Learning Management System User Report – 2016

With investments in corporate training on the rise, organizations are turning to learning management systems (LMSs) to aid their efforts.

To learn how they’re using this technology and what benefits and challenges they’re experiencing, Software Advice surveyed corporate LMS users to identify the top LMS user trends of 2016.

Our findings can help potential buyers learn more about these systems and what the LMS market will look like in 2016.

Key Findings

  • Ninety-six percent of users say their LMS positively affects training content organization and their ability to track learner progress.
  • Fifty-five percent of LMS users employ a Web-based system; these users cite remote access (69 percent) and faster implementation (68 percent) as the main benefits.
  • A majority of LMS users (68 percent) take a blended approach to employee training, combining instructor-led and self-administered lessons.
  • Mobile learning is less popular: Just 9 percent of users say their organization accesses its LMS via a smartphone.

Introduction

Studies show ongoing employee training and development can have measurable benefits on a company’s retention, performance and bottom line.

Thus, the market for LMS software—which lets users easily create, administer and track employee training programs—is booming. Markets and Markets predicts it will reach $11 billion globally by 2020.

Yet many businesses, especially smaller ones, are just now considering their first LMS system: Only 20 percent of LMS buyers we surveyed last year were replacing an existing one. Without experience, it can be difficult to know what to look for in a platform.

That’s why Software Advice surveyed nearly 200 corporate LMS users who have a hand in managing or creating their organization’s training program to gain insight into the biggest LMS user trends of the year.

We asked about:

  • System usage
  • Training environments
  • Benefits and challenges they’ve experienced
  • Future LMS investment plans

These results will help inform LMS purchase decisions and shed some light on how the market will shake out in 2016.

LMSs Have Positive Effects on Organization, Job Performance and More

First, let’s answer one big question: How will using a LMS affect the training outcomes your organization cares about most? According to our sample, the impact will be overwhelmingly positive.

Ninety-six percent of users say their LMS has had a “very” or “somewhat positive” effect on both their ability to track learner progress and the organization of their training content.

A large majority also say their system has positively impacted employee engagement, retention and job performance.

(Those who said their LMS had “no effect” on a given outcome were not included in the results.)

Impact of LMS Software on Employee Training

These responses are in line with what we got last year. Indeed, Randhir Vieira, vice president of product development at online training platform Mindflash, says the biggest benefits of using an LMS over other methods are consistency and the ability to scale.

Randhir Vieira, vice president of product development at Mindflash:

“The moment you do training with anything other than an LMS—even having the same person [teaching] the same material different times—you’re going to get different results and lose consistency. And it’s certainly not scalable with different time zones and locations.  With an LMS, you can deploy courses [that] people can take … either simultaneously or at their own convenience anywhere in the world.”

If you or your managers are on the fence about purchasing a LMS, these findings offer clear evidence that it can improve employee training operations.

Users Slightly Favor Cloud-Based Systems for Remote Access, Fast Implementation

One of the major decisions you’ll have to make when purchasing a LMS for your organization is deciding what deployment model you want to use: cloud-based or on-premise. Each has its pros and cons, so we asked users which model they use and why.

The results are nearly split. Fifty-five percent of users say they use a cloud-based LMS, while the remaining 45 percent use an on-premise system.

Deployment Model Used for LMS

With a cloud-based LMS, users can access the software through any compatible device that has an Internet connection. The benefits of this are numerous.

For one, the burden of hosting and maintaining the software lies with the vendor. Users don’t need to have their own servers or IT team to stay up and running.

What’s more, because the software is accessed through the Internet, users can easily log in outside the office. This allows administration and training to be done remotely—providing more flexibility.

Randhir Vieira, vice president of product development at Mindflash:

“A lot of our customers are training people outside of the enterprise: channel partners, customers, retailers. In that environment, remote access is almost a default requirement, because they’re not going to be on the same network.” 

Our cloud users definitely agree with this last benefit: 69 percent say remote access is among the top reasons they picked a cloud-based deployment model.

Sixty-eight percent say faster implementation also played a role.

Top Reasons for Cloud-Based LMS Deployment

Conversely, with on-premise systems, organizations must have their own servers and the IT staff to manage them. However, these users also enjoy more customization options and greater control over their data.

Indeed, 63 percent of on-premise LMS owners say they chose that deployment option because it gives them more control and ownership.

Fifty-three percent cite better security, while 49 percent say it offers more customization. (However, it’s important to note that on-premise systems do not necessarily have better security, though this is a common belief).

Top Reasons for On-Premise LMS Deployment

These results above show that neither deployment model is necessarily better, or more popular, than the other. Pricing models may differ, but their lifetime ownership costs are nearly identical. Thus, it’s wise to just choose the option that best fits your organization’s needs, priorities and resources.

Majority Take a Blended Approach to Employee Training

An organization’s training methodology can dictate the features it uses in an LMS. Thus, we asked users what model they follow: purely self-administered training, done on a trainee’s own time, purely instructor-led training done at a specific time or some blend of the two.

A majority of users (68 percent) say they take a blended approach. Twenty-three percent do purely self-administered training, while just 9 percent do purely instructor-led training.

