What is a Learning Management System (LMS)?

Defining Learning Management Systems

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What is a learning management system?

Learning management systems, or “LMS” technology, has become increasingly popular in recent years, as online educational opportunities have continued to grow.

According to the 2021 report from LinkedIn learning, 59% of companies are using online learning tools for reskilling and upskilling their professionals in a changing workplace environment.

LMS technology provides companies with everything they need to provide high-quality training and educational experiences to their employees, students, and more. The LMS environment is home to everything from quizzes, to lessons, courses, videos, and other training materials, as well as countless reports where companies can keep track of learner progress.

Let’s take a closer look at what a learning management system is, and how you can choose the right LMS for your business.

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What is a Learning Management System?

A learning management system is simply a type of software companies can use for creating, managing, and delivering online content. Organizations can use LMS technology and related software to manage their online learning programs.

Learning management systems first appeared in the 1990s, within the higher education sector. These initial LMS solutions were a far cry from the tools we use today. Solutions like “Moodle” and “Blackboard” were intended to facilitate and organize instructor-led online courses, with basic tools for defined class modules and assignment submission.

Most of the time, the classes managed through these early LMS systems involved pre-recorded classroom lectures, and written course material.

During the early 2000s, the corporate world began adapting and adopting LMS software to meet with new learning and development needs. With an influx of cash and interest, the LMS evolved from clunky e-learning delivery systems for courses, to comprehensive platforms for online learning, with administration, course-building, and analytics components.

Corporate LMS technology today can be extremely diverse, and the industry for LMS solutions is projected to be worth around $44.49 billion by 2028 alone.

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How Do LMS Software Solutions Work?

Sometimes, the bet way to understand how Learning Management Systems work, is to think about how companies use and deploy these software environments. Some solutions are large and complex, while others are intended to simply manage a handful of pre-built learning assets.

LMSA solutions are intended to help educators and learning managers handle the entire lifecycle of training and education with a set of students. Companies use LMS solutions to build online courses where they can educate employees. Educational institutions can also use these systems to deliver online learning experiences to customers around the world.

An LMS solution usually comes with access to a course building and content creation platform, where you can create flash cards, slides, documentation, quizzes, and certifications, among other assets. There’s also an environment where you can keep track of the individual learners in your community through profiles and membership accounts.

With your LMS solution, you can store and organize content, as well as distributing these assets to a range of customers at the pace that suits you. For instance, you might decide to drip a certain series of course classes out over time. With triggers, you can allow the system to release the next piece of content when someone completes another class.

After your students complete a course, you can also provide them with certifications they can download. During the course process, a good LMS will allow administrators to monitor employee progress, view useful analytics, and recalibrate learning programs to achieve the highest possible level of impact.

Learning managers who use LMS technology to manage their learning programs within a company or educational institution can assign roles and permissions to different users to designate between learners and teachers. Admins organize courses by subject and create specific tracks for employees to follow.

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Why do Companies and Educators Use LMS?

Investing in a Learning Management system can seem like an expensive and complex endeavour for beginners. However, an LMS can actually be a relatively affordable way to share information in a community, and help people develop new skills.

LMS software is designed to support the development of crucial knowledge among students and employees alike. The right technology will give your organization a reliable environment where you can house essential information for your team.

Groups use LMS technology to access:

  • Efficiency: An LMS provides an efficient way for companies and educational institutions to run online learning programs. Administrators and learners alike can leverage all the resources they need to thrive on the web, including instructional documents, webinars, and downloadable documents. Shifting from in-person or informal learning platforms can make your environment significantly more efficient.
  • Speed: With LMS technology, it’s possible to build comprehensive online courses fast, often without the need for a developer. All of the important information your learners need is located in one place, so everyone can find what they need without having to jump between different apps and ecosystems.
  • Ease of use: Online learning platforms make educational more accessible for the masses. The right solution is an excellent way to give individual learners more control over their education, while simultaneously reducing the amount of work managers need to do to empower their team members or students.
  • Variety: Many LMS solutions allow companies and educational facilities to offer students access to all of the valuable content they need in a range of different formats. These solutions can host everything from interactive quizzes to videos and recorded audio. This allows leaders to offer the kind of learning opportunities that really work for their teams.
  • Insights: Administrators can use learning management systems to monitor completion rates for students, to ensure they’re taking full advantage of the resources available. The same tools can also offer an insight into the hurdles and roadblocks which might be damaging the overall learning experience for users.
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What Outcomes Can You Achieve with an LMS?

Learning Management Systems essentially create a more effective online learning program for distributed students and professionals in a digital environment. With the right technology, companies can create a more immersive environment for education, leveraging a host of benefits.

