When organizations are preparing to implement a Learning Management System (LMS), they need to ensure that appropriate diligence is conducted as part of their evaluation process. One tool that has established itself as a great way to assess the suitability of an LMS for a particular organization is the Use Case.
What is a Use Case?
Stated simply, a Use Case is a tool you can leverage to evaluate LMS functionality and use within specific context of your organization’s needs. The Use Case tells the vendor the following:
“If I wanted to use the system to do xyz, how will I accomplish that”?
“Show me how to use your system to perform xyz”
The vendor should then be able to take that “Case” (e.g.: “How do I add new employees to my course roster”?), and “Use” the system (e.g.: Click ‘Course Administration->Add Student-> Select the Course-> etc. etc) to demonstrate how to perform the desired task.
Importance of Use Cases
When evaluating a system as vast as an LMS, it’s often easy for organizations to get carried away by lengthy features lists, comprehensive functionality descriptions, and great-looking screenshots. However, what you need to do is to evaluate the system in terms of its ability to cater to your particular organizational needs – and that’s where Use Cases come in.
An LMS feature may state:
“Comprehensive course enrollment history and completion reporting”
However, when you produce a Use Case to specifically demonstrate the LMS’s ability to report on an employee’s training history, for a staff member who has performed multiple roles throughout your organization; you may find the tool only tracks courses taken under a specific role or title – NOT by the employee’s overall tenure with the company (which is what you are interested in)!
Therefore, Use Cases serve as an important tool to evaluate LMS’ functionality that caters to your company’s unique needs – and not what the tool may be capable of doing “generically” for the vendor’s other clients.
Use Cases are also instrumental in helping LMS evaluators refine their own expectations around who (Training Manager, HR Department, Line/Functional Managers, and Employees) the system should support, and what type of support (Course Admin, Enrollment, Performance Tracking) it should provide.
How to Leverage Use Cases
For anyone new to Use Cases, getting started with using them may seem overwhelming. It’s not! The easiest way to leverage Use Cases is to first identify WHO, within your organization, the LMS should support. E.g.:
Step#1 – WHO:
- HR Manager
- Accounting Supervisor
- IT Department
Once you have identified the key roles that the LMS should support, it’s time for you to take a closer look at WHAT the solution should do for each of those roles. E.g.:
Step#2 – WHAT:
- Create a course
- Upload course content
- Enroll students into a course
- View course performance
A great way to manage the WHO/WHAT relationship is to produce a grid, similar to the following:
Next, it’s time to create Use Cases that seek to validate whether the LMS tool being evaluated can successfully demonstrate HOW it will meet each of your requirements:
Step#3 – HOW:
This is where your Use Case asks the LMS vendor to show how the system fulfills a specific function:
The Purpose should be very specific; as vague definitions can defeat the purpose of the Use Case. Also, Critical to note items, such as whether the system authenticates authorized users before giving them permission to perform the function, will enhance the Use Case’s value in the evaluation process.
An additional way to leverage Use Cases is to design them to validate specific work flow processes within your organization:
While Use Case 201 focused on a specific way to use a particular functionality, Use Case 202 seeks to verify if the LMS can integrate a number of “WHATs” the way your company typically performs them.
Use Case Best Practices
Obviously, depending on how deep you wish to go with them, something as complex as an LMS system will span a large number of Use Cases – potentially in the hundreds! But if you do manage to produce that many, they will no longer serve you effectively in evaluating the LMS. In fact, too many Use Cases could be a distraction to the evaluation process.
Here are 3 best practices that can help you turn your Use Cases into an effective evaluation tool:
- Focus on the core needs: Prioritize what your users will need the most, such as Course Creation, Scheduling Courses, Enrollments, Launching Courses, Tracking Performance, Managing Content, Reporting, Assessments. Then, produce Use Cases to address those needs.
- Keep it simple: Even within a core need, you should avoid the temptation to create overly complex Use Cases. For instance, if “Training Approval” is a core need, instead of producing one large, complex Use Case to cover every approval scenario, build multiple, simple scenarios, such as “Use Case 3A – Approving New Employees”; “Use Case 3B – Approving Existing Employees”; “Use Case 3C – Approving Contract Staff”…etc.Approaching Use Cases this way will ensure that the nuances involved in each sub-function are adequately demonstrated (e.g. approving Contracted staff may need a different set of validations than Existing employees) by the LMS being evaluated.
- Assemble evaluation metrics: Before you start evaluating the LMS with your Use Cases, you should be clear on a set of acceptable metrics that some of your Cases will assess. For instance:
- Use Case# 201 – Course Addition: Number of actions (Clicks, Taps, Scroll-downs, Selections etc.) required to complete the Use Case
- Use Case# 301 – Uploading Content: Number of supported source document formats for course content (Word; PDF, PowerPoint, Flash etc.)
In a multi-solution evaluation scenario, where all LMS tools are being considered offer equivalent Use Case compliance, such metrics may give you a better view into which is the most appropriate solution for your organization.
In parting, one important thing to know about developing and using Use Cases is that, ideally, they should be developed in collaboration with each of the roles that the LMS will support. Additionally, it is also important to remember that the ideal use case will aid, NOT OBSTRUCT, the LMS vendor in demonstrating his/her tool’s ability to comply with the Use Case. They should therefore be written as such.