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A Learning Management System (LMS) automates the administration, testing, tracking and reporting of learner progress through online courses. This guide will help help you navigate the LMS software market and make an informed buying decision for your organization.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
LMS software gives educational institutions and businesses everything they need to manage online learning programs. Using an LMS, organizations can create curricula to educate students and/or employees, and allow them to demonstrate competencies or gain certification in areas relevant to their role.
|Training administration||Training administration software helps users organize and simplify training administration, which includes processes such as distributing training content, managing user information, scheduling and overseeing course enrollment.|
|Content development and management||This functionality gives buyers the ability to author their own content and design and deliver courses within an LMS. Curricula setting. With curricula-setting functionality, users can combine courses by focus area and specialization and can assign and unassign courses.|
|Certification paths||This includes setting up, tracking and managing certification programs for industries that require employee certification to perform a specific job duty.|
|Proficiency testing and reporting||LMS systems can administer tests to gauge employee knowledge or skill. Analytics and reporting functionality helps companies determine proficiency and identify learning gaps.|
|Employee self-service||With self-service functionality, employees can access training materials and on-demand learning courses from their own devices.|
|Electronic recordkeeping||By centralizing employee training records within an LMS, users can easily access test scores and course data from a single system.|
Before purchasing a system, you should assess what kind of buyer you are. The majority of buyers fall into one of these categories:
Education-industry professionals. Perhaps the most obvious type of buyer of learning management software are those from schools and universities—organizations where the entire purpose is facilitating the spread of knowledge. Many courses at the high school and university levels now offer students access to syllabi, assignments and testing information via Web-based learning management systems created specifically for the education industry.
Corporate training professionals. LMSs also have a strong presence in the corporate training sphere. This is especially true in highly regulated industries where employees need to maintain specific certifications or licenses to comply with industry or government standards, such as aviation or food preparation. Just as there are LMSs designed specifically for use in schools and universities, there is also LMS software specific to the needs of corporate trainers.
Consider the following market trends as you begin your LMS comparison and research process.
Consolidation. Many “best-of-breed” programs (those focusing on LMS only, as opposed to “integrated suites” that feature a variety of software applications) have been acquired by larger vendors wanting to offer more functionality within their talent management suites. For example, in April 2011, SuccessFactors (now an SAP company) acquired Plateau Systems, one of the industry’s first learning management systems for HR and employee training development. Consolidation gives buyers the opportunity to take advantage of larger resources, but this can also lead to temporary disruptions as products become integrated and offerings are rationalized.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). SaaS is becoming a popular deployment option, as buyers realize the advantages of lower upfront costs and faster implementation time. SaaS provides a Web-based option for adding new functionality and greater accessibility for your employees. While best-of-breed SaaS options give businesses some ability to configure the system to meet their needs, specific customization options may be limited.
Social learning. To help businesses increase collaboration among their employees, some LMS vendors are integrating social learning features to foster a community-centric environment. This includes functionality such as employee profiles, chat, announcement portals, news feeds and more. Some LMS applications can integrate social profiles from Facebook or Twitter to increase participation and networking within the system. However, buyers should first determine if the real business need is for an internal social platform as opposed to an LMS with social features.
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