For students in a standard online learning facility, an LMS provides an environment for easier, more immersive learning. In a business environment, a learning management system can also provide a wide range of benefits, from better employee retention, to increased satisfaction. Advantages include:

  • Increased satisfaction: For both everyday students and employees, a learning management system offers a convenient and enjoyable way to learn and expand skills. The right tools can allow for convenient online learning experiences which side-step the headaches of having to attend courses and classes in-person. 51% of employees even say they prefer self-guided training in the digital world.
  • Greater retention: In the business world, an LMS solution can also help you hold onto your essential employees for longer. Today’s employees say they want to work for companies which give them a future and invest in their career. Helping team members to learn new skills can improve retention levels, while ensuring you have more valuable talents to access from your team.
  • More comprehensive onboarding: Speaking of benefits for business users, the right LMS doesn’t just help you to retain your customers, it helps you to bring the right people on board too. Studies show that a comprehensive onboarding process makes employees more likely to stick with a brand for 3 years or more by 69%.
  • Lower learning and development costs: In a business environment, creating online courses which can be repeated a multitude of times is much cheaper than running courses in-person. You can save a significant amount by authoring learning content in an easy-to-use digital environment. Plus, people can access the learning materials wherever they are.
  • Enhanced team building: As the functionality of learning management systems evolves, team building opportunities are becoming a more common part of the environment. Solutions like collaborative learning platforms can build stronger bonds while delivering employee training. This can lead to a more immersive learning environment.
  • Excellent reporting: Most LMS online training systems come with access to reporting and analytics features. You should be able to check your learning environment is having a positive impact on your audience, and even track the completion of training courses. With reports on your SaaS system, you’ll be able to decide when and how you need to upgrade your investment in certain aspects of your online education strategy.

The great thing about creating training courses with the best LMS is how flexible the ecosystem can be. You don’t need to give up on all other forms of training and education just because you’re using an LMS. You can often use an LMS alongside offline face-to-face education too.

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Who Needs an LMS Platform?

On-demand and social learning environments are becoming increasingly popular in today’s digitized landscape. With a host of different features, from gamification to real-time tracking, companies and educators alike can leverage an LMS platform for a range of reasons. Some of the most common use cases of LMS tools include:

  • Onboarding: In a business environment, companies can use digital learning initiatives as part of the enrolment and onboarding experience. This use case can make every new hire in your team more effective. According to some studies, companies that improve their onboarding process achieve 70% increases in productivity and an 82% improvement in retention. Digital onboarding is becoming more crucial in the world of remote and hybrid work, where instructor-led training may not be possible.
  • Upskilling: Business leaders and training companies alike can offer eLearning content and digital tools to help users adopt new skills. With a convenient use interface, it’s easy to create a host of user-friendly tools for online and mobile learning. Users can enhance their technical skills, and even choose from different learning paths depending on their needs.
  • Soft skill and compliance training: More than just a tool for technical training management, LMS solutions can also help with soft skill development, providing insights into everything from communication to leadership skills. The right digital learning tools can also ensure teams are compliant with all the essential regulations your business needs to follow. This reduces liability risk. You can offer everything from diversity training to harassment training and workplace safety guidance in one place.
  • Customer training: The LMS tools available on the market today can even offer a user-friendly interface for onboarding and training customers. A user-friendly interface allows businesses to create training programs which teach clients how to get the most out of their new purchase. Many LMS vendors allow companies to create different types of accounts depending on their learning goals.
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What Kind of LMSs Are Available?

As online learning and digital course content become more common, the number of learning management tools available is evolving. There are various forms of learning tools on the market today, some with overlapping LMS features.

The learning management system is the most common choice. Providers of these tools facilitate all kinds of online training with an easy-to-use environment for managing and delivering courses. LMS content management tools formed the foundation for all other learning solutions over the years. As the science around online learning has evolved, various other systems have emerged, like the learning experience platform.

A learning experience platform is intended to make your eLearning courses more interactive and dynamic. Similar to LMS solutions, you can create and manage a host of courses, but there are more tools to personalize the learning experience. LinkedIn Learning and Docebo are good examples of solutions offering this kind of training content.

With an LXP, employees explore a range of different learning options, and choose the ones most relevant to them. This kind of software application is a lot more effective for delivering an employee-first educational experience in today’s digital world.

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The Characteristics of a Great LMS Solution

As the available learning management systems in the world today continue to evolve, choosing the right system can feel complex. It’s difficult to narrow your search when there are hundreds of options on the market. Fortunately, we do have some advice to help.

