At some point, anyone creating online learning will need a Learning Management System (LMS). Whether you have 500 employees or 50,000 clients taking online training courses, having a LMS is a critical piece for deploying, disseminating, and tracking content. Without it, you can’t fully assess the impact of your content or how your “students” are retaining the information you’re trying to teach them.

In today’s market, consumers are flooded with a multitude of LMSs, making it hard to determine what’s right for you. In fact, many LMSs are extremely expensive and can take weeks, months, or even years to implement.

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so before selecting your LMS, there are several questions you should ask. It’s hard not to get lost in the marketing hype of large LMSs, yet you don’t want to go to the other end of the spectrum with a LMS that’s too small for your needs.

Here are my nominees for the top-ten questions to consider before beginning your LMS search:

  1. What content do you need to deploy? Will you be launching Flash files, PDFs, PowerPoint, and/or spreadsheets? Make sure the LMSs you’re looking at can host the content you need to deploy.

  2. What standards do you need to meet? Does your LMS need to be AICC or SCORM compliant?

  3. What top features are you looking for? Create a list of the top items that are absolutely necessary for you to have in an LMS – do you need reporting, social networking, single sign-on, mobile support, or others?

  4. What is the skill level of your LMS administrators? This is vital to determining how easy and intuitive you need your system to be. If you plan to have non-tech-savvy instructors logging into the system, uploading courses, and running reports, then you need to make sure the LMS is easy enough for them to accomplish all these items.

  5. What types of reporting features do you need? Determine what reports your organization needs to run (such as status reports or transcripts), how often you need to pull the reports, and what format you want the reports to appear in.

  6. Who is your audience? Are you deploying content to employees, partners, or clients? For instance, if you have clients that are purchasing courses then you’ll need a LMS that has e commerce features.

  7. What support and training does the vendor offer?

  8. What is your budget? Don’t waste your time looking at solutions that are out of your price range.

  9. What is your timeframe? When do you need the LMS up and running? Ask the vendor up front what their turnaround time is to get your system loaded. You may be surprised at how long it can take some vendors to implement your solution.

  10. Will you host the LMS or have your vendor do it for you? If you choose to purchase LMS software, you will need to install, maintain, and back up the system using your own resources and servers. An alternative is to have your vendor host the LMS for you to alleviate the IT headaches and keep the system backed up.

In addition to these top-ten questions, there are multitudes of other items you’ll need to consider, but only you know what’s right for your organization. Make sure to get a demo of the product before purchasing, and check out free trials. Try not to get lost in the marketing hype and make sure you know exactly what you’re getting from the vendor.

Lastly, if you previously looked into LMSs and are starting your search again, make sure to revisit vendors that you may have contacted before. Vendors frequently release new versions and there could be more features since the last time you checked out the solution.

Trivantis released CourseMill 6 last month, offering features that include mobile learning support, personal calendar integration, new Web 2.0 intuitive interface, greater customization options and much more. These are the most-used LMS features, leaving out features that users often pay for but rarely use. Trivantis offers CourseMill in both software and hosted versions, and it offers a free test drive at