LMS Modules – The “Add-On” Facts

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LMS/LCMS vendors are notorious for offering the amazing “module” in their marketing and advertising pitches – whether it is on their web site, at trade shows, white papers, e-mail marketing, whatever.

What is a Module?

A module – is an add-on to your LMS/LCMS.  Now, we are talking about your base LMS, not their super duper LMS (if they offer such – and not all vendors do).  Most offer one LMS, but offer “Modules”.

Before getting into a list. Let’s discuss the three ways, vendors operate within the “add-on” module approach when it comes to their LMS/LCMS – and for our discussion, we will focus on vendors who either offer only one LMS/LCMS or a standard LMS/LCMS – a base for example, and not the robust you get everything and the kitchen sink included.

Vendor Approaches to LMS Modules We will focus BTW on SAAS (which in basic terms means “Hosted” – as in they host the LMS on their servers).

  • Module/Add-on is already integrated within your LMS and is “turned off”. If you want to purchase it, the vendor simply turns it on.  (Some vendors offer this and it is becoming more popular)
  • Module/Add-on is not integrated in your LMS/LCMS. You can add it at any time and the vendor will integrate it, often with their professional services helping out (for an additional fee) or with their IS folks.  Regardless additional fees, beyond you purchasing the “add-on” is part of the game. (Many vendors like this approach. After all it brings in additional revenue)
  • Some Module/Add-on are already included, but again, extra cost if you want the another or sometimes a special deal for a couple more. (Rare, but some vendors will offer it. Can use either model, listed above)
  • Whatever Module/Add-on are available, are included in your system at no additional charge. (Well, in a manner of speaking).  (Rare, but you are starting to see it with smaller vendors who can offer a lite version of one type of module and a more robust of another) – Why? Flexibility.

Types of Modules/Add-on Vendors Offer (This is not an entire list, nor does it imply that every vendor charges extra for these modules, nor that they even have these modules. In fact some already include it at no charge)

  • Performance Management or Talent Management
  • Mobile Learning
  • Social Learning or Collaboration or Community
  • Authoring Tool or an Advanced Authoring Tool (Beyond what you get in the system)
  • Human Resources Component – Recruiting, Compensation – HRIS, ERP (Can be very advanced)
  • Knowledge Management
  • E-Commerce
  • Certification or Compliance
  • Assessments
  • Survey
  • Event Management
  • Classroom Management/Logistics
  • VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol – Think Skype for example. Basically enables you to talk through your computer at no cost – of course you need a net connection and preferably a head set with mic for better clarity. A web cam if you want people to see your face)
  • Web Conferencing
  • Advanced Analytic

Why Charge Extra?

Money. End of Story.  It is a big revenue generator for them.

Advantage to Vendors of Up-Front Purchase

It is better for the vendor to have you buy up-front with your LMS, then at a later time. Integration can be done at the same time they are “building your LMS or customizing/tweaking it”  or in the case of turn on modules – they just turn them on.  This is better for them, then at a later point.

Turn On/Off modules in Your System

Great feature if they are in your system, whether they are included already or you buy them. I assume if you buy them, you want them on.  If they are already included, you may not want them on at this point, perhaps later. So, you can simply turn them off.

Words of Advice

  1. Always ask any LMS/LCMS vendor does the module/add-on in question come with the system and included in it at no extra cost. You have to ask them, otherwise they many not be forthcoming. Example: A vendor at TK2010, had a huge banner on the Expo floor which listed “mobile learning”. I asked them if this was included in their LMS/LCMS or was it a module that cost extra.  They told me it cost extra.
  2. Look on their web site to see if they offer any add-on or modules of interest to you , and see if it is included in their LMS/LCMS as part of their LMS/LCMS (i.e no additional charge and included in your base model).  You may have to dig around. Some vendors make it easy to find, some don’t.  Worse, some shove so much text and graphics on the page, it is like reading a text book, when really you just want them to say, “Our LMS or standard LMS or whatever comes with X, Y, Z”  and leave the pony show at home.
  3. Ask your sales person questions. If they do offer or include a module/add-on, what specifically is included in it? Some may seem obvious to you, but ask just to make sure. PLUS, and this is VERY IMPORTANT – have them visually show you what is in the module.  If they want you as a client – you want to see it, and not view a pre-taped webinar of it. After all, you will probably have questions. You can’t ask them with a taped webinar or recording.
  4. When you actually are buying the module/add-on have them spell it out in your contract, itemize it with the specific cost associated to it.  If you plan on having the module for the length of your contract, make sure to have them include it in any type of discount you seek over a three or multi-year deal.

Again, the discount comes into play after the total cost. Most LMS/LCMS vendors will do this, but some won’t, and say the discount applies to the total cost sans the module.  I’ve seen this with e-commerce modules.  Makes no sense.

E-Commerce Module

Most LMS/LCMS vendors will not automatically help out with a merchant account or with PayPal Business for you to receive your funds. From which you can deposit the money into your account via EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer – immediate – your company may do this as in direct depost, for example).

LMS/LCMS vendors will often charge you if you want SSL (the biggest player is Verisign. Another vendor is GeoTrust,).

If you already have a merchant account and SSL, you do not need to get another one. Same thing with PayPal Business and not the PayPal personal account.If you are looking for a merchant account vendor, I have included a directory for them, that I like: Merchant Account Directory.  Review the options on the side of the screen. Of course, you can use your own bank – if they offer merchant account services – and they should!

Next Week: LMS Negotiations: Discounts + Buy Time

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