It has become a cliché in 2021 to remark on how much things have changed in business since March of 2020, and that is just as true about the technology that supports training as it is about anything else. As late as February of this year, we could talk about the strategic way to choose a learning management system (LMS) as if it were 2019.

But that possibility was fading by the summer of 2021. The fundamentals that were “best practices” in looking for an LMS changed as the forces driving instructional delivery adjusted to the requirements of the hybrid workplace and working from home. It no longer makes sense to look for an LMS based only your company size and your industry. You still need to do that, but you also need to look for other kinds of support:

  • Support for employees who only work from home
  • Support for employees who work from a hybrid environment
  • Support for employees who require reskilling or upskilling

The fundamentals have changed

Which of these cases describe your situation? Begin the process by thinking about your requirements. Do you have:

  • A stable number of learners who must receive specific required training?
  • A lot of turnover among learners, or a lot of one-time training requirements?
  • Learners that you can send through training in cohorts at regular intervals?
  • Demand for training that varies a lot throughout the year?
  • Specific features needed for your situation? (See the next section of this article.)
  • Training that requires tailoring for different groups within the organization?
  • Need of an LMS you can customize using L&D staff, or do you need to have IT or a contractor to do this?

Are there specific requirements that the LMS must be able to handle?

  • Customization of reports
  • SCORM compliant, SCORM conformant, or SCORM certified by ADL
  • Support for xAPI
  • Support for multiple languages
  • Analytics; including learner behavior, learner proficiency, learner satisfaction
  • Special delivery needs; such as managing podcast or video materials
  • Features matched to your industry or regulatory requirements

What about pricing?

  • What options are offered for paying for the LMS?
  • Do these match up well with your situation (the beginning of this list)?
    • Pay per active user
    • Pay per learner
    • Pay as you go
    • License fee/subscription
    • Open source

How do you find vendors?

There are hundreds of LMS products available, and the number changes constantly. These websites provide comprehensive coverage of what's available, and they also provide ratings and different ways to sort the offerings so that you can match them to your requirements.

Ratings, RFIs, and RFPs

The sites listed immediately above this paragraph will help you locate information and user ratings of LMS offerings, but you will still need to pare the list of candidates down. The Request for Information (RFI) and Request for Proposal (RFP) are the best approaches for getting the specifics you need in order to make a decision. These are part of the "product evaluation funnel" approach to the evaluation and selection process.