4 Must-Have Capabilities for Your Continuing Education LMS
When it comes to selecting a learning management system (LMS), providers of continuing professional education (CE) don’t exactly have it easy. In addition to “standard” LMS features – activity registration, data collection, reporting – CE providers have specific requirements for:
- Adding content in common learning file formats
- Minimizing the need for learners to contact CE staff
- Shifting back-end administration to individual learners
- Initiating and processing credit claims
- Automating learner post-activity actions, like accessing transcripts or certificates
It can be difficult to find an LMS that checks every box, and many providers compromise by using software that only does some things they need. As a result, staff have to perform many otherwise automatable tasks or rely on additional software to fill in the gaps.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Your continuing education LMS can actually be a comprehensive workhorse application that simplifies administration across the board for learners and staff.
You just have to know what to look for.
1. Accept nothing less than a single, fully integrated LMS.
Sticking with manual processes or relying on multiple pieces of software creates inefficiencies for learners and staff. By insisting upon a fully integrated LMS, you can automate many aspects of the CE experience and free up additional hours every day for developing education programs.
Just to clarify: When we say “fully integrated,” we’re talking about an LMS that replaces manual administration and whatever course or people management software you might be using for CE. You should be able to achieve all of the following through your LMS:
- Add any existing activity content or content for future CE activities
- Build and deliver activities of all types, including enduring and journal-based activities, live meetings, and webinars; for CME providers, add RSS and manuscript review activities to that list.
- Import legacy data and use native reporting functionality to extract new insights from “old” information
- Enable learner self-service tools to minimize or eliminate staff administration (more on this shortly)
- Gather data and view analytics from the learner level to the activity level and beyond
- Access real-time reports for any participation-related metric
If you’re starting to look for a new continuing education LMS, make “one system to integrate all systems” a must-have requirement. There’s just no reason to cobble together different pieces of software or stick with manual processes for any of the tasks listed above.
Your staff will prefer using just one system. Learners prefer it, too.
2. Self-service tools help learners get more done – faster.
Viewing available courses or activities; registering and paying for live events; claiming credit following a webinar or live event; printing transcripts or certificates; viewing test scores; accessing content for completed activities… With the right LMS, these are things that your learners can do themselves.
In addition to relieving your staff from time-consuming administrative exercises, self-service tools empower learners to manage their own CE experience. They’ll know where they stand at all times when it comes to things like:
- Number of credits earned
- Activities completed
- Test scores
- Live event and webinar schedules
- Orders completed and purchase receipts
The idea is that you transfer internal administrative tasks directly to your learners. They gain total control over their CE regimen and participation history. As a result, you field fewer questions, process fewer (or possibly zero) manual requests, and – in our experience – enjoy increased participation and enthusiasm among learners. Self-service tools just make the whole CE experience simpler for everyone.
3. Deep-level reporting helps you improve education programs.
After your LMS starts automating nearly every aspect of CE administration for learners and staff, you’ll have a lot of time on your hands for modifying, improving, and expanding education programs. Reporting tools help you drill down into learner and activity data to identify strengths and pinpoint opportunities to improve.
At a minimum, reporting tools should:
- Offer rich, granular insights on participation, test results, credit totals, and outcomes
- Include visualization tools so you can break data down into simple charts and graphs
- Deliver single-activity and aggregate reports so you can compare individual activity data to the data from related activities
Since many continuing education activities are ongoing, having access to real-time data is also helpful. For example, today’s participation data for a specific enduring activity won’t be the same as last month’s data. You should be able to see up-to-the-minute updates in the form of a simple report. What’s more, you should be able to pull the same report for any period of time across any group of learners.
The more you know about your CE activities, the smarter the changes you can make.
4. There’s still some administration, but your LMS should streamline it.
Here’s something no LMS can do for you: Draw on decades of professional and academic expertise to create valuable continuing education content. That’s up to you and your subject matter experts, but your LMS should simplify the assembly and delivery of that content.
In the Rievent Platform, we tailor the activity building process to standards and practices common among CE providers. Here’s how you might go about adding an activity:
- Log in to your LMS and access your activity building tools. In Rievent, we call this tool the Production Wizard.
- Enter some basic information about your activity, including title, description, and abstract. You can also add information about who is eligible to participate and how many credits the activity is worth.
- Add your content. Upload PDF documents, mp4, or SCORM files; add links to journal articles or other content elsewhere on the web.
- Add test questions and accompanying correct and incorrect answers.
- Add an optional post-activity evaluation to gain the learner’s perspective.
That’s all you should have to do! Other administration – data collection, credit processing, certificate creation, etc. – is happening in the background.
Ultimately, administration should be so simple that there isn’t much to do except create new activities, modify existing ones, and use data to improve your efforts over time.
Look out for these extras.
The above capabilities pretty much cover what you should demand from a CE-focused learning management system. However, there are few more features you might want to consider – especially if your learners already log in via your website or you need to add legacy data to the new LMS.
1. Single sign-on
Learners might already have login information that they use to access your website. Single sign-on functionality ensures that they won’t have to change their usernames or passwords when they start using the new LMS. They also won’t have to log in to a separate system when they want to complete activities or access participation history.
For example, say your learners already log in to your website to download journal articles that aren’t associated with continuing education programs. When those learners decide to start a new CE activity, they won’t have to leave your website or enter separate login credentials. Single sign-on lets them begin a new activity without a hitch.
2. Consistent design
Find out whether you can brand your new LMS to match the design of your existing website. We’re not just talking about a logo upload either. It’s possible to make the learner-side LMS experience match your current website design, colors and imagery included.
3. Full legacy data import
Importing legacy data, when done the right way, is a custom process by which an LMS provider makes existing data “fit” with the new software’s native functionality. In other words, legacy data doesn’t have to live in spreadsheets. A CE-focused provider will know how to structure and import your data to the new system.
For instance, you should be able to run reports across legacy data to compare past activity results to current trends. There are different levels of legacy data migration, so ask potential LMS vendors what they’re able to handle for you.
These extras can add significant value to internal administration, not to mention your learners’ CE experience. If your goal is to provide continuing education that empowers learners while boosting their perception – and the objective quality – of your education programs, be choosy when choosing your next LMS.