What is Learning Management System
A Learning Management System lets you create, manage, and deliver e-Learning courses just like Word Processors (like MS Word) help you write documents, and email servers (like Gmail) let you manage the email. It has created a great craze in the mobile app development industry today.
Now, what does LMS stand for? It stands for Learning Management System. Let’s get into some detail to understand the LMS definition better.
Learning: Because it lets you deliver training courses and programs.
Management: Because it lets you organize the courses.
System: For you to do everything online and keep the info in one place.
LMS has two parts:
- An Admin Interface where the training manager performs the core and back-office tasks to organize the company’s learning programs. It’s where they create, manage, and deliver the courses, add learners, automate notifications, analyze reports, etc.
- A User Interface that runs inside the browser (like Gmail or Facebook). It’s what the learners see when they enroll or are assigned to a course.
LMS helps you:
- Create: Build online lessons (or e-Learning content, as referred to in the industry). You can also take individual lessons and turn them into courses.
- Manage: Enroll and manage the training audiences. You can even track and assess their performances.
- Deliver: Assign, offer, or sell the courses to partners, employees, customers, or a wider audience.
Who Uses a Learning Management System?
Anyone who delivers e-Learning courses uses an LMS Software – and that includes a lot more than educational institutes.
Below are some examples of different companies and organizations that use LMS for training:
- Businesses of different sizes – from large multi-national enterprises to small and medium companies.
- Businesses from various industries, like healthcare organizations and tech startups.
- Government organizations – from the United Nations to the local co-op; regional government offices, and government agencies.
- Non-government organizations and non-profits.
- Traditional educational institutes like schools, universities, colleges, etc.
- e-Learning and online-based educational institutions.
- Independent coaches and instructors.
Hence, it’s clear that a Learning Management System can serve different training needs. For instance, an expert can use LMS to sell the courses online, train the employees internally, and a consulting agency to train its clients on various topics.
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Features of Learning Management System
Most of the LMS available today have features that appeal to the user population’s different segments. For instance, a K-12 platform is vastly different than a corporate adult learning product.
An online Learning Management System often referred to as e-Learning or virtual learning, can provide you the most significant features and cost savings. Organizations need to choose the right e-Learning features for long-term needs.
Learning Management System features includes:
- A central user portal for all the users, administrators, and course creators to securely log in and complete the tasks.
- Experience the API (Tin Can API) compliant content management system built-in for authoring the content and adding elements.
- The LMS training system involves event management and scheduling capabilities that direct the users through specific learning plans.
- Certificates, profiles, and learning badges that the learners can share to prove their knowledge.
- The automated test scoring and performance management systems are based on user behaviors.
- Live classrooms and webinar environments for remote instructors and students, client presentations, and much more.
- The technical and course development support, including built-in tutorials and lesson plans.
It is not an exhaustive list of the many features that LMS can offer to your organization. Artificial Intelligence and Automation are an essential part of the next-generation LMS.
The companies concerned with tracking the employees’ performance also want to understand how learning impacts their productivity by tapping into rich analytics. Connecting learning with performance increases as the companies see a clear connection between business metrics and real business goals.
Benefits of Learning Management System
The transition from offline, traditional training to e-Learning may sound challenging, but the outcomes are worth it. For every dollar you spend on e-Learning, companies make about $30 in productivity. Plus, having the right tech in place makes this transition smoother.
Below are the benefits of LMS for training:
Saves Training Costs
It’s cost-effective to invest in the LMS software once and use it for all the training programs instead of organizing different events (e.g., presentations and conferences) every time you train the employees and customers.
Updates the Content Quickly
Your training guides won’t get outdated anymore. While online, you make the changes to the training content instantly. Written materials or in-person presentations are less useful for designing and delivering from scratch every time something changes.
Trains no Matter the Distance
The remote employees must not miss out on training opportunities. Whether working from home or any other location, you don’t need to spend time and money to bring everyone in the same room. Virtual training helps you build learning programs even when afar.
Engages and Motivates Learners
The training is not all about developing skills. Sometimes, it’s to get familiar with company policies or understand compliance regulations. In such cases, training may sound less exciting. To ensure learners’ focus, you can add some interactivity and gamification elements like quizzes, awards, and internal competitions using LMS.
Trains on the Go
Learning programs may disrupt productivity. For example, during working hours, the conferences that occur may need the employees to come out of the tasks on a specific day and time. Choosing an LMS for training lets the employees learn outside the office, too, as per their convenience. Using a mobile LMS platform, the employees can access their training courses during commute or work travel.
Improves Retention Rates
Employees value career development. You can offer them opportunities to build their skills by creating an online course library inside your LMS. It’s a win-win situation if you make courses that improve the company knowledge and help employees gain new competencies or developing existing skills without changing the role.
