Cloud-based learning management systems (LMSs) can help you manage and scale eLearning needs. You can create engaging and flexible experiences, connect wide audiences of learners, and track progress and achievement over time. However, choosing the right LMS for your academic institution is task that requires a significant investment of time and resources. There are a variety of solutions out there. How do you choose the one that best suits your needs?
This blog post outlines four questions you need to ask an LMS provider when making this decision.
4 Questions to Ask Your LMS Vendor
1. Do You Offer Constant Uptime?
In order for your LMS to be reliable, it should be available to all users anytime. Cloud service providers typically offer their customers service-level agreements (SLAs) that articulate expectations around service levels, metrics by which service will be measured, and remedies in the event of a breakdown.
One of the most valuable factors you want to watch out for is uptime, the percentage of time that your LMS will be active and available during the course of the year. Ideally, you want to select an LMS with minimal downtime and a proven track record of technical performance and improvement.
2. What Is Your Disaster Recovery Plan?
Disasters can come in many unexpected forms, from the loss of a hosting facility to the corruption of user data or a security breach. A disaster recovery (DR) plan is a set of coordinated processes and procedures put in place to respond to system interruptions in order to promote IT recovery.
When reviewing your LMS vendor’s DR plan, the three most important metrics to pay attention to are:
- Recovery Point Objective (RPO): This is the maximum acceptable amount of data that can be lost following a failure before causing measurable harm to your academic institution. It’s expressed in time (for example—10 minutes, 10 hours, or a full day) and sets standards for how frequent backups need to be and how far back you’d need to go to recover data.
- Recovery Time Objective (RTO): This is the maximum acceptable amount of time an application or system can be down without leading to major damage or disruption. In some cases, institutions may be able to tolerate a few hours. In others, a few seconds will make all the difference. It’s not enough to back up data, you should be asking your LMS vendor how long will it take to complete a recovery from a back up so everyone can get back to work.
- Recovery Time Actual (RTA): This is the amount of time it takes to complete the data recovery process, make the storage copy available for access, and get systems up and running again in the wake of an incident.
3. What Are Your Security Policies?
Your LMS contains a wealth of sensitive information, including student data, that needs to be kept safe and secure.
- Backup and recovery: A reliable LMS should back up data on a regular basis and use asynchronous encrypted data transfer to offsite storage, helping you to restore services more easily and rapidly in the event of a disaster.
- Data retention: A secure LMS not only performs backups but also retains the data. A reliable LMS should keep your data for 30 days instead of 24 hours, making sure you don’t lose any important information.
- Access and authentication: A cloud LMS must have protocols in place to ensure that only authorized users are able to access the data.
- Single Sign On (SSO): A secure LMS needs to use SSO for centralized authentication management across its online properties. This means that with one username and password, users can connect to your school’s systems and services.
- International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards: A reliable LMS should follow ISO requirements, which help provide legal, technical, and physical controls for things like risk management. ISO 27001, for example, demonstrates a commitment to safeguarding the data of clients and users.
4. Are There Any Maintenance Windows?
Regular maintenance is a vital part of helping students and educators find and create the best possible learning experiences using an LMS, but it shouldn’t get in the way.
Ask your LMS vendor whether maintenance windows—defined periods of time when planned changes occur to systems—will make the system unavailable for use. With more people leveraging online learning globally, outages at any time of day have the potential to interrupt access. That’s why, ideally, you want your cloud LMS provider to use a continuous delivery model that pushes releases, fixes, and new features on a monthly recurring schedule and without downtime or impacts to levels of service.
Lay the Groundwork for a Successful LMS Evaluation
Whether you’re evaluating LMS solutions for the first time or reevaluating your current LMS, it’s critical to listen to the specific needs of your organization’s faculty and students. We’ve created this evaluation guide to assist you in the evaluation process to select a vendor that best meets everyone’s requirements.
This guide includes the following resources to help you choose a learning management system:
- A step-by-step approach to the evaluation process, with helpful reminders and tips for each phase
- Answers to common questions such as how to evaluate an LMS and what makes one great
- A sample project timeline, evaluation criteria, a demonstration rubric, and instrument templates
- Interactive worksheets, activities, lists, and more!