6 Small Hints That’ll Make a Big Difference When You Buy an LMS
As more and more RTOs are looking for robust LMS to help manage their operation there is a broad and increasing market to satisfy these needs. It can therefore be an overwhelming experience when in the buying process for such an important solution. Making the wrong choice on software could be very expensive. We’re often attracted to the sound of a good deal. However, beware of the pitfalls of choosing based on price. There could be hidden costs later down the track.
This Buyers Guide will give you some savvy tips to help you plan and successfully implement the best product for your RTO, whether it is a Learning Management System, Online Assessment Solution, Student Management System or Document Management System.
Make sure you always get a free trial that most software companies will provide. If they don’t provide you with one, or even if they do, but only the lite version, be weary of signing up. Would you buy a car without taking it for a drive first?
If you are at this stage, you will have already thought and ideally listed your requirements so that you can easily validate if the system is meeting your needs. Other questions to ask yourself include:
Is it intuitive and does it provide an engaging experience for your students and team?
Does it have the flexibility to mould to your processes and delivery?
Use your content and try to simulate a live experience as best you can. It is worth investing the time at this stage to ensure you are not wasting your time later.
Where some solutions may provide stacks of features, are these there just to justify the price or, will they be useful and provide the value you need for your business to thrive. Software should provide your RTO with gains in efficiency and quality, not be a labour intensive machine that becomes the next time draining problem.
Read Case Studies
Does the company have case studies from their clients on their website? What are their Google reviews like? It’s always a good temperature check to “social proof” a company to make sure they are the type of organisation your company aligns to.
When liaising with software providers, validate their service levels. How quick is their response time, what processes do they have in place to answer concerns/issues.
With a Moodle based system there are forums for support. You will need to budget for an in-house or outsourced tech team to support your ongoing needs. How much will this cost your business and will it fulfil your requirements?
During your trial, make sure you test it out and see how responsive and accommodating the provider seems to be and grade it in relation to your list of requirements.
Look for Continued Investment
Compliance regulations within the VET sector are constantly changing. For example the requirement for all students to have a USI from 1st January 2015 meant that RTOs needed to add this to their reporting requirements for AVETMISS. Software therefore needs to be continuously updated to align to these industry changes.
To assess a providers commitment to you find out if they are a local business with real people that you can visit or who offer continuous support? In particular, where do they store your data? Is your privacy important to them?
Find out what features are new and what is in the pipeline. How do they relate to your needs and goals for your business? Features should not be wheeled out as a prize list, they should be discussed to solve problems that your RTO faces.
Find out what the vendor’s sole purpose is and you will be able to identify where their investment focus will be. Is this aligned to your needs?
“Jack of all Trades” or “Master of One”
The Standish Group back in 2002 found that they could apply the 80:20 rule to software usage i.e. 80% of users only use 20% of features.
Utilising a system that has your problem at its core is therefore going to give you more bang for your buck as you will not be buying into other areas that you may not even require.
This relates to the terminology best of breed software. It becomes more cost effective to build a dynamic stack of systems that meet your business needs rather than utilise a “Jack of all trades” offering.
The “Jack of all trades” may be practical for smaller scale businesses but as you get bigger, your Sales department will want a Sales solution, Marketing will want Marketing software and Accounts will want Accounting software.
Typically systems that are providing a focused solution offer integration with your other systems to seamlessly exchange data so you don’t have to. Be sure to ask about integration and the costs and time involved.
Lock in Contracts
Watch out for solutions that lock you in. Are they locking you in and then reneging on their promises? Find a solution that does not rely on this to keep you, but instead to ensure you are happy people. Providers that allow you to manage your own spend in relation to how many users and feature options gives you greater flexibility and value for money.
If you can get answers to all of these questions you will be armed with all the information you need to compare providers and make an informed decision.