There are many articles on the best learning management systems (LMSs) for non-profit organizations. However, many of them focus on potentially necessary features rather than those that are essential. Therefore, there’s always the risk of missing out on crucial factors when choosing an LMS and ending up with one that doesn’t quite fit your organization’s needs.
ALIVE is a non-profit organization that was able to continue to offer their essential work during the pandemic by carefully considering what they needed from their LMSs. They put together a list of features you should look for when selecting an LMS.
ALIVE is an Australian youth suicide prevention organization. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they had to switch all their training programs to an online-only format. They needed to do this as quickly as possible while retaining training effectiveness. It was an enormous challenge, as they had over 65,000 students across Australia at that time.
An LMS helped them overcome that challenge and they even increased the number of students by 13,000. But the result could have been different if their LMS had lacked the five features that proved essential over the first 12 months of online learning. Let’s take a closer look at them.
1. User-friendly Interface
Some LMSs offer lots of options that might be useful for experienced users but complicated for beginners. When a non-profit organization looks for an LMS, the staff is typically unlikely to have had any experience working on a platform.
This was true of the trainers at ALIVE: Most of them were used to running workshops from memory and with their own creativity. But when the pandemic broke out, they had to turn their offline training into online courses and learn how to use an LMS from scratch. Because their system had an intuitive interface, they managed to do this very quickly.
2. Mobile App
Some of your learners may not have access to a computer or a stable internet connection. Or they may just prefer mobile devices. To engage them and make their learning process comfortable and effective, you need an LMS that comes with a native mobile app. Such an app usually allows learners to download courses to their mobile phone or tablet and study them even when offline.
According to ALIVE, the mobile app turned out to be effective with young students. They even designed some of the content specifically for this format. For example, learners at ALIVE could download relaxation exercises in an audio format to their devices and practice whenever they wanted or needed to.
3. Course Authoring Tool
There is no online learning without online courses and assessments. To create them, you will need an authoring tool that often comes as a separate software and, together with an LMS, might cost more than many organizations can afford. However, there are some LMSs that come bundled with an authoring tool.
ALIVE had such a bundle of eLearning tools. They used them to adapt their presentations, worksheets, and e-books into an online format. They also built new courses and created individual learning paths by designing different versions of a training program for young people, teachers, coaches and family members.
4. Customizable Design
It might seem less important, but the look and feel of the learner portal in your LMS impacts the overall effectiveness of your eLearning. If your trainees see a badly designed page or a platform that doesn’t resemble your organization’s website, they may get the impression that they’re in the wrong place. But if they see your corporate logo, the colors that they’re used to and a clean design, they’ll know that they’re in the right place. And this is what they are going to feel every time they come back to start a new course or find the content they need. Therefore, when choosing an LMS, pay attention to whether it has customization options.
ALIVE paid a lot of attention to their LMS design, and it worked for their students. The youths perceived online learning not as a boring formality, but more like Netflix. Only instead of movies and TV series, there were online courses. This increased their enjoyment — and, along with it, the amount of time they spent studying.
5. Gamification and Certification Features
One of the main challenges of online learning is learner engagement. When you teach offline, you are in the same location as your learners. When you feel your audience is getting bored, you can engage them in any number of ways. With online learning, however, this is much more complicated. Learners are by themselves with the learning content, and if they get bored, even for a few seconds, they leave it to check social media.
Two LMS features will help you motivate your students: certification and gamification. Some LMSs can automatically generate certificates after students complete training programs. Others can also help you gamify the learning process by holding contests, awarding students badges and showing them leaderboards. Most people tend to like competition and receiving awards, and that’s why this feature works well.
Certification proved highly effective at ALIVE. Certificates motivated young students and their families to complete courses and gave professional development points to teachers.
To Sum Up
Of course, every organization will have its own specifications and needs that require certain LMS features. To find the best fit for your company, you should consider even more than the five features mentioned above. But these five are extremely important, and they are universal. So start with them to be sure that you won’t miss the essential points.
If you want to learn more about the ALIVE case study, check out this article. Good luck!