It requires a lot of work to measure a learning program’s success, but LMS takes that burden off you. Most LMS platforms generate metrics about user engagement, like how often users log in when they finish a course. You can even use LMS reports to evaluate the courses based on how well they are doing on the follow-up tests and assignments.
Promotes a Culture of Continuous Learning
Offline training programs are tough to organize, so they occur annually or ad hoc when needed. e-Learning courses are simple to deliver through ready-made courses, webinars, and online presentations. Training is not a box you tick off your to-do list or a one-off event. It helps your employees and the company to improve and adjust continuously.
LMS does not benefit just the companies. They even make the learning better for the employees. Below are some benefits that employees get when you use a corporate LMS:
Skill Development at no Cost
If you offer a course library, your employees can develop skills useful outside of work, like communication abilities or empathy. It’s a great way to keep your employees engaged, as they may not have the time or resources to take this kind of training on their own.
Knowledge That Sticks
You can’t always control how much learners would understand and remember after a course. e-Learning is more potent than traditional learning in this respect. Instead of watching a presentation and forgetting it later, the learners can pause the video during an online course, take necessary notes, go back to a previous lesson or take follow-up quizzes to test the knowledge.
You can’t learn with a one-size-fits-all program. Some can concentrate on a course for a longer time, while others prefer smaller chunks of training. Some of your employees could be familiar with a topic, while others could be beginners and may need more time to absorb the information. The self-paced e-learning course tackles these different training needs and preferences.
Learning Anytime, from Anywhere
Just think about the employees who work part-time and need to come to the office on a non-working day to attend a seminar. Or the ones who have to leave their tasks on a packed day to participate in a pre-scheduled workshop. LMS lets you build flexible training programs that employees can take at their will.
Unlimited Training Content Access
The learners can refer back to a lesson to refresh their memory by signing in to the LMS. It’s handy to new hires who get information overload during their first days at work.
How Does LMS Work?
Once you choose the best learning management system for your training needs, it’s time to build your learning environment. Follow the below steps before you launch a training program:
Create an e-Learning Course
To deliver your e-Learning content, you need to add it to your LMS first.
You can do so by either creating the course material from scratch (i.e., writing the lessons’ content inside the LMS) or adding the existing material (a Word doc, a PowerPoint presentation, Wikipedia articles, etc.).
Advanced LMS software lets you add course material from various sources and in different formats. You can also incorporate multimedia files (video, audio, graphics, etc.0 into the lessons.
The easy inclusion of online assets (from Wikipedia articles and YouTube videos to online presentations and tweets) is another essential course creation feature. It lets you leverage the wealth of material available online.
Organize your Courses
The next step is organizing your e-Learning courses.
It can be as simple as offering a single course or as complicated as deploying multiple courses for the departments and student groups operating across various branches.
Everything depends on the needs and structure of the organization. The best LMS’ must let you structure your e-Learning courses in any way you want.
Deliver your Courses
After you create and organize your courses, it’s time to deliver them to your learners.
How you go about it depends on the needs and structure of your business.
For instance, your courses could be made for a restricted audience (like employee training inside the company). Or they could be available to a broader audience, either as a free offering (Like NGO teaching specific skills to people in the developing countries) or as paid courses ( an online school offering web programming courses).
A modern LMS must handle all these cases so that you can serve and manage both small and large numbers of students, offer open or restricted enrollment, and easily integrate the platform with payment processors for the paid courses.
The best LMS platforms must also cater to mobile devices, with responsive user interfaces, offline accessible modes, and touch-friendly interaction.
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Types of LMS
There are several Learning Management Systems that organizations can choose from. You can check in the following list:
- Enterprise vs Individual
- Cloud-based vs On-premise
- Free vs Commercial
- SaaS vs Licensed Product
- Built-in Authoring Tools or Pre-Written CMS
Enterprise vs Individual
Enterprise-Grade Learning Solution
At the most significant level, an enterprise learning solution is customized for a large company of 500 or more employees.
It’s highly scalable and is designed to grow with the company as new courses are added. Often, an enterprise LMS has a vast list of built-in features to the needs as required.
An individual or small organizational LMS would offer few or all the features available but limits it to what an individual course producer would need.
It can serve the small organization or individual to produce various learning materials.
Often LMS providers give different subscription plans to fulfill different needs so that a small enterprise utilizes the LMS for its needs and at a reasonable price.
Cloud-Based vs On-Premise
It’s hosted on a secure off-site server and lets users access the product using various computers and mobile devices, even offline using the app.
It includes many of the most popular features that learners expect.
A cloud-based LMS is more scalable as compared to an installed version.
It is built as a stand-alone product and installed to the organization’s specifications on the server of its choice.
It is limiting, and you have to use several servers on a big scale.
A cloud-based installation is more cost-effective in few cases.
The on-premise installation maintains user and corporate data on a highly secure basis.
