We’re happy to have a guest blog today from Christopher Pappas, founder of The eLearning Industry’s Network, which is the largest online community of professionals involved in the eLearning Industry. Christopher holds an MBA and MEd (Learning Design) from BGSU. eLearning Blogger | EduTechpreneur | eLearning Analyst | Speaker | Social Media Addict
Picking the right learning management system (LMS) is no small task. Even if you’ve narrowed down your list of must-have features and assessed your needs, there’s still one thing to consider. Are you going to handle the hosting, or let the LMS vendor take care of upgrades and maintenance? Budget, scalability, and usability are all key factors to consider. Fortunately, this article makes the process a whole lot easier. Here, I’ll highlight the basics of each solution, and then I’ll share five questions to help you find the best LMS for your needs.
Web-Based LMS Basics
Also known as Software as a Service (SaaS) or cloud-based LMS solutions. LMS vendors host the software on their servers, which you can access online. Web-based options typically involve a monthly fee, which depends on the number of users, online learners and features that you require. For example, additional support services usually come at an extra cost.
Online learners also have the ability to access elearning course materials via the web. They simply type in their username and password to login to the learning management system. In some cases, online learners can even download the course content and complete the elearning activity offline. When they connect to the internet, the LMS automatically updates their progress. Since the vendor takes care of hosting, you don’t have to worry about installing any software. They also maintain the platform, make updates, and troubleshoot tech issues.
Installed LMS Basics
Installed LMS solutions are locally hosted. You must purchase the software from the LMS vendor or download it directly from their site and install it on your computer. In most cases, you need to purchase a license every year to continue to use the platform. Since it’s hosted on your hard drive, you are in charge of maintaining the system, making upgrades, and taking care of tech issues.
This may seem like a time-consuming and costly project, but it does grant you some unique perks. Firstly, you get to customize every aspect of the LMS. You also have the power to store all of your data locally, which can alleviate security concerns. Additionally, installed LMS solutions are typically more compatible with third-party apps.
5 Questions to Help You Choose The Best LMS Solution
1. Do You Have Dedicated IT or L&D Staff?
Web-based LMS are maintained by vendor and are easy to install. If you have any issues, you can generally contact the provider for installation advice through tech specialists you can reach via email or phone and extensive FAQs.
On the other hand, locally hosted LMS platforms must be installed and maintained by your organization. This can be problematic if you don’t have a dedicated IT or L&D staff who can tackle the task. For example, you may encounter a problem that requires tech troubleshooting. Bear in mind that some locally hosted LMS vendors do offer add-on packages that feature user support.
2. Do You Need to Customize Your LMS?
Web-based solutions are easy to use. You can choose from a broad range of templates, themes, and tools to create your elearning course. However, you may have to sacrifice some of the customization features. In some instances, it’s also difficult to integrate third-party software and apps. For this reason, you may want to opt for a locally hosted LMS if you need to fully customize your elearning course. That said, there are some cloud-based options that now offer customization features. For example, you’re able to add your own branding elements or personalize the UI.
3. Are You Looking for Scalability?
With installed LMS platforms, you must store all of the data on your computer. You also license a specific package, which cannot be modified after the fact, unless you’re willing to re-license the software to upgrade your features.
Web-based solutions are much easier to scale. The LMS vendor stores all of the data and you can simply upgrade your subscription if the need arises. For example, add on more users for the upcoming month if your enrollment numbers skyrocket.
4. What Is Your Budget?
This is the ultimate question. A web-based LMS system usually involves lower up-front costs. In most cases, you just pay for the month and are given full access to the LMS platform. There are no installation or licensing fees, but you do you need to pay on a monthly basis.
Locally installed solutions require a more significant investment up front. However, there are no monthly fees involved. As such, you need to evaluate your budget and to choose the option that makes the most sense for your organization. The costs may be lower for an installed LMS if you break it up over time.
5. Do You Need Ongoing Support?
As a general rule, web-based LMS offer more support services. This is due to the fact that they handle all of the “behind the scenes” aspects of the LMS platform. For example, storing the information, adding new features, and updating the system. As such, they can address specific technical or user issues that may arise. Also, it’s one of the perks you receive by paying the monthly fee.
Many locally hosted LMS solutions don’t offer built-in support tools. You are licensing the software outright, and support is usually not part of the package. If you are looking for ongoing support, check with the LMS vendor to see what services they offer and for how much.
There are variety of things to consider when choosing a LMS. But deciding between web-based and installed can make the task less stressful and time consuming. Then it’s all a matter of researching the features, functions, and support services of the learning management system.