If you’re in the beginning stages of selecting a learning management system (LMS) for your association, you might be feeling overwhelmed by all the choices and information from various vendors. If you’re not prepared to ask the right questions and communicate your needs, the process can feel even more intimidating.
To help you make the most of your time, and land at the best solution for your association, here are the “Do’s and Don’ts” for LMS demos:
• Make the most of your time. Most LMS demos are scheduled for 1 hour. This may sound like plenty of time, but after introductions and time reserved for questions, it doesn’t leave much time for discussion. If you and the vendor can spare an additional half an hour or more, great! If not, you’ll need to prioritize the features and functionality you want to see.
• Create scenarios to help guide the demo. First, think about your typical learner and create a scenario in which the learner: enters the LMS for the first time, finds a course, registers, completes the course, takes an assessment, and earns their certificate of completion. Before your demo, provide your LMS vendor with this scenario (and any others you and your team come up with) and ask them to demonstrate these steps within the system.
It’s also a good idea to create scenarios for your LMS administrator, course instructors, or anyone else who may be a user of the system. Again, think of the objectives they would have and ask the LMS provider to demonstrate how the user would move about the system, meeting those objectives.
• Understand the difference between a WANT and a NEED. It is very easy to start looking at features and begin to forget what’s a “need” for your organization and what’s “nice to have.” While demo-ing potential systems you might be shown flashy features and think, “Wow! That’s cool! I wonder if X, Y, Z system has that too?” While it doesn’t hurt to ask, don’t get “shinny object syndrome” and forget what is really important for your learning environment. Getting caught up in all the bells and whistles can distract you from your real needs and cause scope creep. If you see something you like, but hadn’t originally included it in your needs assessment, take a moment to consider how this feature would enhance your learning environment and decide whether it is truly a need or if it should remain a “nice to have.”
• Ask plenty of questions and ensure the vendor understands your needs. A dirty little secret in the LMS space is: vendors often check off boxes on an RFP or requirements document indicating their system has the functionality or can meet the need, even when it’s not necessarily true or not a standard feature. Don’t take their word for it. Ask to see the feature or functionality in action during your demo. Also, don’t be afraid to speak up during the demo if something is not clear or you think the vendor misunderstood your request; this may be the only time you see the system before making your selection.
• Try to write down every feature that is available in every system you see. Document only what’s important to you. Most vendors can provide you with literature outlining the system’s features and functionality. So, give your hand a break and focus on getting your questions answered.
• Be afraid to go back to a vendor for clarification or to review of some of the features that are a NEED to have.
• Make the mistake of thinking you’re limited to just 1 hour or 1 demo. Sometimes the best plan is to start off with a “quick,” high-level system tour with just you and the vendor. Then, schedule additional demos for various stakeholders in the project, such as IT, membership services and marketing, or the board of directors.
• Forget to ask about support. Be sure to think about how much bandwidth you will require and what your technical specifications are. Make sure you understand what level of support is available to you and how you would go about contacting the support staff should you run into any issues.
I hope this short guide helps put your mind at ease a bit and gives you a good head start in your LMS selection process. I would be interested to hear if you have any “Do’s or Don’ts” you would add to the list and what advice you would give someone going through this process for the first time. Be sure to leave me a comment below and happy hunting!
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