Have you tried to find a good course platform lately?
It’s bananas! There are so many platforms to choose from – and many of them offer such amazing suites of features, it’s hard to choose!
I work with all sorts of platforms every day for my clients and have become pretty well versed in what makes a good one and the features to make sure yours has.
Because let’s get real – if your course is amazing but your platform sucks, the disconnect is going to cost you student engagement and success rates, big time.
And the success of your students is super high on your list of goals right?
Ok! So let’s go over the 5 features I think make the best LMS (Learning Management System) for your online courses.
First off – it’s got to be easy to use right?
#1 – Is Easy to Use
You wouldn’t believe the number of hosted LMS platforms I’ve used that are so complex even software developers have a hard time figuring them out!
User interface design (UI) and user experience (UX) is a hard thing to do right and it’s not a skill every developer has.
But when it’s done right? Oh, those are a creators dream! Items in places that make sense, interfaces that follow a logical sequence and never having to hunt for the specific function you’re looking for.
But here’s the funny thing about UI/UX – it’s totally a personal preference thing.
Sure there’s basic rules that should be followed and some tenets developers should keep in mind, but at the end of the day – what works right for me might not be what you prefer.
When it comes down to ease of use, this is the most personal of preferences, so here’s my best advice for finding one that suits your own personal preferences:
Take a few hours to go through the platform
Really – play with everything. Try to create test courses and lessons, play with the testing portion of things and try to integrate some of your external providers. Get a feel for how their UI works and see if there are any major stumbling blocks.
Test at least three
Pretty much all of them have a free demo, a 14-day trial or a 30-day money back guarantee you can try out. Use this in conjunction with some serious testing time to put at least three platforms through their paces.
Testing three of them gives you a better sense of which you like the most and ups your chances of finding one that will work best with the way you work.
Be open to several options
There are a few people I know that once they get an idea in their minds, they refuse to consider any other options – don’t be like that.
If you’re dead set on using one type of platform (like self-hosting), then you won’t be as receptive to a hosted platform that might fit all your requirements. Focus on your needs and then find the best platform to suit those needs, regardless of what shape it takes.
By using these three pieces of advice, you should be well on your way to using the next four points to narrow down your choices even more.
#2 – Is Mobile Friendly
This is a no brainer right now – but you’d be surprised how many platforms struggle with this.
Making sure your course runs smoothly, no matter what size of screen it’s viewed on – is a must. It’s absolutely non-negotiable.
When you’re playing around with the platforms you’re exploring, make sure you view the student side of things from a mobile phone to make sure everything looks and functions correctly.
Being mobile friendly should be very high up on your list of must-have features so don’t let this one slide in your rankings!
#3 – Has Gamification Features
Online course completion rates have dropped pretty low lately (anywhere between 8 and 20% depending on how optimistic the person you ask is.)
One of the major contributors to this is the passive nature of online courses – and gamification can help offset that by playing on the naturally competitive nature we all possess.
When you go through a sign up process and see the levels of progress you’re making (I’m on step 3 of 5!) it’s easier to see the end and move towards it. But when you’re in an online course that doesn’t give you feedback in terms of how well you’re doing, then it’s easy to get discouraged and give up before completing it.
This is one part of traditional school we need to bring back into online education – the ability to give students feedback on their progress and achievements throughout their learning experience.
Some other examples of gamifiction are:
Badges, awards and levels of completion
Take a nod from video games and give your students awards for their performance. Heck, even my meditation app has gamification built into it to show me my progress – and I work hard to get those birds every day!
Nothing is more satisfying than checking an item off a list. When you give your students that sense of completion for each of your modules and lessons, you’re showing them progress and giving feedback on their journey through your course content.
Is there a way to create a bit of competition within your course content and between your students? We all remember what it was like in school to be able to compare grades and feel a sense of accomplishment when we did well. Keep in mind that some people become discouraged if they don’t achieve what they wished so if you do go a competition route, don’t make it mandatory.
What other ways can you think of to gamify your courses? There are plenty of examples in the real world and I encourage you to use them within your course to increase engagement.
#4 – Has to Play Nice With Your Existing Systems
You have to learn a new course platform – let’s make sure you don’t also have to switch to a new payment gateway, email provider or other backend software.
Making sure the course platform has prebuilt integrations to the systems you already use is important to maintain momentum when you’re building your courses.
The more pieces that are brand new, the more pieces there are to overwhelm you.
If the platform you’re considering doesn’t integrate with another one of your services I would say mark that one off your list and move on. There’s no sense in forcing a round peg into a square hole.
But – if you are dead set on using them, here are some extra ways you can try to make it work.
Can’t hurt to ask right? If the platform you’re interested in using doesn’t support one of your systems, contact support and see if they have integration planned or if they know of a workaround.
Zapier is your friend
A zap here, a zap there – zaps everywhere! Zapier is a game changer for platforms that don’t have direct integrations. You don’t even have to know what an API is to use it and they support over 750 different apps and systems.
In the end though – I recommend using one new piece of software or system at a time – when you change everything up it’s easy to get overwhelmed. One step at a time!
And the very last item you should look for when choosing your online course platform is:
#5 – Has White Label Options
White labelling refers to the practice of using one system or service and having it transparently fit into your own brand.
This would be like me using Stripe on my website to collect payments, but for all intents and purposes, it looks as if the website itself is collecting payments.
Nothing can confuse tech un-savvy students like being taken to a page they think lives somewhere else or doesn’t belong to you. Making sure their entire experience is seamless and branded with your own logos, URLs and messaging is important to build and maintain their trust of your brand.
Many course platforms offer a package that offers white label options or they might call it custom domain or branding – look for these features amongst their package offerings and go with that level right from the start.
And there you have it! If you keep these 5 features in mind when you go shopping for a course platform, you’ll be in a great place to choose the right platform to suit your needs and your student’s success.
I created a super handy checklist you can use when comparing course platforms – then when you go to make a decision you have all your notes in one place. Download it below and get started on finding your perfect platform!