Get Prepared For Your Next Instructional Designer Job Interview
As an Instructional Designer, your primary responsibility is to craft effective learning experiences. In other words, you focus on the creative aspect of the learning process. However, there’s another crucial dimension to consider—one that might not be as creative but is equally essential for achieving learning goals. That dimension revolves around what happens to your courses after they’ve been uploaded to a Learning Management System (LMS).
While you typically get paid for course development, it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of what an LMS is, how it functions, and why organizations use it. Otherwise, you might find yourself in a situation where you’ve created a brilliant, dynamic course that, unfortunately, either doesn’t display well on your client’s LMS or runs so slowly that even the most motivated learners struggle to complete it.
Moreover, companies expect you to be knowledgeable about LMSs. Hiring managers often have a set of LMS-related questions for candidates, and some clients might even seek your advice on selecting the right LMS or how to use the one they’re already heavily invested in.
In this article, we’ll delve into the essentials you need to know about LMSs, from what they are and how they benefit organizations to their types and key LMS-related considerations you need to keep in mind when designing courses.
So, What Is An LMS?
There’s a lot of information out there about Learning Management Systems, so a quick online search may leave you feeling overwhelmed. Moreover, LMSs are rapidly evolving, and some of them, like iSpring Learn, not only power the full learning cycle but also serve as a place for employees to meet and communicate, and as a means for the company to enhance workflows.
You don’t have to know everything about LMSs, so let’s keep it simple and only look at the essential, original functions of an LMS.
An LMS is a platform for digital learning that enables organizations to efficiently manage, deliver, and track training content. Think of it as your online university, where you can upload, store, and sometimes even create online courses. You can then organize these courses into structured training programs, known as learning paths, assign content to learners, and monitor their progress and results.
For instance, imagine you’ve developed a course for a sales team. Someone, whether it’s an LMS administrator or yourself, uploads it to an LMS and assigns it to learners. Time is money, especially for those whose job it is to generate revenue. So, a sales team leader wants assurance that the time sales representatives invest in training isn’t wasted. They also need to know how many people completed the training, which is crucial for product training, introducing new features, or understanding pricing plans when interacting with customers. An LMS provides all this information, including who completed the training, their test performance, and the number of attempts made.
Why Organizations Invest In LMSs
As an Instructional Designer, you likely have a good understanding of why companies employ eLearning. But let’s look into how LMSs specifically help organizations achieve their goals and the associated benefits:
- Improved employee performance. LMSs expedite onboarding, boost productivity, and provide ongoing training and upskilling opportunities for staff.
- Decreased compliance risks. LMSs facilitate the delivery of compliance and safety training, ensuring adherence to regulations like OSHA and ISO, thus promoting worker safety and avoiding violations.
- Greater employee satisfaction and retention. By supporting professional development and continuous learning, companies can enhance employee happiness and reduce turnover rates.
- Reduced training costs. Self-paced digital courses and virtual training eliminate expenses related to instructors, venues, logistics, and travel.
- More accessible training. Employees can access courses anytime, anywhere, even on their mobile devices, without disrupting their work.
- Standardized knowledge. Online training ensures that employees in different locations consistently receive the same information.
LMS Types And Formats
Now, let’s get into the technical aspects and explore different types of LMSs, which employers expect you to be familiar with.
Types: Open-Source Vs. Commercial
LMSs vary based on how they are provided, with open-source and commercial LMSs being the two primary categories:
- Open-source LMSs are flexible and customizable solutions, often available for free. However, you will incur costs related to server and hosting architecture maintenance. Deploying and servicing an open-source LMS typically requires an IT technician.
- Commercial LMSs are usually cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, but they can also be hosted locally. When opting for a SaaS platform, server load, backups, and security are managed by the vendor.
In the local hosting scenario, your company takes care of data storage and system hosting. This approach is particularly popular among organizations that prioritize the highest level of data security, such as government agencies.
Formats, Or Rather, The Format
Content formats, or eLearning standards, are essential because eLearning incorporates various types of media that must be seamlessly integrated, uploaded, and shared. This is where formats like SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) and Experience API (also known as Tincan API or xAPI) come into play. While other formats like AICC and cmi5 exist, they are less common.
Chances are that your organization’s LMS supports SCORM, which is the most popular course format. SCORM ensures that almost any LMS can recognize and handle your course content.
4 Key Considerations For Designing With An LMS In Mind
Now that we’ve explored the fundamentals of LMSs and their significance, let’s shift our focus to a critical aspect of your role as an Instructional Designer—designing courses with the LMS in mind.
Check out these 4 key considerations to create courses that not only educate but seamlessly integrate with the chosen LMS, ensuring a smoother learning experience for your audience.
1. Know The Capabilities And Limitations
Prior to designing a course, have a thorough understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the LMS that will deliver the content. This knowledge will guide your design choices. For example, if courses will be taken on smartphones and the LMS lacks a mobile app for offline access, ensure that content is accessible with a stable internet connection and consider reducing animations and large video files.
Explore the 15 best LMS software options to get a general idea of the capabilities and limitations of the most popular platforms on the market.
2. Create Content Compatible With The LMS
Design content that aligns with the LMS’s requirements, including file formats and multimedia optimization. For instance, if your company’s LMS supports only SCORM, ensure that your course complies with this format.
3. Test The Course On The LMS Before Launch
Before launching the course, test it on the LMS thoroughly to ensure proper functionality. Test all interactive elements, verify compatibility with different browsers and devices, and review the reports to ensure that all necessary data is captured.
4. Provide Clear Instructions For LMS Navigation
Offer clear instructions for navigating the LMS to ensure that learners can access and complete the course easily. Clear instructions for tasks, such as logging in, accessing course content, and submitting assignments, can improve completion rates significantly.
By keeping these 4 considerations in mind, you’ll be well equipped to design courses that not only educate but also seamlessly integrate with the LMS, ensuring a successful learning journey for your audience.
As an Instructional Designer, your journey involves not only creating engaging and effective learning experiences but also ensuring that they harmonize effortlessly with an LMS.
In this article, we’ve covered everything from the basics of LMSs to their types, formats, and the essential considerations for designing courses that align with them. By nurturing your understanding of these principles and incorporating them into your design process, you empower yourself to craft courses that are not just informative but also seamlessly compatible with the chosen LMS. In doing so, you contribute to the success of your organization’s training initiatives and, most importantly, the growth and development of the learners you serve.
If you want to dive deeper into this topic, explore the most popular LMS pricing models. You might not be asked this during a job interview, but whenever your clients come to you for help in choosing an LMS, this will be a priority.