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Selecting an LMS

Selecting an LMSWhen selecting an LMS, cost is a factor.  Service providers all have their own pricing models. So what are the main pricing models used?

There are three main pricing models to be aware of:

  1. Seat based: Seat based pricing is where price is based on a number of users. For example, this could be the number of users on the site, or the number of users you anticipate. Note that the number of users is not the same as concurrent users. Concurrent users are the number of users at a time before the server is overloaded. If considering a seat based model, watch out for the number of additional users that need access to the system (e.g. People other than employees)
  2. Usage based: This is based on the number of students who actually register (as opposed to the potential number of users in a seat based pricing). When calculating the students, it is important to consider the time period. Ask the service provider the difference in costs between 100 students in a one-day course and 100 students in a 6-month course.
  3. Storage based: This is based on the size of the files that are stored on the server. The larger the courses (and course resources) the higher the cost.

An LMS is a large investment, so it is important for it to be appropriately resourced. Therefore, cost shouldn’t be the main factor in making a decision.

When selecting an LMS, follow a systematic process to identify your requirements and then compare the systems and their features:

  • Determine high-level requirements with stakeholders
  • Determine the budget
  • Identify systems requirements
  • Develop a systems matrix to compare providers
  • Filter potential providers
  • Compile a features list or top providers
  • Decide based on feature/cost comparison

One area which is sometimes overlooked is your relationship with your service provider.

I say that this is often overlooked for a few reasons. First, procurement processes rarely have ‘relationship with the service provider’ as an item of consideration. Second, the process of getting an LMS is heavily weighted to the technical and so it is easy to overlook the relationship aspects.

LMS sales are big business. If you work with a large company, you may be working with a sales person (who is trained to answer all your questions) and then with someone else for the implementation. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The flip side is with a smaller company, the sales person might be the owner, which raises a level of key person risk (what happens if they get sick?).

So here is a guide of some questions to start with:

  • Who will be your main point of contact? Will you be using a generic help line or an individual person? If you are working with an individual, who is it. I was told a story about a small provider, and whenever the client asked for something, the service provider would ‘baffle’ the client with technical jargon and the client would go away without getting what they wanted. It is important that you can form a strong sustainable relationship with your provider.
  • What is included/not included in your Service Level Agreement (SLA)? If you have a hosted solution, an SLA is important.  An SLA describes the service that you will be provided and what support the service provider provides. So what is considered under your SLA? One-way of streamlining this is to ensure you have one point of contact for SLA issues. This will save you bombarding your provider with questions that you may already have the answer to.
  • How is the SLA measured? Someone told me once of a relationship where the service provider didn’t formally measure the SLA. This meant the client never knew if they were going over the SLA, but the service provider was able to say ‘that won’t come under your SLA’ whenever there was a hairy question/issue. Know if your service provider is measuring the time they spend on your SLA, and how they are calculating it (i.e. 15 minute/1 hr lots).
  • Talk to other clients? Reading a testimonial is one thing, talking to clients is another thing. Find out the ins and outs of a service provider by speaking with other clients to determine if the service is all it’s being sold as.

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. It’s just a few starting questions to consider. The cost of switching LMS in the future can be very high, so this is a decision to get right the first time. Consult on the technical specifications and requirements – just don’t overlook the ‘softer’ side of things.

Do you need some support selecting an LMS? We host some common ones, so for more information send us an email at

(This was adapted from an article written to support the QVDC workshops Get Started in E-learning)

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