LMS for Small Business – 5 Benefits & Considerations

September 23, 2014 Leave a comment

Dan MedakovicIt really wasn’t that long ago that Learning Management Systems (LMS) used to be exclusively utilized by large enterprise organizations with thousands of employees. This is because the cost and complexity of these systems was such that only large companies with huge budgets and lots of I.T. resources could afford to license, deploy, and support them (usually on their own internal servers). Implementations took several months, involved many consultants and people with technical skills, and then usually required at least one fulltime LMS Administrator to manage and support the system on an ongoing basis.

Meanwhile, small businesses were left to grapple with spreadsheets for tracking, and relied primarily on sending their employees out to the local corporate training center to supplement any live-on-the-job training.

Fast forward to today, where the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model has brought with it a level of scalability that allows complex systems (HRIS, LMS, etc.) to be hosted in the cloud and deployed without any I.T. involvement at all, while simultaneously and significantly reducing the cost to entry for these systems.

Over the last few years, the LMS market has seen the majority of its growth (in terms of first-time LMS adoptions) in the Small & Medium business space. Yes, large organizations continue to switch LMS vendors for various reasons, but small and medium businesses have discovered the many ways in which they can benefit from licensing a SaaS LMS, such as Absorb.

Five Ways an LMS Can Benefit Your Small or Medium Business

Here are 5 ways (to name a few) in which a Small or Medium Business can benefit from adopting an LMS:

1. Save Time and Money by Automating Your Training!

  • It’s long been known that replacing your Live training with self-paced courses can reduce employee training time and costs by over 60% (source, 21 years of personal experience combined with data from various studies over the years).
  • A good LMS will allow you to create learning paths based on job roles and then automate the process of enrolling employees into these learning paths. Wouldn’t it be great to know that the minute that you add a new learner to your LMS, that person will get an email with their account details and notifying them that they’ve been enrolled in their new hire training programs? You can also set this up so that learners who have a change in job role can be automatically enrolled in their new learning paths. All you need to do is change their job title in the LMS – a process that can also be automated via a simple scheduled data exchange between your payroll system and your LMS. Of course an Administrator can also do this quickly without the need for any integrations. We’ve had clients tell us they’ve saved 50% of their training administration time when switching to Absorb from another LMS. Can you imagine how much time you’d save if you don’t already have an LMS?
  • Another benefit to this is that you will never forgot to enroll someone in their required training, once you set up the appropriate rules in the system. And it’s not at all complicated.

Here’s an example: You can see how 8 people meet the criteria of this rule which is “anyone who’s job title contains the word “sales” should be enrolled in this course automatically”. Rules can be made more complex or left very simple, like this one. 

auomated enrollment rule

2. Use Your Existing Training Content

  • Wouldn’t it be great to be able to quickly and inexpensively create courses using simple videos and existing documents such as PDFs, product manuals and brochures? This is a great and inexpensive way to get started building out your content in the LMS. Over time, as you update your content, you can choose whether or not you want to make it more interactive and/or use more multimedia.
  • You can also easily find and purchase off-the-shelf elearning content that will be compatible with your LMS. Sites like Lynda.com offer huge catalogs of great content on general business skills, software skills, and management topics.

In Absorb you can, for example, create a course using an existing video followed by a PDF brochure, and then add a simple quiz in a matter of minutes. You just click to create a new course, give it a name and description, and then start adding your Learning Objects. Then you can add your enrollment rules and get back to your game of Candy Crush while your employees automatically receive their enrollment notification emails and start their training.

Easily add lessons to a course using existing or off-the-shelf content.

Easily add lessons to a course using existing or off-the-shelf content.

 3. Accurate Reports Made Easy = No More Spreadsheets!

When the CEO says to you, “I’m meeting with all the managers in 15 minutes, and I need a compliance training report, grouped by Department and sorted by Job Code as well as a report that shows how much we spent on all safety training by department in the last 6 months”, wouldn’t it be great to know you could pull that together in less than 10 minutes and quickly export it to Excel or PDF?

Better yet, wouldn’t it be great to be able to say to your CEO, “Actually, I set those up as automated reports weeks ago. You and the members of the management team have been receiving them weekly via email, but I’d be happy to print off a set of copies in time for your meeting”.

