April 20, 2014

12 Common Complaints about Learning Management Systems (LMS)

Risk assessmentGet any group of learning professionals in a room, and one of the first topics of discussion will be Learning Management Systems (LMS). I have rarely heard a learning professional say “Our LMS does everything we need.” More often than not I hear complaints.

Here are twelve (12) common complaints about Learning Management Systems.

  1. Our LMS doesn’t fit our existing administration workflows: A key reason to implement a LMS is to support efficient training administration. So, if this isn’t working for you, then it is a real problem. When selecting a LMS, be sure to map your existing administration and end user workflows, and use these maps to communicate your LMS implementation requirements.
  2. Our LMS doesn’t provide the reports we need: Data can be sliced and diced lots of ways, but the LMS may only have a set number of ‘out-of-the-box’ report templates. Spend some time analysing your report requirements before speaking with LMS providers.
  3. Our LMS can’t be accessed with Mac computers: How annoying!
  4. Our LMS doesn’t support non Microsoft applications, such as Google Calendar: Very annoying!
  5. Our LMS looks static and ugly: Not good enough these days! Providers should be well on their way to developing dynamic web-based LMS interfaces for both end users and LMS administrators.
  6. Our LMS is confusing for new users to navigate: Again, not good enough. Usability is an established science these days. Be sure to test the LMS with a cohort of users prior to purchase.
  7. Our LMS doesn’t talk seamlessly with our people database (HRIS): This is a common issue. Make sure you have a detailed plan on how data will interface between the LMS and your existing HRIS, and speak with other customers with similar people systems to check how well integration has worked for them.
  8. Our LMS doesn’t invitingly display course titles and demos: Like e-retail sites, a good LMS will display the catalogue of courses invitingly. Well…I haven’t seen this yet…
  9. Our LMS costs us a bomb every time we customise a feature: It’s so important to get requirements matched as closely as possible before engaging a LMS provider, as any changes to the generic LMS will cost you. Remember, customisation means a change to the ‘wiring’ of the LMS, often requiring coding. Configuration refers to a simpler change.
  10. Our LMS does not release new versions frequently: This is an issue. If insufficient funds are being spent in developing new LMS versions, then issues of stability, operating environment compatibility and down right ‘ugliness’ will become an issue.
  11. Our LMS does not have a Smartphone/tablet app: Apps enable the pages of a web-based LMS to be resized and rationalised for smaller, finger-touch screens. If you are working towards a mobile strategy, then it’s pretty much a ‘must have’.
  12. Our LMS doesn’t meet our new IT security requirements: IT security is not a trivial matter. Be sure the LMS providers you speak with treat this topic with seriousness.

The Bottom Line

Learning Management Systems are a significant investment of time, resources and change management. Be sure to get good advice. Get clear about:

  • Your functional requirements: Work with a specialist to get clear about your system requirements. Be as detailed as possible. Include your report requirements.
  • Your processes: As well as getting clear on the detail, you need to be clear on the ‘concept’ of a LMS and what it will do for your organisation. Work with a specialist to identify your current and desired learning management processes. Don’t just watch LMS demonstrations – play with them yourself. Immerse in a number of ’sandpit’ LMS environments to understand usability and workflows.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of any assistance providing independent expert support in your LMS decision-making process.

Comments

  1. Mark Berthelemy says:

    Really good advice, Alison.

    Many times I’ve been involved in LMS procurements it’s the wrong people making the decisions for the wrong reasons. Often these issues (especially usability and attractiveness) don’t get considered at all.

  2. shalini says:

    Good Blog. Complaints are helpful to know exactly about need of LMS.

  3. FrogSchool says:

    Nice article.

    Thank god for Frog!

    Always ahead of the curve, and seeking to tick all the issues that you mention!

    Fantastic new mobile friendly technology just released that I enjoyed using at Bett 2013, truly amazing. Check it out here: FrogOS.

  4. Ant says:

    Great read – so Alison.. .what is your preferred LMS?

  5. shelley says:

    And another huge complaint: support is lacking, too slow, and too uninformed! So if you are looking for a new LMS, be sure to do your homework and due diligence, including finding candid users of the system you are looking at in order to ask them precise questions about the system and the support (or lack thereof) they are receiving!

  6. Zadoc Paet says:

    Google Calendar isn’t a Windows application. It’s a web application. Outlook Calendar is a Windows app.

