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by By Bob Walters | March 01, 2010

With all of the focus on expanding the value and revenues from conferences and educational programs, it might be time to look into adding a web-based learning management system (LMS).

Many organizations have been using an LMS internally to track employee training programs. Today, there are a broad range of LMS solutions that can be used to create educational programs, either from scratch or based on the presentations and materials from your conferences and face-to-face meetings.

What They Offer All LMSs allow you to do the following: manage details about students, instructors and facilities; catalog web-based or face-to-face courses; provide a course calendar; define a learning curriculum; provide assessment and testing, as well as grading and certification; and offer historical reporting for transcripts and certification.

The best example of how to deploy an LMS to augment your meeting programs would be to take the audio and video recordings, handouts, supporting documents and tests or evaluations, and place them all online. Using a web-based LMS, you could define the program(s), possibly making them available as links from your "past meetings" page, and either provide the links to the stored documents or upload them to your LMS provider.

Most LMS providers also provide hosting services, as delivering video over the Internet can require some additional server-based software as well as a pretty healthy Internet connection.

You might also consider a learning content management system (LCMS), which augments the delivery of the learning materials by providing the tools and services to help you develop, manage and publish the content.

Put Into Practice Once you have developed your programs, you can begin marketing them to attendees and others who might have interest in the content. With some LMSs, you can charge for people to view the content and offer exams that people can take to earn credits.  

You might want to leverage your LMS by indicating that those who register and attend the meeting or program will have free, unlimited access to the LMS, while nonattendees will pay a fee. You could even make the programs available at no charge to anyone from an attendee's company or organization, thereby providing even more justification for people to attend your event.

A Varied Selection
A variety of systems are available, with different features and price tags. Among them:

• Blackboard Learning Systems offers support for mobile learning on iPhone, iPod touch and Blackberry devices.

• eleap Software has been focused primarily on business education but has begun to expand into universities and associations.

• Meridian KSI offers both an LMS and an LCMS.

• Saba Software provides a corporate solution, called the Saba Learning Suite.

• SharePointLMS is another interesting option, which builds on the Microsoft SharePoint content management solution. By using the document management and approval capabilities of SharePoint and developing new web functionality, this company has created a robust LMS that can be run either internally on your intranet or externally on the Internet.  Because the basic version of SharePoint is included in the Windows Server package, many organizations already have the software required to use an add-on like this.

Regardless of the system selected, an effectively deployed LMS enhances attendee education and has great potential to add a new revenue stream to your existing programs.