Your existing content has been converted and your new content is ready to be delivered. Now what? Your organization must have some type of delivery system for the online learning program, commonly referred to as a Learning Management System, or LMS. There are numerous questions to analyze and topics to consider before you choose a system. Let’s take a look at those topics so that you and your organization can begin asking the right questions in order to implement the right delivery system.
First, you must consider the origin of the delivery system. Will the organization choose a vendor to assist or will it go with internal expertise, namely the IT department? When considering this important decision, remember that there are benefits and drawbacks for both. A vendor-purchased system is typically made-to-order by a group that specializes in just that. You can give the vendor your organization’s specifications and they can come back with a system design and price. On the drawback side, the specifications can sometimes be costly – and changes can be slow and costly, as well. A homegrown LMS is fantastic if you have the expertise and resources in-house to build it. An in-house development team knows the organization, its growth, and its audience. Plus, a homegrown system may cost less in the long run. The potential roadblocks to this path are that the expertise must be present in-house – and they must be able to devote themselves pretty much full time to the project. If the department’s knowledge of LMS architecture is marginal, you may find more problems than you bargained for.
Once you’ve made the decision to go internal or external for the build-out of the delivery system, you can begin thinking about the features you’d like to see. Do you want the system to track completion and record grades? Do you want to use those features to register and track your traditional learning programs, as well? Should learners be able to print a certificate of completion for their online courses, no matter where they are located?
On the technical side, does the LMS need to have the capability of creating complex video streaming, interactive modules, and collaboration? If so, how is the existing technology able to accommodate the LMS? On the design side, would you like to see a built-in content development engine, where content developers can essentially “dump” information into the LMS and create effective courses? Or are you going to have a team of technology designers who can take the content, develop it in Flash or HTML, and upload it to the LMS? We’ll discuss staffing in a moment, but these technological specifications should be part of your systems discussion from the beginning.
There are some other considerations, as well. What population is going to be accessing the delivery system? Can the organization’s infrastructure and bandwidth handle the influx of users? What about access? Do you want users to be able to access the system from the Internet, that is, from anywhere, or just within the confines of the organization’s firewall? When thinking through these considerations, be certain that a vendor can offer you all of these options. Add-ons, as we have discussed, can be very expensive. If you’re going with an in-house construction, consider pulling an IT person to become the administrator of the online delivery system. Someone will need to make changes as the e-learning program and the organization continue to grow.
Along those lines, what are your staffing needs for the system itself? Typically a person (or more than one person) is needed to administer the system, even if it is purchased from a vendor. Your decisions about the structure of the technology may also affect your staffing. If you are going to design courses outside of the LMS, you’ll probably need content designers, who write the material, and graphic designers who can create the course framework, the interactivity, and the testing pieces. And keep in mind that setting up course roadmaps, course schedules, and maintaining the recording end of the LMS may take an administrator, as well.
Now that you have quite a bit to think about when implementing an e-learning system, take the time to answer your questions thoroughly. You’ll be glad you did.