Questions to ask before switching to a new LMS

Pushing to change your LMS? Look before you leap. Here’s an easy guide.

Today, organizations frequently manage their corporate training and compliance programs through a learning management system (LMS). But as LMS technology grows, many early adopters are growing unhappy with the challenges their legacy systems present.

A cloud-based LMS allows workers to access elearning on the device of their choice, like desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone

Older systems are often difficult to use and offer a poor user experience, inability to integrate with multiple systems, inadequate compliance tracking and reporting, few mobile features and little customer support. If you’re thinking of changing your LMS, carry out some due diligence – take time to review the best way to meet your learning strategy and drive business impact before comparing options. For companies in highly regulated industries, the right LMS can also be the difference between compliance and audit failure.

Implementing a new LMS can be a major challenge, but good planning will keep your project focused, on time, and within budget – and you’ll improve your corporate training program substantially.

Here are some questions you may encounter as you shop around for a new LMS:

How do I start to plan a new LMS?

Loose timelines lead to missed milestones. Write down realistic expectations of your new system, budget, timelines and checkpoints. A lack of written plans can lead to frustration and cost you time and money.

For more on LMS implementation, don’t miss our blog ‘8 best practices for a successful LMS implementation’.

Develop a business case for investing in a learning management system

An LMS implementation is most successful when it is aligned with the organization’s strategy. Your chosen LMS should contribute to the long-term success of the organization, not just address short-term needs. To ensure strategic alignment you should develop a business case for investing in a learning management system:

  • Why are we buying an LMS at this time?
  • How will the chosen LMS deliver ROI?
  • What are the potential human and/or financial consequences of not acquiring an LMS at this time?

If you can’t answer these questions then you need to revisit your business case.

Have we defined the business requirements?

Focus on your organization’s needs. The main reason that organizations upgrade to a new LMS is to gain a more modern user interface (UI), so this will likely be first on your list. If your interface is easy to use and attractive, your learners will be much more likely to engage with your learning. Research by Brandon Hall Group has found that 88% of organizations looking to switch their LMS were doing so to improve the user experience (UX).

What features should my new LMS include?

1. Mobile
With research showing that the vast majority of Americans own cellphones, mobile learning will have a huge impact on the success of your learning program. A third of the global workforce is already mobile, so highly effective solutions, such as the ones NetDimensions offers, should come with comprehensive mobile learning.

Mobile also gives learners the ability to take courses offline or conduct on-the-job assessments with a mobile device of their choice, another huge advantage of platforms with mobile options.

A commuter accessing an elearning course on her mobile phone

2. Social learning and informal learning
Social features such as forums are important for an LMS. It’s a place where managers and employees can share ideas and contribute to the development of best practices. Make sure you can easily embed Widgets (for example internal forums, Twitter feeds and YouTube videos) into your homepage so they are easily accessible for all users.

3. Compliance/auditing
Research by Brandon Hall Group has found that 27.7% of organizations are still managing compliance manually and 37.3% say the current technology systems are inadequate for compliance tracking. A robust LMS will help you manage compliance training effectively.

4. Reporting
Internal and external reporting is an essential part of the learning and compliance function. Proactive reporting with dashboard and analytics can help you mitigate risks. Your LMS should provide real-time reporting on regulated training and competencies and certifications.

5. Blended learning
Blended learning, traditionally seen as a mix of face-to-face training and online learning, is a widely used and successful way of delivering engaging elearning. But a blend can be so much more than that – adding a variety of media types to learning programs (like video, interactive PDFs, audio, infographics, podcasts etc) is also considered blended learning. If your LMS doesn’t support blended programs, you might be missing out on a variety of technology-enabled ways to engage learners.

6. Learning paths
When designing learning programs, it’s easy to forget that learners don’t have the bigger picture at their fingertips; only L&D does. Do you learners know what courses needed to be completed in what order? And when they need to be done by? Your LMS should clearly lay out what employees need to accomplish. This makes it easy for L&D to identify gaps in learning and make the recommendations.

Should I consider switching to an on-premise or cloud-based system?

While traditional systems can be expensive, complicated to use or provide learners with outdated information, a cloud-based system can eliminate those issues. Being cloud-based provides a safe and secure learning environment.

How do I avoid an LMS system that exists in a silo?

The long-term success of any LMS implementation isn’t just about delivering great learning material; it’s also about integrating technology into the LMS.

Buyers should insist on a new LMS that is able to support integrations, such as your CRM, HRIS system and an analytics platform. A system that allows for multiple out-of-the-box integrations can eliminate the need for manual administrative work and provide better data insights. It should also enable easy and effective scalability: for example, the NetDimensions Talent Suite currently serves 100,000 users in a single setting.

