What is a learning management system (LMS)?

The term “LMS” is a buzz word that’s frequently thrown around in the training and professional development space, but newcomers to the online learning environment will appreciate this quick primer to see if an LMS, or Learning Management System, is right for your organization.

What is an LMS and what does it do?

A Learning Management System (LMS), is a software application used in education and business with a primary function to create, deliver, administer and track training, learning and development programs. An LMS should have a wide variety of tools to make the training process easy for both users and administrators. Training content, files and assets are first uploaded to an LMS platform. Then you can organize that content and build e-learning (aka web based learning or digital learning) modules to deliver to your desired learners. In addition to e-learning, an LMS provides features that can manage instructor-led training, virtual instructor led training, and blended approaches to learning.

An LMS solution can be:

Cloud-Based – A very popular option, this type of LMS platform is hosted on the cloud. Administrators, learners, and collaborators can access from anywhere using many devices

On-Premise– This LMS platform is hosted on a local server. An administrator is required to manage nearly all aspects of the LMS, like updating content and future add-ons.

Who uses LMS solutions and who benefits from them?

LMS platforms are used across a wide spectrum, from large corporate enterprises in need of a trackable system for training their employees on a global scale, from small to medium businesses that need a scalable training solution that grows with them, to solopreneurs who work with multiple clients and need remote collaboration tools. Additionally, it’s used by training providers/institutes, non-profit organizations, governmental organizations to create and deliver training programs in their ecosystem. It's important to note that not all LMS platforms can be used as a corporate LMS. There are over 800 companies that identify themselves as an "LMS" but very few are robust enough to support corporate LMS infrastructures.

What type of features does an LMS have?

Traditionally, an LMS will have e-learning with support on: desktop, mobile browsers, and sometimes mobile apps. E-learning user interface includes course authoring tools for admins, and a course catalog that users can self enroll or be enrolled by an instructor or their manager. An LMS is a delivery platform, so in a way you can think of an LMS as a content management system (CMS) designed for creating a full training experience for your learners. Course content can be added in the LMS (PDF, docx, PowerPoint, videos files like mp4, avi, mov; audio files like mp3, wav etc.) and put together with tests, quizzes and other material to become a course session that users can enroll into. Content authored by third-party tools such as SCORM 2004, SCORM 1.2 are also supported by LMS. Additionally advanced LMS also compliant with standards such as AICC, LTI, xAPI.More robust LMS's will also have instructor led trainings (ILT) available to be created and managed. This allows instructors to deliver course content with their virtual ILT or classroom (offline) ILT session.

Now that we have the understanding of the core functionality of an LMS software, let's talk more about the features that a modern day robust LMS would have, in addition to e-learning and instructor-led training (ILT).

Micro-learning (Open Learning)

Micro-learning is great for customer and/or partner education. A learner-centric solution that allows them to consume small amounts of information at a time rather than large quantities all at once. Micro-learning is a great tool for creating customer engagement as you can share pre-created playlists of content with your learners. You can also allow them to create their own playlist, rate the content, follow the content, share the content, follow it and comment on it. If the learners are engaged with the content from there, you can navigate them to a full on "course session" to learn more. This can also be useful for training providers where they can share Micro-learning content for free and invite their students to purchase an online course or an ILT session using eCommerce capability available in the LMS platform.

Share/engagement (social media)

Now more than ever we are very connected with those around us, we can share content within seconds with our friends and colleagues. For that reason, a good LMS should make use of engaging its users with some sort of social media aspect. For example at EduBrite a learner can see what content others have taken and enroll in that course if eligible. This is very useful in case of offering customers and partner certification so your learners become the promoter of your educational offerings.

Community forums (learning communities)

Forums or discussion boards give a place where everyone can communicate within their groups about course materials, learning experiences, and any issues they might be facing. This can be beneficial for instructors/trainers to have an easy place to communicate and share advice. It can also be beneficial for customers and companies to give an area where they can connect students and many issues can be resolved with limited company resources e.g. subject matter experts. This will also help you as a company understand customer experiences in a controlled environment. Training institutions can also use community forums to give a platform for their students and trainers to talk with one another.