Using your LMS you should be able to track:

  • Your company’s Skills Inventory: who has which certifications and/or competencies and if/when they expire
  • Who attended which training, where and when (some of which may be a legal requirement)
  • Status of people enrolled in self-paced courses
  • Who completed assigned tasks that were part of a course
  • How people scored on assessments and control what happens if they fail (this also allows you to improve your courses)
  • Details on exams and quizzes, so you can make sure you are asking questions in the best way
  • Money and time spent on training (by course and/or by employee)
  • People’s feedback on your course offerings so you can make adjustments
  • Bonus: In Absorb you can easily push out surveys and single question polls to gather any info that you want

 4. Extend Training to Your Customers and/or Partner Organizations

Once you’ve got an LMS in place, it makes sense to think about how it can be extended to learners outside your own company. Imagine the impact you can have on things like revenue, customer satisfaction, and market share, by having a more knowledgeable customer or reseller.

A good LMS will make it very easy to set visibility rules on all of your content, so that a learner will only see what they are supposed to see in the system. The reality is you can create simple or very complex rules to ensure that learners see exactly what you want them to see. Reporting filters also ensure that you can easily filter your report results to specific audiences as well.

5. Create an Engaging Information Hub

Now that you’ve got learners coming to your LMS for mandatory training, take advantage of the situation and give them lots of reasons to come back (and stay longer). In Absorb you can create and brand Billboards to promote new content to specific audiences, you can publish News articles or connect to a news/RSS feed, or you can engage people in Polls and gain more insight into your audience’s interests and needs. Contests are a great way to incent and reward people for completing training by a specific date. Your LMS can really start to look and feel like a one-stop information hub, rather than a portal with a few lonely courses hanging out in there.

Five Key Considerations When Selecting an LMS

First off, I’m not going to talk about budget. Well okay, maybe a little bit. I think it’s a given that you should license software that you can afford, and that different companies have different needs and different budgets. LMS software varies as much in price as it does in quality. As with most products you get what you pay for. Here are 5 key considerations when evaluating LMS for Small and Medium Businesses:

1. Simplicity of Deployment and Support

  • Your LMS should be hosted in a secure, scalable environment (e.g. not on a server in a closet somewhere). Make sure your LMS provider is using a reputable hosting company and ask about up-time. We use Amazon Web Services and have a track record of greater than 99.9% uptime.
  • Your LMS should be simple enough that you shouldn’t need any technical skills to get it up and running and to continue to work with it. If your company is very sophisticated with its use of technology, then your may actually have an IT person or Department who may want to get involved to help set up Single Sign On with your network and/or an automated feed from your HR or Payroll System into your LMS. The latter would be used to automatically create and update learner accounts in the LMS, which is not a requirement, but a great bonus if you can do it.
  • Your LMS should work on a variety of devices: phones, tablets, “phablets”, PCs and Macs without the need for any Apps. This is done using “Responsive” design, which automatically adjusts the LMS interface/layout for different screen sizes. It literally means that you do not need to worry whether a learner is on an iPhone or Android phone, for example. Where it gets a little tricky is in ensuring that your content runs on mobile devices. Video is a great format for this and there are many inexpensive tools that you can license to convert PowerPoint presentations (and other material) into mobile friendly courses.

2. Quality of Interface Design

I’ve seen a lot of LMS products over the years (at one time I was a Sr. LMS Analyst with Brandon Hall Group). If you follow learning technology blogs and reports at all, you will notice that good design has recently become a bit of a hot topic. With over 500 LMS in the market that share roughly 90% of the same features, great interface design becomes an increasingly important differentiator. Let’s face it, most of your learners (especially the millennials) do recognize a good looking website from an ugly one. When they come to work, you don’t want to depress them with ugly corporate software.

Companies like Apple have really pushed the importance of design from the consumer space into the corporate space. Here at Blatant, we take great pride in the fact that our Absorb LMS always gets lots of compliments for good looks. But it’s no surprise; we’ve spent a lot of time and energy making the user experience and enjoyable one, and trying to ensure that the quality of your brand is reflected throughout. This is even more important once you open up the system to external audiences.

3. Ease of Use

This is super important. The whole point of an LMS is to reduce the effort around learner training assignments and reporting. If your LMS is not easy to use, then you may have just made your life more complicated than it already was. Ease of use is one of the main reasons that companies choose Absorb and making intuitive software is our number one goal here at Blatant.

4. Automation Features

If your organization’s training practices are complex enough, mature enough or just busy enough to justify licensing an LMS, then you are going to want to take things further and automate as many processes as possible. The two most obvious opportunities for this are:

  • Automating the enrollment of learners into required training courses, bundles or learning paths: This is really important when you have required training for a specific job role, required training for compliance, or desired training for a career path. This is the “low hanging fruit” of LMS ROI.
  • Automating reporting: You will find that managers/supervisors inside and outside your organization will typically want to see the same sets of data on a regular basis. Simply create these reports and then schedule them for automated email delivery. No more last minute report requests. Your job description may include “creating training reports” but that doesn’t mean you need to be doing it every day.