In terms of scalability, it’s a good idea to choose an LMS that ‘grows with you’. For example, a lot of NetDimensions Talent Suite clients start out using just a fraction of the functions and then go on to enable additional functionality as users become more comfortable with the system and managers want more options.

Does your LMS support multiple deployment and licence models?

Is your LMS vendor flexible enough to consider the ever-evolving needs of your business? This is a question worth asking anyone who provides LMS services. It’s no secret that the pace of business is moving at a faster rate, which means today’s learning needs will be vastly different from what’s happening in two or three years’ time. Future-proofing your training early on can potentially save millions but how can this be achieved? A flexible vendor should support all commercial models. NetDimensions supports various license models like extended enterprise, On Premise, Secure SaaS, full licenses and other models.

If you enjoyed this blog, you might also be interested in our “8 Best Practices for a Successful LMS Implementation” brief. Download it now.

If you’d like to speak to a NetDimensions LMS expert about the challenges your organization is facing, get in touch here.

 

 

LMS best practice: enhanced user experience and analytics capabilities

This post is the second in a 2-part blog series that looks at some of the ways that L&D managers can improve the learning technology in their organizations, with a specific focus on user experience and analytics. To read part 1, click here.
 

Learning Management Systems create poor user experience

According to a study conducted by the Brandon Hall Group, 50.6% of organizations say poor user experience is a significant barrier to satisfaction with learning technology. It’s important for a company to have an easy-to-use, modern-looking system.

Employees today are both oversaturated with information and short on time. They need to be able to quickly access the right learning tools and information.

According to learning analyst, Talented Learning, it is easier for LMS users to tolerate weaker user experience when training is mandatory, such as regulatory compliance training, but when the LMS is used for extended enterprise, such as dealership network training, the users must be persuaded to complete training regularly. In this case the user experience is key.

Key best practices for improved user experience

  • The User Interface (UI) has to be intuitive to reduce the number of clicks required to complete a task.
  • Applications have to be user-friendly and not built for experienced users only.
  • Make sure administrators, as well as selected users, can modify the layout of their homepage, edit menus and shortcuts and easily create new skins. This is a matter of configuration and not customization.
  • Social features such as forums are important for an LMS. It’s a place where managers and employees can share ideas and contribute to the development of best practices. Make sure you can easily embed Widgets (for example internal forums, Twitter feeds and YouTube videos) into your homepage so they are easily accessible for users.
  • Understand your vendor experience with learning portals and how well they integrate with the LMS.
  • Just-in-time learning is vital to the success of a learning program. Learning should be accessed on mobile device whenever users need it. That is why the ability to download content to a mobile device for playback even when offline is important.
  • Upgrade your LMS frequently – LMS vendors invest significant development resources into making sure that each successive version provides even better usability. This should also take into account user feedback, to give the best learning and performance management experience on any type of device.

 

Analytics capabilities

Measuring the business impact of learning using analytics tool is becoming increasingly important for the L&D function. 39.7% of organizations say poor analytics capabilities is a significant barrier to satisfaction with learning technology.

 

Key best practices for enhanced learning analytics

  • Focus on data that matters to your organization. Big data expert and author Bernard Marr points out in an article on Forbes: “Why go to all the time and trouble collecting data that you won’t or can’t use to deliver business insights? You must focus on things that matter the most otherwise you’ll drown in data… This is why it’s so important to start with the right questions.”
  • Start your journey with analytics now. It might take years to gather enough data before it will actually be relevant for the organization.
  • If you have already started your journey, make sure your analytics engine integrates multiple data sources. Your engine should correlate learning to other data coming from the rest of the business.
  • Most organizations don’t yet have a data analyst dedicated to learning. Make sure you have flexibility to create your own reports and easily create dashboards and charts without the need to learn complex tools.

 

Did you enjoy this blog? Then you might also be interested in our “8 Best Practices for a Successful LMS Implementation” brief. Download it now. If you’d like to speak to a NetDimensions LMS consultant about the challenges your organization is facing, get in touch here.
 

LMS best practice: top tips to integrate with multiple systems

In today’s fast-paced global environment, companies are regularly challenged to adopt and respond to new business and compliance requirements, quicker than before. The learning technology landscape is evolving quickly and the role of the Learning Management System (LMS) is changing too. Most organizations who invest in learning technology and e-learning are using an LMS – more than 700 learning management system vendors compete in the marketplace. In this context, it can be overwhelming for organizations to find the learning solutions that best fit their needs.

In this two-part post, we will discuss why Learning & Development (L&D) managers are not satisfied with their learning technology (and more specifically with their LMS). We will also provide some best practices on what you should consider when you select an LMS.

LMS implementation can be like solving a puzzle

According to the Brandon Hall Group’s Learning Technology 2017 study as much as 23% of organizations indicated that they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their LMS. The dissatisfaction level is higher than with any other learning technologies.

