How fast does your NGO learn?

Posted by Marian Abernathy, Director of Membership & Communications

Marian_Abernathy

Atul Gawande’s recent New Yorker article Slow Ideas: Some innovations spread fast. How do you speed the ones that don’t? highlights the importance of champions. He discusses his work on the BetterBirth Project in Uttar Pradesh with the Indian Government, the World Health Organization, the Gates Foundation and LINGOs member Population Services International (PSI).

Dr. Gawande illustrates how we are often very slow to adopt great ideas, even those that resolve resolve important and highly prioritized challenges. While reading “slow ideas” about the speed of adoption of medical and public health innovations (from anesthesia and aseptic technique to oral rehydration solutions), I was struck by the similarities that many LINGOs members face as they roll out technology-based learning to provide professional development or strengthen technical skills of their global staff.

Many LINGOs members, including PSI, designate learning champions who help speed the diffusion of innovation in learning. Over 50 years ago, Everett Rogers’ wrote about the diffusion of innovation and showed that people take up new ideas when they have a trusted personal connection to it: change is a social process. A local learning champion serves as the trusted personal connection to organizational learning program.

LINGOs Members & Learning Champions

• Opportunity International clearly defines the role for their learning champions, including serving as registrars in the organizational learning management system (for more information, see March 2013 LINK  Spotlight).

• IJM’s Chennai-based Learning Champion shared her Gold Medal Tips in a July 2012 post on the LINGOs blog.

• LINGOs members will be abuzz their approaches to bring that personal connection to learners at the LINGOs 2013 Member Meeting. Registration is now open for LINGOs members and their global champions. We look forward to learning with you in Washington, DC.

Eventbrite - LINGOs 2013 Member Meeting

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Espresso Shots Explained

Posted by Gus Curran, LINGOs Manager of Member Services

 EspressoShotLearningIt’s mid-afternoon. You’re feeling tired and could use a break, but you have so much work to do. Maybe you’re thinking of heading down to the local coffee shop to get a quick blast of caffeine? I have a better idea.

Don’t pay big bucks for the double latte; check out LINGOS Espresso Shots instead!

LINGOs Espresso Shots are short tutorials created by LINGOs Members, for LINGOs Members. The idea for Espresso Shots evolved from the LINGOs 2012 Member Meeting and the “virtual coffee breaks” our members have enjoyed.

At the LINGOs 2012 member meeting, several members organized a “LINGOs Speed Dating” session. Representatives from each organization had a table, materials, and six minutes to describe a project they were proud of. The rest of the conference participants moved from table to table, picking up great ideas from the energetic and slightly stressed presenters.

Espresso Shots also spun off from LINGOs Virtual Coffee Breaks, hour long webinars where members go more into depth on what they are working on. Espresso Shots are the short, high caffeinated version, unfolding in less than five minutes, instead of an hour.

Staff from FHI360, Conservation International, and Samaritan’s Purse have created and shared Espresso Shots on the LinkedIn LINGOs community. New Espresso Shots are posted there as they are created, and you can find a list of all the Espresso Shots on the LINGOs member site,

Info for “baristas”

Creating an Espresso Shot is both exciting and challenging. We encourage members to use Jing, a simple and free screen capture software. Jing was created to foster and enhance online conversations. It allows you to create videos of what you see on your computer screen, and then share them instantly!

What makes this exciting, and emulates the member meeting speed dating session, is that Jing tutorials have a five minute time limit. This means you need to present your idea in just five short minutes! The challenge of trying to explain what might be a complicated idea or program in this short amount of time is almost like being on the old TV show Beat the Clock!

Take a look at the Espresso Shots we have so far and please consider contributing to the collection. You can email me (Gus (at) LINGOs.org) and I’ll help you get started.  LINGOs members have so many great ideas to share, and we think the espresso shots are a great way to do it.

Espresso shots: the initial menu

Conservation International: New Employee Orientation– Catriona Moriarty presents on CI’s new employee orientation process.

FHI360: Creating Learning Across Sectors and Geographies– Paige Winn shares three strategies FHI360 has implemented to overcome some of the challenges of providing diverse learning opportunities on a limited budget.

