What Does my LMS provide?

Features, Tools and Options

The first set of features should be a menu of user-selectable options.

A collection of user-defined options should be available for you to specify how you want your system to operate, what screens and menus to activate, etc. These choices and settings should be available in a point-and-click interface or through simple text fields.

The reason that these user-definable values and choices are so so important is that they provide a way for each customer to customize the operation of their system without programming. Customizing software via programming is slow, expensive, and error-prone. One important aspect of a well-designed set of options and settings is the ability to change their values later on, after the system is in operation, without doing any harm.

Authoring - Building a course from scratch or assembling material to create a course.

This capability is inherent in almost all learning management platforms. And it's the part of the platform that most prospective customers want to see first. Why? Because they understand its purpose, and they have an expectation of how it might work.

At the simplest level, an integrated authoring tool will let you type in text and insert images in a sequenced flow that might be called a "lesson". But a useful course development toolset will also allow you to include videos, audio narrations, external web pages, documents such as PDF's, and so on. And since so many millions of videos are now hosted at YouTube (or other video delivery sites), there will likely be a way to include YouTube-hosted videos in your training content as well. This technique reduces the processing and bandwidth loads on the server where the LMS is hosted.

Course Delivery - Bringing your courses to your online learners.

The delivery function begins with scheduling a course (when will it be available to learners?) and assigning permissions. Permissions will be very simple in the case where all learners are authorized to enroll in any and all courses.

Actual delivery is done through what may be called the "student module". Rather than dumping a set of links on a learner and letting her plow through them, two features are provided that make delivery smoother and less confusing. These features are navigation and bookmarking.

Navigation: The LMS provides links or icons to move forward and backward through the current lesson, and to access online tests or return to the main learner menu. The navigation links should be adjusted to match the current activity. For example, in a course with only one lesson, there should be no "next lesson" icon at the bottom of the screen.

Bookmarking: This behind-the-scenes feature allows the learner to stop progressing through a course without losing his place. When he returns tomorrow, the training system takes him to where he left off and progress continues. Bookmarking is a good reason to keep videos to a manageable length, since the LMS will normally only know that a certain video was begun.

Reporting and Analysis - what have we accomplished?

A flexible, integrated reporting system should be part of every learning management system. Many types of reports will be available, including enrollment, progress, completion, student lists, exceptions, and analysis of testing activity.

One capability that every report should provide is a robust set of filters. Imagine if you had 10,000 students in your database and 25,000 course enrollments. If your enrollment report, for example, contained all 25,000 records every time you ran it, that would be more than inconvenient. When you initiate the report, the ability to filter by location or department, by a date range, or even by an individual learner, makes the contents of the report much more manageable.

The feature that is everywhere - Responsiveness

In the last few years, a wide variety of devices, with very different screen sizes, have been deployed to access the internet. This includes mobile phones and large monitors. In order for an application, or even a web site, to look good on a variety of devices, the text, images, videos, and the overall page layout must stretch to fit the display device. It just won't do to have massive white margins on each side of the screen. This makes a web site, or web application, look dated and unattractive. With a responsive layout, content moves around, text wraps, and sections are re-located to produce the optimum overall appearance.