The other day I was listening to a podcast by a prominent voice in the eLearning software industry and I heard him say that most LMS vendors often miss the wood for the trees! This phrase has always fascinated me! – Wood for the Trees – to put it simply, a lot of Learning Management Systems simply forget the reason they exist, and end up creating a lot of fancy additions to their capabilities. Often, in this pursuit, they fail to address basic features. In this post, we explore why a customised LMS might be the better route for organisations, to keep learning in focus, and to bring myriad benefits – both from an organisation and a learner’s perspective.
There is a 2nd part to this problem too. If you are an organisation looking for an LMS for your employees, sometimes you start running after great UI or some fancy features, and forget to take into account, the specific needs of your business processes or the way your teams are structured. As I mentioned earlier – you miss the wood for the trees!
Remember, a well-intentioned learning program will fall flat on its face, if the right LMS even with the right mix of features & ease of use elements is not tailored to an organisation’s specific needs.
Whichever LMS you choose, you are going to be needing a fair amount of customisation to make it in sync with your organisation’s existing training programs. In most cases, you’re also going to be needing enhancements to the LMS to help fit into your suite of business applications and share an employee’s learning performance data across different systems.
With this premise, let us examine the different advantages of having and needing a customized LMS for your employees’ learning requirements. Not just that, we’re also going to touch upon how a custom LMS even helps ease out your LMS administrators’ lives!
How a Customized LMS Helps Employees
Below mentioned are 4 examples of standard LMS Customization options that organizations opt for, for their system to be in step with their operations.
1. Make Internal Communication Better
Man is a social animal, with the advent of social media, we’ve become attuned to carry out learning activities in a ‘community-based’ environment. For your employees, the single biggest motivating factor for taking training is going to be the fact that their peers are already taking it, talking about it, and sharing their achievements in groups within your company.
- Discussion Groups – you can create forums and make them private to courses, where your employees can discuss important concepts, or just indulge in friendly banter. Remember, there is no restriction on teams here. You can even get employees from different teams participate in course forums. For an employee, this is a brilliant chance to communicate with people from other business verticals and get exposed to different aspects of your business processes. You can also use these discussion groups to make important announcements about your learning programs. All in all, it might turn out to be the most vibrant part of your LMS, something that every participant looks forward to every day they log in to your LMS.
- Live Chats – you can also customise your LMS to allow one-to-one interaction between employee-manager, student-teacher, employee-to-employee, student-to-student. This adds a personal touch to the overall LMS experience, plus it helps keep all learning related conversations in one place.
- Social Media Integration – you can include a custom module that will help your employees share their learning achievements on their social account or some internal community portal used by your company or university.
2. Add Gamification to your LMS
- Gamification Elements – You can also add custom elements to motivate employees and gamify the entire learning process with custom badges, custom notifications to nudge employees and students to take courses because their peers are already accomplishing their learning goals. Elements like a leader-board can be customised based on your analysis of what motivates your employees the most. Course Teachers/Instructors can also create custom versions of dashboards that will suit students the most.
3. Personalise Learning for your Employees/Students
- Custom Learner Dashboards – Personalise the learning experience for each individual employee or student by creating a custom dashboard for each employee on the basis of the role performed by that employee in your organisation. You can also get your LMS vendor to provide various pre-built visual elements that the employee can pick and choose and display inside his or her dashboard.
- An example of custom dashboard for an employee would include the following elements –
- A section showing Scheduled or Upcoming Training Events
- A section covering Important Announcements relevant to the employee
- A section showing course specific progress reports for the employee
- A section past performance on Classroom sessions
- A section to log attendance
- A section showing the badges earned or rewards by that particular employee
- A section to show scribbled notes by the employee for reference later
- A graphical representation of the overall learning journey taken up by the student/employee
These are many more possibilities that can be implemented to personalise the learning experience through customising the LMS features and/or user interface. Make it a point to talk through these possibilities with your LMS partner, and try to accommodate your employees’ learning journey as much as possible. It will make the job of convincing your employees to use the LMS much easier.
How a Customized LMS Helps LMS Administrators
It is very critical that LMS administrators are able to easily navigate their way through different LMS screens. You should ensure that your Learning & Development team doesn’t spend a lot of time simply administering and training the employees on using the LMS. They should ideally spend time creating engaging learning programs, and promoting a healthy culture of learning and training.
For your training staff, the standard LMS admin interface might not necessarily be easy to use OR it might not bring your critical learning areas into focus. For this, you should be talking to your LMS partner and explore different ways of making sure that your LMS administrators move smoothly between screens, and that they’re able to find relevant settings for critical LMS features quickly.
Your LMS Admin Shouldn’t End up Like This –
Below mentioned are some examples of standard customisations that organisations adopt for their Learning & Development team:-
1. Custom Dashboards to Look at LMS Diagnostics
Now, sometimes your LMS administrator will have multiple responsibilities – not just administering the LMS, but if you’re working with an on-premise LMS hosting, then even your members of your IT infrastructure team will be responsible for administering the LMS. For them a server level diagnostics report which talks about stuff like server utilisation, overall LMS health might be useful. See below for an example:-
You can ask your LMS vendor to create a customised version of these diagnostics relevant to your organisation.
2. Ability to Customize Notifications
You will need to have the ability to customise the design and content of notifications(for example, reminders and simple FYIs). You should get your LMS vendor to add your brand logos, colours, overall language tone that matches the DNA of your organisation.
3. Creating a Custom Reporting Dashboard with Custom Learner Metrics
Every organisation’s reporting structures and organisational hierarchies are different. They also have different reporting managers with different learning metrics to look at. You should be looking at creating a custom reporting dashboard to suit all your team heads when they log into the LMS. Not just this, you also need the ability to customise what data you want to export from your LMS. So creating a custom query builder with the ability to pick and choose data from the existing reporting metrics.
4. Integration with Purchased Course Libraries
You might have already purchased an account with online course content libraries like Coursera, Udemy or Udacity. To integrate with your business accounts, your LMS will have to be customised with API integrations that can pull courses from each of these libraries and make it available for your employees from within your LMS. Please note that further customisation and integration effort might be required to send student/employee learner performance data back to Coursera/Udemy.
Overall Benefits to Organizations Opting for a Customized LMS
Reduce Costs on Training Administration and Delivery
Through using a customised version of the LMS, your organisations stands to gain a lot in terms of elimination of bandwidth spent in collating data in one place, coaching employees on using individual LMS features, eliminating confusion on the various functions the LMS can perform etc. It results in lesser manpower costs, saves hundreds of man hours of work, and overall, leads to better utilisation of the available human bandwidth both in terms of time, complexity and infrastructure costs.
An LMS That is By and For the Employees
A customised LMS gives employees the feeling that there is a Learning & Development team that is specially focused on improving their learning experience, and they undertake the online training courses in a familiar environment. The learner feels that the LMS is simply an extension of the overall learning culture in the organisation, and feels comfortable using it, similar to the way they would have used any other enterprise application currently being deployed at your workplace.
An LMS That Contributes to Business Outcomes
Having a customised version of any LMS that you use, can lead to better mapping of online learning to employee performance and consequently better business impact. In fact, the job of actually tracking the business outcome due to improved training, will be a lot easier for members of the learning evaluation team at your end. Eventually, that will lead to smoother management meetings, and gradual re-orientation towards helping employees grow in their careers and not merely perform their tasks. Before you choose, ensure that you research how customizable the LMS is, as it can be a massive facilitator in your overall training program. This guide on LMS Customization will tell you everything you need to know before you make a decision.