Samaritan’s Purse: Simple Online Certificate Tracks– Rich Peavy shares how a simple online course certificate program increased Samaritan’s Purse staff participation significantly

LINGOs: Espresso Shots Explained– Yours truly explains what an Espresso Shot is and how you can create your own to share.

If you’ll be at the InsideNGO 2013 Annual Conference next week, stop by the “Speed Date for Organizational Learning” (session 202A) and learn more about Espresso Shots, and get a sneak preview of some member sessions from PATH, Catholic Relief Services and FHI360 that may be future espresso shots!

New Kid on the Block

Posted by Gus Curran, LINGOs Manager of Member Services

Gus Curran

It is hard to believe it has been four months since my first day at LINGOs. I’ve been enjoying my time as the newest staff person, but in May, LINGOs made a new hire: Beth Bramble, Technical Support Specialist. Beth will be working with Robb Allen on all things technical support. She brings experience not only with the IntraLearn LMS, but she also has graphic design skills and experience with Moodle. We are thrilled to have her on the team. This means, however, that I am no longer the “new kid on the block” at LINGOs, and this has me reflecting on my first few months on the job.

Making the transition from LMS Administrator/Key Contact for a member organization to a LINGOs staff member was generally very smooth. I had already met almost everyone on the LINGOs team at the annual meetings or at various conferences. I was familiar with LINGOs and its mission, and I was excited about joining the team in the newly created position of Member Services Manager.

My first assignment and priority was to help Robb on the technical support help desk so that he could focus on bigger projects such as coding the Last Mile Learning portal. A few months spent solving technical problems and helping members has been a great way to meet many of you. It has also given me both valuable insight into some of the challenges members face and ideas on how we can address those challenges moving forward.

While stepping into my role at LINGOs has been mostly stress-free, the transition from traditional office worker to a virtual worker was more challenging. At LINGOs we don’t call ourselves telecommuters; that term doesn’t apply, because we all work from home and there is no office to commute back to. I like the term “digital nomad” because I truly can work from anywhere in the world. That said, anywhere in the world up to this point is two places: my house and a Starbucks down the street. But I can work from anywhere, if I want to. I suppose I’m more of a digital roamer. I do occasionally roam over to the dining room with my laptop.

If we’ve met before, you might have guessed that I’m what some refer to as a “people person.” On the Insights Color Wheel, I’m sunshiny yellow! Going from an office full of people to just me in my house was a bit of a shock. The first few weeks were difficult. I placed a bird feeder outside of my home office window and named some of the regular visitors after former colleagues. I looked forward to the mailman dropping by and found reasons to be near the door at the time so I could say “hi.” When the woman who makes a daily run past my house with her dog hadn’t gone by in a week, I was concerned. (Don’t worry—she returned, with the dog.)

By Sarah Stierch (Flickr: Yellow Finch) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Over time, however, I have come to enjoy this working-from-home thing. With Skype, Blackboard Collaborate, and that old standby the telephone, I’ve discovered that I stay connected with my LINGOs colleagues and members throughout the day. Skype IM is now my water cooler. I get what I need.

Now I’m handing the new-kid-on-the-block baton to Beth. As Beth takes over as key support contact, I will begin to take what I’ve learned from the past few months and think of ways to improve the LINGOs membership experience.

My “door” is always open. As LINGOs members, you are always welcome to email me  (Gus[at]LINGOs.org) or find me on Skype (gus.curran) if you ever want to talk to me about your LINGOs membership. Not only am I always happy to speak with members, I could probably use the company.

5 reasons blended learning on project management is going viral at Rainforest Alliance

What would it take to get your organization abuzz about learning?

RA-logoThe Rainforest Alliance’s Patti Lukas found that blended learning was a key to scoring a low-cost, quick win in learning new skills and bringing in a new approach to project management. Rainforest Alliance (RA) worked with LINGOs to introduce a new approach to project management. Shortly after starting with RA in November, Patti got in touch with LINGOs and learned about the blended courses on project management, which appeared to meet an immediate need at RA. She and LINGOs Director of Project Services John Cropper used a capacity assessment tool to as a way to understand organizational strengths and weaknesses in project management and explored options to bring capacity building in project management to RA on a global scale.

