Choosing a New Learning Management System – Lessons Learned

Reviewing our current LMS and deciding if we needed a new one (and if so, which one?) was one of the first tasks I tackled in my position at the National Glass Association.

Did we need a new LMS?

Heck yeah. Our previous LMS was database-centric, which made it not very user-friendly for our learners OR for me, as the LMS administrator. It was not very intuitive or aesthetically pleasing. The reports that could be run were very limited and did not provide many insights. Uploading courses was cumbersome. Adding surveys to courses, allowing supervisors to view learner progress, requiring prerequisites or recommending courses based on learner attributes – daunting, if not impossible.

So I did some research to find a new LMS. Mind you, I’m not an LMS expert, but stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night 🙂 and I’ve used LMSes in the past (specifically Blackboard) and I know what the potential is and almost anything would be a step up from what we were using.

How did I choose LMSes to evaluate?

I used two sources for LMSes to evaluate: Capterra and PCMag.com. Capterra essentially reviews your requirements and puts you in contact with providers who can meet your needs within your budget.

What LMS did we choose?

Absorb

What criteria did I use to evaluate them?

  • E-Commerce
  • Single Sign On (with future AMS)
  • SCORM/Tin Can Course Hosting
  • Discussion Forums in Courses
  • Survey Functionality (or the ability to embed a Survey Monkey survey in a course)
  • Task Completion Tracking
  • Allows Supervisor/Trainer Oversight into Learner’s Transcript
  • Quiz/Test Authoring
  • Webinar Sales and Hosting (via Zoom)

Vendor Comparison

Absorb (from PCMag.com rankings)

Offers all required functionality out of the box. User-friendly for learners and admins. Excellent support even in the demo phase. Within budget. Learners have lifetime access for one-time user fee. Most secure LMS on market.

Only vendor that is Certified as “Smartchoice Best in Class LMS Vendor” from respected research firm Brandon Hall Group. Also recommend by Gartner, Forrester and Bersin by Deloitte.

  • $18,000/year ($1675/month) / One-time, $5 fee per new user
  • $4,000 setup fee
  • Possible one-time fees for:
  • Historical Data Import $1,750
  • Offers API to exchange data with AMS
  • $3,500 for scheduled data file export or import OR
  • $4,000 one-time fee for RESTful API (real-time integration)

Litmos (from PCMag.com rankings)

Offers all required functionality out of the box. User-friendly for learners and admins. Within budget (least expensive solution).

  • $8,388/year for up to 500 active users
  • $13,000/year for up to 1,000 active users
  • No setup fee
  • Possible fee for importing historical data

TOPYX (Capterra recommendation)

Offers all required functionality out of the box. Extremely versatile and robust, but not intimidating or difficult to use. Excellent support. Too expensive. VERY cluttered learner interface. Poor design.

  • $24,750/year non-profit price
  • Unlimited users / unlimited content

BlackBoard (from my previous experience and from PCMag.com rankings)

Offers all required functionality out of the box. Extremely versatile and robust, but not intimidating or difficult to use. Excellent support. Too expensive.

  • $20k to $25k for BlackBoard (MoodleRooms)
  • $15k extra if we want their online collaboration tool (BlackBoard Collaborate)

Aptify (Association was looking at their AMS, so I researched their LMS)

Does not offer all required functionality out of the box. Not user friendly for learners or admins (configuration is very similar to current LMS – database-like). LMS is clearly not the primary business of this company (seems like square peg/round hole). Too expensive.

  • $25,000 for Education Module
  • •$30,000 for LMS

My Custom Event (Capterra recommendation)

Does not offer all required functionality out of the box. Not user friendly for learners or admins (configuration is very similar to current LMS – database-like). LMS is clearly not the primary business of this company.

  • $155/user/month (2 user minimum) includes
    • 250 active learners
    • 1.95% per transaction fee
  • $275/user/month (3 user minimum) includes
    • 500+ active learners
    • 0% per transaction fee

Digital Ignite / YM (Current LMS)

Does not offer all required functionality out of the box. Not user friendly for learners or admins (configuration is very similar to current LMS – database-like). LMS is clearly not the primary business of this company.

  • $18,759 setup fee
  • $1500/month for 2,500 active users
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