“Tell them what you need your system to do, not what features it should have”.
Those were the words that had me sit upright during a webinar the other week. I’d been listening to a consultant giving some advice on choosing enterprise systems and although I’ve chosen learning management systems before – and also helped others to do so – I’ve also fallen into the trap of concentrating my efforts on coming up with a list of features. For the last two years, I’ve definitely thought more about the user experience, but it was this one statement that turned on the light bulb and set the bells ringing.
Unless you are totally focused on what you want the LMS to do, you are in real danger of choosing a system that is too feature-rich for your needs and which might well confuse your learners. Such a system might also take longer to deploy and cost you more. And even if it ticks off all the items on the feature list you still created (or downloaded off the Internet), you might find it just doesn’t behave in the way you expected it to – or worse – your learners expected it to.
Part of deciding what you need your LMS to do is to consider some typical learner use cases. These are the scenarios you should give to prospective vendors and around which you should request they base their demonstrations. Here are ten to get you started.
|New starter||The classic. A new starter joins the company and is told there are some mandatory compliance courses they need to do over the next four weeks. The new starter needs to log onto the system and easily find the required e-learning courses and be able to monitor their progress.
They need to be periodically prompted to complete any outstanding courses and receive a certificate upon full completion. Their local HR team needs to receive a report once a week on which all new starters’ progress is recorded.
|New manager (internal promotion)||An existing team leader is promoted to their first line management role. All new line managers need to complete a suite of 10 e-learning courses within the first 100 days of their new role. The new team leader needs to be automatically prompted to log onto the system (once their new role is confirmed) and presented with the new manager’s suite of content.
As the job holder was previously a team leader, there is a chance they might have completed some of the courses before, as they are available to all staff. The system needs to flag those that have already been completed and permit the new manager to skip them.
They need to be periodically prompted to complete any outstanding courses and receive a certificate upon full completion.
|New manager (external hire)||Someone from outside of the company has just started in their new first line management role. They will need to complete their mandatory compliance training within the first four weeks and the series of ten e-learning courses that all new managers are required to take within their first 100 days.
The new external hire needs to log onto the system and easily find the required courses and be able to their track their own progress. They need to be periodically prompted to complete any outstanding courses and receive a certificate upon full completion.
|Internal transfer to a new role||A customer services agent has just moved from one part of the business to another. In their new role, they will have more customer contact and are therefore required to complete a series of four e-learning courses on customer care and communication skills with the first two weeks. There is a chance they might have completed some of the courses before, as they are available to all staff. The system needs to flag those that have already been completed and permit the learner to skip those. They also need to complete five e-learning courses that provide an introduction to that division’s products. These also need to be completed in the first two weeks.
As the new division is regularly audited by the industry regulator and some individual clients, all staff have to annually complete a series of technical and information security compliance e-learning modules that are unique to this part of the business. These need to be renewed on each anniversary of the job holder’s appointment. The agent needs to be prompted and chased to complete the necessary modules within 30 days and then be reminded to complete them again in a year’s time. A certificate – required by the internal auditors – should be presented upon successful full completion. Their line manager should also receive updates on their new recruit’s progress.
|New compliance training rollout||All five core compliance training courses have been updated and all employees need to complete the updated courses over the next 90 days. The board member responsible for compliance has informed all divisional managers that 95 percent of staff should have completed all the updated courses within the next 90 days. The remaining 5 percent will be given a further 30 days before sanctions will be applied.
New starters will immediately receive the newer versions and will not be included in this exercise and will be required to complete the courses within their first four weeks as usual.
