The following is a guest blog article originally published by Jeff Cobb of Tagoras, a leading expert in strategy, learning, marketing and technology to organizations in the business of lifelong learning. The is the final installment of a three-part series. For a refresher, here’s Part 1 and Part 2.
At Tagoras, a lot of technology selection work has been done over the years through many webinars and workshops related to a 7-step methodology. This time, the aim is at learning management system (LMS) selection.
Here’s the final installment of a three-part series to look at learning technology selection from a broader perspective and provide organizational leaders with a framework to support long-term success. There are seven steps to the process.
In part three, steps five, six and seven are covered.
5. Realistically assess resources, capabilities and organizational ‘will.’
By the time you have worked through the areas in Part 1 and Part 2, you probably have a general idea of the types of technology desired for supporting your learning initiatives. At this point, the question of costs, which has no doubt been present since the beginning, needs to be more concretely considered.
The direct costs the organization can justify (e.g., licensing fees, implementation fees)—based on available funds and a conservative estimate of potential return on investment—are key factors. But, they are only part of the equation. You must consider the available time and capabilities of the people who will be involved in successfully implementing new learning technologies. In our experience, organizations often don’t fully appreciate the size or nature of this stumbling block.
While it’s often clear someone’s time is needed to manage any learning platform the organization implements, the capabilities the person (or people) need aren’t fully analyzed or articulated. Additionally, beyond the platform, there’s the issue of developing effective technology-based learning experiences. Subject matter experts and board committees can’t be relied on to have the needed instructional design and development experience. And, most organizations don’t have skilled instructional designers and developers on staff. These capabilities need to be hired, contracted or developed, depending on what makes the most economic and strategic sense for the organization.
And then there’s the matter of effectively marketing technology-based learning experiences. Entrance into the market for online education, which is competitive, often highlights how weak an organization’s marketing capabilities are.
Effectively selling online requires a strong understanding of concepts, such as content marketing, search marketing, social proof and landing pages. It requires strong copywriting and consistent testing of ideas and learning from the results.
Now, all of the above doesn’t need to be in place on day one. That’s just not realistic. But, there does need to be a shared understanding the organization will develop the necessary capacity and capabilities over time. There has to be broad organizational “will” toward supporting the effective implementation and growth of learning technologies. Organizational leaders must commit to translate “will” into reality.
6. Evaluate and decide among the alternatives.
At this point, you’re ready for the mechanics of selection, leveraging all of the shared information to gather detailed requirements you can use to vet a range of potential solutions. I am cheating a bit in characterizing this as a single step, because this is really where our entire 7-step selection process fully kicks-in.
- Identify and clarify objectives
- Identify needs and requirements
- Pre-vet and shortlist vendors
- Develop and issue RFPs
- Review and score responses
- Conduct demos
- Select and negotiate
7. Stay clear about the difference between the ends and the means.
Finally, never lose sight of the reason to use technology. It’s to help achieve strategic objectives for your organization and its learners. Be clear about what those objectives are at the organizational level, at the level of your education business, and at the level of the specific learning outcomes you are aiming to facilitate.
These are the ends you seek, and technology is merely a means to reach them.
Your learners and other stakeholders are much more concerned about you meeting their ultimate needs than with whether you have the latest and greatest technology. You are better off spending your time making sure you really understand where you are going rather than getting bogged down in the route and the form of transportation.
Learning technology selection is a topic covered in depth at Learning • Technology • Design™ (LTD), a virtual conference set for March 1, 2017 through March 3, 2017. This online event is designed specifically for professionals in the business of lifelong learning and education—those who are committed to finding new and better ways to market and sell educational programs, engage learners and create lasting impact.
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