How do I choose an LMS?

Samuel Karvonen

Samuel Karvonen

Choosing the right Learning Management System (LMS) is a big decision; a commitment for your school not unlike a marriage proposal. If you have a 150lb Great Dane back at your apartment, you might want to ensure that your future spouse is also a dog person. Similarly, you might want to know a few things about an LMS provider before you say yes to their proposal. What are some of the key things you would want to know?

When choosing an LMS, here are three main considerations you’ll want to keep in mind:

The Features (What can this LMS do?)

Know which features matter to you, try writing them out: what you can’t live without, what you would like to have, and why you want those things.

  • Do I want a free version to try it out?
  • Do I need a customizable lesson plan?
  • Do I need a robust grading book, or will a simpler one work fine?
  • Do I want to lock unit tests behind unit activities being completed?
  • Do I need a calendar for student course schedules? What features should the calendar have?

The Usability (How easy is this LMS to use?)

Ask yourself, “How important is it that the LMS is easy to use?” Spend some time with the LMS, or asking the provider to show you around. Does it seem intuitive? Or, do you have difficulty figuring out how to do what matters most to you? How will your teachers fare? What about your students? If you have a tech team, is it easy for them to do their jobs?

The Appeal (Do I enjoy using this LMS?)

You’ll be spending a lot of time staring at a lot of similar looking screens. How the LMS feels to work in matters. Ask yourself, “Do I like this? Does it make me smile? Does it give me stress?” Get the perspectives of other team members. Discover where the little things can spark joy or lead to pain points.

To get you started, here are a few examples of how these considerations can differ from school to school:

  • A large school may want more customizability options and brand control. If you have the team to back it up, keep in mind that Moodle has really wide freedom for customization of the visual appearance of the webpage.
  • A small school may want a simple ready-to-go solution. Canvas has an easy to use core featureset, and the flat UI design makes it readable and pretty to look at from day 1.
  • A school with a lot of students in synchronized classrooms might want a fully featured calendar. D2L Brightspace has a robust set of options with easy to use views, and attaching course content availability to start and end dates.
  • A school with a lot of students in asynchronous classrooms could be more interested in activity access options. Agilix Buzz is easy to use when setting access to new activities based on activity completion, and doesn’t require changing the course structure to accommodate this feature.
  • If you’re interested in having the most features, Moodle and Blackboard Learn are some of the oldest LMS’s and have built up arguably the largest feature sets around.
  • If you’re interested in having the strongest usability, Canvas and Agilix Buzz have some of the best designed UI, making it easy to navigate and do the things you want to do.
  • If you’re interested in having the most appeal… ultimately, that’s to taste!
    • A front end development team can make Moodle look just how you like it, for the most part. The central course page is easy to always come back to.
    • D2L Brightspace has this nice, professional white-blue appearance with dashes of orange, and large easy-to-see icons.
    • Agilix Buzz pairs white and blue with highlights of yellow and sprinkles small, appealing animations throughout.
    • Schoology is helpfully reminiscent of Facebook, with its simple blue panels and accessible left panel, making it hard to get lost.
    • Canvas makes a very strong case for a white, clean palette with a variety of well chosen, well placed, solid colours.
    • Blackboard Learn has a balanced, neutral palette that feels more down to earth when a lot of webpages come off as very “loud”.

A final consideration in exploring “Which LMS will best fit my school?” is the difficulty of switching in the future. 5 years down the road, after your teams have invested thousands of hours building course structures and native content, what would it look like to make the switch to another great option? Is your content stuck or can it be exported? Can user data easily be archived? This is an important question before you tie the knot! 

Whichever of the examples above you choose to go with, StudyForge has you covered with comprehensive courses delivered in a native backup for that LMS. Contact us to set up a preview in your LMS!

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