LMS User Employee Training Methodologies

“Blended learning” was found to improve student grades in a seven-year University of Central Florida study—and it’s easy to see why. Some of the benefits of instructor-led training are that trainees get individual attention, and that the instructor can answer questions and ensure all students understand the material.

With student-led online courses, trainees can learn when it’s most convenient for them and at their desired pace. Blended learning simply combines the best of both worlds.

Vieira says this approach was key for one Mindflash customer, who needed to make a police officer training course on taser usage more feasible.

“With an LMS, officers were able to do the training on their own time, on their own schedule as they needed,” Vieira says.

“They were invited to an in-person session only after they had successfully completed the online training modules. Now everyone is at the in-person session with a common understanding, and they can focus on things that are best done in person.”

LMSs offer a number of features to support both sides of the equation. Systems may offer some or all of the following:

For instructor-led training:

    • Built-in calendaring ensures both trainers and trainees know when courses will take place.
    • Virtual classroom functionality allows employees from around the world to Web-conference in for an instructor-led training session.
    • In-class assessments can be recorded, tracked and reported on.

For student-led training:

    • LMS administrators can create online courses, control which trainees can access them and set dates to complete them by.
    • Employees can start and complete the courses at their own pace.
    • Online assessments can be recorded, tracked and reported on.

Tracking training results in Mindflash
 

Due to functional variations, the training methodology you use will influence what LMS is right for you. Be sure to have that in mind when researching options.

Desktops Dominate Device Usage While Mobile Learning Lags

Next we asked LMS users what devices they use to access their system. Eighty-five percent use a desktop computer, 70 percent use a laptop and just 9 percent use a smartphone.

These results are largely in line with what we found last year—only mobile usage has declined by 10 percent.

Trainers: Most Used Devices for Accessing LMS

This year, we also asked survey respondents what devices their trainees use to access their system. Again, desktop dominates at 86 percent. Only 9 percent of respondents say their trainees access their LMS via smartphone.

Trainees: Most Used Devices for Accessing LMS

Cloud solutions allow more organizations to expand training outside the office than ever before. Yet many users don’t seem keen on adopting what the e-learning industry calls “mobile learning” (or “m-learning”): when users take courses and assessments on a mobile device.

Indeed, Vieira says a majority of Mindflash usage is “during work hours, on a desktop.” However, for certain LMS users, mobile is vital.

“There are certain customers [who] are off the charts with mobile, both on the trainer and learner level,” Vieira says.

“Salespeople tend to use mobile a lot more. They take training when they’re at the airport or waiting for appointments. Similarly, if the instructor is someone who travels frequently, they are doing a lot of the monitoring of courses on a mobile device.”

Another obstacle to mobile adoption could be creating mobile-optimized courses. An LMS that allows users to create responsive-design courses can take content made on desktop and shrink it down to fit on a mobile phone.

However, if there are tiny fonts or a lot of content clustered together, it can make the course “not acceptable or consumable” on mobile, Vieira says. Keep the devices your learners use in mind when choosing a system or creating content.

Difficulty Learning the System, Technical Issues Are Biggest Challenges

Because implementing new technology and processes isn’t always seamless, we asked respondents about the most significant challenges they’ve had with their LMS.

Difficulty learning the system (cited by 61 percent) and technical issues, such as glitches (cited by 59 percent) are the most common challenges—though a majority say these challenges are only “minor.”

Top Challenges With LMS Software

Difficulty learning the system can be a plaguing issue at the onset. Thus, potential buyers will want to review every vendor’s training and support options to ensure that all system users—trainees included—can ease into it. You’ll also want your trainees to demo systems to get feedback on how easy they are to use.

Testing, Content and Course Management Are Most Used Features

Finally, to help potential buyers better understand how LMS owners use their system, we asked respondents to choose, from a list of common features, which they use most often.

Seventy percent say they use trainee testing, while 60 percent use their system’s learning content and course management capabilities.

Most-Used LMS Software Functionality

Vieira says a lot of first-time LMS buyers think they need “everything under the sun,” meaning they want a system with a ton of functionality that they ultimately end up not using. Even worse, that extra functionality can lead to a lot of challenges with learning how to use the system.

“If you have super-complicated software that can theoretically do 100 percent of what people ask for, you will inherently have more complicated software that a new person is going to have a tough time figuring out,” Vieira says.

Deciding what you really want the system to do and what goals you hope to achieve with new LMS software will help you make the right decision.

Important Takeaways

We’ve covered a lot of information: deployment models, devices, benefits and challenges, to name a few.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts from this data to help you with your LMS search:

 

Download this checklist

Demographics

Respondents to our survey most often work in retail and food service, or in technology services (11 percent each). Fifty-one percent work at an organization with between 51 and 1,000 employees, and 59 percent say their organization makes less than $100 million in annual revenue.

Respondents, by Industry
Respondents, by Number of Employees
Respondents, by Annual Revenue

Methodology
To collect responses for this survey, we conducted a seven-day online survey of 20 questions, and gathered 176 responses from random LMS users within the United States. We screened our sample to only include respondents who create or manage employee training courses in a commercial LMS. If you have comments or would like to obtain access to any of the charts above, please contact brianwestfall@softwareadvice.com. For more information, see our methodologies page.

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