5. Flexibility

  • Flexible Business Rules: make sure it’s easy to filter content by audience type, especially around custom data fields that map to how YOU segment your learner audience. E.g. Employee/Partner/Customer/Reseller Type/Job Level
  • Flexible Content types: Don’t get tied down to one or two proprietary content types for course content. This is one the reasons why we support a huge variety of content from web links, to tasks, to videos, to PDFs, to Quizzes and Exams, to Surveys and of course, industry standard content like Tin Can (XAPI), SCORM and AICC.
  • Flexible User access:  connect from Phones, Tablets, Phablets, PCs and Macs

So you can see that there are many things to consider and I hope that you have found these tips to be helpful.

Please free to try Absorb, or to contact us and we’d be more than happy to discuss your business needs and see how they could be supported using Absorb LMS.

A First Look at Absorb LMS Version 5

September 11, 2014 1 comment

After more than a year and a half in development, Absorb LMS version 5 was launched this week. This release contains more than 400 new features and enhancements. Highlights include:

  • A responsive, HTML 5, multilingual admin control panel that works on iPads and other tablets
  • The addition of competency management features capable of issuing badges
  • A significantly enhanced assessment tool that allows for multiple question pools, weighted tests, and weighted questions
  • An increased ability to automate the administration of learning from learner registration, to enrollment in courses, to issuance of certificates and badges, and generation of progress reports, all supported by customizable, personalized communication
  • Most importantly, the intuitive design of the administrative features of the system has made Absorb LMS even easier to use

Also, it’s very pretty:

Absorb LMS-Course Dashboard

Watch this short video for an overview:

 

Better yet, contact us for a demonstration.

Absorb 5.0 Availability and a Top 20 Learning Portal Award!

September 4, 2014 Leave a comment

dan in white

 

We here at Blatant Media are thrilled to announce the imminent release of Absorb LMS 5.0 – a major upgrade to our multi-award-winning Absorb Learning Management System.

 

Absorb LMS version 5.0, which will be released on September 8th, contains over 400 new features and enhancements including:

  •     Mobile (responsive HTML5) administrator interface with an all new look and feel
  •     New administrative dashboards and widgets
  •     Multi-language admin interface
  •     Significant security enhancements including administrator audit trails
  •     Major performance improvements built on new architecture and overall optimization
  •     Flexible competency models and certification enhancements
  •     Enhanced reporting functionality
  •     Advanced exam authoring
  •     Expanded course administration/ownership rights
  •     New “mass actions” for user and course management
  •     And hundreds more!

The release of Absorb 5.0 positions Absorb as the best LMS for organizations looking for ease-of-use, multi-language support, security, robust functionality and a great user experience at a fair price.

“We are very focused on, and invested in, maintaining our leadership position in the industry by delivering new features and technologies in a way that is intuitive and useful for our clients”, says Mike Owens, President of Blatant Media.

This customer-driven model and constant focus on innovation has led to continued growth and accolades, with the most recent award being the addition of Blatant Media to the TrainingIndustry.Com “Top 20 Learning Portal Company List for 2014“.

“It’s super awesome to be on the Top 20 Learning Portal list for the fifth year in a row!” says Mike Eggermont, Co-founder of Blatant Media.

top 20 learning portal companies 2014

 

For more information on Absorb 5.0, please visit absorblms.com.

Borrow this University Business Model to Sell Certification Programs

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMS

You, dear reader, can obtain an education from the most prestigious universities in the world, all for free. It makes no difference whether you received straight `A’s in high school or whether you spent your high school years sitting in your friend’s basement learning to play the opening to Stairway to Heaven on a Gibson Flying V guitar instead of studying for final exams. Your past educational performance has no impact on your ability to study at the world’s best universities.Gibson Flying V

Your choice of institutions includes many of the status rock stars of the higher-ed world:

  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
  • Columbia University
  • Harvard University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • McGill University
  • The University of Queensland
  • The University of Tokyo
  • And many more

You won’t even need to move to the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, or elsewhere to attend classes. These institutions have all generously put their courses online, accessible through sites such as EdX and Open Education Consortium.

Imagine how great it will be to apply for your next job by submitting a resume showing off your Harvard education! Your starting salary will easily pay for your Fifth-Avenue lifestyle with a bit left over for a yacht.

Reality check

Although you will have successfully completed courses provided by these institutions, you won’t actually be a graduate. These universities (and potential employers) get a little touchy about people saying that they studied there unless they have an actual signed diploma hanging on their wall.

