5 common mistakes to avoid when choosing a learning management system
On 28 September 2018
Features and Design
A learning management system, or LMS, is a platform that allows you to deliver training courses online. This effectively means you can upscale your business 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 easily with the additional flexibility allowing them to fit their learning around their different schedules.
Choosing a learning management system 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 (at additional time and cost).
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 changing 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 removes the benefit of originality that separates you from your competitors.
with a restrictive platform you might be forced to abandon your most exciting goals
Instead of scaling your ideas down to fit your LMS, choose a learning management system 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, allowing you to effectively manage any future developments and challenges.
Some original ideas we’ve developed for our clients in a more flexible LMS include:
- Tutor feedback to provide students with the necessary motivation and increase of completion rates
- Community driven support to allow students peer support, reducing the workload of your tutors
- An integrated video calling system to up-sell private tutoring
- Fully integrated webinars for instructor led training sessions
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. Paying per-user or annual licensing fees
This is perhaps the biggest mistake a business can make. If you’ve done any amount of research into available learning management systems, you’ll have noticed that almost all providers charge recurring annual licensing fees or per-user licensing fees. With this pricing model, recurring costs can quickly spiral out of control. For general purpose systems, the cost per user can exceed £16 per user per month (and it enters the £100s for more specialist systems), meaning that just 1000 users can rack up licensing costs of £192,000 per year.
With per-user licensing fees, costs can add up to £192,000 per year for just 1000 users.
Avoid these recurring costs by hiring a provider who will develop your own custom system, one that’s exclusively licensed to you without recurring licensing fees.
3. Not adhering to the license terms of an open-source system
Building upon an open-sourced learning management system can be an attractive approach. After-all, with the foundational learning management system already in-place, you can focus your efforts (and money) on building the content and functionality needed to set you apart from the competition.
Although free to use (and free to resell), most open-source systems are subject to General Public Usage licensing terms (or similar licensing types). These types of licenses present huge issues for those who wish to keep their systems private or resell them for a profit.
Under the GPU license, any changes that you make to the original work is classified as a “derivative”, and these derivatives must be shared freely and openly to benefit the open-source community. Derivatives include any template, plugin, code edit or feature addition – and the source code for these must be shared.
As you can expect, this will cause considerable issues for many businesses who wish to keep their LMS modifications away from other companies and developers.
Not all is lost, however. There are ways to circumvent these kinds of legal requirements by strategising your development project accordingly.
Consider breaking out your core changes into an independent system. The system must be able to function and operate without the open-sourced learning management system in place. As your core product is now independent, you’ll need to create an API and integrate your system to the LMS via the API. If you can achieve this, you can avoid huge portions of your work being classified as a derivative, and won’t be required to share the source code of your independent system.
4. 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 is able to create revenue 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. Ultimately, creating more revenue for you and your business, as well as helping you 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.
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.
6. Bonus tip: 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. As previously mentioned 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, a pre-course assessment can gauge a learner’s current abilities and tailor the course to suit, ensuring learners don’t waste time going over the topics they’ve already demonstrated competency in.
A course that adapts to individual learning 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 peers. This is one of the most effective kind of marketing, and it’s free for you.
The best start to your Learning Management System
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 learning management system itself.
Need a hand?
Plume is one of the leading UK LMS specialists, and the only provider in the world that doesn’t charge recurring or per user license fees. 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 exceptional learning experience. Managing students and scaling the business is effortless from there, so our clients can focus on what they do best.
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 without ongoing licensing fees, Plume might just be for you.
Say hi and ping us an email – [email protected]
Kaine is the founder and managing director of Plume and the award-winning designer of many of our client’s products. Kaine’s 10 years of experience means that he can solve complex user challenges through creative interface design, and his work has been recognised by Interfacely and CSS Awards.