A learning management system (LMS) is a powerful eLearning tool for businesses and educational institutions to train employees, customers and students. According to Brandon Hall Group’s 2017 HCM Outlook Survey, eLearning can reduce employee training time by anything from 40% to 60%.
An LMS provides the ability to create, host and deliver effective, engaging online training and certification programmes, whether they be to internal staff, external partners, customers or students. The power and benefit of an LMS depends on your perspective. To the learner, it is all about the training and how they can access knowledge and training material in a single location and for this to be tracked and proof of their achievements recorded.
To the organisation providing the training, the benefits can be even more profound because of the ability to track learners training and use this data. An organisation providing their training to external learners might also choose to sell this training and this provides the ability to generate revenue and possibly profit from their training.
Ultimately, an LMS is just a tool and the effort to wield it effectively presents a host of challenges. In this article, we’re going to look at some of these challenges, drawn from our own experiences with managing numerous training programmes and LMS solutions over a period of 30 years.
1. Role Delegation
For an LMS to function properly, there are key roles that need to be filled by competent people. There are general administrative duties like registering users and granting levels of access, and then there are instructor duties, which include creating and organising courses.
Delegating core roles and responsibilities to key departments like HR, IT, Operations, etc is one of the very first necessary steps to managing an LMS. There should be discussions on who gets to take on which tasks, with clear definitions of what these tasks are and distinct boundaries for what each role covers.
There should be no confusion as to who is responsible for each element of running the LMS. With an organisational structure in place, there will also be accountability that pushes everyone to do their jobs correctly.
2. User Onboarding
Getting individuals to start using an LMS is a big hurdle to overcome. User onboarding is a multi-faceted challenge, from the leaders and managers that might not be the most tech-savvy to the learners who have little interest in engaging with a seemingly complex learning methodology. It is crucial, therefore, to account for the differing needs of each end-user.
An internal marketing-style campaign that presents the benefits of using an LMS is a great way to raise awareness and educate the rest of the organisation. Providing incentives for completing courses is another effective way of enticing learners and can help promote eLearning to external partners and students.
There is also the practical problem of having a system to add users into the LMS. Familiarity with the LMS’ features can simplify the process.
3. Time Management
The excitement that comes with having implemented an LMS can lead to underestimating the amount of time and effort that needs to be put into operating it smoothly. Course creation alone can take up significant chunks of working hours, especially if the courses are to be customised to fit the requirements specific to an organisation and its departments. And of course, this does not end when the course is published as the material will require updating over time, new courses created and older ones retired and this requires management and resources.
Creating a schedule with reasonable delivery dates is good. Respecting these set deadlines is even more important. Every element that goes into completing tasks needs to be accounted for. It can be all too easy to overlook processes like getting approval from upper management and getting enough resources from IT.
4. IT Resource Management
Speaking of IT resources, managing an LMS internally can be very demanding for an in-house IT department. LMS platforms are large and complex tools, which require extensive knowledge. They place specific demands on an IT department, often not familiar with such tools.
Integration with in-house tools such as your Human Resources Information System (HRIS), server maintenance, technical support, and cyber security are all issues that need to be addressed by IT. Even just making sure an LMS hosted on a private server is running and accessible on a range of devices can be taxing.
There needs to be an honest assessment of IT resources to allocate efficiently without compromising on the effectiveness of the LMS. An alternative solution would be looking into IT support from the LMS vendor, which can also include hosting.
5. Content Creation and Publishing
Organisations that prefer to create their own training materials will have to first learn how to use the course creation tools available, of which there are a great many to choose from. They also have to adopt eLearning techniques to take full advantage of the technology. Gone are the days of delivering a PowerPoint style online course. Learners are far more media savvy and have come to expect an engaging, interactive and often media-heavy experience. This includes incorporating images, videos, and audio, of course, but might also require animations, 3D material games and interactive element. With a compelling training programme, companies can see up to 18% boost in employee engagement so the benefits are clear, but the expertise required can be extensive.
Publishing content is the next step, and that requires familiarity with the LMS’ publishing tools. Using reference materials is not unusual in modern online learning environments, so third-party content integration with the LMS is another concern.
