How to Rank Learning Experience Platforms: A Rubric

by Extension Engine | September 15, 2022

Estimated time to read: minutes

If you’ve read our previous post explaining learning experience platforms — also known as learning management systems (LMSs) — and how to choose one, you already know that there are numerous systems and that they differ in major ways. You also know the pitfalls you might find as you navigate various systems, as well as the advantages they may offer.

Before you choose an off-the-shelf LMS or decide to create a custom option, the question is: How exactly can you review an LMS efficiently and effectively on your own? Even if you’re planning to seek help, it can be useful to first think through the review process in some detail so that you can go into meetings with at least a general idea of what you want. We have a rubric that can help.

An LMS Ranking Rubric

What follows are general guidelines you can use to begin comparing an LMS or two on your own. This can be a time-consuming step, but it is absolutely necessary if you want to meet your organizational goals for learning and give your learners the best shot at succeeding. During this evaluation, it’s crucial to remember that the program and learning requirements should drive the tech decision; your tech decision should not determine the program and learning you can offer.

We’ve broken our rubric into two sections: one for learner features and one for administrative features. Each feature receives a score of 1 (does not meet expectations), 2 (meets expectations), or 3 (exceeds expectations). Obviously the more 3s an LMS gets, the better, but remember that some of these features will be more important to you and your organization than others. Those areas are where you’ll really want your LMS to garner high scores.

Learning Feature 1 2 3 Your LMS Score
Learning Components Basic learning components are available, including video, text pages, and basic assessments. A variety of learning components are available, but there’s low flexibility in how they can be presented to learners. A variety of learning components are available and can be presented to learners in any combination.  
Overall user experience (UX) The UX is unclear, and users may get lost or stuck. The UX is clear, and interactive components are user-friendly. The UX is intuitive and adds efficiency for learners.  
Learner dashboard There is no learner-facing progress indicator. Learners can see what courses/modules they have completed and what’s coming up. Learners have a detailed view into their progress, can pick up where they left off, and can explore new courses.  
Learning pathways All learners must complete the same experience in the same way. Learners have choices about how to engage with content. The platform may recommend content to learners. Customized resources and learning activities can be delivered to each learner. Content can be adaptive based on learner needs.  

The LMS doesn’t meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Level A.*

*Check out the Web Accessibility Initiative’s explanation of WCAG.
The LMS meets WCAG Level A.* The LMS meets WCAG Level AA+.*  
Administrative Feature 1 2 3 Your LMS Score
Authoring user experience (UX) The UX for building content is inefficient or difficult. The UX for building content gets the job done. The UX for building content is easy to use and saves time.  
Sales support for courses The LMS doesn’t support this. The LMS supports third-party integrations. The LMS has robust payment features.  
Branding / skinning There’s no ability to change platform appearance or theme. The logo, accent color, welcome email, and font can be customized. CSS and JavaScript customization are available.  
Analytics and reporting There’s basic or no reporting on learner progress. Google Analytics isn’t supported. The LMS includes a robust dashboard and exporting features for learner and course progress. The LMS allows customization in Google Analytics. The LMS has an application programming interface (API) to access reporting. The LMS allows customization within the LMS itself.  
Mobile responsiveness The LMS isn’t responsive. The LMS is responsive. There's mobile-first and/or offline access.  
Language support No localization is supported. There’s support for localization of the platform. There’s support for localization of the platform and the branching of content to manage course translations.  

Relevant compliance requirements such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)*, California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), or Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

*Check out more information on GDPR from Wired or CIS Perspectives.

The LMS doesn’t meet relevant compliance requirements for my organization. The LMS meets relevant compliance requirements for my organization. N/A  
Notification capabilities The LMS doesn’t send any outbound communication, such as nudge emails or announcements. The LMS sends some type of outbound communication. The LMS supports both automated and manual outbound communication.  

How Extension Engine Can Help

Whether or not you use this rubric, you may be ready to reach out for further advice or assistance. If you work with us at Extension Engine, we’ll filter your organization’s goals and requirements through three lenses — program design, learning design, and platform and technology design — to determine how to provide you and your learners with a transformative experience.

Lenses venn diagramThis review functions like the above Venn diagram. To get to the optimal experience for your learners and your organization, we look at program design to see what your organization can do for budget, strategy, enrollment, and similar factors. We also look at what your learners and organization need in terms of engagement, learning objectives, content structure, and so on. Last but not least, we talk about technical feasibility, such as the user experience, accessibility, and integrations with other systems such as customer relationship management (CRM). We want to get to the sweet spot where these areas intersect.

Because we’re technology-agnostic, we can work with whatever technical solution is best for you — whether it’s off-the-shelf or built from scratch — and anything in between. With our extensive experience comparing LMS options with our clients’ goals and priorities, we can help you navigate and create the optimal solution for your organization. You can always reach out to our team for help or to get deeper into the weeds of what you can do, how you can do it, and why you might want to make one choice over another.

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