Start by thinking about the kind of learning experiences you want to develop for your target audience. Think about the flexibility, features, and learning options most suited to your team’s needs. Some of the most important points to look at include:

  • An intuitive interface: A Learning Management System isn’t much good if it’s too complex for teams to understand without assistance. Look for an LMS with a simple interface on the back and front-end. It should be simple to design and take the courses on your system.
  • Feedback tools: It’s important for your solution to enable the delivery of feedback and guidance from educators and administrators to students. Individuals need to know what they’ve done wrong or right in a certain course to guide continued learning.
  • Course authoring features: A good LMS should ensure you can bot manage courses and create them from scratch. Look for an LMS which allows for the development of all kinds of courses within the platform. A code-free editor which allows for dragging and dropping components to maintain ease-of-use is important.
  • Cloud based: As learning becomes increasingly digitized, and individuals look for course options from all over the world, a cloud-based solution is best. Cloud-based LMS tools are more flexible and allow teams to access the learning experiences they need from anywhere. Users shouldn’t have to download or install anything complex.
  • Collaborative learning. As collaborative learning continues to offer various benefits, it’s worth looking for an environment where team members can share their knowledge and learn collaborative. Discussion boards, peer review, and the option to collaborate on course creation options are all valuable here.
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What Features to Look for in an LMS Solution

Every LMS platform has a variety of special features to offer in today’s digital landscape. It’s worth exploring all of the solutions on the market carefully before making your choice. Some of the most important features worth looking at include:

  • Analytics and reporting: Collecting information about your team’s performance in courses in regard to completion and engagement levels is crucial. Generating analytics will also help you to create more effective and lucrative courses long-term. While it is possible to use third-party analytics solutions with some LMS tools, it’s best to have the reporting capabilities already built-in where possible, to help save you some time.
  • Mobile functionality: Today’s students and employees alike are more regularly connecting to training solutions from a host of different tools, including smartphones. An LMS with a mobile app or mobile responsive design will ensure people can conveniently learn on the go. Currently, around 34% of all the companies surveyed by one study said they’re developing mobile learning environments for users.
  • Gamification: We all love a little fun in the training environment. Promoting active learning among students and employees is much easier when you add some games to the mix. There are a variety of different gamification tools built into LMS solutions today. For instance, you can find LMS tools which have points systems to help teams compete against eachother, and awards when users earn a certain number of points.
  • Exceptional customer support: Even if an LMS seems relatively convenient and easy to use at first glance, you’re probably going to need some help at some point. Choosing an LMS with a strong communication format, like live chat, phone, and so on, will help to ensure you have peace of mind and confidence when something doesn’t go according to plan for your learning experience.
  • Integrations: Though LMS solutions can include a range of different tools and services for teams to use, there’s a good chance you’re going to need additional functionality at some point. An LMS with integration capabilities will allow you to link your software to other tools to keep workflows connected. For instance, you could integrate your LMS solution with an HR and onboarding software to create a more comprehensive way to introduce new employees to your team.
  • Multiple content formats: People learn in a multitude of different ways. A course created entirely with text might not be very enticing for your team or students. With that in mind, look for something which allows you to create various different content formats. PowerPoint, video, audio files, webinars, downloadable documents, and a host of other options are crucial. You might even want to look for AR/VR support.
  • Tin Can or SCORM compliance: Most traditional LMS solutions require learning and development leaders to create content using the shareable content object reference model, better known as SCORM. This used to mean creating content using separate tools. However, these days, full-stack systems can ensure you’re compliant too.
  • Co-authoring options: With multi-author functionality, it’s possible for various team members to work together on creating collaborative and intuitive courses. This can be excellent if you want multiple educators to all have their input on a course.
  • Various feedback tools: Many LMS offerings provide feedback surveys after course completion. While this is useful, it’s not always the most effective way to collect nuanced feedback about the course materials available. An LMS offering instant feedback inside the course makes it easier to drill down into better content creation.
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LMS Pricing Models

One final point to consider when choosing a learning management system for enrollment and education, is the pricing models available for your learning and authoring tools. There are a number of different options available, depending on what features you want. For instance, integration with leading Microsoft tools and automation may make your system more expensive.

Some of the most common pricing models include:

  • Open Source: Open source API and software solutions for your learning process are free to use. However, they don’t always include all the features you need as standard. If you choose an open-source solution, you may need to add some of your own functionality with developer knowledge.
  • Freemium: These learning solutions often have a free version of the software to access initially with minimal tools. However, you’ll usually need to upgrade to a paid plan to access features like functionality on mobile devices or advanced analytics.
  • Pay per user: The pay per user service often means you pay according to the number of people who are going to be taking the course. Some solutions will offer discounts if you have a bulk number of users to serve.
  • Pay per course: With this strategy, you pay based on the number of courses you’re going to launch. This can be less expensive if you’re going to be dealing with a lot of users.
  • License fee: With a one-time license fee, you only pay once for all the functionality you need.
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Choosing a Learning Management System

There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for choosing an effective learning management system. There are all kinds of tools available on the web today, and you’re sure to find something suitable for every need in the modern market, how you might need to do some research first. Think about the kind of functionality that’s most important for you and explore your options slowly.

Remember, you can always try some of the free demos and freemium versions of software before you buy anything.

Bogdan Rancea

Bogdan is a founding member of Inspired Mag, having accumulated almost 6 years of experience over this period. In his spare time he likes to study classical music and explore visual arts. He’s quite obsessed with fixies as well. He owns 5 already.

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