There was a time when people paid university tuition fees to access great content. Increasingly, that content is available for free to anyone with Internet access. Tuition now pays for the certification. In the education section of your resume, it’s not what you know that opens career doors. Rather, what many employers want to see is that a respected university has vetted you, certifying that you truly know what you say you know.

Commercial course providers agonize over how much content to provide for free as marketing teasers, and how much to make available only to paying customers. If you provide a certification program that is highly respected and desired by learners, you may want to consider adopting a business model similar to the academic one discussed above:

  • Make courses available for free
  • Charge for the certificate

This is an easy model to replicate in a learning management system:

  • Create a curriculum containing the courses and learning activities the learner must complete to meet the requirements of certification.
  • Create a course separate from this curriculum that issues the certificate. A prerequisite for accessing this certificate course must be the successful completion of the curriculum.

Absorb LMS: prerequisites

  • Configure this certificate course with the necessary pricing details.

Absorb LMS: Shopping Cart

Although learners will be able to purchase the certificate course prior to completing the curriculum, the actual certificate will only be issued once they complete the necessary courses.

Managing this type of model manually is time-consuming and expensive. A learning management system can automate the process, freeing you up to focus on creating great content for your learners.

Absorb LMS Featured in Capterra’s List of 10 Best Reviewed LMS

August 6, 2014 Leave a comment

Capterra is an advisory services firm that helps organizations find the right software.

This company provides buying advice across a range of technologies including:

  • Applicant Tracking
  • Church
  • Construction
  • Contract Management
  • Field Service
  • Help Desk
  • Learning Management Systems
  • Maintenance
  • Medical Practice
  • Membership Management
  • Performance Appraisal
  • Project ManagementReviews of Absorb LMS

We’re thrilled to be included in Capterra’s list of Top Learning Management System Software Reviews.

We’re especially grateful that so many of our customers have taken the time to provide reviews of Absorb LMS and the services provided by the team at Blatant^.

Find out what people think about Absorb LMS by reading Capterra reviews.

Research Firm Says “Absorb LMS Among the Top LMS User Interfaces”

July 31, 2014 Leave a comment

desktopAbsorbLMSHR & LMS technology research company, Software Advice has included Absorb LMS in its list of learning management systems with the best user interfaces. You can read the full article here.

According to Erin Osterhaus, HR researcher at Software Advice, the research firm…

“chose to include Absorb LMS among the top LMS user interfaces for a simple reason: the interface itself is simple. Whereas many solutions can overwhelm users with options, Absorb LMS has streamlined its menus and course listings so that anyone—even less tech-savvy users—can easily navigate the system.”

Software Advice also mentions that, “having an LMS with an easily navigable user interface can make the life of a corporate trainer even easier.”

If you haven’t seen Absorb LMS’s user interface, check out our YouTube channel. Or, better yet, try out the learner side of the system or contact us to schedule a full demonstration of the system.

Identify Your LMS Requirements Easily Using this Powerful Visualization Tool

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMS

I’ve ranted repeatedly (here, here, and here) about the horribly-designed Request for Proposals (RFPs) that cross my desk. Invariably, these so-called learning management system selection tools suffer from one or more of the following design flaws:

  • They ask vendors to provide information they won’t ever disclose and/or is not relevant to the acquisition of a learning management system. Example:

“Describe in detail all of your company’s marketing activities including the percentage of leads generated by each.”

  • They ask for textual descriptions of features that really should be demonstrated. Example:

“Describe the steps required to create a certification-based course containing a video, a quiz, a presentation, and a final exam.” 

  • They contain a list of every possible LMS feature ever invented (of which the organizing acquiring the LMS will use a tiny fraction).
  • They fail to differentiate high priority `must-have’ features from low priority `nice-to-have’ features. I’m pretty certain that within every organization, the ability of the LMS to track whether a classroom has a projector isn’t as important whether the system can serve learning content on mobile devices such as iPads.

The smartest organizations I’ve worked with keep their requirement lists short and prioritize must-have features over nice-to-have functionalities. Prioritized lists of requirements help these organizations quickly weed out systems that don’t meet their needs, allowing them to spend their time doing a deeper dive into the systems that might be a good fit.

Here’s a fun tool you can use to quickly identify and prioritize your LMS requirements. Mind mapping tools are immensely effective ways to make sense of anything complex. Rather than attempting to describe what a mind map is, here’s a mind map that explains itself:

MindMapGuidlines.svg from Wikipedia

To help get your creative juices flowing, here’s a basic mind map that identifies and organizes some learning management system features. (Click the image to see a full-size version.)

Absorb LMS Mind Map

The tool I used to create the image above is Mindmeister. Lifehacker recently published an article listing others you might want to investigate. Happy mind mapping!

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