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!

July 9th Webinar Recording: Absorb LMS Tips and Tricks

Thanks to everyone who attended our July 9th Webinar, Absorb LMS Tips and Tricks. We covered the following in this short, 30-minute session:

  • Creating Online Courses by Embedding Great Free Stuff
  • Changing Labels and Prompts

If you weren’t able to attend, you can view the recording here:  https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/704608519

May 20th Webinar Recording: Absorb LMS Tips and Tricks

magicianThanks to everyone who attended our May 20th Webinar, Absorb LMS Tips and Tricks. We covered the following in this short, 30-minute session:

  • Using Mercury Module Billboards for branding
  • How Smart Departments turbo charge administrator roles
  • Using Optional Learner Fields to create highly personalized communications

If you weren’t able to attend, you can view the recording here:  https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/747996535

Our next Tips and Tricks session is scheduled for June 17. Whether you’re an Absorb LMS customer, use a different learning management system, or are considering acquiring your first LMS, this session will likely give you ideas on how you can optimize the management of your learning initiatives to provide a rewarding experience for your learners.

Register Now

The Powerful Amazon Feature You Should be Adopting in Your Learning Management System

April 1, 2014 3 comments

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

It seems like just yesterday that business analysts were wondering whether this newfangled e-commerce fad would catch on.

  • Would anxiety over credit card theft deter customers from trusting on-line retailers?
  • Would people feel confident in buying stuff sight unseen or would they instead stick to going to brick-and-mortar stores to paw and sniff the merchandise?

Fast forward a few years and we now find Web retail giant Amazon, fueled by our insatiable urge to buy stuff on the Internet, with 2013 sales of more than $17 billion U.S. and a market capitalization of $153 billion.

We choose to buy from sites such as Amazon because of convenience, pricing, breadth of offerings, product reviews, and a simple and pleasant shopping experience.

One of the things these sites excel at is the ability to recommend products based on our browsing or purchasing history. Search for, say, a bicycle helmet and Amazon will tell you that “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” cycling shorts, cycling shoes, cycling gloves, and every other cycling-related item including chamois cream (don’t ask).

chamoiscream

Photo by Naoto Sato on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Amazon’s recommendation engine encourages us to increase the number of items added to our shopping cart. Rather than feeling like these items were forced upon us, we are instead grateful to the site for making shopping so easy. Gone are the crowded parking lots, endurance of inclement weather, and eternal waits in checkout lines, replaced with anticipation for delivery which may soon come within minutes via a flying drone.

With millions of customers, Amazon has the big data to support a powerful recommendation engine. But really, it isn’t rocket science to suggest to someone shopping for a kitchen knife that they may also want to purchase a cutting board and maybe some adhesive bandages for potential sliced fingers.

Adopting an Amazon-like recommendation system in learning and development doesn’t require big data and teams of programmers. This can be done within any learning management system (LMS) that contains two simple features:

  • The ability to have course-specific communication templates
  • The ability to link directly to one or more courses

Here’s a typical course completion e-mail:

Absorb LMS Course Completion E-mail

Here’s a variation that contains a couple of recommendations:

Absorb LMS Course Completion E-mail With Recommendations

Adding recommendations to your communications with learners can provide measurable benefits:

  • Increased enrolment, course completion, and certifications obtained
  • Better learner engagement through a more pleasant experience
  • For commercial learning content providers, increased sales

Successful on-line retailers such as Amazon would never let you buy a pen without also suggesting you take a look at notebooks. Consider using the same simple logic in your learning initiatives.

The One Simple Tool You Can Use to Help Select the Right Learning Management System

February 21, 2014 1 comment

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

Dear readers, you’ve in the past endured me ranting about the horribly-designed Requests for Proposals (RFP) that regularly cross my desk and the desks of my Blatant^ colleagues. (See my previous posts titled “Why Your RFP May Not Get You the Best Learning Management System” and “The Worst Type of Question to Ask in Your Learning Management System Request for Proposal (RFP).“) These RFPs often ask hundreds of open-ended questions such as:

Describe the procedure to create a report showing the progress of a group of learners in a curriculum.

The vendors with enough time and mental fortitude to tackle submitting a proposal in response to the RFP then deliver 50 to 100 pages of answers to these questions. The organization looking to acquire the technology then needs to read hundreds if not thousands of pages containing answers that look like this:

  1. On the main Admin Control Panel dashboard, click on Reports
  2. Select the Learner Progress Report
  3. Add the appropriate courses
  4. Show or hide the columns you wish to display
  5. Define which learners should be included
  6. Etc.

A textual description of a feature that should be demonstrated is a waste of everyone’s time. Since few vendors will respond to your lengthy and poorly-designed RFP, you’ll be less likely to find a great system. The proposals you do receive will contain information that in no way helps you select the right learning management system. You believe you are doing your due diligence in issuing an RFP; what you are actually doing is significantly reducing your chances of finding the right system.

