Evaluating Online Training Software: Everything You Need To Know
As soon as you land on a training software vendor’s website, you’ll usually see a big button encouraging you to “Request a demo”. But what’s in it for you? Well potentially, quite a lot! There are big benefits to scheduling a demo of the Learning Management System (LMS) you’re evaluating at the right time. When used strategically, a good demo can knock weeks off your selection process. Here are some tips to help you decide when to request a demo, how to prepare, and what you need to do afterwards to evaluate online training software efficiently.
Why You Should Request A Demo Of Online Training Software
The content and purpose of online training software demos vary between vendors. But there are good reasons to request one:
- Preview features.
While you'll find a list of online training software features on almost all vendor websites, the demo gives you a good opportunity to see them in action.
- Get a feel for the platform.
How those features are structured and laid out will have a crucial impact on user experience. A good demo should give you a sense of how easy to use the platform is.
- Ask questions.
The best software demos provide an opportunity to speak to an expert in some depth. Use the opportunity to dig past the introductory information on the vendor’s website and get into the detail of the features and requirements that matter most.
When To Request A Demo
The timing of the demo is important. With almost 700 eLearning platforms to choose from, you won’t be able to demo every option on the market. To benefit fully from a demo, do some research first. Scheduling one too early may waste time on a platform that could have quickly been ruled out. But if your demo is scheduled too late, you may lose an opportunity to ask questions that will speed up the selection process. Before you request a demo:
- Define your evaluation criteria.
How much is your budget? What are the essential features the Learning Management System must have? Which features are nice-to-have? What are your deal breakers? Prioritize your requirements so that you can score and weight them after the demo.
- Make a shortlist.
Once you have conducted some quick research on 5-10 eLearning platforms, request a demo of the top 3 that seem to be the best match. That should be enough to thoroughly explore the market while still keeping the process manageable.
Create a spreadsheet containing important details, like the names of shortlisted vendors, if they offer a demo, the date the demo was requested, the date the demo is scheduled for, and a column for notes that you can use later to assess your findings.
Demo Or Free Trial?
Most vendors will also allow prospective customers to run a free trial of their online training software. Where possible, start your free trial a few days before the demo. That will give users a chance to test the platform and share questions that can be answered at the end of the demo. It will also leave time to further test the platforms you’re still interested in afterwards. demo.
Know What The Demo Involves
Before you commit to a demo, make sure that you and the vendor are clear about what it entails. Because the content and purpose of demos vary, it’s best to ask a few clarifying questions first.
- Who will present the demo?
Some Learning Management System vendors use the word demo to describe what’s more like a video overview of the product. Others use it to mean a webinar presented to a large number of prospective buyers at the same time. At LearnUpon, a demo is a one-to-one session with the Account Manager who will be your point of contact throughout your journey.
- What is and is not included in demo?
Some demos are, regrettably, little other than a glorified sales pitch. Others offer an extensive tour of training software features. To avoid disappointment, ask the vendor to specify what’s included in the demo before you schedule. If the demo will mostly consist of a sales rep reading a PowerPoint presentation and spends very little time actually actually showing you the software in action, then you might be somewhat sceptical of what’s on offer! Knowing what’s involved will also help you to decide which team members to bring with you.
- How long will the demo last?
Demos vary hugely in length, from a three minute overview video, to an hour-long session with an expert. Make sure you’re comfortable with the length of the vendor’s demo before you schedule.
Consult The Right Team Members
Most vendors will allow you to invite as many team members as necessary. But who to include will also depend on the culture of your organization and your decision-making process. Smaller organizations may require just one team member to attend. For larger organizations with more disparate teams, you’ll need to consult someone who has:
- Technical knowledge of existing software.
The technical complexity of an integration will depend on your environment and the online training software itself. A cloud based Learning Management System like LearnUpon is extremely simple to set up. Before a demo, your Account Manager will already have customized your portal so that it’s ready to use immediately. But if you’re migrating from a complex system, or the platform you’re evaluating requires a long integration phase, bring a team member with good technical knowledge of your existing systems. Depending on the size of your organization, this person might also be responsible for ensuring any security requirements are met by the software. If your organization has a dedicated security team, you should consult them about training software requirements also.
- Understands how the Learning Management System should work on a daily basis.
If you’re not an admin, you’ll need to consult someone who will actively use the Learning Management System to deliver training. A learning and development manager or trainer should have a good idea of how each feature needs to work to deliver the course content your organization creates. It's extremely important that the main Learning Management System administrators buy into the new platform’s functionality and workflows to ensure adoption and a successful rollout.
- Understands management’s perspective.
Management may have a very different idea of what the system is expected to deliver. At the very least, you’ll need to consult with the person who has sign-off on the budget for online training software.
- Makes the decision.
While the final decision maker doesn’t have to attend, they’ll probably want to see the system in action before a contract is signed. It’s best to begin with an understanding of the level of involvement they require to sign off on the final selection.
The scope for your Learning Management System should be reviewed by someone who understands the role of each of these requirements for your selection process to stay efficient.
After The Demo
In order for the demo to be successful, you’ll need a clear sense of what you expect it to accomplish. What gaps in your knowledge do you expect the demo to fill? What do you expect to be able to do after the demo?
What you do after the demo is just as important as the demo itself. Write up your notes immediately while your thoughts are still fresh. Fill in your spreadsheet to evaluate all of the shortlisted training platforms against the same criteria. You may need to discuss impressions with key team members or write up a summary for management, depending on your organization’s own processes.
At that point, the demo should have successfully helped to progress your selection process and brought you closer to your final decision. And don’t forget to use the rest of your free trial to try out some of the key features and workflows you saw during the demo to test how easy (or difficult!) the platform really is to use.
LearnUpon provides one of the most thorough Learning Management System demos on the market. Schedule yours now.