The task of trying to find the right Learning Management System (LMS) might seem overwhelming: there are hundreds of solutions available and each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. With so many vendors and options, your search can quickly start to feel like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Our team of education technology experts have helped institutions all over the world build online learning strategies and launch digital platforms. From education startups to university classrooms to employee training programs, every learning experience is unique—the perfect solution for one person might not be the right fit for another. How can you most efficiently narrow the options and find the best platform for your needs?

Here are five steps to help you prepare for your LMS search to make the process as painless, focused, and efficient as possible.

1. Do some pre-research research

I know, this sounds like a terrible idea—more research? But it’s worth the time and effort, especially if you’re new to the world of learning management systems and digital education tools. Before you start looking at specific products, spend a bit of time familiarizing yourself with the world of online learning. Check out some of the online strategies other schools or business are implementing, and learn the common vocabulary and acronyms in the industry (LMS, MOOC, SIS, etc). Having this knowledge in your back pocket will help you navigate the education technology marketplace and cut straight to the tools that are most relevant to you.

2. Iron out the basics

Truthfully speaking, there is no universally “perfect” LMS. But there are platforms out there that can be the perfect fit for you. So before you start shopping (and Googling), take some time to analyze your primary goals for using a learning management system. To help you get started, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the primary purpose of this platform (ie. delivering course content, connecting students, managing grading, selling courses)? If you are transitioning from another LMS, what are your main motivations for doing so?
  • What is your budget (and your capacity for upkeep)? In answering this question, it’s important to consider that the price of a solution is often linked to how involved you and your team want to be (or don’t want to be) with ongoing maintenance and system upkeep. Completely free LMS solutions do exist, but they require entire teams of experts to install, update, and maintain. Other LMS providers may offer a range of solutions with ongoing maintenance, consultation and support packages for a monthly fee or price per user.
  • How many users will be on the platform? Many LMS’s base their pricing on active users, so it’s helpful to have an estimate of these numbers.
  • What is your timeline/roll-out plan? Consider how soon you want to be up and running with your new LMS. It’s important to remember that building content and courses takes time (especially if you’re starting from scratch), so we recommend leaving a buffer of at least a month or two to get everything readybefore officially launching your online programs. If you’re looking for extra help with content creation as you move into the online space, you might also consider hiring an instructional design or online course production team.

3. Identify key features

Based on your goals outlined above, make a list of core features your ideal LMS needs to have. What features are crucial to the success of your online program? While it’s important to identify key features before embarking on an LMS search, being too specific and rigid in this area can make it very difficult to find a solution. We recommend prioritizing the features on your list as “critical” or  “nice-to-have” to help you focus your search while staying open to a variety of solutions.

4. Know your core needs

It’s easy to get sucked into thinking exclusively about features and platform functionality, but there are other important considerations when choosing an LMS. For example, not all LMS providers offer customer support. Are you tech savvy enough to troubleshoot on your own, or would you feel more comfortable with a dedicated support contact? Do you have a team of instructors that all need training and onboarding into your new LMS?

5. Keep an open mind

With your goal analysis and list building complete, it’s time to launch your LMS search. While it’s important to stick to your goals, we recommend approaching this stage with an open mind and willingness to learn. For example, you may discover an LMS that doesn’t provide a specific feature on your list, but instead has a different tool that allows you accomplish the same task. Being open to new approaches and features will help keep your search interesting and may lead you toward novel solutions you might not have considered otherwise.

Following these steps will make your search efficient and focused, help you know exactly what to ask for when speaking with vendors, and—most importantly—help you find the best LMS for your needs. Good luck!

The Kannu LMS is a full-featured learning management system that is modern, beautiful, and user friendly. Learn more and contact our team for a demo here