In part 2 of our series on making the right learning platforms decisions, we explore what you should look for and ways of testing learning platforms to make sure they suit your needs. If you missed part 1, you’ll find it here.
So you’ve finished the fundamental planning phase, formalised your requirements and carried out story-mapping to give you a clear idea of what your teams want from their learning platforms.
Now is the time to start looking seriously at the market, asking suppliers for a trial run of their products and testing learning platforms to see if they’re right for you.
With thousands of learning platforms out there, this is not a process to be taken lightly. A 2017 study by Brandon Hall Group found that fewer than half of companies believe their learning technology selection process is effective, with nearly a quarter saying their process is outright ineffective.
You could make improvements to your current platforms, or you could choose a custom platform, which is always going to give you the best experience but is also likely to cost a little more upfront. There’s another option, too: if you want to be more confident about the overall cost, you could pick a SaaS-based product out of the box.
Beauty and functionality are equally important when testing learning platforms
As well as benchmarking your requirements against the learning technologies provided by the platforms under consideration, bear in mind that users won’t engage very much with learning platforms that look unappealing.
Equally, functionality is vital – you could end up with a very slick site but one which ends up being very difficult to use.
Investing in a system because it’s slick and shiny, rather than what you actually need, is an easy mistake to make. Organisations also often seek newer, simpler learning platforms, overlooking older, more mature options that are very feature-rich and have lots of functionality.
It’s important that learners aren’t overwhelmed, but the potential downside of choosing a simpler system is that you won’t be able to leverage as many features (this isn’t always a bad thing though).
Learning ecosystems: the best of all worlds
Unless you’re developing something entirely bespoke, no one tool alone is likely to meet all of your needs when it comes to learning platforms. This is why creating a learning ecosystem is ideal.
Within this ecosystem, your user entry point, LMS, hosting and data recording platforms, learning record store and reporting tools might all be different, but they can all be seamlessly connected together using APIs.
Not sure where to start? Speak to a platform-neutral vendor who can help you with platform selection according to your needs.
A short engagement can analyse a few products, or a targeted engagement can focus on one or two processes. With a full selection process, we begin by agreeing high-level selection criteria, and then move from a learning platforms longlist and shortlist to comprehensive measurement and evaluation.
Testing learning platforms
When you are testing learning platforms, a good starting point is to concentrate on questions such as whether people have completed courses and whether they’ve been inspired to change behaviours. You could also ask:
- What feedback are learners giving about the platform?
- Who are the other key user types and what is their feedback on the learning platforms?
- Do you need to evaluate the capability of the L&D team to manage the system?
- Can your learning designers make the most of the system’s capabilities?
User interviews can be carried out face-to-face or in follow-up sessions after the users have spent a period of time with the platform. The results can then be fed into a scoring chart to create comparative analysis results.
Undertake measurement engagement workshops and technical discovery workshops with your technical teams. These will allow you to understand where the pain points are for end users and identify which platforms don’t do exactly what you need them to.
Picking the right providers
In the first part of this blog, I spoke about scaffolding your requirements around what you want as a business and the needs of your users. With that in mind, make sure that the companies providing any SaaS or off-the-shelf solutions you select also align with these needs.
Your key considerations should include:
- Whether the company implements what they say they will on their roadmap.
- The quality of post-implementation support being offered. Your journey with the system is only just starting at launch, and a successful project delivery can bear no relation at all to a successful long-term implementation.
- The interoperability of the products – if they follow standards such as xAPI, you will be able to plumb your data from one system to another in a standardised, measurable way.
- How widely the product is used and whether the company is likely to still exist long-term, or be acquired by another company.
Make sure that platforms will have the longevity and roadmap you are expecting. Rather than boxing everything into a procurement framework for the sake of it, you need to make sure you understand what you’re getting into.
Using learning platforms as a vehicle for transformation
Some of the points we’ve discussed might seem straightforward, but they are often missed by organisations during their platforms journey.
Unfortunately, the impact of poorly-selected technology can result in loss of reputation for a department or business function and financial loss in recovering the situation.
The good news is that by taking an objective view and using sound evidence, you can enjoy full confidence in your selection, save time and costs and, ultimately, transform your learning.
LEO Learning’s technical experts and consultants are highly experienced in providing truly independent advice to organisations looking for the right learning platforms. Our solutions help companies to ensure that their learning platforms are delivering results and are being used to their full potential.