  7. Joel says:

    I work for a company (name withheld intentionally) with a prominent LMS and this article is spot on. And I say that knowing that our LMS needs some work. The good news is, we’re doing it. We already score well on items 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 12. Also, we’ve renewed our commitment to user-centered design, actively engaging our customers and end users whenever we plan new features or enhancements to existing features.

    I would add to Alison’s list two things: 1, How expertly does the LMS company know and understand my business, market and/or industry? and 2, What is the LMS company’s track record for training, supporing, even collaborating with their customers? The software has these two bookends, and sometimes the perceived (and real) shortcomings of a product are at least partially compensated for in market expertise and personal empowerment by a capable support team. Our company strives to balance excellence across all dimensions of service, and it is working well for our customers and the people they serve.

  8. Cynthia says:

    Good, but might be expanded a bit. The discussion is often comparing different LMS and what works (especially with faculty) best. I do have to agree with #5 regarding the lack of the Blackboard folks at making it more user friendly AND giving faculty and designers more options for making it attractive. Let’s face it, the last revision was…..(to put it mildly) LACKING. Although I don’t have the research, I would be willing to bet this is one of the issues, along with down time, that instructors are moving to other LMS. Myself and a colleague recently surveyed graduate students on their opinion of BB v. Google (and others) for their LMS. We use a variety of LMS that can be chosen by the instructor or team. We found the biggest issues were lack of having everything in one place, lack of time to learn, and these and other factors varied by major!

    In my personal opinion, we will be constantly “catching up”, which is understandable with new technologies, but we must fight the notion of one-size-fits-all and strive toward the universal design and let the curriculum dictate the LMS based on learning needs. It is through comments like these that I new ideas for helping my students learn and ways to improve the LMS. Thanks Alison!

    • Alison Bickford says:

      Hello Cynthia. Thank you for your insightful comments, especially regarding fighting the notion of one-size-fits-all. Thank you for your contribution to the discussion. Alison

  9. Elahtnamas says:

    Love the article. I work at a firm with a proprietary LMS and as it’s administrator for quite some time, it’s easy to describe it as challenging. Thank you for articulating these arguments.

    • Alison Bickford says:

      Hello Elahtanamas. Thank you for your commment. Very frustrating, isn’t it. Best wishes in your endeavours, Alison

  10. mike b says:

    Hi, Just found this useful article. It’s useful because I’m a rather new Product Manager at a LMS development company and these are important points to keep in mind as we create our next generation of software. Thanks!

    Mike B.

  11. Jeff Walter says:

    As the CEO of an LMS firm, Latitude Learning, I think your list is very informative. As I read the list I said to myself, check, didn’t think of that, check, we could do that better, check, etc.

    From my experience, I think your first complaint “Our LMS doesn’t fit our existing administration workflows” is the key. Prospective LMS customers usually have a thorough and detailed list of features and functions they want in their LMS but only a cursory understanding of their desired workflows.

    My advice for anyone shopping for an LMS is develop a detailed understanding of your desired learning management workflows. Then ask LMS vendors to show you how their LMSes will support your workflows. The three key learning management workflow questions are:

    1. How will users be added and updated?
    2. How will users select and enroll in courses?
    3. How will you manage and track progress?

    If you thoroughly answers to these three questions and you find an LMS that supports the workflows your answers define, you will be very happy with your LMS.

  12. McKenzie says:

    This list was very helpful. We just moved to Saba LMS late January this year. I wish our higher levels of management had this list and understood the system and our needs prior to our implementation. What I have not been able to find on the web are metrics or forecasts, studies…anything… relating to headcount of LMS support staff ratio to the number of LMS users. For example, if we deploy 7 legally mandated courses (all company created content – Brainshark) world-wide to over 9000+ contractors and employees, how many full-time employees should we employ to support the LMS? I’m unable to find metrics for this issue. Thanks for any thoughts.

    • Alison Bickford says:

      Hello and thank you for your email. I’m afraid I haven’t seen any statistics on LMS support requirements.
      Some of the support requirements will depend upon how ‘standard’ the operating environment is, as you can get system issues if people are accessing e-learning from operating environments that have not been tested. This can certainly be a big issue for contractors who may be accessing the LMS from outside of the organisation.
      Another variable will be learner’s familiarity with using the system and learning online.
      Often organisations need a lot of support for the first 12-18 months, as the system matures and is embedded into ‘everyday use’. Over time this support may be lessened, or the organisation may choose to use the LMS to a greater extent and maintain the LMS support that has been set up to allow greater use to happen.
      Good luck, Alison

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