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An LMS is a tool that manages the processes of creating, hosting, distributing, and assessing training sessions. The tool allows trainers to host different types of training content such as lessons, worksheets, quizzes, and tests.
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A workforce needs frequent training to learn new skills, be aware of process updates, and maintain high levels of productivity. Training sessions also act as platforms to inform employees about their responsibilities, ways to overcome low productivity levels, and steps to become an effective team member.
However, your courses must also be engaging so people are motivated to attend.
One way to achieve all this is by using a learning management system (LMS). You can analyze training effectiveness, identify learners’ areas for improvement, and assess the engagement level of attendees. The software lets you collect trainee feedback, which can provide new training topics and ways to improve the courses. This way, the courses become more engaging and effective.
As businesses need different types of LMS solutions and functionalities, finding the right software can be tricky. For this reason, we’ve created this guide which explains the world of LMS and how first-time or even current users of the software can find the right solution.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
An LMS is a tool that manages the processes of creating, hosting, distributing, and assessing training sessions. It allows trainers to host different types of training content such as lessons, worksheets, quizzes, and tests.
Here are the key functions of an LMS:
Build courses on different topics and publish these courses on a training portal
Assign courses to employees or students and track course completion status
Track trainee participation
Collect feedback after each training
The first step to selecting an LMS is to understand the types of solutions on the market. This knowledge will help you select a solution based on your organizational requirements. Based on our research, the most common types of LMS systems are as follows:
Corporate LMSs: These solutions assist in creating and disseminating work-related and compliance training. Businesses can design online training, assign courses to employees, and track their completion rate. Some products also let users design training websites, with different web pages covering different training topics.
Educational LMSs: These solutions let educational institutions design course materials and publish them on an online portal. They can also be used to conduct tests and assessments. Some products let users host classes online, allowing students to join in using a videoconferencing portal.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: What type of LMS solution do you offer for my organization's needs?
After you’ve read about the types of LMS solutions, the next step is to understand the available deployment options. These are the two most common deployment options:
Cloud-based deployment: The solution is hosted on the vendor’s servers and accessed via a web browser. The vendor is responsible for the maintenance of the network infrastructure. Usually, such solutions have tiered pricing plans, where you pay a monthly subscription fee based on the number of users. Some vendors also offer mobile apps that allow learners to access the training from their smartphones.
On-premise deployment: Unlike cloud-based systems, on-premise systems require you to store data on your own servers, which requires purchasing or renting servers and related hardware. These systems have a one-time, per user license cost, with upgrades costing extra. Businesses that already have an on-premise infrastructure for their existing tools, such as CRM and project management, should choose this option.
GetApp recommends cloud-based systems for small and midsize businesses. These solutions are relatively low-cost and effort to set up and don’t require purchasing or maintaining servers. Users can access data remotely, which could inspire businesses to implement a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy into the workplace and save on hardware costs. Cloud-based software allows users to scale up to another pricing tier if they need to add more users or increase data storage capacity in the future.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: What deployment options do you offer?
Understanding the common features of LMS software will help you shortlist products that match your training needs.
Based on our research, here are the common features of an LMS system:
Course management: Manage your training modules with the help of a course library. Learners will be able to search for relevant modules using keywords.
Course library in Talent LMS
Course authoring: Create and publish courses on your website, training portal, or content management system (CMS).
Content authoring in iSpring
Course tracking: Track the status of the training modules assigned to the learner. You can also record their feedback and test results.
Course tracking in Litmos LMS
Learner portal: Create learner profiles and allow them to access training material on an online portal with a simple login.
Learner portal in 360Learning
Assessment management: Add quizzes and tests to the training material to gauge the learner engagement.
Quizzes in Moodle
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: Does your product offer the common features listed above?
In addition to the common features discussed above, there are a few advanced features that may be useful to your organization. You should assess the value of these features to your specific situation and shortlist products accordingly.
Gradebook: Track attendees’ performance on assessments. You can also generate reports on their performance.
Learning paths: Create training programs by combining and sequencing individual training modules. For instance, you can combine all training modules related to onboarding and use it for new hires.
Certification management: Award certifications to the attendees after they complete the training and score the minimum qualifying marks on the tests.
Mobile learning: Allow attendees to access and complete the training programs on their Android or iOS devices.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: Apart from the common features of LMSs, what other features are relevant for my training needs?
Third-party integrations let you connect the LMS solution with the business applications you use, eliminating the need for manual data transfer and entry.
Based on our research, here are the top integrations with LMS software:
Content management system (CMS): List your training modules on your website. This integration makes it possible to update the listing if a module is added to or removed from the source.
E-signature software: Allow attendees to digitally sign completion certificates using email or SMS verification.
Videoconferencing software: Let trainers connect with online participants via video calls.
Human resources (HR) software: Sync employee records with the LMS, so you can assign a course to your new hires and current employees.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: Does your software integrate with the business solutions I use?
Audience engagement is an essential element of a successful training program, and LMS vendors are seeking to improve the training experience for both trainers and attendees. Many are incorporating different technologies in their offerings such as augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) as well as artificial intelligence (AI).
These technologies are currently disrupting the ways training is being imparted. In this section, we discuss each trend and outline its impact on the market.
AR/VR to disrupt online training: The technology allows trainers to provide a “live experience" to attendees who connect remotely. With AR/VR videos, trainees will be able to experience the classroom as if they were physically present there. This is a huge improvement to online learning, which can seem impersonal at times. AR/VR vendors, such as 360 Immersive and Tesseract, are developing such solutions. We can expect this technology to become a core LMS functionality by 2022.
AI to create tests and assessments: An important factor in improving engagement is effective tests and assessments. AI can optimize training assessments by sifting through the training content and create quizzes. For instance, machine learning software developer Volley reads the training material and identifies difficult concepts, based on which it creates quizzes. The increasing adoption of AI means that it could become a core LMS offering by 2023.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: Which new technologies are you planning to incorporate in your product?
We have referenced the following documents while creating this guide:
GetApp learning management system catalog (Date accessed: 5/30/2019)
Top 5 Tech Trends for Small Business, Capterra (Date accessed: 5/30/2019)
*Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context, and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations, obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.