So, you are looking to buy an LMS. You might already have stumbled-upon Moodle, Dokeos, Blackboard, Saba or Sumtotal. You have definitely stumbled-upon eFront, otherwise you would not be reading this message 😉
The thing is that you have a vague idea of your needs and there are far too many solutions to choose from. How you can survive this nightmare with your sanity intact?
We have spoken with many potential customers over time and generally we have a good grasp of what people need. And usually people want the most their money can buy; which makes the free (open-source) solutions so darn attractive.
However, people are usually after a solution and not a technology or price tag. Often people cannot articulate their actual needs; and it is easier to support a decision if you buy something premium (say IBM) or something free (say MOODLE). At the end of the day though you want to solve a problem and if you have bought something that does not fit your organization and needs then you are left with the initial problem (and a bad experience). Even if your selection “somewhat” fits your organization then you again run the risk of suboptimal adoption or usage; which means a solution with a Return-On-Investment around zero.
So, how do you choose?
Bloggers and leaders from the eLearning industry have done their best to provide an answer to that question from different perspectives. I include here a few of the blog posts I found most interesting:
One week to select an LMS – No way:
Learning Management Systems (LMS) Gotchas: http://elearningtech.blogspot.com/2007/09/learning-management-systems-lms-gotchas.html
Five things not to do while selecting an LMS:
Selecting an LMS:
If I had to come with a single word of advice, one that is rooted more on personal beliefs than hard science, I would suggest that potential buyers/adopters avoid selecting based on bells and whistles but based on core needs. Especially if you are buying your first LMS it is certain you will need to deal with many other additional issues on top of it (like content, convincing people to use the system etc). Don’t over-emphasize the LMS selection at the expense of all other decisions.
Selecting based on core needs is easier said than done. Your core needs should be absolutely clear. Otherwise, step back and reconsider your decision altogether. In several cases, additional functionality may be the reason NOT to choose an LMS rather than the other way around. More functionality comes, unavoidably, with additional complexity.
Let your needs evolve organically rather than enforce everything at once within your organization. Start with an easy-to-use LMS (intuitive for people, easy to maintain, visually appealing etc) and whenever your needs exceeds its capabilities check for an advanced version of it or something better altogether. But don’t take two steps at a time. Otherwise you run the risk of hitting the wall, and ruining an otherwise fruitful journey.
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