Mar 062011

Learning Management System: 10 Tips For Selecting a Learning Management System

Learning Management System: By Wendy Kayser Kirkpatrick, Kirkpatrick Partners


Technology-based training now represents 30% of all workplace learning, and predictions are that it will continue to grow (ASTD 2007 State of the Industry Report). A convenient way to track this type of training is with an online Learning Management System, or LMS. If you are thinking about acquiring one in 2008, here are some tips:

1. Determine if you really need a Learning Management System

Online learning can be delivered on your company website without a Learning Management System if usage tracking is not important to you. A Learning Management System may not be necessary to meet your training needs.

2. Be realistic about the cost

The initial cost to purchase a  Learning Management System ranges from $50,000 to $250,000. Start-up costs run $25,000 to $30,000. Annual maintenance fees average 20-25% of the original license price (Bersin & Associates).

3. Use a cross-functional team to select the Learning Management System

A sales manager and a computer programmer tend to have different ideas about what constitutes the perfect Learning Management System. Form a Learning Management System committee including representatives from IT, training, every major group of learners, and possibly accounting.

4. Be specific about the functionality you expect the Learning Management System to provide

A  Learning Management Systemcan provide any or all of the following training functions: content delivery, online registration, tracking, follow-up and reminders, reporting, and more. Document your requirements with a detailed three to five year business plan. Make sure everyone on the Learning Management System committee has input to and agrees with it.

5. Prioritize the functions you would like the Learning Management System to provide

Learning Management System build-out and deployment can take over a year to do correctly. If you want to use many Learning Management System features, consider planning a staged launch with just the most critical functions in the first phase.

6. Benefit from the experience of others

Network with local ASTD members who have already installed a Learning Management System. Visit for impartial  Learning Management System data and information about the Learning Systems ’08 conference. Ask Learning Management System companies for references from their satisfied customers, and call them!

7. Take your top Learning Management System candidates for a test drive

Ask the Learning Management System provider for a login to a sample or current customer site. Have all members of the Learning Management System committee try it out.

8. Carefully weigh the risks of customization

Customizations are time consuming and expensive. They are untested and leave you vulnerable to problems that are difficult to resolve. They reduce the effectiveness of user groups because your Learning Management System will be different than everyone else’s. Instead of customizing, it may be faster and easier to modify your training program and expectations to fit into the existing Learning Management System design.

9. Clarify the support package

Ensure you are clear on what support the  Learning Management System company will provide. This can range from virtually none, to access to a customer support team, to a dedicated account support representative. Make sure your team will be staffed to cover any other needs.

10. Meet the support staff

Speak to the key people who will support your Learning Management System. They will be your lifeline when issues arise. Find out what country they are in and during what hours they will be available.

By following these suggestions you have a good chance of purchasing an Learning Management System that is right for your company. A system that meets your needs can increase access to and usage of training materials. The benefit will be an increase in the quantity and quality of training that occurs within your organization.


Wendy Kirkpatrick is the director of Kirkpatrick Partners, LLC. She is a certified instructional designer. She also conducts seminars and facilitates corporate meetings.

Wendy draws on sixteen years of experience in the business world to make her training relevant and impactful with measurable results.

Contact Wendy at

Read more about her at © 2008. All rights reserved.

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