Often the voice is heard or the decision is announced to go and get a LMS. Research is conducted – RFPs are developed and preparation is made, yet one of the biggest components is typically left to the end – or forgotten until it is too late – your infrastructure.
What does this mean to you and your end users? Customers? Who is going to access this LMS and how are they going to do it?
1. How are your end users going to access your LMS? (BTW, an end user is the person – accessing your system)
2. Are you planning to have them access the LMS only at work or off-site/home or all the above? If at work, what type of browser and OS (operating system) and computers are you using?
What about Macs, do you have any at your workplace? Do your computers have sound cards installed and do they work? How old are your computers? Browsers – what version of IE? Do you allow the use of Firefox?
If at work: Access via the Intranet? Is your LMS going to be on your servers or on the vendor’s servers (i.e. hosted)? If at work only, how are you going to stop them from accessing via home? Security must be set accordingly.
If you plan to have your LMS access through your Intranet – how are your end users going to access it? Clearly, in the workplace it can be achieved. But what if you are going to allow them access at home?
If you plan to have it on your Intranet, then you will need the ability of your end users to access via a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Do you offer this?
What about security? You will need it. How do you set it up? Who gets access to what?
What about accessibility speed? If you offer a VPN – how does it work if the person has a modem at home or a Mac?
If your solution is going to be hosted on the vendor’s site, and you plan to have your end users access at work or at home: you still most ask yourself the questions in #2 for the workplace and then even at home. Of course, for security issues – at the workplace – you will need to setup security for what they can access (if you have a protocol that end users cannot access the Internet or is limited on time). When you purchase a LMS, they all provide the capability of user names and passwords, so that will not be an issue for you, regardless if you host yourself or host on their servers.
Have you conducted a survey/assessment to find out about your end users and their capabilities? Can the LMS work with multiple browsers: i.e. Firefox, Safari, and what minimum version of Internet Explorer? What does your LMS vendor recommend for a computer? What about access speed? DSL, Cable, Modem – if yes, 56K?
What about home computers: Again, does your LMS vendor work with Macs? What about Linux – this would only apply to a very tiny percentile of your end users, if any at all. But it is always a nice to know. That said, it should never be a deal breaker, unless your company uses Linux OS.
Do they have Flash installed? What about Shockwave? BTW, the argument that it is already installed on people’s computers or that people know how to download it, is erroneous. The biggest problem you will find regarding these two apps is that most work computers do NOT have them installed (they are free and a quick install) and many people at home, may have them installed but not the latest version.
Speaking of which, what version of Flash and Shockwave is required for your LMS to work? Do you need any other net apps to have your LMS work – i.e. Quicktime, RealPlayer, MediaPlayer and if yes, what version? Again, what about the Mac issue? (not all LMSs work with Macs, so this is important to inquire about, since Macs are becoming more popular)
Let me state something very important about accessibility differences between the workplace and home and speed. Many companies are using T1 speed or higher to access the Internet. A strong broadband signal. Typically, but not always they have the servers that can handle the traffic for access to the Intranet or Internet. At someone’s home, though it is quite different, and yet many people fail to realize this when they are planning for a LMS/LCMS or even courses.
DSL and Cable
If you have either of these, you need to realize that depending on where you live in your town or city, your speed may be affected by the time of day you are accessing. For cable, their are hubs setup in your town and so, depending on your distance from the hub, will impact your speed. For example, if you live in a wooded area, your speed will be slower than someone who does not. Also, when people purchase DSL/Cable they buy speed.
Some people with DSL maybe running at 128kbs per second, another person might be at 2mbs and so on. The same thing with cable. For myself, my speed is 60mbs. Oh, I won’t bore you with the upload/download speed angle neither.
They are not a thing of the past. A recent report found that due to the economy, many people were switching back to 56K modems as a cost cutter. Now, access on a 56K modem is severely limited versus access on a DSL/Cable/Satellite/T1, etc. And, depending where you live, that speed is seriously misleading. Some communities, a person may be hitting at 40kbs.
Mobile Learning Access
If you plan to offer this:
- Are there any components in the system that are Flash built? If yes, they can’t be seen on any iOS device – including iPad
- If your products are Android, does the system support Android OS? Just because they are browser agnostic doesn’t mean their mobile supports all OS, for example: I know of one system that supports only Blackberry
- If you are planning on using tablets with Windows 8, again inquiry if their product will support it. Most likely not – because Windows 8 tablets haven’t been launched yet – BUT, find out how long it takes for them to ensure their mobile works with various OS.
Some vendors will say its browser agnostic so that isn’t the problem. Yeah if I use the browser to view your system. But if you offer any type of on/off synch (and some already do without using TinCan), then knowing about what OS mobile devices they support it huge!
Who is going to be your administrator? What does the back end of the LMS look like – i.e. how easy is it to navigate and enter in data, as well as generate reports? The back end refers to what the administrator will see and NOT what the end user (employee/customer) sees. What type of training is included for the administrator side?
How does/and how can the administrator upload data into the LMS? i.e. Do they need to have the names of the employees and info. in a .csv file or .txt file?
Does the LMS provider upload this information for you?
If yes, how often? Do you have the capability from an IS/HR standpoint to provide new employee names and information on a day or weekly or whatever time frame you set up for upload into your LMS? Can you change the file into the one or ones accepted by the LMS vendor?