One Reason Why More than 30 Per Cent of Organizations Really Hate Their Learning Management System

Selecting the right learning management system (LMS) can be a daunting task. There are hundreds of systems available. Making matters worse, you wouldn’t sound like too much of a conspiracy nut to suggest that all LMS vendors get together at the corner pub every Friday night to figure out how to make it even harder for buyers to compare their products and pricing.

“John, how about you charge per course enrollment and Mary, you charge per bandwidth used but don’t make the price changes linear, make them logarithmic, OK?”

Given the level of difficulty in selecting a learning management system, many organizations look for shortcuts, the most common of which is to simply buy the system used by one or more of their closest competitors or others in their industry.

If that giant import/export conglomerate, Vandelay Industries, is using QuickyLurn LMS, then you’d be nuts to select any other system for your own import/export business! After all, Vandelay’s billion dollar annual revenues would have been more than enough to fund the most exhaustive LMS search, ever.

Well, Vandelay Industries may have done its due diligence in selecting a LMS, or:

  • Perhaps someone at Vandelay was so overwhelmed with the scope of the project that a dart was thrown at a board containing the names of well-known systems. Or;
  • The LMS selected just happened to be where the secret lover of the head of the technology selection committee worked (say no more!) Or;
  • Vandelay actually picked the system they needed years ago but their needs have changed, and they are now unhappily using that same LMS because they are locked into an agreement with an expensive exit clause

Regrettably, organizations that select a competitor’s LMS too often ignore that their  learning strategy significantly impacts their LMS requirements. Your organization may be in the same industry but you may approach workplace learning differently:

  • You may make heavy use of self-paced, video-based learning content whereas Vandelay may focus on classroom-based training
  • You may wish to support external learners such as clients or partners whereas Vandelay may use the system only for employees
  • You may wish to support mobile learning whereas Vandelay is stuck with a lot of old content that doesn’t work on phones or tablets
  • Etc.

This copycat problem is particularly evident in higher education, where colleges and universities are perpetually in a state of abandoning their LMS for four or five competing systems, only to return to their first choice a dozen years later, beginning the cycle once more. We could call this dance the Moodle-Blackboard-Desire2Learn-eCollege-Sakai quickstep.

My mother used to say “just because your friend Patrick jumped into the cold lake with his clothes on doesn’t mean you had to as well.”

In writing this post, I considered referring to this copycat behavior as lemming-like but it turns out that even lemmings are smart enough to know that copying other lemmings is a bad idea. (See misconceptions about lemmings, Wikipedia.)

Lemmings and my mother provide valuable advice to organizations selecting a learning management system: don’t select a system because your competitor or other organizations in your industry use that software. Do your homework. Find a system that matches your requirements.