6. Measuring and Reporting Progress
The only way to know for sure if an LMS is making an impact is to make use of the data it provides. Modern LMS’s have built-in data tracking that records just about every action each user takes when interfacing with the software. From completing courses to passing tests, there should be plenty of invaluable information available to administrators, managers and instructors.
The challenge lies in analysing and interpreting the data to produce reports that give an accurate representation of the LMS’s effects. A feature-rich LMS can make this easier by presenting data in graphs and charts.
With reliable reports, an organisation can make informed decisions to focus on their strengths and improve on their weaknesses.
Every organisation has a different set of training goals that can’t all be addressed with a one-size-fits-all approach. That’s why it is essential for an LMS to have a suite of customisation options. With a degree of flexibility afforded the users, administrators and course creators can tailor the LMS’ design to fit the learners’ needs.
How much control users have over customisation depends on the LMS. An open-source LMS gives free rein to users to change everything from its aesthetic to its interface, as long as they have coding/programming knowledge. Users will likely have to work with customisation restrictions with a paid LMS.
Of course, you also need to bear in mind that your organisation brand is often updated and web design practices are always improving so you’ll be surprised how quickly an LMS theme can look dated and be in need of a refresh and it is often the case that this is not easy and the expertise no longer available to achieve this undertake this work for you.
8. End-User Support
Some LMS users will inevitably either run into problems or have questions about how certain features work. The inability to answer such queries can make the experience of using an LMS frustrating. If the LMS has yet to be fully adopted, there is a good chance it never will be if the users find it a hassle to deal with.
End-user support extends to providing training on how to use the more advanced features of an LMS. Organisations that choose to sell their training also need additional support requirements (e.g. payment handling).
The lack thereof limits the potential of an LMS to truly innovate learning for learners. Resources must then be devoted to creating and updating guides and having dedicated support staff who can offer an effective and efficient support experience to the learners. This might require dedicated staff to provide email, chat and phone support. Dedicated experts might need to be on hand to resolve complex learners issues and of course, as many LMS’ provide round the clock access, your support team may need to be on hand round the clock too.
9. Data Privacy Compliance
Since 25 May 2018, businesses in the EU that process data have been required to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — a law that protects an individuals personal data. Such data may be collected with the use of an LMS. Organisations that use an LMS must then be taking strict measures to achieve and maintain GDPR compliance.
To safeguard the privacy of each user, security processes must be set and the organisation must be educated on these processes. Having a data protection officer within the IT department or getting a consultant from a cybersecurity agency is the best way to disseminate such information. A course delivered through the LMS that covers GDPR compliance can also be effective supplemental teaching material.
10. Selling the Training Programme
While selling your own training programme has the added benefit of generating additional revenue for you, this comes with its own set of challenges. Organisations that don’t have an e-commerce presence won’t tend to have the infrastructure and financial systems in place to deal with the entire process—from creating an online catalogue to handling the influx of learners.
Without the right infrastructure, selling training will often result in failure to launch the programme or not having the budget to completely subsidise the training.
The Benefits of a Fully Managed LMS
Considering the number of common challenges that come with managing an LMS, it can feel overwhelming to even attempt doing it all internally. Fortunately, there are some expert LMS vendors out there offering management services along with their products.
A managed LMS offloads all the heavy-duty work of setting up an LMS and keeping it running to the LMS vendor (such as on-boarding, hosting and ongoing maintenance).
In terms of hosting, instead of relying on a limited private server or in-house office computers that may have outdated hardware and software, the high-tech infrastructure that LMS vendors have will be more dependable in delivering peak performance at virtually all times no matter the location. Their access to top-shelf data centres and cloud-computing platforms also ensure a greater level of security than a locally hosted server.
LMS vendors know their products better than their customers. They are better suited to optimally configuring their LMS with their customers’ demands in mind, and they can provide the exact answers for any troubleshooting concern. With their assistance, course organisation and deployment are made easier, especially when they already have pre-made content or partnerships with third-party training vendors.
If the difficulties of self-managing an LMS seem too much, opting for the convenience that a managed LMS brings is a sensible business decision.
If you’d like to see how a fully managed LMS can work for your organisation, book a demo with us today and find out what Wahoo Learning can do to support your training programme. Call us on 01460 279927 or drop us an email via our contact form.