In addition to providing training resources in project management, the LINGOs Project Services work is an active learning laboratory, testing innovative learning approaches with NGOs working in international development and humanitarian relief.  As we’ve noted in past posts, blended gets learning to where the learners are and provides some quick wins for an international NGO with a diverse globally dispersed workforce and limited resources.

Having identified an organizational need to strengthen skills and build a unified approach to project management, Rainforest Alliance  contracted with LINGOs to run four-week blended learning courses (one in English and one in Spanish) for 79 of their project managers around the world. Similar to the Open Course starting this week, participants in the dedicated Rainforest Alliance 4-week blended learning courses spent about six to eight hours per week on learning: two 90 minute virtual classroom events per week and about 3 hours in self-paced eLearning and individual assignments, as well as participating in asynchronous discussions in the course’s community platform.

As more RA staff heard about the blended learning that had gotten underway, another 18 signed up for open courses that LINGOs was running in English and Spanish in March and more registered for the May course getting underway this week (For more info, see: http://may2013-4weekpmdpro.eventbrite.com)   RA is preparing to offer another round of dedicated RA blended learning course in July.

Five reasons that blended learning goes viral

1. Knowledge gain is equal or greater than face to face

Because the project management training is linked to a standardized exam of knowledge, the PMD Pro 1 exam, it’s relatively easy to evaluate knowledge gain from different learning approaches and to determine differences in the pass-rate across different learning modalities. Our learning laboratory results show that blended results are comparable to or better than face to face training with regards to PMDPro results. Among the 79 Rainforest Alliance staff from the two blended courses, only 2 did not pass the PMD Pro exam on first attempt. When LINGOs ran a pilot with Oxfam in East Africa last year, blended pass rates were 100% as opposed to 75% in F2F trainings (See this post for more information). Blended approaches give people more time to absorb and internalize content and they can do the exam when they are ready. This finding is consistent with a recent New York Times article on MOOCs.

2. Lower costs allows learning to scale

 RA-blog discussion1In these days of budget cuts and “doing more with less,” Rainforest Alliance contracted with LINGOs for two, month-long blended courses, one in English and one in Spanish, for the approximate cost of three week-long work trips from New York to Africa.   Had the trips been face to face, there would likely have been several international trips by some of the 79 RA participants and trainers. In addition, RA avoided the “hidden” opportunity costs of face-to-face training (when participants attend an all-day or all-week event, other works slows significantly if does not come to a complete stop). In addition, as the blended learning course took place over a month, RA staff could work as they learned, and had the opportunity to apply their new learning and come back to the facilitator and group with questions and comments. The discussion forum was so successful that RA is creating a similar one internally to continue and grow such cross-cutting conversations.

3. Learning where the Learner Is means greater diversity among participants

For learners, the ability to participate in a course from where you are, rather than traveling to it, enables greater diversity of participation. In the case of the RA English-language course, similar to what we found with Oxfam in Africa [https://lingos.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/pm-training-_women/], 63% of the 40 participants were women. Staff from seven countries participated: Mexico, Guatemala, Ghana, Canada, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom and the US; and those from the US were from multiple locations in six states. Given the travel costs, would this group ever have been able to learn together in traditional face to face training?

4.  Expanded participation leads to greater adoption of learning

Through the blended learning platform, participants were actually sharing examples of their own project management work and making connections with colleagues in other locations. The strongly positive responses from project management course participants on three continents have caught the attention of senior management.  The relatively large group from so many locations now able to “speak the same language” in terms of project management, has led RA’s executive team to plan a Project Management Office (PMO). RA is eager to have global teams using common tools and approaches for project management and the ability to roll out this new initiative both quickly and cost-efficiently are huge wins for the organization.  Initial plans include appointing a lead for the PMO, building an internal governing committee that will ensure the right tools are used for the specific project types. RA is also determining how to include reporting as part of the practice so that the organization can better understand how money is spent and improve and streamline internal processes.

