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

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?

Here 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.