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eLearning Learning
April 17, 2023

5 Questions to Ask Before Choosing an LMS

Did you know that there are more than 1,000 LMS vendors from which to choose? With all these options, selecting the right LMS for your organization can feel like an impossible task. But it doesn’t have to be.  

For most of my career (over 15 years), I’ve been consulting with clients to help them define their unique requirements for a new LMS. During this process, we conduct strategy and planning sessions to build a holistic picture of the features, functionality, and reporting needs they have while keeping user experience for their audience and administrators top of mind.

In this article, I outline the five questions you should answer to clearly define your needs. This information will help narrow down your search and make navigating the world of learning management systems less overwhelming. 

Before we jump in, let’s make sure we’re aligned on what an LMS is and what it can do.  

Defining Learning Management System 

A learning management system, or LMS for short, is a server-based software application built to manage, deliver, track, and report on learning experiences. Most people associate learning management systems as the primary way to host and deliver eLearning courses, but today’s learning management systems can do so much more! 

They can facilitate the delivery of many types of learning experiences beyond your traditional eLearning, from simple videos and resources to scheduling live training to gamification. Not to mention, they are packed with countless features that can make the role of an LMS administrator a lot easier. You can put users into groups, create custom learning paths, automate course assignments, set prerequisites, generate detailed reports, and even integrate with Artificial Intelligence (AI) or chatbots – just to name a few. Can you tell I get excited talking about LMSs? 

So how do you pick the very best LMS for your organization and needs? I can tell you this: You don’t need every bell and whistle under the sun (even if you have the budget for it). 

Let’s step through the top five questions you can answer to start defining your requirements.

Who is the audience? 

Like any type of learning solution, we start with the learner. Who is the learning audience comprised of that will be accessing the LMS? More specifically, consider if you are trying to reach an internal audience (e.g., employees within your organization) versus an external audience (e.g., extended enterprise, prospective customers, the public) or both. 

These two audiences are very different - from how they access your training content, to why they need it, to your communications with them, to the metrics you want to track.

Once you’ve identified who the audience is, here are some additional factors you may want to consider: 

  • How many users do you have? 
  • Do you require users to be organized into groups?
    • For internal audiences, this may be based on role or department. 
    • For external audiences, groups may be organizations in your extended enterprise. 
  • How will they access the system? 
    • Will they need to self-register, or will logins be provided to them at launch? 
    • Do you need an LMS that can integrate with other systems for single-sign-on authentication? 
    • For external learning audiences: Will they need to subscribe or pay for access to the system or group of courses? 
  • What is their experience with using an LMS or similar online system?

These initial considerations scratch the surface of your technical needs, but you’ll need to dive deeper throughout this process. As we step through the remaining questions, you’ll see that we consistently circle back to the learner. I encourage the creation of learner personas so that you can refer back to these profiles as you gather requirements. They’ll also come in handy when it’s time to make key decisions during the implementation of your chosen LMS. 

What type of content do you have (or plan to have)? 

If you’re exploring learning management systems, you likely have some existing training content to make available to your audience, or you have the plan to create/source it.

 Consider the training content you want to deliver:

  • What are the various formats of your training content?
  • Are your eLearning courses published for SCORM or xAPI? 
  • Will access to some content be contingent on learners completing a prerequisite? 
  • How are courses and their corresponding resources grouped? Do you plan to develop prescribed learning paths for specific curriculum or groups of learners? 
  • If you have live instructor-led training you want to deliver, do you want learners to be able to sign-up and register for it via the LMS? 
  • Do you require a vendor partner that can support with custom content development or that has an off-the-shelf training library? 

In addition to what type of content you have, it’s also helpful to know how much. If you are able, try to quantify what you plan to deliver and track in your LMS. 

What data do you want to gather? 

Next, let’s talk reporting. One of the biggest benefits of an LMS to you and your organization is not just its ability to host and deliver training content, but also its ability to track and report on learning outcomes. Based on the training goals of the curriculum you place in your LMS, you may be trying to gather metrics on an increase in knowledge, upskilling of internal employees, a change in attitudes or behaviors, or simply that your staff is in compliance after completing the mandatory safety training. 

Let’s look at some of the types of data you may want to track in your LMS:  

  • Active Users: How many users are leveraging your LMS at a given time? 
  • Course Completion: How you track this may be different based on the type of content it is. For example, eLearning may be tracked by a passing quiz score or how many pages they viewed in the course, a video may be tracked and marked as complete if the learner reaches a specific timestamp, and a PDF may be marked complete if the learner simply opens it.  
  • Assessment Scores: You may want to track learner scores for a specific exam or quiz. Furthermore, if you want to reveal if a piece of training content improved knowledge or performance, you may implement a pre and post-assessment to measure the difference in learner scores. Lastly, you may want data at a more granular level by tracking learner responses to each individual question.
  • Time Logs: How long is it taking learners to complete an eLearning module or larger online curriculum? If you find that your audience is taking longer than you intended, this may mean there are user experience issues at play, or the content is too difficult for learners to digest. 
  • Surveys: Gather feedback, demographic information, and confidence levels from your audience. 

Along with providing critical data to leadership and your L&D team, reporting can also serve as a learner engagement mechanism with gamification leaderboards and recognition.

How will you communicate with your audience?

Many LMSs today offer some way to notify your audience of an event or send out an announcement. Typically, it’s in the form of an email or text message. Maybe you want to have the ability to remind your learners to complete mandatory training. Or perhaps you want to be able to easily notify the list of registrants for an instructor-led training that the time has changed.  

As you define your requirements for your LMS, think about how and when you may want to use communication features. 

Most importantly:

  • Do you want to create and schedule announcements that engage your learning audience? 
  • Do you want certain actions, like enrolling in a course, to trigger an email or text message to that learner? 

Who will your administrator(s) be?

Determining how the role of the LMS administrator will be fulfilled at your organization can be a big deciding factor as you vet LMS vendors. Do you plan to dedicate a full-time person with a strong technical background to be your LMS administrator? Or will a few of your L&D leaders be sharing this responsibility along with their other responsibilities? 

Many LMSs will have exactly the features you want, but you may find their back-end administration too complicated for your team to manage if they do not have the technical skills. Similarly, if you have one person or a team taking on this role as a secondary function to their job, they may not have the bandwidth to keep the LMS up and running unless a lot of automated functionality is in place. 

Bottom line: During the planning process, never overlook who your LMS administrator will be. 


When it comes to choosing the right LMS for your organization, don’t jump right into Googling the top LMSs on the market. There are too many options out there to know where to begin. Start by defining your needs. The answers to the questions we reviewed in this article all come together to create the map you need to navigate the world of learning management systems. Use it to help you narrow your search. 

Once you’re heading in the right direction, make a pit stop and discuss the budget with your team. There are a variety of pricing models out there to fit your needs, and this is just one more way you can further vet LMS vendors to create a shortlist. 

Before you know it, you’ll be at your destination: Your new LMS.  

Related article: Integrating a Specialized eLearning Course and LMS

Jenny Kerwin

By Jenny Kerwin, Client Strategy Manager

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d'Vinci Interactive is an award-winning comprehensive learning solutions provider for corporate, government, medical, non-profit, and K-12 target markets.

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