5. Blended learning is greener…

For an NGO dedicated to conservation and sustainable livelihoods, adopting learning and training approaches that don’t require carbon generating travel (not to mention the costs and time associated with travel), blended learning is a no brainer!

Quick win!

Effective learning for a diverse global audience with lower costs than standard approaches, leading to rapid and expanded adoption AND an approach aligned with a green mission… blended learning on project management was a very quick win for Rainforest Alliance and for Patti, who started with the organization less than six months ago!  Stay tuned for an update in about a year to learn about the impact on project management that has come about from this first round of blended learning at Rainforest Alliance!

 Want to get involved?

An English language 4-week blended learning course on PMD Pro is starting this week:
Eventbrite - LINGOs 4-week Project Management for Development (PMD Pro1) Course / May 7 – 30, 2013

A Spanish Language 4-week course starts June 3
Eventbrite - LINGOs – Curso de 4 Semanas en  Gestión de Proyectos (PMD Pro1) – Del 3 al 28 de junio de 2013

Stay tuned for Portuguese!

LINGOs Member Logs into Virtual Classrooms on the Go

Guest Post by Gus Curran, Ipas Senior Associate, IT Training

Recently, Ipas has seen an explosion of staff purchasing mobile devices for personal use. In fact, when global staff visit the Ipas office here in Chapel Hill, NC, one of the first questions they ask is usually, “can you take me to the Apple store?”  Of course, US staff have been using iPhones for some time, and the IT unit is always happy to help them set up their devices (Androids too) so that they can access their email and calendar with no problem.  While our IT unit does not officially support iPhones and iPads, our friendly IT staff is always willing to help if time permits.

Blackboard Collaborate’s new mobile feature

So you can imagine the response when I announced that we would offer internal training and workshops on iPhones and iPads thanks to a free app released recently by our friends at Blackboard Collaborate. People were ecstatic! I immediately started hearing stories of people lugging their laptops on short trips or home for the evening for the sole purpose of joining an eRoom session (as we call them at Ipas).

This mobile feature added high value for staff at little or no cost to Ipas, and we decided to promote the feature heavily and help staff make the most of it.

First, we had to upgrade our Blackboard Collaborate rooms to version 12. This free upgrade includes a couple of nice features not available in V 11, including the ability to quickly take away features from participants, such as video or whiteboard rights. This makes grabbing an open microphone much easier.  You may remember these features from Elluminate, and now they are back. More importantly, of course, Blackboard Collaborate 12 Enterprise Licenses are mobile ready.

The Blackboard Collaborate support site offers handouts on how to use the applications. You will find them here . (I absolutely love it when someone else does all the work for me!) I posted links to these handouts on our intranet, along with information that moderators will need to know, which you can find here.  Only participants can use the mobile apps to attend virtual classroom sessions. Moderators still need to use a PC or Mac.

Once the rooms were upgraded and the materials were ready, we held a Lunch and Learn Brown Bag session to officially launch Blackboard Collaborate Mobile. We invited staff to bring their iPhones and iPads over a lunch hour. IT helped staff download the application from the Apple Store and test it out in a live environment. We had everyone play with the interface and test making smileys, typing in chat, raising hands, all of the participant greatest hits.

So, how is the application?

I can share with you that the iPad version is getting great reviews. Feedback has been very positive. In fact, the interface is very simple to use and intuitive, and many people prefer it over the standard interface on their computer. I have personally participated in several sessions via iPad and the sound quality has been very good, there is very little lag time on audio and the participant tools were easy to find and use.  We have briefly tested application sharing on the iPad, and it worked well, but we haven’t done enough testing yet to offer a definitive review.

The iPhone version gets less spectacular reviews. Obviously the smaller screen can be an issue, but if you’re used to using your iPhone a lot you’re probably used to the small screen. The bigger problem is audio. People report that the sound delay can be significant. Participants do hear the audio and see the content, but due to the delay in audio, the content on slides seems off.  Already one update to the application has addressed the audio lag, so Blackboard is aware of the issue and working on it, but they aren’t quite there yet. However, when your attendance at a session is mandatory, and you are stuck in an airport or in the field, the iPhone works well enough to allow for participation with just a little frustration.

