7 Signs You Need a New Learning Management System (LMS)
Your LMS is the foundation of your entire online learning experience. Is it letting you down?
For online educators, few decisions are as consequential as which Learning Management System (LMS) they choose to be the platform for their online course. Your LMS will determine what teaching tools you have at your disposal, the user experience of your learners, and even your ability to launch a financially viable program. However, it’s not uncommon for educators to find themselves a few years into their online education program but stuck on a platform that isn’t serving their needs.
Maybe they made their initial choice in a hurry, before fully researching their marketplace. Maybe their needs have shifted drastically since they launched their first course, and their platform isn’t keeping up. Or maybe they’ve been in the business for years, and the LMS they chose a decade ago is now severely outdated.
If you’re in this position and trying to decide whether to move to a new LMS, here are seven signs that the time has come.
1. You hate it.
Let’s start with the most obvious reason to switch LMSs: your current LMS is driving you crazy. It takes too many clicks to access basic functions, the tools are clumsy, it doesn’t have enough options for customization, it’s slow, it’s ugly, it’s frustrating. In other words, it’s costing you productivity, either because it’s hard to use, or because using is enough a source of stress to impact your work day.
It’s unlikely that a well-built LMS will give you this level of user fatigue, but if it does, do yourself a favor and switch. The long-term gains you make in productivity will more than compensate for the short-term hassle of changing platforms.
2. Your learners hate it.
Another good reason to switch LMSs as soon as possible? The user experience is bad for your learners. Bad UX in the design of your LMS won’t just lead to unhappy learners, it can also make it harder for them to study or get their course work completed. The more your learners have to wrestle with your user interface, the more distracted they will be from their course work. No one needs additional stress when they’re trying to study.
On the other hand, changing to an LMS with a better UX (meaning a UX that will get out of your learners’ way and let them learn) will boost satisfaction with your course—and probably your course sales as well.
3. It’s missing key functions every LMS should have.
We’re sometimes surprised by the features an LMS doesn’t have—like decent quiz options, or a content drip feed. And yet, some of the most popular LMSs out there fall into this bucket, either because they don’t have these features at all, or because important features are always a pricing tier out of reach.
While there’s no need to pay extra for features you’ll never use, there are many functions that at this point are considered basic enough for every LMS to have. If your platform is missing them, it’s time to move on.
4. It’s design templates are too restrictive.
Another common problem with LMSs is that the design templates they offer can be too restrictive. Of course, they rarely seem so at first. A template in the hands of an experienced designer can look beautiful—until you run into all the things it can’t do.
Appearances are important. They affect how learners interact with your content, how you present yourself and your materials, and how effectively you can market and sell your course. If you’re constantly running into issues with the design of your course that prevent you from creating the look and feel you want for your brand, find a new LMS.
5. Its pricing structure is costing you too much.
LMSs have differing price structures, and in some cases it can be difficult to understand what the pros and cons are of each model. Many courses will have a “free” option for those who are just signing up, but will have a more aggressive pay scale during your growth phases to push you toward pricier options. Others will charge by the user, or take a portion of your sales.
No one wants to put a lot of work into building, marketing, and selling their course just to see their profits disappear into the costs of their LMS. If you’re paying thousands of dollars to your LMS each year just to maintain your course, it’s time to think about whether their platform is worth it.
6. It hasn’t kept up to date with elearning innovations.
Elearning has come a long way in recent years. Not so long ago, many online learning courses were little more than text readings supplemented by video. The experience for many learners was isolating and failed to engage them on a more significant level. Today, online educators have more tools at their disposal, including gamification, branching scenarios, and other interactive elements.
Not every LMS has kept up, however. Online learners are savvy and are attracted by courses that provide a good learning experience. If your LMS hasn’t kept up on elearning innovations, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to deliver the learning experience you want.
7. It won’t scale to match the growth of your course.
While some LMSs are good choices for educators who are just starting out, that doesn’t make them a good platform for growing online course communities. Eventually you may found that the LMS that worked well when you had one or two courses won’t be sufficient when you have twelve or twenty—or it won’t let you add enough admins to manage content, or it caps the number of learners you can have, or it simply costs too much.
Any LMS that inhibits your course growth will eventually stunt your ability to develop a thriving business. When your LMS gets in the way of that, it’s time to switch.
Switching LMSs can be costly, but stying with an LMS that is underserving your needs is a greater risk.
Many educators hesitate to switch LMSs because they are aware of the risks involved. Moving course materials, retraining staff, and modifying the way you teach are all significant changes. You may even do all that only to be disappointed in your new LMS. All these concerns can make it seem like the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.
But there are also risks to staying with a platform that’s underserving you. If your LMS is causing stress for both you and your learners, if it’s expensive and unwieldy, and if it won’t let you take advantage of innovations so that you can stay at the front of your field, then staying with your old LMS is no longer worth it. The sooner you switch, the faster you can start taking advantages of your new platform.