Today’s workplace is a fast-changing environment. We can be forgiven for falling out of step with the latest innovations in LMS/LXP technology, or with what our users need, want, and expect. Add in changing business drivers and considerations around governance and the task of keeping our learners continuously engaged can be really tough. There can be many reasons why a learning management system’s best features aren’t represented in its current configuration.
Whatever challenges your LMS faces, this article invites you to conduct a review of your platform’s underused features, with the aim of revealing fresh ways to achieve the objectives on your company’s wishlist. It looks at common feature sets among today’s learning management systems and picks out five opportunities for transformation and improvement you may have overlooked. You’ll consider how your users move around your system, how quickly they’re able to find what they need, insights into the language you use, and the vital role your vendor can play.
But let’s get started with what it’s like to sign in to your LMS for the first time (or for the first time in a while).
5 LMS Features To Explore Before Buying A New One
1. Video Onboarding
Does your data indicate that you’re losing learners before they’ve even started? If so, embedding some simple onboarding into your LMS can be a great intervention, especially if you need a quick win to kickstart your project.
Videos aren’t just for course content. Experiment with using a screencasting tool to create a simple, quick start tour of your platform. Brevity is key; here, aim to present the smallest amount of information your users need to orientate themselves before jumping into what they’re there to do. A tour is also ideal for highlighting anything within your platform that’s important for your users to know, but a little less intuitive to navigate. Let this be a test: If a basic tour of your LMS is running longer than a few minutes, or if it’s uncovering an excess of things that need to be explained, this could be a sign that your platform needs a wider redesign. (Sorry, there’ll be other quick wins!)
If this article convinces you of one thing, let it be that a well-configured user dashboard can be everybody’s best friend. Often referred to as “signposting,” this ability to enhance and personalize what your learners see each time they land inside your LMS is likely to be a feature within your platform’s functionality.
Step one to successful signposting is to make sure you know what your learners are seeing. When was the last time you entered your LMS as a user, and not an admin? For this task, it’s imperative that you walk through the platform in your users’ shoes. Don’t leave anything to assumption!
Once in, you’ll want to make sure your learners can see (or at least, can quickly access) the big picture of what they need to complete overall. Also, where are they in terms of achieving this overarching goal? Progress bars are pretty much unrivaled for communicating this information at a glance. Used well, they can motivate your learners within moments of signing into your platform. So, consider the progress bar your second best friend!
Next, what are the individual elements your learners have already completed, and what’s available for them to tackle next? This information, above all else, needs to be highly visible. Unlike a captive audience of face-to-face course delegates, digital learners are likely to have a limited, inconsistent amount of time. Whether it’s five minutes or half an hour, they should be able to sign in to your platform and gauge where that time is best spent. Ideally, they won’t be obligated to work their way through a pathway sequentially. Combine this flexibility with adaptive quizzes (to test their existing knowledge before directing them toward the most relevant content for them) and you’ll be helping your learners to manage their time. They might reward you with the completion rates of your dreams.
AI-powered LXP not in your immediate future? Did you know that there’s a style of functionality built into those pricier solutions that you can probably tap into today?
Tags, meta tags, categories, subcategories, whatever your LMS calls it, this functionality harnesses some of the best potentials for transforming your content by making it highly searchable. When you invest your time in utilizing this feature, you’re maximizing your learners’ ability to surface the information they need, when they need it. Suddenly, you’re aligning your learners’ experience with that of using a search engine. More crucially, you’re taking an important step toward enabling your users to learn in the flow of work.
Tagging and categorizing legacy content manually can take a bit of time, so factor this into your planning. Also, look for nifty tools that can do some of the heavy lifting for you. For example, try pasting your content into a free word cloud generator. (Bingo! A big part of your work is done.)
4. Vendor Support
No one understands the competitiveness of the LMS and LXP market like the software vendors themselves. The result? The very best vendors will work as hard to retain your custom as they did to win it. They’ll also be suitably obsessed with knowing what your LMS can do, and what you need it to do next.
Add in your vendor’s technical know-how and this is definitely someone you want on your team. If no one’s on first-name terms with your account manager, you’re likely to be squandering one of your platform’s most precious resources.
Even the most proactive and available account manager needs someone to engage with. When reaching out to make their quarterly call, is your vendor met by a pool of people who all contribute toward the LMS but take no ownership over it? This is actually a common experience for vendors and it’s why it’s vital to empower someone internally to pick up the mantle of LMS owner and run with it.
Appoint someone who can turn this passive partnership into a collaborative relationship. If getting to know your vendor turns out to be a bit of a letdown, this could be your cue to start shopping around. If your vendor’s customer service is fantastic, don’t stop there. Drill down into their roadmap. Hold them accountable for delivering the solution you need, both now and in the future.
5. What’s In A Name?
Every LMS needs a system for naming and organizing its component parts. When it’s fresh, out of the box, your platform has a built-in taxonomy that is likely to be fairly generic (“program,” “course,” “module,” “lesson”). In many cases, this terminology is nothing more than a group of factory settings that you’re only tied to if you want to be. If the jargon doesn’t jive with your users, your content, or your culture, consider switching it up with something that does.
By consciously choosing the language you use to talk about your LMS, you can influence the way your learners connect with it, or whether they connect with it at all. Think about some of the vocabulary inside your platform right now. Is it generic (bland)? Perhaps it’s quirky (faddish). Has it been borrowed directly from academia? If so, and if you’re not an academic establishment, how do your users feel about having their memories of the school, classroom, or university lecture hall triggered?
Positive connotations are good; perspiration is bad! A set of words that is appealing and relatable to a team of research scientists can be alienating and off-putting for a set of seasonal hospitality workers. As a safe place to start, think about the apps your learners open and engage with on a regular basis. What is the language of their day-to-day digital environment, and how can you leverage that to elevate their learning experience? For example, can a topic or a category become a “channel?” How about renaming a program as a “playlist?” What would it take to restyle an instructor-led session as a “masterclass?” Be as imaginative and original as your audience can handle.
A step further is to consider the name you use to refer to your LMS overall. In environments that are already acronym-heavy, the temptation to have everyone refer to your platform as “the LMS” can be strong. But this isn’t the only danger. Cultural issues within a company can arise from a range of sources. Organizational attitudes toward career development are no exception. Over time, the very name of an LMS can become synonymous with a collective apathy toward your company’s perceived learning provision. While a new name for your system can’t fix deep-rooted problems, if you’re about to implement a step-change in your organization’s L&D offer, this could be a fantastic opportunity to rebrand and reinvigorate your existing platform. Present it as a new product launch. Build a marketing and activation strategy around it. Make it an event!
That’s it! Five conversation starters to take back to your team. And if a procurement process can’t be avoided (this time) you may just find yourselves better-informed about what you truly need out of a shiny, new platform.