missing out on some essential features.
7. Take inventory of your data capabilities and reporting features
Precise, detailed reporting is imperative, but some LMSs fall painfully short in this area, offering only the bare essentials of participation and scoring information.
It’s not enough to know who completed the lessons and how many questions they answered correctly. A quality LMS should collect a wealth of data related to engagement, participation, proficiencies, sticking points, confidence levels and knowledge/skills gaps.
This data should then be translated into detailed reports that include graphical data, behavior metrics, confidence metrics and other precise analytics, all presented on an easy-to-read dashboard.
In addition, content should be tied to specific outcomes and KPIs—and not just to learning objectives. A quality LMS should have tools in place to tie the content to these goals and deliver custom reports that indicate the impact of your training on each KPI.
Is it Time to Upgrade Your LMS?
If you haven’t audited your LMS in a while, now is the time. The LMS evaluation can be completed as part of a broader employee training evaluation, or it can be done on its own. You may find that your learning management system still effectively meets your needs. However, you may want to consider comparing new LMS vendors if:
- Your LMS isn’t engaging your employees
- Your LMS isn’t translating to the desired skills or behaviors
- Your LMS upkeep is costing you more time and money than it should
- Your LMS is missing important features like cloud hosting, mobile-friendliness, microlearning or AI
- Your LMS isn’t generating the in-depth reports you need
- Your LMS just isn’t meeting user expectations in terms of simplicity, technology or user experience
Implementing a new system can be labor-intensive, but it may be one of the best decisions you make for your business.