A practical demonstration is the best way to evaluate software, especially Learning Management Systems. A question that we are regularly asked is “what do I need to prepare prior to our demo?” This post serves to give you ideas on what you should consider and prepare prior to your LMS demo.
Who should attend?
Once you have made a list of vendors that fit within your basic requirements and you have committed to sit in on demonstrations, you should decide who needs to be present. By consulting with those who will have an input not only on the selection but also the continued use of the system, it will help you with adoption of the LMS in the long-term. An LMS touches many parts of the business, not just Learning and Development. If, for example, you are moving from another complex system, it may be important to include technical personnel if integrations are required. By letting your potential vendor know who will be in attendance in advance this should enable a better demo that will be tailored to your stakeholder concerns.
Some possible attendees include:
- LMS administrator
- Content Creators
- IT professionals/Managers
- Department Managers
What features do I need to see?
It’s very common for a check-list to be used to map out every single feature that you may require. I would advise focusing on the features you absolutely need and how they combine to facilitate your use case. In the scheduling phase, a clear description of how you would like to carry out your training strategy will allow the vendor to personalize the demonstration. This will make the experience clearer and more efficient. An LMS demonstration should be well designed for you, the evaluator. It should be a microcosm of not only the end result but the initial setup, day to day activities and those outcomes. By including your feature requirements and an overall use case description the demonstrator can tie these all together in the clearest manner, within the time frame to allow for questions and answers.
How should it look?
When choosing software like an LMS there are varying levels of customization for how the product will look to you and your users. How do you want it to look? This does not just cover pure aesthetics. How clean and modern is the user interface? How does it look on different devices and how smooth is the actual experience?
Before the demonstration you should decide which branding you would like the LMS to feature. A good LMS demonstration should be done in a portal that matches your branding to give you a clear expectation of what can be achieved visually.
Who are my users?
Users are the most important element of any software you will choose. Whether it is a small or large number you have to consider a couple of things prior to the demonstration. I think a good starting point is to ask the questions:
- Who are my users and how will they need to interact with the system?
- Do I need those users to have different roles that match up with the roles they occupy in your organisation?
- How many administrators, instructors, managers and learners will I have?
This allows you to mentally map out the experience each will have, which is important to ensure adoption. Hopefully some of those individuals will be joining you on the demo and they can speak of their experiences and expectations.
A secondary point: How exactly will they enter into the system? From the vendor’s point of view it might be sufficient to say “We have added our users”. You will need to put that in the perspective of your organization’s day to day activities.The day to day actions may be different to the demonstration. In the demo you may see a user being created with the click of a button. How does that scale if you have hundreds? How can you automate the process if it is thousands? If you enter into the demo with a plan formulated for how this looks in your current and planned situations it makes it easier to see if the software will support both.
I was very impressed recently to hear of a Learning & Development manager sending on a list of fictional users that they wanted to see placed into the system and control certain roles. This gave our inside sales manager, Caoimhín, an example to use through his demonstration which resonated with the evaluator. Here is an example:
Will I need groups?
Once you know who your learners are, and how you get them into the system, you should think about how you want to group them. Learning Management Systems should allow you to create various groupings so that you can segment users. This will allow you to manage these groups easily, assign managers and report on each separately. In the image above you can see that although it is a simplistic example, it does include basic groupings to make it easier to organize training. I have been told by one particular customer that they began their process by using a whiteboard to identify which groups needed training. If a separation within a single portal is not enough, you can always give different segments of your users their own unique portal with a multi portal feature, as long as the LMS allows for this.
How will I communicate with my users?
When you have your users in the system, how will you communicate with them? Will you be using manual or automatic communication? If you are using automatic messaging, can you change elements in the information sent out? There are lots of options here, so the best way to decide your preference is to work through a simple process and add on features that will save time and make the process more efficient.
An LMS is a powerful tool to ensure that users are notified and reminded of their training to help completion. How often will you need to remind your learners of their training responsibilities? Why not give the vendor a real life picture of why this is a challenge currently? If it is indeed a nightmare to get your particular band of users through their training then it is worth noting this prior to the demo. The demonstrator will focus more time on this, a central issue for you! I know from experience that this is a major talking point for those in charge of training who do not have an automatic means to politely push learners to complete courses.
How will I reward my Learners?
Once a learner completes a course there are a number of ways to reward or recognize them. You should ask yourself why you are creating the training in the first place. How are your learners rewarded for their training completion? Do they require a certification as part of the process?
If you need a defined process of certification then a demo should clearly show you how those certificates are created, how they are awarded, and the types of records you and your learners have access to. Once again I recommend on providing the vendor with a picture of this workflow before the demo. That way they can walk you through that journey, covering each and every point you need to see.
You can also gamify the learning process by awarding points as the learner progresses through their courses. Gamification is an interesting way to increase engagement and enjoyment of your courses. Perhaps you should also think about how your organisation could use a feature such as this, to add some extra incentive for the learner.
What is the Pricing structure?
Do you understand the pricing structure of the vendor whose demo you will be attending? Is it clear and transparent? The pricing structure of a particular software can often be purposefully complex. We here at LearnUpon have a very clear pricing model in order to avoid any confusion. I think that some time should be dedicated in the demo to make sure you are completely clear on the pricing. I would also ask the demonstrator if there are any other fees involved whilst on the demo rather than finding that out afterwards.
What are my next steps?
A demo is a great way to see an overall picture of how an LMS works. But what information do you need after the session? There can be a lot of information to take in. Decide what further information you may need prior to starting your demo. Whether it is pricing structure, sales collateral, video, images, a trial portal or technical documentation, make sure you know your next steps so that you are in control of your process and making the most out of your time.
I hope this will help you with your demonstrations. Remember, If you have any questions or comments please leave them below and I will personally respond to them!