You’re probably familiar with the advantages of industry-built software solutions relative to generic or general-purpose tools. But even then, do the tools on your checklist address all the tasks, needs, and challenges you need them to? Even solutions made for the same industry can have a high degree of variance; understanding the differences—and what you need from a platform in the near and long term—makes everything from shopping to implementation easier from the word go.
Keeping that in mind, here are a few features and capabilities every public safety organization should look out for when evaluating or shopping for a learning management system (LMS).
1. Easy integration of data to get a full picture of a person’s training
For most public safety organizations, the act of training, qualifying, and/or certifying a given employee requires input from several internal education sources—such as full-time trainers, or consultants the organization has brought on—as well as external ones: A police officer without qualification from an outside organization may not be able to carry out certain tasks, qualify for promotions, or be able to do the job at all, for example.
As such, any training-focused platform your organization chooses must implement things like course grades from outside sources—something as “small” as being able to manually enter an outside test score can save personnel from bouncing between systems and sites in search of important HR information.
Resource-strapped organizations need not waste valuable time trying to gather details from disparate datasets nor lose valuable records and insights due to siloed databases. Moreover, having training data in one system makes it much easier to view and share holistic training information at an individual level. Make sure your platform respects this need for consolidated data.
2. A true focus on blended learning for maximum efficiency
In a 2015 Software World writeup, the site stresses the need for systems that support true blended learning capabilities. In a public safety context, blended learning is even more vital. Beyond simply allowing people to learn where they want or when they prefer, the best LMS solutions for public safety account for the diverse range of contexts in which training must occur.
An LMS for public safety must be more than a facilitator for online learning. It must also be built to support the training and evaluations that occur in both physical classrooms and field environments, such as firing ranges and driving tracks.
Asking the following questions now can help you mitigate the effects of limited functionality later.
Do your tools make it easy for instructors to enter vital data to a centralized repository (e.g. the individual student’s records) no matter where the coursework is being taken?
Does the LMS automatically record test scores for online learning components?
3. Futureproof attributes for a long-term solution
The idea that “futureproofing” (building systems the organization can be confident will last far into the future) is impossible has died down somewhat with the advent of software as a service (SaaS) delivery models. Today, organizations can expect that their training and learning purchases will offer new features, capabilities, and integrations to keep their purchase relevant years down the line—but only if they know the attributes to look for.
Some traits that can be considered “futureproof” include:
Selecting technology for the future doesn’t have to be impossible. With the right organization behind you, you can rest assured that your training and learning tools will support your organization deep into the future.
Security is an ever-growing concern in the public safety sphere, and sophisticated attacks illustrate just how important it is to ensure your software providers, even for your LMS, match your security needs. When a compromised product ends up installed in a high-sensitivity environment, things can deteriorate quickly.
As such, this final point carries two considerations. First, as in the above point, how do organizations go about displaying their security and compliance from a first-party perspective? Second, do they hold the vendors they use to a similar level of scrutiny? Ask how the vendors on your shopping list plan to protect themselves and you from a supply chain attack, and you’ll likely come away better knowing whether they’re worth your business or not.
How does the LMS you’re evaluating stack up?
Picking a major software upgrade is never an easy task. On top of the usual slate of budgetary concerns, organizations must be increasingly concerned with the flexibility, compliance, and long-term feasibility their training and learning purchases offer. Even if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for yet, keep your eyes to these pointers—and you’ll likely find all software purchases, not just those related to training, get easier over time.