5 questions every LMS decision maker needs to ask: An LMS Technologist’s point of view

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We sat down with one of our very own Learning Management System (LMS) technologists who has been in the space for over 10 years and has an extensive background in LMS features and benefits. We wanted to learn what areas she’s seen LMS platforms fall short and more importantly, how you can make sure you have the tools to be successful when shopping for an LMS. Here’s what she had to share:

The usual first step in shopping for an LMS is to make a list of functional features required for your end users or related to the management of the system. Some of the most common questions are “How do I add courses? What does the course catalog look like? What options do we have for enrolling users?” These are all great places to start, but what comes next? Some of the most important questions for an LMS provider never arise or come too late in the decision-making process. But when these “forgotten features” are poorly executed in the system, they become a headache for your users. The answers to these 5 questions can make or break the effortless use of a system.

1. Is the LMS compatible with your SSO protocol?

Single sign-on (SSO) is a single set of login credentials that connects us to every application we need in an ecosystem. This feature has become so ubiquitous, we don’t even think about it. For example, if you’re signed into your Google account, you’re also probably signed into a host of other sites; YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. At work we expect the same level of ease, we want all our systems to be connected by a single username and password. Your LMS needs to follow suit. Don’t let forgetting passwords become a frustrating barrier to completing mandatory and optional training in the LMS. Talk to your IT team before you set out talking to vendors, some questions you may want to ask are:  

  • What SSO protocol will you use? (SAML2, OAuth, OIDC)
  • Are there any unique requirements you should be asking about?

When it’s time to meet the vendor, you’ll want to ask specifically about the SSO feature:

  • Can you see the SSO feature in action?  
  • How does the SSO interact with the LMS and how does it interact with other apps in your ecosystem?


2. Can the LMS be easily skinned to match your organization’s brand?

Your employees need to be comfortable with your LMS and you want to make it seamless as possible. Logos, colors, and login screens create a visual connection to your brand and make sense to your team. This is a simple feature you don’t want to skimp out on. You may not need to completely white label the platform, but ask about the standard capabilities for branding your site (and what might come with additional cost):

  • What would be involved if your brand marks or colors changed?
  • How easily can these changes be implemented?
  • Is it going to be a major project that requires additional resources?  

3. Is the LMS SaaS-based?

Now this one is pretty common these days, but ’d be remiss to skip it. Most LMS providers have moved to a SaaS model, which includes all platform hosting and related security measures in a cloud. A cloud-based LMS gives more capabilities for your site to be scalable, which of course makes things easier for large organizations.

In addition to questions about hosting, disaster recovery, and business continuity, ask questions about email processing capabilities, and options for data integrations, here are some suggestions:

  • Will your provider set up a sftp for data processing and sending reports?
  • What type of integration options do they offer standard?  
  • What type of configuration does it require from your team?  
  • How often are updates made to the platform and what downtime is involved?

4. Is the LMS platform accessible for all end users?

For too long accessibility was geared solely toward compatibility with assistive technology (screen readers, text-to-speech synthesizers, on-screen keyboards). Now don’t get me wrong, this is a major requirement. But you also want to consider the overall approach to universal design:  

  • Are all users able to increase the font size or zoom without the page becoming unusable?  
  • Are there ways to provide materials in different formats? What are the options for mobile devices?  
  • Are there other features related to the overall usability of the platform that make it easier for all users to navigate?  

5. What does their product roadmap look like?

While not a direct feature, I encourage you to ask to see the vendor’s roadmap (both from last year and this year). This is an excellent way to see if you’re investing in a product that is growing with you and listening to the needs of their clients:

  • Is the LMS working to find solutions to customer pain points?
  • What specific features have been prioritized and why?  
  • Have new features been added to support the end user experience?

Knowing these seemingly small details early on can make a big difference in saving your organization time and money. At the end of the day, it’s important that you choose the right LMS for your organization. By asking the right questions, you’re one step closer to ending your LMS shopping journey. And if you need help, our free companion workbook can help you identify and rank your top LMS needs. Download it today!

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