There’s a simple alternative.

Every once in a while, I receive from a prospective customer a short, elegant, Request for Information (RFI). Typically, these RFIs consist of one or more tables that simply require Yes/No answers from the vendors. Whereas a full-fledge RFP might take an LMS vendor 40 hours or more to complete, an RFI can take one-tenth the effort. The result is that the organization looking to acquire a LMS gets a 100 per cent response rate from vendors. In addition, the information received from the vendors can be easily compared and scored. Gone are the thousands of pages of materials, replaced with tables that illustrate feature sets at a glance.

Here’s a sample:

RFI for the selection of a learning management system

CAUTION: Your RFI should not contain a laundry list of every LMS feature in existence. The tables should only list your most important requirements. The longer you make your RFI, the lower the response rate from vendors. You’re aiming for a 100 per cent response rate, which means keeping the RFI short and focused on your top-level needs.

An RFI designed this way will quickly weed out the systems that aren’t a good match for your learning initiative. Demonstrations of the remaining systems, ideally employing use cases, will then identify the best system.

The vast majority of RFPs I see are horrible tools to select enterprise software. An RFI, if designed as illustrated above, is totally awesome and effective, and a very simple tool to help you select the right LMS.

Two More Excellence in Technology Awards for Absorb LMS

January 10, 2014 Leave a comment

Absorb LMS has just won two more industry awards.

Brandon Hall Group, a research and advisory services firm specializing in the areas of Learning and Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition, and Human Resources has named Absorb LMS a Gold and Silver winner in their annual Excellence in Technology Awards.

2013 Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology (Silver)

Best Advance in Learning Management Technology

2013 Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology (Silver)

Best Advance in Mobile Learning Technology

We’re thrilled to add these two awards to our list of accolades:

2013:

  • Gold Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology
  • Silver Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology Award for Best Advance in Mobile Learning Technology
  • Bersin & Associates WhatWorks® Award Winner for Delivering Innovation
  • Named one of  TrainingIndustry.com’s Top 20 Learning Portal Companies

2012:

  • Gold Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses
  • Named one of  TrainingIndustry.com’s Top 20 Learning Portal Companies
  • Bronze Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology Award for Learning Management Technology for the SMARTLAB LMS.
  • Bronze Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology

2011:

  • Awarded LMS Industry “Innovator” ranking in LMS Vendor Landscapes report by research firm McLean & Company
  • Named one of  TrainingIndustry.com’s Top 20 Learning Portal Companies
  • Gold Brandon Hall Excellence Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for Global Training

2010:

  • Silver Brandon Hall Excellence for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for External Training
  • Named one of  TrainingIndustry.com’s Top 20 Learning Portal Companies

2009:

  • Gold Brandon Hall Excellence Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for Small and Medium Sized Businesses
  • Bronze Brandon Hall Excellence Award for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for External Training

2008:

  • Silver Brandon Hall Excellence Award for Best Custom Content

You can also access user reviews of Absorb LMS here.

How Branding Your Learning Management System Can Influence Culture (and Create a Fun Place to Learn)

October 25, 2013 Leave a comment

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

The best companies I’ve worked with have had great workplace cultures. Management in these companies understand that happy team members are more productive and less likely to jump ship the next time an opportunity arises elsewhere.

Whenever I speak to anyone about workplace culture, I often end up pointing them to a great Harvard Business Review Blog post by Nilofer Merchant titled “Culture Trumps Strategy, Every Time.” Compare an organization with happy, motivated people to a similar-size organization filled with demoralized walking dead, and it immediately becomes clear why a positive workplace culture drives success.

If you’re a budding entrepreneur hoping to start the next billion dollar company, you should read the Merchant post and other resources about workplace culture before you even have your first business card designed. If you’re a manager, you need to be aware that you are a key driver in defining the culture within your organization. Speak to anyone who’s worked for a few years and they’ll have stories about managers from hell who were the impetus behind staff calling in sick and eventual mass exoduses.

In a previous Blog post titled “How to Use a Learning Management System to Support Your Workplace Culture,” we looked at how changing the wording of system prompts and interface labels can create learning environments that more closely reflect the culture you are attempting to create and promote. Textual communication, however, is only one tool to support culture; the visual design of the learning environment is equally important.

In branding visually your learning management system (LMS), you should think beyond simply being faithful to corporate colors and placing a logo at the top left-hand corner. Imagery including illustrations, photos, and icons can enhance the environment and help eliminate the preconception that your learning management system is just another boring piece of business software. Most importantly, these visual elements can create a more pleasant place to learn.

Need some inspiration? The following video presents some of the ways the Absorb LMS user interface has been branded for various clients.

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