A new way of learning: Choosing a system that meets the needs of Vocational students

By Rob McKie - May 4, 2020

The current environment has placed limitations on face-to-face learning, forcing Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers to rapidly adapt to online and virtual learning environments. For many VET providers, this presents a raft of new challenges and opportunities.

Some providers are considering online learning for the first time, while other providers face the need to review and expand their current online learning systems. The future viability of many training providers will be reliant on quickly shifting their business model and services to adapt to a new way of course delivery. COVID-19 is going to accelerate this shift in the education sector and acting fast may be a key differentiator for your organisation.

While tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, WebEx (and others) offer an easy way to interact with students and hold meetings and webinars remotely, a Learning Management System (LMS) is crucial to effectively administer online courses, deliver content, track student progress, administer online assessment and complete reporting. An LMS is also an effective compliance and reporting measure to ensure students are learning all the knowledge and skills necessary to receive their qualifications. An investment in an LMS will help mobilise online learning quickly and pay dividends in the long term, giving organisations the platform to recover from the current environment and provide students with a blended training delivery model into the future.

Key considerations and how to choose an LMS

When looking for an LMS, there are some key factors that organisations should consider to guide their decision making. Organisations should work through the key considerations below to clearly define the purpose of the LMS and where it fits into your organisation’s value proposition to students and teachers. Additionally, it’s important to undertake a structured comparison of providers to thoroughly consider different features, ease of use for students and faculty members and the required skills within your IT team to support the integration of your LMS. For example, open-source solutions, while ‘free’ in terms of licensing costs, require in-house skills to develop and maintain the product on an ongoing basis. This means the total cost of ownership for an open-source provider can be quite high.

The key steps to choosing and deploying an LMS in your organisation are:

1. Identify the business drivers: Identify strategic business and commercial drivers.

2. Define the scope:

a. identify the business need (short-term and long-term plans for the LMS);

b. identify the desired customer experience your organisation is looking to provide;

c. review your internal IT capability and determine whether an open-source or proprietary platform suits your organisation; and

d. address any existing pain points.

3. Undertake research: Complete thorough market research and take advantage of product demonstrations where available.

a. Determine whether you will require a cloud based or on-premise LMS to meet your needs.

4. Obtain vendor proposal: Agree on product scope and pricing.

5. Deployment: Set up your project team and deploy your chosen LMS. Consider the change management (communications and training) required to ensure adoption of the new solution.

6. Maintain and enhance: Undertake continual system maintenance, identify and deploy custom functionality requirements and complete a detailed review after six months.

LMS features VET providers should consider

At its core, an LMS enables organisations to deploy and track online training for remote learners. LMS solutions typically include the following features:

  • Course setup: Enables courses to be setup for student enrolment and development of learning paths.
  • eLearning delivery: Enables a variety of course content formats (e.g. PDFs, videos etc.) to be delivered via their solutions. A number of vendors enable personalised learning and learning paths.
  • Online assessments: A range of quizzes and assessments with several solutions introducing gamification to provide a more engaging learning experience.
  • RTO compliance: Some solutions are focussed on RTO’s and short course providers of accredited and non-accredited courses, and have features to enable the required tracking, certificate generation and reporting.

Some LMS providers may also have additional features that will be valuable to your organisation. These features include:

  • Course content authoring: Some LMS providers enable users to develop course content within the LMS without the need for additional third-party software. Some LMS vendors have libraries of course content that you can access for additional fees or integrate with other third-party providers.   
  • Mobile learning support: It is important to understand what mobile capabilities the LMS offers to cater for students using any device (e.g. mobile phone, tablet).
  • Video conferencing: Check which LMS providers include video conferencing and communications capabilities, which removes the need for additional software subscriptions.

Some LMS providers have developed their solutions with the VET sector in mind, including aXcelerate, Canvas, Moodle and JW Gecko.

Given the current environment, LMS vendors are offering rapid deployment to organisations to help them quickly move to online delivery. When you’re completing market research, discuss the options for rapid deployment in your organisation.

Pitcher Partners has experience working with organisations in the procurement and deployment of technology solutions including providing change management support. Contact your Pitcher Partners specialist below to discuss your LMS needs.

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