All staff will be prompted to log onto the system and to complete the five courses by the 90-day deadline. They will be chased until they have completed the courses, when they will also receive a certificate. After 90-days, any uncompleted courses must be flagged as “overdue” in their learning plans and the text of the chaser e-mails changed to a personal message from the board member. Line managers should receive a report on their team’s progress every two weeks and divisional managers should receive an aggregated version of these.
|Annual compliance refresher||It’s twelve months since the updated compliance training courses were released and the board has requested that everyone completes them again as a refresher. All employees need to be prompted to log onto the system and to complete these courses, within the next month. Any new starter who joined in the preceding three months can be exempted from taking the courses again so soon after joining. Similarly anyone else who has happened to have completed any of the five courses again in that same period needn’t complete those particular modules. Everyone needs to be periodically prompted to complete any outstanding courses and will receive a certificate upon full completion.|
|Account manager certification||The board member for sales performance wants to ensure that all 250 account managers are performing to the same high standard and has worked with the sales training team to create an account management certification programme. This comprises 4 new e-learning modules covering the theory of selling, negotiation skills, presentation skills and client-care; together with two two-day face-to-face training workshops that provide opportunities to practice these four areas; and a final face-to-face assessment interview, where the account manager presents how they’ve applied what they’ve learned on two of their accounts. The certification is granted upon completion of the six pieces of training and a “pass” being awarded by the assessment interview panel.
The account managers need to be able to log onto the system and see the full structure of the certification programme. The training part of the programme has been designed to be completed within 6 months and each account manager will need to be able to choose the most suitable available dates for the two workshops. Each workshop will be offered 25 times, with a maximum of 10 attendees per event. The assessment interviews will all take place at the head office during the five weeks after the training has been completed. 250 90-minute interview slots should be bookable via the LMS. Account managers should be able to book their interview slot at the same time as requesting their workshop places.
One month after the start of the programme, anyone who has yet to book their workshop and/or interview spaces should be chased. One month before the training part of the programme is due to finish the system should chase anyone who has yet to complete their e-learning. The sales organisation should receive reports every two-weeks showing the status of everyone on the certification programme.
|Social and informal learning||Alex has just moved from sales support to marketing and realises he needs to improve his Excel skills. In particular he needs to learn how to use pivot tables in order to analyse market data. He just wants the basics to start with.
He logs onto the system and searches for “pivot table basics”. He sees that there are over two-dozen e-learning courses that cover pivot tables and is unsure which to choose first. He can see that no more than two people have looked at any of them. He then notices there is forum thread on pivot tables, with postings from a colleague in finance and another from a colleague in the marketing team in a different division. He posts a message in the thread asking for some basic hints and tips. Fred in finance and Mary in marketing reply with some useful ideas.
Tom in IT Training spots Alex’s question and remembers that he found a great one-pager on pivot tables a few months ago. He uploads the PDF and shares it with everyone. Alex, Fred and Mary give it the “thumbs up” and when Lisa in legal searches for introductory content on pivot tables the following week, Tom’s PDF is the first thing she sees in the search results.
|The curious learner||We all want these! The organisation wants the new LMS to make it easy for users to find content that is relevant to their current role, will prepare them for future opportunities, or simply broaden their general skills and knowledge.
The learner needs to be able to log onto the system and quickly find those courses that have been recommended for their part of the business. It should be similarly straightforward for them to browse the content recommended for other areas and roles, or content in other topic areas.
Users need to be able to quickly decide if the course is of interest and either start it there and then (if it’s online), book a place if it’s face-to-face, or merely add it to a list of courses to complete in the future.
|The line manager||The organisation wants all its line managers to take more of an active interest in the development of their teams. Line managers therefore need to be able to log onto the system and to quickly see the learning activity of their team members.
Time-pressed managers need to first see summary level data, with the option to look in more detail at the activity of any one individual. Mandatory (compliance) training should be instantly identifiable as such.
Without leaving the system, line managers also need to be able to communicate with the individuals on their team regarding their learning and also make training recommendations, should they identify a piece of content that would be suitable for someone.
Hopefully these ten cases will resonate with the learning activity you need your LMS to support.
Other use cases you might want to develop could include how people might access the LMS from different devices. You may also want to think of some scenarios that cover the type of learning administration you want the system to perform, particularly if you out-source learning support in your organisation.
When you create your own – or tailor mine to suit – try to avoid making reference to any specific features. Let your prospective LMS vendors demonstrate how their particular systems meet those requirements.