By Chad Hoke, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, BlueVolt
The first thing you want to ask yourself when considering, implementing, or switching to a new learning management system (LMS) is: Will it be easy to use?
Think about the majority of your LMS provider’s users. How tech-savvy are they? Don’t over-estimate your users’ tolerance for complexity. One of the most common complaints we get from companies is that their usage is far less than they expected.
The best LMSs are built from the ground up for those who don’t typically use a computer every day. That means virtually anyone can easily navigate and complete training. Instead of visiting the site once and leaving frustrated, they achieve some early success and are willing to come back for more.
What to Look for in an LMS
Let’s look at the little things that can make e-learning easier on the learner and you, the administrator. These are features such as single sign-on, which allows the platform to integrate into other third-party applications such as other Websites, company intranets, portals, or existing training sites. The idea is to seamlessly integrate the LMS so a learner only needs one username and password for all company-related Web logins.
Next, you want an LMS whose look and feel is customizable, so the LMS becomes an extension of your brand. This is especially useful to manufacturers, for example, who frequently drive other vendors, value-added resellers, distributors, and other third parties to their online universities for e-learning. Employees also find that a seamless transition from their company’s intranet to their LMS creates less of a barrier to participating in training.
Another feature that makes e-learning easier on the administrator is having control over security permissions. Learners at a company or organization need different levels of access to information. You want to make sure your LMS allows your company to maintain those security preferences.
Auto-enrollment links allow the LMS administrator to customize a URL that can automatically enroll learners in a course or course category. This feature removes the need for the learner to find courses or join a group on his or her own, making it easy for learners to begin training.
Other Features to Consider
You want an LMS optimized for your industry. The BlueVolt LMS, for example, is optimized for the extended enterprise. We serve the entire ecosystem of an industry—for example, in the construction industry, this means we provide training from the original equipment manufacturer to the product distributor to the contractor to the installer and the association/buying group. This ensures consistency of training (and ultimately, product knowledge) throughout the channel.
Does your LMS enable course sharing? Many extended enterprise businesses have training needs that reach beyond their employees. They also would like to train their sales channel, their supply chain, and their contactors or installers, but getting online courses to all those distributed people is a challenge. BlueVolt’s course-sharing feature allows customers to share their courses with other BlueVolt customers. And inversely, customers can see and request courses from others on the LMS. This is an easy way to add fresh content to a university or training center, which is a critical factor in motivating users to return again and again.
Next, take a look at your LMS provider’s development process. Do they have a quarterly or yearly development and release cycle? At BlueVolt, we update our software every two weeks; sometimes they’re major updates with new features requested by our customers and sometimes they’re minor enhancements. And because we’re a Web-based LMS, our customers don’t have to reinstall the software or download anything. The updates are automatic.
What about incentives for learning? Something we’ve found unique to the e-learning industry is providing rewards for learner engagement. Our program, called $BlueBucks, provides dollar-for-dollar rewards for successfully completing a course. These rewards are easy to implement and redeemed in the form of online or offline gift cards to hundreds of national retailers.
$BlueBucks have been proven by BlueVolt customers to increase online course enrollment up to 10 times. Some of our learners, especially those who work for distributor companies in the construction trade industries, earn hundreds of dollars per year by combining their $BlueBucks from successfully completing courses from manufacturers in their industry. These manufacturers pay for the rewards so their distributors’ employees are well-versed on their products and more likely to facilitate successful sales to the end-user.
Creating Compelling Content
Now that we’ve reviewed some key things to consider when choosing an LMS, let’s look at some tips on content (what goes inside the LMS to facilitate learning). After all, a great LMS is no good if the learners don’t use it because the content isn’t compelling.
Here are five tips for creating compelling content:
Online learning is constantly changing and improving. The best LMS platforms stay up to date with current technologies, make adding your e-learning courses easy, and, most importantly, give your users a reason to keep learning.
Chad Hoke is vice president of Sales and Marketing at Portland, OR-based BlueVolt, a provider of online Learning Management Systems (LMS) for the manufacturing, construction, and service industries. BlueVolt’s LMS for the extended enterprise delivers easy-to-use training across an entire company and its suppliers, sales channel, associations, and customers. The LMS delivers affordable training, verifies knowledge, and reports results all in one place. As of July 2011, BlueVolt has delivered more than 967,000 courses to more than 153,000 registered users. For more information, visit www.BlueVolt.com.