To keep up with the constantly changing markets, organizations are increasingly prone to investing in e-learning resources for their employees. However, not every business out there has the necessary skills, resources, and time required to develop a custom e-learning platform.
While tailormade tools come with many benefits, sometimes businesses can get away with off-the-shelf e-learning platforms. This is especially true for small and medium-sized companies but also larger enterprises that don't want to organize an official training department but would still like to help employees get new skills.
The e-learning market has experienced tremendous growth during the last decade, and businesses can choose from many e-learning platforms. Are you looking for the best e-learning tool for your business? Here's some advice to help you pick one that brings the greatest benefits to your organization.
Choosing the right e-learning platform for business
Step by step:
- Identify your needs
- Know your audience
- Define your requirements
- Explore the e-learning market
- Evaluate different vendors
- Test the platform
Identify your e-needs
There are plenty of tools you can choose from, so it's best to start with well-designed search criteria. You need to be certain about what you want from your learning e-learning management system so that it helps you reach your training goals and objectives.
- What is the business goal you want to achieve with e-learning?
- What is the expected outcome of the training?
- Would you like to help your employees work faster or master some specific tools?
Make sure that your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, and time-based. If a goal is too large, break it into smaller tasks to develop a realistic project roadmap.
For example, if you would like to reduce the time for sales representatives to get a certification from three months to one week, you can start with a few objectives like:
- educating your staff about the product line and benefits of the product,
- teaching them sales techniques,
- checking their knowledge of the product line after the training,
- checking whether they have mastered the new sales skills.
Know your audience
When choosing an e-learning platform for your organization, you must have a clear understanding of who you will be training and in which skills. That way, you can identify the learning strategy requirements for your tool.
Here are a few questions you should ask to gain a clear understanding of your audience:
- How old are your employees? If most of your employees are young, they will probably enjoy learning by sharing key information with their colleagues and using social media platforms. Choosing a tool with social learning features is a smart move.
- What level of expertise do your prospective learners have? Do they vary? If you're planning to purchase a tool that you will use to train both new employees and experienced ones, you need a system that allows learners to skip some materials and where you can create different learning paths. That way, you get a perfect solution for both newcomers and experienced employees.
- How tech-savvy is your staff? If not all of your employees are well-versed in digital tools, it's important that you pick a platform that is user-friendly and simplified. Otherwise, learners will need extra time to learn how to use it – and this adds no value to the process.
- How many employees are you going to train? If your organization is large, you might need a system that enables mass registration features. Also, be sure that your solution can scale if needed.
- How do your learners like to study? Before purchasing an e-learning management system, ask your employees about their learning habits. For example, if you find out that most of them like learning on a mobile device like a tablet or smartphone, make sure that your e-learning platform is mobile friendly.
Define your requirements
Once you determine your learning goals and audience, it's time to focus on the particular demands of your system. Create a list of all of the technical requirements your e-learning platform needs to meet. This will make finding the best solution easier.
When defining the requirements for your system, think about its features as must-have, should-have, and nice-to-have.
- The common must-have features are the support of various learning models (e-learning, blended learning, or instructor-led training) and the ability to create learning content.
- Analytics and reporting are also important features an e-learning platform should include.
- And then, there are extra options such as talent management, social learning, mobile learning, white labeling and customization, and e-commerce.
When it comes to technical requirements, consider matters such as hosting (on-premise or cloud-based), the security of your solution, and integration with other systems.
Then there's the matter of cost. Typically, e-learning solutions come in four cost variants: pay per active users, pay per learners, pay as you go, and purchase a license or subscription.
Explore the e-learning market
Now that you have defined the features of your platform and know your cost range, it's time to narrow down to hundreds of different choices into a shortlist of solutions.
Here's how you can start selecting the best potential vendors:
- Ask your friends and colleagues about the solutions they're using. They will have hands-on experience and can tell you how things are going in their projects.
- Check the ratings and user reviews of different platforms. There are plenty of websites that help to compare different e-learning systems. For example, Capterra offers a software directory where you can check off your must-have features to narrow down the list of e-learning platforms.
The end result of this step is a shortlist of 10-15 learning e-learning platforms you can start considering in detail.
Evaluate different vendors
Once you build your shortlist, it's time to dig a little deeper and learn more about each platform. Your goal is to narrow down your list to 3-5 vendors.
Here's how you can verify the potential vendors:
- Check whether the platform has all of the necessary features. Make sure that there aren't too many options that you don't actually need. At this point, features will be your primary selection criteria. If the platform you're assessing doesn't have all of the features you need, cross it off your list and move on.
- Now take a closer look at the vendor. How long have they been on the market? Who are their customers? If the company or its products won any awards, it's a sign of their expertise.
- Read the reviews and success stories from the clients who have been using the platform.
- Is there a knowledge base on the vendor's website? If so, browse the product documentation, video tutorials, and how-to articles. Note that some vendors offer training materials at an additional cost, while others simply don't offer learning content that supports their system. And since we're talking about companies in the e-learning business, this is a serious red flag.
- Check the tech support. High-quality technical support means fast feedback and the ability to contact the company through different communication channels.
- If the vendor is from a foreign company, be sure to ask about the localization features. An interface localized in your language will be much easier for employees to use.
- Ask about updates. Does the vendor update the system at all? If so, how often do they do it, and how will you receive updates? Make sure to ask whether you will need to pay extra fees for the updates too.
Once you're done with these steps, your shortlist will include only the vendors who meet your requirements.
Test the platform
Testing is critical for getting a feel for your e-learning platform and verifying whether it will help you achieve your goals. It's also a great opportunity to see all of its capabilities.
But don't just browse through features. Create and test scenarios that your users might experience with the system and see how they play out.
Here's what you need to look for:
- Check how the solution's features work. Upload the training materials, assign them to learners, and create your own class. Pay attention to the user interface. Is it easy for you to understand how to add new users or assign classes to them? You don't want to spend a lot of time learning how the system works before using it.
- Load the system as much as you can. Upload lots of materials in different sizes and formats — but choose those that you expect to use the future. This is how you make sure that the system can handle it all, and everything works perfectly.
- Arrange a use case demonstration. When picking your e-learning platform, create a focus group with stakeholders from across the organization. Then ask the vendor to present a use case that covers all of your business requirements. The use case should include actions performed by the administrator, instructor, and learner. Ask the vendor to carry out the demonstration from the point of view of the learner to show how the user logs in, chooses courses, takes tests, and look through the final results to track their progress.
This is also a perfect moment to ask the vendor these questions:
- How much does the platform cost? Are there any hidden costs such as insulation, hosting, updates, technical support, and others?
- How flexible is the platform? Can you customize its functionalities on your own? Is it possible to integrate it with other services and platforms? How scalable is the learning system?
- What measures that the vendor takes to protect user data? Does the vendor have a disaster recovery plan? How often does the vendor carry out penetration tests?
Choosing an off-the-shelf e-learning solution can be challenging, considering the profusion of tools on the market and their specific features. But once you gain a clear understanding of your audience, training goals, and system requirements, you'll be able to create a shortlist of just a few vendors who are the best fit. All that's left is asking a few extra questions and comparing the cost of the solutions.
If you find out that none of the out-of-the-box e-learning platforms match the requirements, consider building a custom e-learning platform. And if already know you'd like to build a custom solution, let’s get in touch!