So, you’re ready to switch your learning management system (LMS). Distributing a request for proposal (RFP) to vendors is a great way to find your ideal LMS. This document helps lay out the essential features and functionalities you would like in your solution. But it shouldn’t be your first step when switching your LMS. Only after looking inward you can start to look outward to create a good RFP.
This blog lays out five simple steps to help you develop a solid foundation for defining your ideal LMS.
1. Discover Your Needs
When shopping for an LMS, the best way to begin is to properly identify your LMS needs. As you start to identify gaps within your current system, it’s important to consider users of your LMS such as learners, educators, instructional designers, system administrators and technology support. Each one of these stakeholders have specific requirements and goals which need to be part of the LMS selection conversation. Consider incorporating the following to uncover your stakeholder’s LMS requirements:
- Solicit feedback from your LMS users by asking direct questions through surveys to understand their eLearning wants and needs.
- Enrich your survey results by holding a guided discussion on your LMS switch. This technique helps reveal more qualitative perspectives underlying your survey numbers.
- Support communication and discussion by creating an online community to build stakeholder voice. Implement bulletin boards, discussion groups or online forums to help LMS users share their comments or questions about the LMS switch.
Reaching out to your LMS users and keeping them in the loop will help you form a picture of your current gaps in features and functionalities. This first step not only helps you identify your current gaps but provides you with tangible solutions for closing those gaps.
2. Organize and Prioritize Features
Once you have completed your needs assessment the next step is to evaluate and determine what’s most important to you. Separate your wants from your needs to make it easier to compare and evaluate the various offerings from different LMS providers.
Your needs should be features and functions that integrate within your existing technology ecosystem; your wants are features and functions that would enhance the system but aren’t necessary. This distinction helps vendors know exactly what’s most important in fulfilling your requirements. In this stage, it’s helpful to look beyond your current needs and consider what your solution will do for you in the future.
3. Establish Deadlines
It’s also important to work out a schedule for the implementation of your new LMS. Consider working backwards from when you would like your system up and running to create a timeline that reflects the entire process such as the migration of courses, implementation and piloting your new LMS. This helps LMS vendors determine if they can work within your timeline, which help you gauge if they are the ideal LMS or not.
4. Draft Your RFP
Your RFP should not be part of your first three steps, rather it is one of the last. Before writing your RFP identify vendors who appear to meet your needs by offering the right functional and technical capabilities, cost structure, training and support, etc. Once that’s done, select no more than five candidates to send your RFP.
Consider including the elements from the steps above as well as background and logistical information about your institution such as your current LMS, your project goals, your measurement of success and your technology infrastructure. This helps vendors fully understand your current situation, your challenges and what you want your new LMS to achieve.
5. Select Your Ideal LMS
Once your RFP is sent out to vendors sit back and wait—it can take three to four weeks to hear back. Once you do, it’s time to evaluate your responses. In this step, the goal is to ask questions and get clarification about each vendor’s service. Once you’ve narrowed it down even further, arrange a proof of concept presentation or attend a live demo.
Laying the Groundwork for A Successful LMS Evaluation Process
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 do you evaluate an LMS and what makes a great LMS
- a sample project timeline, evaluation criteria, a demonstration rubric, and instrument templates
Zeina Abouchacra is the EDU Content Marketing Specialist at D2L. She has worked in the higher education sector in various communications positions as well as a researcher and a teaching assistant. Specifically, teaching undergraduate-level communication university courses. Zeina is currently working towards completing her Master of Arts Communication degree at the University of Ottawa.
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