Overall, people are very happy with the Blackboard Collaborate Mobile Application. Promoting this feature has not added support time to the IT help desk and was relatively simple thanks to the tools provided by the Blackboard Collaborate support site.

Key info before you get started

Blackboard Collaborate Mobile Web Conferencing

iOS Operating System 4.3 and above
Apple iPad 2 Certified
Apple iPad 3 Certified
Apple iPod Touch (4th Generation) Certified
Apple iPhone 4 Certified
Apple iPhone 4s Certified

*Blackboard Collaborate Mobile Web Conferencing, available in version V12, is included in the license for enterprise and departmental-licensed customers and has already been enabled for these accounts. Mobile is not available for Moderator access, or single room vclass customers. To learn more about licensing, please visit -> http://www.blackboard.com/Platforms/Collaborate/Products/Blackboard-Collaborate/Licensing/Comparison-Chart.aspx

The Blackboard Collaborate licenses included in LINGOs membership have access to the mobile feature. Many LINGOs member agencies have also purchased additional Moderator Access licenses for which Mobile Web Conferencing is not available.

To create a Blackboard Collaborate session with access for mobile users:

  1. Log into the moderator interface at https://sas.elluminate.com/site/external/myelluminate
  2. Click the Schedule a Meeting button.
  3. Click the Default Fields button.
  4. Fill out the meeting form being sure to change the Version field to 12.  (NOTE:  If you want all future meetings to automatically use Blackboard Collaborate 12, click the Save as Defaults button).
  5. Click the Create the Session button.

Gold Medal Tips from an NGO Learning Champion

Guest Post by Regina Bell, International Justice Mission

International Justice Mission (IJM) is a human rights organization that works with local governments to rescue victims of sex trafficking and labor slavery and helps local police and prosecutors apprehend and prosecute perpetrators. Over the past 15 years, IJM has grown from one field office to fifteen, and from a small group of Washington DC lawyers to an international team comprised of 455 global staff members. Approximately 95%IJM’s staff members are nationals of the countries in which they work, and IJM is committed to supporting its indigenous leaders with world-class professional development resources.

Drawn to the abundant resources LINGOs provides for international NGOs, IJM joined LINGOs in 2007 as a Level 1 Member, using the shared LINGOsLearning portal. The staff in IJM’s office in Chennai, India, has been the biggest user of the LINGOs learning resources. The key reason for this is a highly engaged leader in that field office, Director of Administration Priya Juliet.

 

Priya’s Story

Priya Juliet

Priya’s story is particularly inspirational, as the LINGOs Learning resources played a big part in her professional growth and ability to make a difference for her colleagues in Chennai. In fact, Priya is a model for the type of internal leadership development that IJM is working to develop more widely in its field offices. She joined IJM in 2005 as a legal assistant, and has also filled roles as a receptionist and paralegal.

Priya remembers distinctly the day that she received an email sent from IJM HQ announcing the rollout of LINGOs courses. For Priya, the opportunity to take courses for free which would promote her own professional development was exciting because high quality, accessible professional development resources are scarce in Chennai. Priya was particularly interested in the Harvard ManageMentor courses (due to the Harvard name), and she completed all of the courses in short order. “When an opportunity like the Harvard Management Course Series comes along, take it,” she said. “It’s an incredibly accessible program, yet, it comes free (through IJM’s membership in LINGOs).  This is an excellent opportunity for learning and professional growth.”

As a reward for Priya’s diligence, the field office director offered her a day off, but in Priya’s words, “the better motivation was receiving the completion certificate.” When IJM first launched LINGOs learning resources for staff, there was little formal support in place, and staff were instead encouraged to take advantage of the programs based on their personal interest – as Priya says, her learning efforts were “200% [her] own personal interest.”