The Brandon Hall Group has identified three main barriers to satisfaction with learning technology:

  1. 52.2% of organizations say the inability to integrate with multiple systems is a significant barrier to satisfaction with learning technology.
  2. 50.6% of organizations say poor user experience is a significant barrier.
  3. 39.7% of organizations say poor analytics capabilities is a significant barrier.

 

Inability to integrate with multiple systems

Most organizations want to have technology providers that can help them connect their LMS with multiple systems. According to the Brandon Hall Group’s “Focus on Integration 2017” study, 76.7% of surveyed organizations say that integration capabilities are essential or critical to their business processes.

So how important is it to integrate your LMS with the following systems?

*Brandon Hall Group’s “Focus on Integration 2017” study

Despite being seen as important or even critical by most organizations, there is not a lot of integration actually occurring. The platform most commonly integrated with the LMS is the Human Resource Information System (HRIS), and even then, only 37% of organizations say this integration exists.

Best practice ways to integrate your LMS

Pay attention to the following recommendations to make sure your LMS integrates with the systems that are critical to your business.

Key best practices for improving LMS integration

  • Involve your IT department early in the process. The learning function needs to work hand in hand with the IT function when it comes to systems integration.
  • Identify current and future system integration requirements. If you are replacing a system, look at the integrations you currently have to understand if they are all necessary. You should make sure your LMS integrates with the right systems.
  • Define how often shared items need to be updated and establish whether your systems need to communicate in real-time.
  • Define your target: what do you want to achieve with this integration? What is the business goal?
  • Prioritize and document your requirements: What is deemed essential to have in order to support your business and what connections are simply “nice to have”?
  • Avoid customizations when possible. If you decide to customize your LMS because it’s critical to your business, make sure your vendor will support these customizations when the time comes to upgrade your system.
  • Understand your vendor’s experience with integrations. Make sure your vendor can integrate with any third-party systems via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). For companies that operate in a highly regulated environment, it might also be important that the LMS integrates with non-typical HR systems. For instance, it might be critical for your LMS to integrate with your security or access control system, as was the case with NetDimensions client CERN, so only those who completed certain certifications can access certain areas of the building. Make sure your vendor has the flexibility and the API library to help you achieve this.

We hope you enjoyed part 1 of this blog series which outlines some of the different ways that L&D managers can improve their learning technology. Part 2 can be found here. You might also be interested in our “8 Best Practices for a Successful LMS Implementation” brief. Download it now.

If you’d like to speak to a NetDimensions LMS expert about the challenges your organization is facing, get in touch here.

 

Why choose a learning portal?

This blog is based on a learning portal seminar hosted by Peter Dobinson, Solutions Architect at NetDimensions’ partner company LEO, at the NextSteps 2017 conference in London.

Learning portals can be customized to deliver tailored e-learning solutions on all devices, including smartphones and tablets

While a Learning Management System (LMS) provides a wealth of diverse information for your learners, portals act as a neat destination on more focused areas. As well as being gateways to further learning, portals are popular with NetDimensions’ clients because of their capacity to provide everything from guidance about new working processes to insights into user engagement.

Why do organizations like learning portals?

There are a lot of reasons why companies find learning portals highly effective. You can target a specific audience – potentially employees, customers or anyone who wants to access your learning programmes – and focus on a precise business impact area or goal, such as sales learning, with a holistic solution.

This is primarily what makes a portal different from an LMS: rather than providing a single solution to people across departments, languages and countries, a portal offers excellent learning opportunities to a subset of people with particular business requirements.

You can still utilize all of the features of your existing LMS, but you can tailor the learner experience for the content you’re presenting. You can offer a highly customized and relevant experience through the knowledge and activities you choose to present to your users. This makes a portal ideal if any of your users have ever had difficulty finding the information they want within your LMS, or if they only need to complete a small portion of your learning library in a short period of time.

How does a learning portal work?

A custom portal has functionality which allows you to build and update the specific journey and information being provided. The portal also receives and launches content from your LMS, and it can link to your social tools, allowing your audiences to further their learning through tools such as discussion forums, real-time chat and collaborative learning experiences.

There are two other important elements to portals: application programming interfaces (APIs) which can be used to link your systems and allow them to communicate with each other, and normally some form of Single Sign On (SSO), allowing your learners to log into the portal and access all of the content from your systems with a seamless login experience from a customer portal, or some other tool they already log into.

This can be achieved on a large scale. A great example of this is LEO’s work with one of the largest food and beverage manufacturers in the world. With over 80,000 employees globally, some of whom are external, the organization operates various portals for colleges of excellence covering topics like sales, marketing and supply chain fundamentals. The organization opted for a learner portal rather than an LMS because they wanted a small subset of learning material within a customized learner experience (LX).

