By Beth Hedger, Learning and Change Consultant

Does your organization need a learning management system (LMS)?

An LMS can be a great way to manage training across various organizations, from K-12 and higher education, to corporate training departments and e-learning companies.

To figure out if an LMS is the right tool, here are five questions to ask.

1. What are you trying to accomplish?

Before you can decide whether you really need an LMS, you need to make sure you understand your goals. Your organization may need to administer an employee training program, track compliance, manage employee performance, and prepare and deliver training for sale to individuals or other organizations. As part of the full needs assessment, you need to ensure that all stakeholders agree about which goals are most important

2. Is an LMS the right tool?

As your organizational goals crystalize, you may find that an LMS isn’t what’s needed.

An LMS is a powerful tool for delivering and tracking educational content and training programs. However, if a different set of tools would be a better fit, here are some alternatives.

  • Learning Content Management System: An LMS that also allows for the creation of training content.
  • Content Management System: A tool that allows creating, editing, and publishing content.
  • Performance Management System: Tracks employee performance and progress toward an organization’s strategic goals.
  • Talent Management System: An integrated platform that manages the employee experience, from recruitment through retention.

3. What kinds of training are you delivering and managing?

Suppose an LMS is the right option for your organization. In that case, you’ll need to define the types of training you’re offering, such as video, audio, or interactive content and whether it will be instructor-led, blended learning, or a flipped classroom.

Not all LMS’s handle all types of training, so use the types of training needed to guide the evaluation process to narrow your options.

4. What other systems or tools do you need to integrate with?

Spend some time with all stakeholders and end users, including IT, to list the different systems and processes the LMS needs to integrate with. You also need to know if other systems and tools are being deployed or selected concurrently with the LMS selection process. You may need to ensure specific security features, such as multifactor authentication or compliance with specific industry norms or regulations, or to communicate with student information systems (SIS) or HR information systems (HRIS). Knowing what is required here will help narrow the list of LMS’s to evaluate.

5. Do you need eCommerce?

Finally, if you are selling individual training or complete courses, built-in eCommerce functionality may be an important feature. There are some LMS’s that incorporate purchasing functions, but if selling is required, consider looking for systems that integrate with other eCommerce platforms or your own purchasing systems.

After you’ve addressed these five questions, you’ll know whether an LMS is the right tool for your training needs — and you’ll be prepared to evaluate your options effectively.