How the ENA Chose a New Learning Management System (LMS)

Read on for a list of tips for choosing your next LMS.

By Tim Mucha

A member visits the ENA's LMS on a tablet

A learning management system (LMS) is crucial to the work of many associations as it’s where associations store content, deliver courses to members and track training of those who participate. This software holds a lot of power as it provides associations a platform to deliver incredible education to its members.

Selecting a new LMS can be a daunting task for any association, but with research, preparation and planning, it can be a smooth process. The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) recently faced this project which ended in a successful LMS launch in August 2021. ENA is an international organization that proudly supports more than 50,000 members and welcomes thousands of learners each year. ENA executed a straightforward, clear process to complete this implementation to better fulfill the needs of emergency nurses who are seeking education on the go.

The Challenge with the Current LMS

ENA recognized that its existing learning management system no longer fit the association’s needs. The version ENA was running wasn’t supported by the vendor, it was not a scalable system, and the association was preparing for the launch of its robust ENA University – an all-inclusive hub for emergency nursing education that supports learners throughout their entire career with a variety of different topics and levels of knowledge. That meant the technology needed to match the heavy demands that would be required to provide a top-notch experience for the end user.

With these realizations, the clock started ticking as the association began its work on ENA University and the process of choosing a new learning management system began.

The First Steps

With the goal of an education hub in mind, ENA started to plan for a new LMS. The association formed a core team that served as the guiding force for the project including timeline identification, a system requirement outline and processes for different aspects of the project. With the core team in place, ENA partnered with .OrgSource to develop a comprehensive needs analysis and RFP which were presented to potential learning management system vendors.

The core team evaluated questionnaire submissions from potential vendors and was able to prioritize and eliminate the pool to three finalists. Over the course of several months, the core team met with leading bidders to learn about options and experience ENA-specific use case through in depth demonstrations. Ultimately, ENA was seeking an LMS partner who would be willing to work on enhancing their platform for the association’s custom needs.

The Process

“It’s easy to get distracted by fancy charts, graphs and feature-rich platforms that include items you may not need,” said ENA Senior Manager, Digital Learning Ken Loredo. “When looking for an LMS it is important to look beyond the bells and whistles during the demonstrations and peek under the hood.”

An LMS vendor who is willing to learn your association’s mission is one who is committed to accomplishing your goals of providing great education to your members. During the demos, it’s important to ask tough questions and think ahead of how the LMS platform will enhance your association’s education.

“It’s easy to get distracted by fancy charts, graphs and feature-rich platforms that include items you may not need,” said ENA Senior Manager, Digital Learning Ken Loredo. “When looking for an LMS it is important to look beyond the bells and whistles during the demonstrations and peek under the hood.”

Keeping this in mind is what helps ensure your organization chooses the correct partner. Loredo also points out that it’s important the LMS vendor and your internal IT department mesh well as the two groups will work closely together from beginning to end. As the project progresses and the finish line becomes clear, ensure you’ve allocated a period of time for the core team to test and learn the basics of the new learning management system – this helps the group prepare for the launch and roll out to users.

The Things ENA Wish it Had Known

With every large project comes opportunities for growth and learning. ENA’s roll out of a new learning management system provided its own challenging moments, but a successful launch occurred in August 2021 and has seen thousands of learners. The most significant speedbump ENA faced was the versatility of the new learning management system’s shopping cart and its importance on the overall course design strategy.

Many LMS options will come with an integrated shopping cart experience but are focused on selling rather than being used as a tool. Following the launch, ENA learned that rich functionality and ease-of-use offers learners the ability to look past the courses simply as products but as more of an educational experience from the very moment they find it in the course catalog. The association has successfully integrated a shopping cart experience in its overall course build and design strategy.

How to Choose a New LMS

Each association has different expectations, requirements and users – all of which lead to different needs from a learning management system. A few key tips can be taken from ENA’s experience including:

  • Identify the issue(s) your association faces with its existing LMS. Survey staff, learn from members and explore best practices to see if the platform you currently use is living up to expectations.
  • Form a core team to begin the process. The group should consist of staff from across the association including, but not limited to, education, IT, membership, and marketing.
  • Open your project to bidders. Whether through a partner or individually, begin identifying potential vendors your association can work with on this project. Learn about their capabilities, compare them to your association’s values and receive demos on their products – don’t forget to ask a lot of questions!
  • Begin the build. Work with your new LMS partner on building the learning management system. Test, provide feedback and ask questions along the way to guarantee that the end product will meet the needs of your members. Build time into your schedule to learn the new LMS and train the necessary staff.
  • Launch the new learning management system to your members! Announce that your association has created a new learning management system designed to help your learners achieve their educational goals. Distribute emails, post on social media or host a webinar to spread the word.

About the Author

Tim Mucha is the Social Media Strategist for the Emergency Nurses Association. Tim has been with ENA for four years and contributes to a variety of projects across the entire association.

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