Association LMS – Yes or No?

Association LMS – Yes or No?: The Truth Is…. You Might Not Need an LMS

Informal Learning

Watching a Webinar or Chatting on a Social Media Platform is Informal Learning

I receive calls from associations who insist they need an LMS when they already have the software systems to deliver their informal professional development programs.  Here are five questions you should ask yourself before entering the murky world of vetting vendors and sending out LMS RFPs (requests for proposals).  (Full disclaimer: I am CEO of Web Courseworks, which markets a SaaS based LMS and course development services).

My premise comes down to the question:  Are you providing informal or formal education?  I’ve blogged about this before (Social Media vs. Formal Education) and so has Ellen at ALearning (Information or… Information?).   The answer is simple:  If you are providing informal learning only you do not need an LMS.  Period.   Chances are between your website’s content management system, association management system and/or your social media platform you can deliver a plethora of information to your members.  On the other hand, if you are providing formal education chances are you should seriously be in the market for an LMS.

First, what do I mean by Informal and Formal Learning activities?

Informal vs. Formal LearningHere are the questions you need to reflect on:

  1. Do you provide education for a formal designation?
  2. Is your designation, certification, or credential taken seriously?
  3. Do you have a professional online course designer on staff?
  4. Are you willing to staff for an LMS administrator?
  5. Do you want to generate revenue from your formal education?
  6. Do you have the staff to run your education programs like a business?
  7. Do you believe that a formal educational experience should take serious time commitment on the part of your members?
  8. Does your community of practice have a list of expected competencies and is the association responsible for licensing or upholding the quality of professionals in the community?
  9. Do you currently have a classroom based formal education program that must go online?
  10. Is it important that members perceive your educational offerings as of high value?

If you answered yes to three or more of these questions you should take a serious start down the road of reviewing Learning Management Systems.

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  • Ellen

    Jon — Awesome list of questions to ask! Will be linking back to this in a future “quick clicks” post….

    Question: are there circumstances when an LMS administrator might not be needed? Low volume, perhaps? Or long stretches between new online offerings?

    I can’t help thinking this could be a stumbling block for many organizations — should they nix an LMS if they can’t fill this position? Is it possible to properly administer an LMS without a full-time staffer?

    Thanks, Jon!

    • Jon Aleckson

      Hi Ellen:
      Thanks for your comment. My view is that much of LMS Administration is clerical. So it should be done by the association staff.

      Online course development can be outsourced but some associations have the skilled talent to do this in-house as well.


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