Two years after Priya completed all of the Harvard ManageMentor courses, she was promoted to Director of Administration and charged with overseeing all Human Resources and Finance functions in the Chennai field office. Since then, she’s become a gold-medal learning champion. During her tenure as Director of Administration, Chennai staff members have completed close to 400 courses, with 10 staff members earning completion certificates in the past year. These results far exceed those of IJM’s other field offices, no doubt due to Priya’s hard work and personal involvement with learners in her office. We’ve learned from her approach and shared with the IJM Global HR team – and here with the LINGOs community.

Our hope is that as more IJM HR staff in the field take an active role in encouraging learners, future leaders like Priya will take advantage of the courses and will be better equipped to provide rescue and relief to the clients we seek to serve.

 

5 Tips from a Learning Champion

Priya is a Learning Champion – here are a few tips she recommends to others taking advantage of LINGOs training in their organizations:

 

1.  Motivate and Encourage Learners

  • Introduce each staff member to learning resources

Priya meets with each staff member individually and informs them using simple terms about the available courses. Responses to these informational meetings have been enthusiastic.

  • Language support- audio versions

 Priya makes certain that staff members with varying degrees of comfort in English have the support they need. For example, she found that at times, individuals are better able to understand the audio version of the Harvard Business Publishing courses.

  • Communicate to encourage use of courses

Priya encourages staff members to complete the courses with frequent communication (weekly status updates, calls and texts), and even goes into the office on weekends to help trainees as they work through the courses.

 2. Monitor learner progress

Priya created a simple monitoring system once staff were registered, and personally monitors learner progress. She uses the reporting functionality of the Learning Management System (LMS) to track user access and progress and communicate progress with learners.

 3. Keep supervisors up-to-date with learner progress

Priya also keeps supervisors aware of their employee’s learning achievements. Now that she is an office leader, she desires to motivate and encourage staff in their learning efforts, recognizing how important this is as a source of encouragement.

IJM Chennai learners proudly display their hard-earned Harvard ManageMentor completion certificates. (Faces obscured for security reasons).

In Chennai, as in many places, certificates are an important way to publicly recognize achievement. IJM has developed a certificate of completion for the Harvard ManageMentor courses, in accordance with the Harvard Business Publishing Guidelines available through the LINGOs membership.

 5.   Share Successes and Support Learning Champions with Promotional Resources

IJM’s global learning team has sought to replicate Priya’s methods on a global scale, with the goal of similar engagement in other field offices. Recently, IJM’s LMS administrator held virtual classroom events (via Blackboard Collaborate) with HR staff in each region, to reintroduce HR staff to the eLearning resources and encourage them to act as learning liaisons in their respective offices. The administrator shared a slide deck that the champions can use in their offices, and encouraged them to keep in close touch with the learning team at HQ, and with one another, to share successes and challenges.

Participating in the LINGOs community – through the LINGOs Group on LinkedIn, Virtual Coffee Breaks and vDemo Fests, and the Annual LINGOs Member Meeting – is a great way to become a learning champion! You can learn new approaches and share what’s working well for you with others working to build capacity for international development, humanitarian relief, conservation and social justice. Join us!

 

  

 

 

 

 

5 great resources to help your search for an LMS

Guest Post by Susan O’Connell, Learning and Organizational Development Manager at Habitat for Humanity International

 

With a large global staff working in over 70 countries joined by thousands of new volunteers each year, Habitat for Humanity International’s learning needs led us to join LINGOs as a founding member back in 2005 and begin leveraging the IntraLearn LMS that comes with our Level 2 membership. The system served our early needs well, but over time our motivated learners have been giving the LMS a bigger and bigger work out.  At times registering up to 200 new users each month, we realized that we were ready to leverage LINGOs’ SCORM Dispatch capabilities to implement a new LMS that would provide learners with differentiated access privileges for self-enrollment and immediate access to learning resources, along with additional automation for both our users and learning managers. Recognizing the need for a new LMS is the easy part. With around 500 LMS vendors out there, choosing one can feel like wandering through a forest searching for the perfect tree.

Here are five resources that I found very useful during this selection process and that I would recommend to anyone else facing the same challenge.

1.       Start with your organization’s needs and requirements

In three or four bullet points, describe the top issues that the organization is experiencing with the current system and restate those as a summary of your top needs. This short, high-level summary was very useful throughout the selection process to communicate with various stakeholders, to define the requirements, and to make the final selection. I’ll continue to use it as we move into implementation.

