What is a Learning Management System (LMS)?

More and more companies across the world are choosing to deliver their training online. In fact, the eLearning market is growing so fast that it has seen a 900% growth since the beginning of the century. To deliver eLearning courses, companies need a Learning Management System (LMS).

A Learning Management System is the software that companies use to develop, deliver, and track training for their employees, clients, and partners. Until recently, hearing the word “training” made us think of a classroom with an instructor giving a lecture in front of students. And if we were talking about “corporate training,” we would picture a large conference or a day-long workshop.

This is the traditional way of training. Online training has now gained popularity, especially in times where connecting online is easier than meeting in person. As companies, instructors, and learners see the benefits of virtual training, the eLearning market will keep growing.

When companies use an LMS to deliver training online, learners from anywhere in the world can connect with instructors, whether in real time or through recorded sessions. At the same time, trainees have access to online training material (courses, guides, quizzes, videos, etc.) any time they want.

An LMS is a platform for digital learning. Its key features can be found in the abbreviation.

L — Learning. With an LMS, you can create a single source of online courses and training materials. This will become a unique source of knowledge in your area, so that you can keep and increase the in-house expertise of your company.

M — Management. You can manage courses and learners, and even improve your own efficiency.

Unlike file sharing services, an LMS is not just a heap of files; on the contrary, it’s a well-organized system where you manage the training process. To start training, simply add employees and assign courses.

Have you recently hired some new employees? Send them invitations to the onboarding training course. Experiencing low sales? Ask your salespeople to practice with virtual clients.

Thanks to features like a calendar, you’ll be able to assign and manage not only online training, but also in-class sessions. In this way, an LMS can be a sort of a to-do app designed specially for eLearners.

S — System. Computer system, to be exact. An LMS automates the most boring and tedious work such as grading, processing statistics, and preparing reports. Plus, you can train your employees without leaving the office, managing all the processes right from your work computer.

In other words, an LMS is like your own online university. The system allows you to store and create eLearning courses, provides learners access to the content, and helps you evaluate the results.

Watch the video to see how an LMS works and how it can help your business grow.

What Type of LMS Should I Choose?

Now that you know what an LMS is, it’s time to figure out which learning platforms exist and how they differ. Here’s a description of different types of LMSs:

Corporate vs. Academic LMS

Both corporate and academic LMSs give access to learning materials online and automate different aspects of training processes, but they have some differences.

Learning goals

Academic learning is aimed at producing good students that have deep knowledge of the subjects and strive to learn more. Here, theoretical knowledge is the end goal. Corporate training focuses on learning related to practical applications, and one of its main objectives is ROI.

Course timeline

For workforce training, time limits are shorter, so a corporate LMS must be flexible to fit all time frames and business needs. Semesters, trimesters and quarters — these are the time frames for educational institutions. For them, the LMS should offer such scheduling units as holidays, exam times, and periods.

Certifications vs. grades

A corporate learning platform usually offers the capability of tracking and completion in the form of certifications. An academic LMS typically tracks learners’ progress through its grading system. It provides gradebooks for monitoring attendance and assignment results, as well as keeping other information for each student in the roster.

Tools for social learning

Other functionalities that an academic learning platform usually provides are capabilities for creating student groups for class projects and breakout sessions, discussion boards, and a built-in web-conferencing tool.

Content updates

The content students require is based on the sciences and humanities; that’s why an educational LMS doesn’t need to update it regularly. Since market needs change quite rapidly, a corporate LMS should have the ability to quickly and easily update courses.

Free vs. Commercial

This is usually one of the first challenges companies face when choosing an LMS: deciding between a free, open-source system, or a commercial platform. In fact, there’s a major misconception that all open-source LMSs are free. There may be no license fee, but that doesn’t mean there are no costs. You are likely to spend more on your open-source platform than a commercial LMS, as you may need to set up a server and a hosting architecture, customize LMS features that come standard, fine-tune the site branding, and regularly upgrade your system. Plus, if you don’t have technical talent in your team who can make it highly customizable for your company, your eLearning project is likely to fail.

The ideal solution for users without an IT background is commercial software. It’s typically much easier to deploy and use, offers tech support services, and doesn’t require additional costs.

SaaS / Cloud LMS vsLocally hosted LMS

You can choose a SaaS (Software as a Service) LMS or store the data on your company’s own servers. If you decide to host the system yourself, you’re fully responsible for all server specs, uptime and security.

If you select a SaaS system, it will be your LMS vendor who takes care of server load, backups, and all the other things concerning storing your training data. This is the best match if you don’t have IT staff in place that can manage the system and handle support, customization and scalability concerns. Instead of spending time on managing the LMS, you can focus on creating learning content.

Some companies avoid cloud-based LMSs because of data security concerns. They believe that their information that is stored on a remote server may be compromised. However, there are different ways to safeguard your data. For instance, ensure that the LMS vendor has effective encryption protocols and will back up your information.

Course-creating (LCMS) vs. Non-course-creating (LMS)

To be more precise, an LMS (learning management system) is a tool that allows you to simply distribute ready-made content. And a system that, beyond this, has functionality for creating courses, is called an LCMS (learning content management system).

There’s a tricky balance between these systems. An LCMS has greater capabilities for building and managing eLearning content, while an LMS focuses on user management and provides a wider range of learning experiences. For example, it lets you manage more traditional forms of learning, such as scheduling face-to-face training.

If you’re going to build courses in-house, you can choose between two alternatives: either buy an LCMS, or purchase an LMS and an authoring tool separately.

However, here you can face two problems:

Built-in course editors usually have serious functional limitations, so you will be able to create only simple courses or tests.

Not all LMSs and authoring tools are fully compatible. For instance, there may be difficulties with uploading courses to the system or tracking learners’ progress.

If you want to avoid compatibility problems and create beautiful interactive courses, choose an LMS with a bundled authoring tool. For example, iSpring Learn LMS is fully integrated with iSpring Suite. This integration allows you to create professional-looking e-courses, easily upload them to the platform, and enjoy advanced reporting capabilities.