aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

The Ideal LMS for Associations (and Probably All Training Depts Everywhere)

Posted by Ellen on February 17, 2010

In the last few weeks I’ve given more thought to LMSes and examined more LMS options than I  have in a long time, all while advocating for better choices — especially when it comes to numbers preceded by dollar signs — for small associations needing to  install a workable and affordable LMS.

The discussions — via blog comments (thanks, Peter, Susan, Todd, Rodolpho and others who added to the conversation!) and offline dialogues — resulting from my “LMS = Losing My Smile” post really got me thinking about what would be the ideal LMS for associations.

And after I jotted out the must-haves (!), I realized it would be an ideal LMS for any education or training department, not just within the not-for-profit community, but in the for-profit world as well.

As I see it, an ideal LMS for associations would include:

  •  course management features for online, instructor-led offerings
  • learning management features for asynchronous offerings, including object-by-object storage for reuse, controlled by learners to assemble their own “courses” using the learning objects as building blocks
  • Web conferencing functionality with the ability to record, archive, and save sessions for later access, searching, and attendee completion tracking (i.e., the admin would be able to see who actually attended live and stayed for the full session, and who viewed the entire recorded version)
  • simulations and gaming capacity for organizations wishing to incorporate them and “attach” them to any of the above options
  • training management system (yes!) to assign and track attendees of face-to-face (FTF) programs (still a large part of association education)
  • social learning features to allow learners to network with others who any and all programs, FTF and online (right now the course management systems seem to be the only ones that do this — I’d love to see a system that isn’t specific to one system but to the organization)
  • progress tracking, scoring, testing, and other recordkeeping across all programs (the system would have a sort of “hot-sync” with the AMS — so updated membership records for e-mail addresses, etc. would feed from AMS to the LMS and the scoring, certification, and other records from the LMS would feed to the AMS)


And of course, it would have to be easy to learn, maneuver within, and it would be affordable 🙂


As far as I know, no such system exists, though some vendors are combining various pieces like never before, which is a step in the right direction.


I did say it was ideal, right?

Or does someone know of such a system?

5 Responses to “The Ideal LMS for Associations (and Probably All Training Depts Everywhere)”

  1. Association of Virtual Worlds AVWSL on Facebook

  2. Ellen said

    Thanks for the link, James. But last time I checked out SL it still had a pretty high price tag. And learning curve, for learners and instructors…. Though some of the large not-for-profits are involved in Second Life, it’s virtual worlds are generally not mainstream enough yet for most associations and the cost remains prohibitive.

    Other ideas?

  3. I want to study your list of web hosting LMS service evaluations.

  4. Frank Celauro said

    These are the requirements we have been searching for for 2 years. We started to develop in house but the funding was cut. I would also add option of SaaS or self hosting. The main problem for us is ftf option which is still our bread and butter.

    • Ellen said

      Frank — Thanks for stopping by and adding your comment. Given that some (many? who knows?) LMS vendors grew out of the TMS (Training Management System) world of the 80s and 90s, it’s surprising that so few companies offer a “solution” that’s truly a “full solution.” The company I once worked for actually had such a solution — a very early version of it. It did everything from order books for learners and instructors to schedule training rooms to record online session registrations and all attendance tracking. These were huge, expensive systems for Big Three automotive industry conpanies and served hundreds of thousands of employees, trainers, and administrators. Highly complex.

      So I keep wondering: if such a huge thing could be developed and work successfully (and they did), why can’t the same thing be made available on a smaller scale? (My theory is that they believed so fervently that online learning would take over the world that they didn’t pursue such a system, and that there wouldn’t be enough small business investment to make it financially viable).

      You might want to check out my post “LMS Business Model for Associations” and contact Chad Gent. Chad and the team at LearnGauge “grew up” in the sort of system I mentioned and might have an option that would incorporate the FTF aspect. If not, and if they get enough requests, maybe they’ll consider creating just such a model.

      At least we can try, eh?!? 🙂

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