After you have summarized the needs, document the requirements. The requirements are the specific features and functionality that the new system should include. This will be more detailed than the needs summary and it will take longer to finalize. You’ll have to distinguish which requirements are absolute ‘must-haves’ and which are ‘wants.’ Use the needs summary along with input from key stakeholders to do this.

Send the requirements to the vendors you are interested in and ask them to use these to plan a demonstration of their systems. Then, make sure their demonstrations cover these requirements. Most vendors I worked with were happy to have the requirements but I was surprised that a couple ignored them completely until I pushed them! This said a lot to me about what those vendors would be like to work with.

2.       Talk to other LMS users and administrators

Choosing a new LMS for your organization can feel daunting if you’ve never done it before – or even if you have. You can gain a lot of confidence and knowledge by reaching out to others who have been there. Think about all of the contacts you have available to you through your LINGOs membership, other learning providers for your organization, and your own personal and professional contacts.  Everyone I contacted was more than willing to share their experiences with me.

Create a list of questions that you would ask each contact while listening for whatever additional information they might offer. Every organization has their own unique needs and resources, and it will be important to know what those differences are to frame their input in context. I found it helpful to learn how various organizations were staffed to support the LMS and if they had renewed the contract with their vendor yet. Through these contacts I learned that one vendor raised their price 25% after the original three-year contract was up.

3.       Attend conferences and webinars

Using our LINGO’s member benefit to the eLearning Guild, I was among one of the 1,800 attendees and 69 suppliers at the DevLearn conference in 2011. I did not talk to all 1800 attendees, but I certainly tried! In each conversation I mentioned Habitat’s search for an LMS and picked as many brains as I could for experiences and suggestions.

At the DevLearn conference, I attended a useful session titled “The ABCs of selecting an LMS” delivered by Mike Baker and Stacy Lindenberg of First Citizens Bank[1]. Among other great tips they shared, I picked up the idea to ask one of the LMS vendors to provide me with a well-known industry report on learning management systems, which normally costs about $1,500.

Throughout the selection process I attended any and all free webinars that touched on the topic of Learning Management Systems. These were offered by organizations like the eLearning Guild, Brandon Hall Group, and TrainingIndustry.com. It was through one of these webinars that I discovered the vendor that we ultimately chose.

4.       Partner with your Information Technology Department

Your IT department may not be familiar with Learning Management Systems, but they know how to work with software vendors and they know the ins and outs of implementing systems within your organization. At the beginning of our selection process, we were assigned a terrific IT resource who attended vendor demonstrations with me, asked technical questions related to systems integration, and guided us through the contract review. He also helped navigate some of the internal relationships with key stakeholders.

5.       Leverage the LMS vendors

Finally, don’t forget to leverage the vendors you are talking to for whatever resources they can provide! As I mentioned previously, this was how we were able to obtain an otherwise costly industry report. Three things that you should absolutely ask a vendor to provide are:

  • A demonstration of their system that shows how it will meet your requirements.
  • An informal and initial pricing estimate (you don’t need a formal price quote until you’ve narrowed down the top 1-3 vendors, but knowing how they structure their pricing and the range is useful in the early stages).
  • A ‘sandbox’ environment – basically an account that allows you to access their system to test your requirements, test the SCORM Dispatch packages, and try out your user scenarios.

If you find yourself lucky enough to be in the position to select a new LMS for your organization, I hope the five resources above are as useful to you as they were to me. For those of you wondering which vendor we ultimately selected, it was the Intellum Exceed system. Check them out as part of your search, but remember that your organization’s requirements will determine which system is best for you.  

[1] You can access many resources from conferences, even if you don’t attend! For example, you can access backchannel resources from DevLearn here.

 


 Interested in learning more about SCORM Dispatch and what it would mean for your organization? LINGOs Member Agency LMS Administrators have a chance at the July 17 LMS Administrator Question and Answer Session.

Eventbrite - LINGOs LMS Administrator Community Q & A - July 17, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. eastern time