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 helps educational institutions and businesses better manage online learning programs. Using a 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. Analytics and reporting functionality also gives organizations more insight into training or learning program success.
|Certification and compliance management||Includes setting up, tracking and managing certification programs for industries that require employee certification to perform a specific job duty. This also manages compliance training, which could be a need for any industry.|
|Learning management||Helps users organize and simplify training or learning administration, which includes processes such as distributing content, managing user information, scheduling and overseeing course enrollment.|
|Virual classroom||Many LMS platforms include video conferencing functionality, enabling instructors to lead live, remote classes and trainings through the platform.|
|Course library||Some vendors partner with training content creators to provide a pre-made library of training courses for generic training needs, such as those on sexual harassment policies or management techniques.|
|Extended enterprise||Allows organizations to train or teach external users, such as channel partners or customers. E-commerce functionality may be included here, as well, to allow training courses to be sold externally.|
|Proficiency testing and reporting||Allows users to administer tests to gauge employee/student knowledge or skill. Analytics and reporting functionality helps determine proficiency and identify learning gaps.|
|Content authoring||Gives users the ability to author their own content and design and deliver courses within a LMS. With curricula-setting functionality, users can combine courses by focus area and specialization. Learning content management systems (LCMSs) that facilitate the creation and storage of course content are often part of the LMS package.|
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 buyers of learning management software are those from schools and universities: organizations where the entire purpose is facilitating the spread of knowledge. Many courses at university levels—and, increasingly, even at the K-12 levels—offer students access to syllabi, assignments and testing information via Web-based LMSs created specifically for the education industry. Education LMS products can be purchased on their own or as a core component of many K-12 software solutions, along with other applications such as school accounting and student information systems (SISs).
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, which might include functionality for performance reviews or e-commerce. Corporate LMS products can also be purchased on their own, or as part of a more comprehensive human resources (HR) suite.
LMS software is usually priced based on two factors: the number of users and the functionality included. The more people you have using the system and the greater the depth and breadth of functionality, the higher the price.
As an example, many vendors offer tiered pricing plans. With the first, most basic tier, buyers might pay a monthly fee so a small pool of users would have access to basic functionality and services, such as content creation, course enrollment and limited email support from the vendor.
As the price scales up, buyers can add more users to the system, while receiving more advanced functionality or services on top of what is provided at the lower tiers. These additional capabilities might include reporting and analytics or live phone support from the vendor.
Consider the following market trends as you begin your LMS comparison and research process:
Cloud-based deployment. Cloud-based deployment is becoming a popular option among buyers that are realizing the advantages of lower upfront costs and faster implementation time, as compared to traditional on-premise deployment, in which software is hosted on the user’s own servers. The cloud model delivers Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), in which the system is hosted on external servers and accessed by users through a Web browser. Cloud-based deployment allows for greater remote accessibility to content and courses for students or employees.
Mobile learning. In today’s on-the-go environment, learners can be limited if they have to be at a desktop computer to take a course. Thus, many LMS vendors offer mobile learning functionality, which allows employees or students to access mobile-optimized courses and assessments from anywhere using a smartphone or tablet.
Social learning. To increase collaboration among trainees and students, some LMS vendors are integrating social learning functionality to foster a community-centric environment. This includes learner profiles, chat, course reviews, news feeds and more. Some LMS platforms can even integrate social profiles from Facebook or Twitter.
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