8 Signs Of A Great eLearning Solution For Small And Medium Businesses (SMBs)
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8 Signs Of A Great SMB-Focused eLearning Solution

Is there a one-size-fits-all training solution for both enterprise and small business training? We bet you know the answer; It’s no. In this article, we’ll break down the specific LMS features for SMBs that are too important to keep secret.

When it comes to choosing an LMS for a small or medium business, it’s easy to base your choice on the number of features (the more, the better) and overlook basic capabilities that aren’t splashed all over eLearning magazines and online communities. Here are some expert pointers that will help you quickly focus your selection process.

Look for these 8 core capabilities and indicators:

Protip 1: Pricing Is On Website

For some companies, it’s no sweat to pay $1000 a month; for others, even $100 is above budget. The concept of “cost-effective” has many interpretations, so the goal is to find a vendor with transparent pricing.

Some LMS providers require you to schedule live demos or presentations before they’ll give you ANY numbers. The problem is, you don’t know what to expect after a 30-minute product tour; it might be a good deal or just another waste of time since the offer is a budget buster anyway. If pricing is not published, there’s probably a reason why.

Protip 2: Suitable Pricing Model

There are at least five different common pricing models, so it’s always a good idea to understand how a vendor charges for software. For small businesses with tight budgets, it makes sense to pay only for what you will use.

Plus, don’t forget to ask for clarification on what’s included in the pricing plan up front. Some vendors charge for setup, technical support, hosting, and upgrades; suddenly that attractive price isn’t that adorable.

On the flip side, you can look into free-to-use, open-source LMSs, like Moodle, and LMSs that offer a free version with basic features. However, the latter option is somewhat limited (e.g., only 5 learners allowed), and open-source solutions demand a lot of time and very strong technical skills for setup, configuration, and day-to-day administration. Open-source does not stand for free.

For more information, check out our LMS pricing model guides.

Protip 3: Just-Right Feature Set

Most “enterprise-class” LMS providers offer dizzying arrays of features but they are typically a poor fit for small or mid-sized businesses. The truth is, you can find a learning solution that fits your needs and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg if you define the features you absolutely need first.

The most difficult part here is to do some in-house research and get input from stakeholders: learners, content creators, administrators, project champions. Talk to both internal and external customers. When you’re done, sort the features from your list according to their priority. Define which ones are crucial and which ones are just nice to have. For example, social learning is a great feature, but not everyone is in dire need of it.

Protip 4: User-Friendly Interface And Support

Large enterprises can afford staff to manage their training platforms and tech support desks, but even the big players try to optimize costs. In smaller companies, it’s common to find one person who wears many hats; that’s why an LMS should be really easy to use. Plus, more than one staff members may eventually need to use it.

The best way to find out if that “user-friendly interface” is really user-friendly is to give it a try. Invite all the people who will be in charge of training to test-drive the platform. Once they open the learning portal, everyone needs to immediately understand how to manage learning content, add users, assign courses, and track results. Most LMSs offer free trial periods, so don’t hesitate to check them out.

This is also the perfect time to evaluate the vendor’s support team. Look for industry awards and customer reviews to make sure your LMS provider won’t leave you in the lurch after you sign the contract. If your LMS is going to be managed by someone that does not have developer credentials, responsive and effective support can quickly become a ‘mission critical’ vendor capability.

Protip 5: Cloud-Based Platform

Unlike software that’s installed on your servers, cloud solutions minimize rollout time and require no system maintenance on the company’s side, since that’s the vendor’s responsibility. You also don’t have to worry about updating the system, which means you can focus on the things that matter, like creating great learning content. That’s super convenient for small and medium businesses that don’t have an in-house IT team.

Another cloud solution benefit is that you and your learners won’t be tied to certain machines. Since all the content is stored in the cloud, it makes courses, tests, and presentations accessible anytime from any device.

Protip 6: Mobile Learning Support

One of the biggest advantages of being a small business is flexibility. mLearning delivers flexibility. Even if your company doesn’t have an office, and all the employees work remotely, you can still launch corporate training and reach your teammates and partners with learning content (and track it).

For example, you and your students could be provided with a free mobile learning app that works with iOS and Android devices, enabling learners to take assigned courses anytime and anywhere, even with no internet connection. Such an app will be able to track your students' progress even offline and send results to your LMS later when the connection is restored.

Protip 7: Integrated Reporting Tool

Reporting plays a key role when it comes to evaluating learners’ performance, measuring program success, and even driving improvement for your content. For smaller businesses, it’s even more important to know what’s going on in their training endeavors, since they can’t afford costly surveys. Automatic LMS reports indicate whether your efforts are actually translating into knowledge transfer results.

Use an LMS which will allow you to track learners’ progress in real time. In this way, whenever you need to estimate the effectiveness of a certain course or learner or get a picture overall organizational performance, you can access the information in a couple of clicks. The system will automatically collect all the data you may need, providing you with comprehensive insight in seconds.

Protip 8: Good Long-Term Perspective

One day you’ll grow, and if your training platform turns out to be a burden that’s holding you back, you’re not going to be happy. Migrating from one LMS to another can be painful, which means that it’s better to plan for success and growth right from the start. Be sure to look for a solution that allows you to scale learning on demand, so you can start small and then add more users, features, and capabilities as your business and your learning initiative grow.

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