These portals offer bespoke learner experiences and content to different groups within the business – they each have a customized user interface, learner experiences and content. They use gamification to drive people to the platform, they are localized for the different markets around the world, and are built to be fully responsive to allow access from a 3G connection. Thousands of users can access knowledge specific to their role through these custom portals, and learning leaders can also track their progress, helping to measure the business impact of learning.

Another learning portal example is NetDimensions work with Digicel, who were looking for a customized learning solution. About 1,000 young millennials work for Digicel, a mobile phone manufacturer in the Caribbean. NetDimensions’ success with this group was down to an attractive, easy-to-use learning portal accessed through an automatic enrolment after they were given a code. Dynamic videos and other training ploys were made accessible only to users who visited the portal.

A group of L&D leaders discussing the implementation of learning portals

How should your learning portal evolve?

Whether you want to change your portal’s resources or update its information, provided that you portal has a content management system (CMS) behind the scenes, moving elements around and adding new content won’t take too much of your time and doesn’t require any coding. Reporting and analytics allow you to take an agile approach and respond to the needs of your learners.

When NetDimensions worked with dental innovation company 3Shape, for example, the organization’s portal leaders tailored aspects of their content after discovering that dental assistants, rather than just dentists, were among the portal users carrying out scanning.

With a learning portal, you can be confident that a solution which meets your needs now can be easily adapted in the years ahead to enhance the user journey and maximize the business impact of learning. This versatility is another key benefit of using a portal.

If you enjoyed this blog, then you might also be interested in reading about transforming the learner’s experience through learning portals. To speak to a NetDimensions consultant about our learning portals and LMS solutions, get in touch here.

Contributor
Peter Dobinson is a Solutions Architect at LEO
Peter Dobinson has had over 10 years’ experience in designing, building and managing online products. He previously worked for Philips, Specsavers, Electronic Arts and the NHS. At NetDimensions’ partner company LEO, he is responsible for some of our largest learning architectures, working as both Solutions Architect and Technical Lead. He is an expert in learning management systems, data-driven design, product management, data analytics and system integrations.

More Artificial Intelligence capability has been added to the NetDimensions Talent Suite

The recently released version 13.1 of the NetDimensions Talent Suite includes a number of exciting new features, such as bolstered Artificial Intelligence (AI) capability.

Artificial Intelligence, or machine intelligence, is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior”. Artificial Intelligence is widely tipped to revolutionize the Learning & Development (L&D) industry with its ability to use technology to make automated, intelligent choices on an ongoing basis.

Artificial Intelligence was first introduced to the NetDimensions Talent Suite with the introduction of Dynamic Load Analysis in version 12 in July 2016.

The NetDimensions Talent Suite version 13.1 sees new, enhanced AI functionality with the addition of the AI Assistant Recommendations feature.

AI Assistant Recommendations analyzes a user’s current training history and then suggests other courses that may be of interest based on their training. See below a sample screen of the new AI feature:

A screenshot of the new Artificial Intelligence feature, AI Assistant Recommendations, which has been added to NetDimensions Talent Suite 13.1

How to use AI Assistant Recommendations

There are several options available to refine and customize the recommendations, which are ‘star rated’ to indicate relevance.

The recommendation focus has three options available to help the AI functionality deliver the most relevant options.

  • Personal Preferences – the recommendations are based on self-enrolled courses in the learner’s training history.
  • Job Related Suggestions – the recommendations are based on courses in the learner’s history that were assigned (such as group enroll or auto-enroll).
  • Surprise Me – this recommendation option is based on all courses in the learner’s history. Since each course can have multiple associated courses, the AI assistant will use a probability function to vary the returned output, instead of simply ranking the recommended courses and returning the highest ranked courses (which is what happens with the first two options above). This means that the list of recommended courses can vary each time a ‘Surprise Me’ request is made.

These features are combined with options to consider all courses in a user’s training history, only the last 30 days’ history, or the option to focus on one particular course.

Artificial Intelligence Learning

The AI algorithm: what you need to know

The process, which runs in the background, is completed once a week, and implements a ‘Collaborative Filter’ algorithm similar to that used by online video library services, such as Amazon and Netflix, but tweaked for training relationships. It has a few details worth noting:

  • To deliver the most relevant and up-to-date results, only the past 18 months of training data are analysed.
  • The algorithm works at an impressive pace – a typical analysis of a large database containing 5 million rows can be done in 5 minutes versus 10 hours. To do this efficiently, it does the calculations in memory.

NetDimensions’ award-winning talent management solutions can help your organization take the next great step in the evolution of training technology. Contact us today to learn more about Artificial Intelligence in the NetDimensions Talent Suite 13.1.