Free vs Commercial
There are dozens of free, open-source e-Learning products for individuals to build courses for their learners. Anyone knowing can deploy it and create a course that you can access via an e-Learning environment.
Many free LMS offer advanced levels and a big list of available features. Their main problem is that they don’t have the level of support that some users are used to.
You must know how to deploy it or hire a specialist. Platform updates require your attention and time and do not always flow smoothly.
A commercial product is meant to be used by any organization, college or university, or other educational primary organization.
It’s easy to deploy and has 24/7 support. Plus, comes with a price tag depending on the level of the required features.
Commercial platforms need frequent updating but provide an increasing list of available features. So, you always use the most modern hi-tech e-Learning solution.
Modern LMS considers the existing software and systems that the organizations have in place and blends them for a seamless user experience.
The integration involves connecting the LMS with other compatible products to enhance the learner experience.
The organization may keep the learning management system separate from all other systems and products, but it may disable some of the opportunities this integration may involve.
SaaS vs Licensed Product
It is perhaps the most popular model for an LMS.
It’s a ready-out-of-the-box solution and easy to deploy. Usually, it’s cloud-based and needs frequent free upgrades.
It is limited in customization but is perfect for the organization growing due to its scalability over time.
Technical support is included for the entire use period.
A licensed learning management system offers the ultimate in customization, reliability, and customer support for users.
It is flexible to each customer’s specifications, so that it may take some time. Thus, it can be installed on a cloud server or on-promise.
Implementation happens when the organization chooses, but updates may take more time.
The user license is the highest cost, but licensed products win in a long-distance if you implement them as a cloud-based solution. It makes the cost of ownership and the user significantly lower as compared to SaaS solutions. You can limit the support by time or include it as a premium paid add-on.
Built-in Authoring Tools vs Pre-Written CMS
Built-in Authoring Tools
Most modern LMS has content authoring tools or supports The Experience API/xAPI (or SCORM) standard and lets developers upload already created courses and lessons from the authoring tools or LCMS/CMS.
Courseware developers prefer to have access to built-in authoring tools that enable full course creation and revisions.
Even pre-authored content can be included, and learning documents, new modules, assessments, and more can be integrated.
Content management system (CMS) is a different product, often confused with LMS.
It can be used to house some learning materials and project documentation.
It’s the right place for L&D teams to work out course design well ahead of rolling out real courses.
But, it’s not a substitute for an LMS. Pre-written course lessons are developed here and imported into the LMS at a later date.
How to Choose the Best Learning Management System
You have a pretty good idea now about what you can achieve with a Learning Management System, so it’s time to add one to your shopping cart. But which one? The short answer is the one that covers the training needs without hurting your budget.
Follow the below steps to help you determine which is the best LMS for your company:
Prioritize Your Needs
You may want to buy the perfect LMS, but ideal for one company is less than ideal for another. So, separate must-haves from nice-to-haves, based on the specific requirements.
- If you do not have an excellent internal IT team to set up and update your system, go for a cloud-based LMS that’s easy for us.
- If you have a tight budget, then look among LMS’ offering various pricing plans, and choose the ones with basic features.
- If you have multiple departments, branches or clients that you want to train, then pick an LMS that allows you to create separate training programs for them using the same account.
- If you are selling online courses, check which LMS supports your preference’s payment systems and include the marketing-related features.
- If you want to keep track of your learning, choose an LMS with a robust reporting suite.
Read Customer Reviews
Research the LMS vendor’s site to find out what others have to say about the software. Review sites tell you what previous users loved about the LMS and what pain points did they have.
You can read case studies and testimonials that you usually find on the LMS website. Keep an eye on the companies of your size and industry. It’s a hint that the LMS could be a good fit for you, too.
When you read reviews and testimonials, prioritize your specific requirements, deal-breakers, and must-haves. For instance, if you are looking to use your LMS as soon as possible, compare the different LMS platforms based on the time to go live. Or, if you are on a budget, then pitch to your boss an LMS with a good ROI.
Try for Free
Some LMS vendors offer free trials. It’s very useful as you get a chance to test the product yourself before committing to any pricing plan.
You will know if the system meets your needs, how easy it is to use, and whether there are any technical issues you want to address with the support team.
After you consider everything, create a shortlist of 2-3 LMS platforms and pick the one ticking the most of your high-priority boxes.
Read more: How to Choose an LMS: A Comprehensive Guide
Evaluation of a Learning Management System takes an in-depth analysis of all the features and benefits that each one provides. It’s a difficult decision as it requires a long-term commitment. Look for an LMS that is developed, keeping the future in mind.
It must be evident from reading through the product description and learning about the company and where it’s headed.
Gather all the vital information from client testimonials as well as awards that the company has received.
Look for the leadership team’s background and their passion for the learning industry. All the above information would help you make a good case for selection and investing in a reputable learning management system for the organization.
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