An elearning ecosystem can be defined as a web of learning resources that surrounds every individual. The environment of this ecosystem connects resources to learners, thus creating an overall structure that encourages continuous education.

Manufacturers, distributors and their sales channels are all part of an interconnected ecosystem of knowledge distribution. In addition to traditional in-person training, companies all over the world are incorporating customizable and flexible online product training. With dozens of training management software packages available, it’s important to know the right questions to ask that will aid you in selecting a learning management system to promote a thriving ecosystem.

1) How do you define your objectives?

If you don’t know what you want your elearning platform to do, it doesn't matter which program your company adopts. Before you schedule your first meeting with an LMS provider, lay out clear expectations about how the LMS will help your organization reach its maximum ROI.  Here are three things you should ask yourself to help define your objectives:

  • How many different channels do you need to train? If you know the various channels that require training, you will also be aware of what types of content you need. Virtual classrooms, instructor-led training, quick-reference, and videos are all forms of elearning that an LMS can deliver.
  • How much do you currently spend on training and what is your maximum spend? It’s important to know how much you’re currently spending on training, as well as your return on that investment. You also need to define how much you are willing to spend on an elearning solution, and figure out how to measure the ROI once you have deployed the new training management software. 
  • What happens when users succeed and fail to meet targets? The LMS is ideal at keeping track of content, users and the relationship between the two. It allows you to identify individual channel members’ current level of knowledge and comprehension, and empowers you to tailor additional training to better fit the users need. It’s important to plan for an ongoing training program – one that will allow for fresh content for those learners who are ready for more, as well as how to handle training for the users who don’t participate as expected.

2) How do you quantify results?

Once you define your objectives, plan how you’ll measure the results. Ask potential vendors how their training management software tracks learners’ progress, and inquire about what tools are available for managers to keep users accountable. Discuss the various types of reports in the platform and determine how you can use those to evaluate the success (or failure) of the LMS in achieving the organization’s goal.  It is imperative to know upfront what success will look like and how it’ll be measured. Establishing some baselines before implementing anything new is important too, so you can monitor progress and changes.

3) What are your primary needs?

With the objectives in place for what you want in an online training program, it's time to look closely at your needs. Three common considerations are:

  • Accessibility: From where can your users access the system? Is the product training available on mobile devices, so users can look at product data sheets or an installation video while away from a desktop computer? Mobility and variety in access points are crucial, especially if your users work in the warehouse, out in the field or on the go.
  • Content: Do you already have online courses that you can immediately add to the learning system? Do you have resources (people, time, skills) to create the content you need? Is your content available via mobile devices? If not, you’ll want to work with a solution provider who can help with this. Without fresh content and training opportunities, your learners will lose interest and quickly forget about your program. Luckily, there are many organizations that can produce online courses for you, as well as training events where your staff can learn to create the courses. Think of an empty vending machine: The machine is great and attracts people’s attention, but with nothing inside, it is useless.
  • Security: What level of security do you need? What type of information will you leverage to enroll and identify users? When you put sensitive company and product information into online training programs, the LMS provider must have a plan in place to keep your data secure. What about disaster recovery and downtime?

4) Will your learners use this platform?

A common reason online training platforms fail to meet expectations is that they are too difficult for the average user. Either the training management software is not intuitive and learners don't know how to navigate through the training sections, or it is too complicated for training managers to add new content and track learners’ progress. This is why a live demonstration of the LMS is an important step, so you gain hands-on experience with the software. Better still, invite a cross-section of potential users and have them give you feedback about which of the online training platforms is the easiest to use and best suits their needs

5) Does the solution provider offer appropriate support?

What type of support will your users need and what will they actually use? Is there live support, email or phone support? What service level agreements will your solution provider agree to? Is a response within 24 hours acceptable? And what about ongoing training opportunities for your program administrators? How are they notified of software updates?  If other companies complain that they cannot get the back-end support they need to keep their training programs running, it's safe to assume your results won't be any better.

 

Elearning platforms help build a thriving ecosystem that empowers users to exceed expectations. But to reach that point, you must find your perfect fit. For more information about selecting an elearning platform, contact BlueVolt at (503) 223-2583.

 

Photo credit: frankleleon on Flickr

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