Ease of use is the #2 thing people like least about their LMS, right behind reporting features.

That’s according to Brandon Hall Group’s most recent LMS Trends Survey. In that survey, 24% of companies picked ease of use as one of the three least-liked aspects of their learning platform. When ranking their LMS on a 5-point scale, ease of use scored an average of 3.04. To drive the point home a little, more people gave ease of use a 1 than gave it a 5.

What’s happening here? Why are users (and admins) so frustrated with their LMS? It is not that all of the respondents to our survey are Luddites who cannot appreciate the technological marvel of the modern LMS. Even if they were, isn’t ultimately the providers’ job to produce a platform that its target audience can use very easily and, in fact, enjoy using?

What’s at work here, I believe, is that providers have been bombarded for years with feedback about what would make their systems better. At the same time, they are trying to roll out new features and functions that will set them apart in a crowded marketplace. Then weave into that a strong sense of attachment legacy users have to certain features and functions that shall never be changed under penalty of angry emails.

The developers of these platforms have done an amazing job over the years of reducing the number of clicks it takes to accomplish certain tasks. But those click reductions do not seem to be resulting in higher ease of use scores.  The ratings remain essentially the same from the previous year’s survey and the only thing that ranks worse than ease of use is the available feature set.

All of this adds up to a massive, complex jumble of features, functions and processes underneath a (usually) slick user interface. In an effort to be all things to all people, LMS providers are putting out products that are at best confusing and at worst unnavigable. Now we are adding social elements and mobile delivery, both of which promise simplicity but in reality add layers of complexity.

The survey found that LMS clients expect their LMS admins to have a relatively high level of technical expertise and that IT departments have a moderate role in administration as well. This indicates the level of complexity companies have come to expect with these solutions.

It may be time for LMS providers to inject a healthy dose of expectation management into their sales process. All the promises of cloud delivery and social learning environments have not yet delivered on their claims of simplicity. Until the two sides can meet somewhere in the middle, clients will continue to be disappointed. Keep in mind, the #2 reason that companies switch their LMS (chosen by 24% of respondents) is that their current system is difficult to use.

-David Wentworth, Senior Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

David Wentworth

David Wentworth has been a senior research analyst in the human capital field since 2005 and joined the Brandon Hall Group in 2013. He has authored reports and articles on various human capital subjects with an emphasis on workforce technology. He has contributed to several reports published by ASTD, including authoring Mobile Learning: Learning in the Palm of Your Hand, The Rise of Social Media: Enhancing Collaboration and Productivity Across Generations, and Instructional Systems Design Today and in the Future. His work has also appeared in Compensation & Benefits Review and T+D Magazine.

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