FAQ and Glossary

An easy to navigate page where answers to commonly asked questions can be found and a quick Glossary about the training you offer can be created. FAQ and Glossary are relatively simple but you'd be surprised how rare it is to find in most LMS platforms on the market today.

Knowledge Base

A knowledge base is a self-serving online library that contains the information about a product, service, department, or topic. The content can range from the ins and outs of your product or offering works, HR or legal policies. The knowledge base may include details of using features, functionalities, manuals, troubleshooting guides, runbooks, and other information. Typically, subject matter experts contribute to the content of the knowledge base. Knowledgebase allows content to be categorized or uncategorized so related articles can be found easily. A global search also helps in finding a specific content.

Business of training (eCommerce in course catalog)

A good LMS should be able to offer online payment integration that allows to offer variable priced training sessions r. For example a software or a technology company may offer the same course they will not charge their own employees to take, however their clients, or an individual not associated with them could take that class for a fee. In the scenario where there is a fee it must be possible to either purchase a single course, or many credits to be used on multiple courses when dealing with enterprise LMS transactions. A good LMS platform offers varieties of strategies that includes flexible pricing options, flexible courses packaging options, and subscription management. In case of higher B2B training, a flexible training credit option is quite useful to allow your customer to do advance purchase training credits that can be used by customers anyway they want during the year.

Gamification and Certification

One final piece that should be included is both gamification and certification. Badges (local or social e.g. Open badges 2.0) and leaderboard gamifies the whole learning experience. The learners should have a common place to demonstrate their skills or certifications via badges they have acquired by themselves or other members of their team. They should also be able to share these unique badges on social networks like LinkedIn which in turn generates more engagement within your own targeted community. Certifications or continuing education credits (CEUs) are also extremely important to ensure that your learners are certified and have necessary skills to perform their job.. Certifications are also highly important during customer certifications, partner certifications, and government required certifications.

Coaching and mentoring

Coaching and mentoring allows e.g. to enable you to turn your sales and support team in to a great performers. From their hiring, you can equip your resources with the right knowledge to perform their job and produce the desired results. Best of all when training your sales and support team who mostly interact with your leads or customers who can you provide a consistent message even if the resources change. Coaching and mentoring bring a blended learning approach that allows managers or trainers to review the learning on individual basis and provide necessary feedback to suggest the improvement and keep tracking of it.

Reporting - Monitor and Track Performance

Real time reporting should be built in ready to go, if a unique report is needed outside of a normal scope then custom variable reporting built by the admin should be possible.

Groups Hierarchy Management (mapping the organization)

A good learning platform absolutely must have a good group hierarchy management system in order to ensure that learners are mapped according to their training needs and a proper personalized learning experience can be delivered. If done right you should be able to have a multi-tenant environment where in one portal you can manage: employee training, customer training or customer education, and affiliate training.

LMS solution use cases include:

Here are some of the examples of use cases that can be built using the LMS.

  • Employee onboarding
  • Training employees on compliance or any number of company policy issues
  • Equipping your sales force with consistent sales enablement tools and resources
  • Developing your customer success team and enabling them to serve customer better
  • Providing customer training or support to increase product adoption and promoting customer retention/satisfaction
  • Partner training and channel enablement to expand your reach
  • Training institute/providers offering professional training and continuing education credits (CEUs)

How do LMS fees work?

Typically, LMS fee structures fall into three categories. The first is a licensing model where you either pay an annual fee or a one-time license fee. Another is the subscription model which normally gives you the option to pay per user on a monthly or yearly basis. Lastly, there are open source and freemium LMS options. These options allow you to access only basic functionalities and/or limit the number of users. After that, you can pay varying fees to access more advanced features. In addition to these costs, plan for other expenditures for things like implementation, support, or maintenance.

Bottom line

LMS providers and options continue to evolve and there are always new breakthroughs. It’s important to select an LMS that mirrors your organization’s training and professional development goals. EduBrite can help. Learn more about our award-winning LMS or Book a Demo today.