If you’re starting with decisions about your learning management system before working through a full strategic planning process, don’t expect to end up with a system that does what you need. Do expect that you could be wasting valuable time and much — probably all — of the money you spend on a system by moving forward too soon.
If you haven’t developed a strategy for your learning programs (including your elearning offerings), no resource — even if it’s free — will help you make the right decision.
So I offer this recommendation to those of you who:
- have already planned your elearning strategy
- know how it fits into your overall education plan
- have a clear idea of the trail ahead of you regarding certification or licensure programs (no matter how far in the future they might be)
- understand the differences between an LMS and an LCMS and know which system is your best choice
- have decided whether you will be developing any elearning programs in-house (this includes tapping the talents of your volunteers) rather than hiring a vendor company for development
- know your technological environment for hosting (or not) these sorts of systems
- have identified most if not all of the features you’re seeking in an LMS or LCMS
Not you? Maybe you’ll benefit from working through the *alearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning* book first (click the Buy Now button or here for more information), so bookmark this post for later.
One of the most common questions I hear is, “Where do we send our RFP? Now that we know what we’re looking for, how do we find the companies that can provide it?”
Brandon Hall Research (www.brandon-hall.com) is making three valuable reports available free — I’d post them here, but they have asked that the reports not be duplicated, so you’ll need to download them from BH directly.
Before you do that, here’s what’s available (to save you some time):
Learning Technology Products 2009: Learning Management Systems includes descriptions of more than 100 LMSs. They’re ordered alphabetically by company name and include products from all over the world, so be prepared to filter the options in some way to make the listing more accessible (for example, perhaps you’d prefer to work only with a company based in the US). Descriptions include basic information about the company and the product so you can determine whether it might fit your key requirements.
Learning Technology Products 2009: Learning Content Management Systems provides basic data on each company and descriptions of the features of more than 40 LCMSs. Note that these are not rapid prototyping or rapid development products, but systems that enable complex development and deployment of large elearning curricula. Unless you’re in a large association or non-profit and plan an extensive online learning library which you will develop in-house, this is not likely a resource you’ll need.
Learning Technology Products 2009: Authoring Tools is the go-to resource if you’ve wondered if you have more choices than simply deciding between Articulate and Captivate (you do, many more, and often for lower cost).
A few caveats:
- No pricing is included; you’ll need to find that information out on your own.
- Some descriptions aren’t very complete; take a look at the Web sites provided for more information on products that strike your fancy.
- And some companies weighted their descriptions with not-so-subtle sales-speak: “develop highly engaging experiences” … “quickly develop”… “anyone can easily develop…” We learned a long time ago to be cautious of such claims, so read analytically, not subjectively — one person’s easy hike is another person’s Everest!