5 common mistakes to avoid when choosing an LMS

Hosting training content online can bring huge benefits to your business, but be sure to avoid wasting time and money by getting your LMS right the first time.

A learning management system, or LMS, is a platform that allows you to deliver training courses online. This means you can upscale your business very easily, training students across the world without geographical constraints and managing large student numbers with a fully automated workload. Online training also eliminates the costs associated with training face-to-face, like hiring instructors and venues. Your learners can access their courses flexibly to fit around their different schedules.

Choosing an LMS to host your training courses can be a tricky matter however. Too often, instructors invest in platforms that limit what they can offer and will quickly lag behind their business. Soon, they end up having to start all over again with a new platform.

To help you avoid this scenario, consider these five common mistakes that instructors make in the process of launching their online courses.

1. Being tied down to an inflexible platform

It’s fairly easy to find an off-the-shelf platform that provides basic LMS functionality, but what you can do with them is very limited. They are built for the mass market, so they won’t be geared up for any kind of specialised functions you might want to offer. Frustratingly, these systems are also completely closed which means you can’t add your own functionality into them.

This kind of LMS ultimately leads to a dead end. Launching into the wrong LMS will always lead to a headache in the future, and a heavy bill. If you can’t adapt or develop the platform to meet your requirements, you will end up having to re-start your system from scratch. This is a worst-case scenario, but a very common one.

Chances are, you already have a good idea of what you want to offer your learners and with a restrictive platform you might be forced to abandon your most exciting goals. Not only does this approach lead to underwhelming results, it also takes away everything that separates you from your competitors.

Instead of scaling your ideas down to fit your LMS, choose a platform that will adapt around your ideas. The flexibility of an open or completely custom build LMS allows you to create multi-featured, unique and successful courses. You’ll also have the freedom to expand and develop your platform to keep up with your business both in the long and short term, making it truly future-proof.

Some original ideas we’ve developed for our clients in a more flexible LMS include:

  • Tutor feedback to motivate students and increase completion rates
  • Community driven support to allow students to help one another, reducing the workload of your tutors
  • An integrated video calling system to up-sell private tutoring

These are just a few ideas, but the opportunities are endless; with the right LMS, you can shape the system around the unique needs of both your business and your students.

2. Limiting your course to one-size-fits-all

Another common trap when choosing an LMS is getting boxed into delivering a one-size-fits-all learning experience, like a bad teacher in a busy classroom. As above, most of the out-of-the-box platforms that are available lack the functionality to adapt to individual learners.

An LMS with adaptive learning delivers content in a way that a student finds most engaging. For example, some students learn by doing, so we deliver more interactive material or use blended learning. For more visual learners, a video-based course might be more effective.

A course that adapts to individual learning styles and abilities is much more engaging for students. This will improve both student satisfaction and completion rate.

Student satisfaction and completion rate are the two most important metrics to look out for. When they are high, this not only indicates the quality of your product but it also makes it much more likely that that your students will refer you to their friends. This is the most effective kind of marketing, and it’s free for you.

3. Missing out on the opportunity to up-sell training

Delivering your training via an online course opens up your service to a much wider user base and it can sell very well as a standalone product. Everything is automated, from the teaching and the grading all the way through to the certificate delivery. Many of these new users might be so engaged by what you’re providing, however, that they would be interested in upgrading to face-to-face or one-on-one teaching time. This could increase revenue for you and your business, and help you to deliver a more satisfying and in-depth course for your students.

For providers who offer training both online and face-to-face, it is a common mistake to ignore the possible crossover here. If you neglect the opportunity to up-sell your course, online students with the potential to become more involved may not even consider it as an option.

One approach to take is offering more comprehensive subscriptions that allow students to book private video-calling sessions with your tutors. Tutors mark their availability for private tutoring, and students can book and pay for a block of time.

You could also up-sell module feedback, for example offering meaningful and personal feedback on assignments as part of a course upgrade.

Having an automated process in place to allow higher value students to identify themselves, and step them up the value ladder is an incredibly powerful business tool. Existing learning management systems don’t allow this, so it can give you a real competitive edge.

4. Hosting your training on an online course marketplace

Hosting through an online course marketplace like Udemy is a possible route, but it has major disadvantages.

Online marketplaces usually syphon off most of your revenue. Udemy, for example, take 50% of your sales. If a student buys the course through the Udemy app on iPhone or Android, then Apple and Google take 30% too. What’s more, the prices of the courses are so heavily discounted that a £200 course often sells for just £11. Once you account for the discount and the revenue shares, you’ll see just £3.85 on a course that originally sold for £200.

That’s not sustainable for any business. With your own system, you can dictate your own prices, you don’t have to compete against other course authors, and you retain 100% of your revenue.

5. Hosting your course away from your website

The best place to host your LMS is on your own website. If it is located separately from your site, you miss out on invaluable search engine and marketing opportunities. It also distances it from your central business and slightly undermines your sense of authorship.

When you host your LMS on your own website, the two will increase each other’s search engine visibility. This is a key opportunity to reach everyone who is looking for a service like yours.

On an online marketplace like Udemy, your course will be competing with many others. These might seem interchangeable on the surface, but have a lower price tag than yours. If you are really offering something special, the best place to express this is on your own space.

You also have much more freedom to create the custom features and adaptations that make your course exceptional when you host it yourself. You can create online learning that you are truly proud to offer: yet another reason to integrate it with your main website.

The best start to your LMS

Avoiding these false starts, what is the right way to begin choosing an LMS?

The first step is to define the requirements of your students. By understanding their needs and motivations, you can start to build up a picture of the structure, features and content that will resonate with your audience. You should also consider your own requirements: how the LMS will help you reach your business goals.

Secondly, look for an open, flexible LMS. Ideally, it will deliver as many of your target features as possible out of the box.  You can then build on everything else you need as custom features.

The third step is to soft-launch, and collect valuable feedback from your initial students. Alongside analytical data, we use this feedback to find opportunities to improve your sales material, course content and the LMS.

Need a hand?

Plume is one of the leading UK LMS specialists. We provide businesses with the flexibility and unparalleled support that’s essential to bring their projects and their vision to life.

We pride ourselves in taking the time to understand our clients’ needs at a much deeper level. Defining every last detail, we can make sure that our platforms provide everything you need to deliver an exception learning experience. Managing students and scaling the business is effortless from there, so they can focus on what they do best.

So how do you know if you need our help? Well, if you’ve struggled to find an LMS that meets your unique requirements, you want to future-proof your LMS, create differentiating features, or you just want to retain 100% of your sales, Plume might be for you.

Not sure where to start with your own learning management system? See how we can help with Learning Management System development.