Author: Jacqueline May

What is an LMS, and What Can LMS Do for Your Business?

Michael got a new achievement called “The Ambassador.” Now, he’s number fifteen in the overall ratings. But what’s even more important, he’s one rank higher than his colleague George from Miami (they’ve been competing for a while). No, they aren’t playing World of Warcraft. In fact, Michael is a manager at a supermarket which is a part of a well-known retail chain. He got the achievement for completing the e-course “The Standards of Service.”

You can launch your own online learning resource and implement the same gaming principles using a learning management system, or LMS. In this article, we’re going to tell you what it is and how it can help you.

What’s an LMS?

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.

What is a Learning Management System (LMS)? Definition and Features

A learning management system, or LMS, is a software application used for implementing and administering online training and learning programs. It acts as a centralized training platform that serves as the hub of any learning ecosystem. You can use an LMS to host and organize your learning content, deliver it to your audience, and assess how your learners perform. Once those learners — whether employees, customers, or other users — are provided with a login and password, they can access the LMS and start learning from anywhere with an internet connection.

Advantages of an LMS

LMSs are the gold standard for creating exceptional eLearning experiences for a reason. They offer a variety of impactful benefits that other eLearning options don’t.

Ease of Use

Learners want a great user experience so they can focus on studying rather than navigating a clunky interface. From searchable course catalogs to configurable pages and dashboards, eLearning has never been easier than with an LMS. And LMSs also integrate with HR systems and important third-party services so you can create a seamless experience on the front-end and the back-end. The best LMSs even feature multilingual support so global organizations can meet the educational needs of their international workforces in their preferred languages.

Improved Efficiency

An LMS reduces the overhead of implementing an eLearning initiative in your business — or starting to sell courses online — with a suite of powerful learning automation features. You can set up rules to automatically enroll learners, define permissions, and control access to courses, so administrators don’t need to handle these tasks manually and learners always know what they need to do next.

Support for Multiple Learning Methods

Everyone learns differently, and LMSs can accommodate everything from traditional instructor-led training to defined learning paths that include a series of related courses. Group projects and discussion groups can be added for employees that do better in social learning environments, and on-the-job training can be made available to facilitate hands-on work and performance evaluation.

Game-Changing Insights

LMSs feature reporting capabilities that give you access to important data, like whether any employees have failed to complete assigned training, average assessment scores for specific lessons, or how many courses have sold over the last week. You can schedule reports on these and many other key performance indicators (KPIs) for regular delivery or generate them on an ad hoc basis. This information provides the insights you need to constantly improve your training offerings and tailor them to your audience.

LMS Use Cases

There are many ways to use an LMS. Two of the most common are corporate training and selling courses online.

Corporate Training

All organizations need to educate their employees, whether it’s onboarding a new team member, working to obtain a compliance certificate, or instructing the entire company on the use of a new software platform. Many also need to train customers on how to get the most out of their products and services.

Businesses that use an LMS can do it all for a fraction of the cost of traditional in-person training. LMSs provide features beyond what in-house eLearning solutions can offer, like support for blended learning, built-in assessment tools, guided learning paths, and integration with third party tools like CRM platforms.

Selling Courses Online

Selling courses online connects eLearning with eCommerce. Online course providers need tools for managing pricing, registration, promotions, and payment processing. An LMS provides a unified system that includes these capabilities and more, so you can start building out your catalog and establishing a sales funnel without the hassle of creating a website from scratch or handing over a hefty slice of your profits to an online course marketplace.

Key Features of an LMS

The features offered by LMSs on the market vary tremendously. Here are some of the most important that you should ensure your LMS provides.

Customizable User Interface

Creating a user interface tailored to learners’ specific needs improves accessibility and end user satisfaction. Look for an LMS that lets you customize and brand every page and control what each user can view, as well as create configurable dashboards for everyone on the system, from admins to managers to learners.

Social Learning

Social learning meets the needs of those who learn best by discussing information with others. An LMS should provide a dynamic environment to ensure that employees can communicate with classmates and trainers through a built-in messaging system, robust online communities, and moderated forums that can be associated with certain groups or courses.

eCommerce

If you’re interested in producing courses to sell — or if you think some of your courses produced for internal training might appeal to an external audience — you’re going to need tools for managing your sales funnel, processing payments, and seamlessly registering and onboarding new customers. Make sure your LMS includes an integrated shopping cart, compatibility with payment gateways like PayPal, the ability to use discount codes, and integration with social media platforms for marketing.

Mobile Compatibility

Mobile devices have been more popular than desktop devices for years, and you need an LMS platform that supports the latest Apple and Android smartphones and tablets. Creating a responsive, seamless mobile experience is the key to giving students the freedom to learn from anywhere. You can even incorporate the enhanced interactivity of mobile devices to create a truly exceptional m-learning experience.

Learning Automation

Administrating online courses involves registering users, granting access and permission to various data assets and groups, generating reports about the status of courses, and more. An LMS can automate all these steps to save administrators valuable time and remove human error from the equation. For instance, onboarding can be converted into a generalizable process where users are granted permission to specific course material and sent instructions on how to register themselves and gain access. Look for an LMS with a rules-based system that lets you create automated processes for any situation.

Pre-built and Custom Courseware

The best LMSs provide access to the services you need to create your own courses as well as pre-built courseware that lets you start training your employees in moments. They should also include support for the content authoring tool of your choice, rather than locking you into a built-in tool that may not suit your needs.

Blended Learning

There will be times when you still need to include in-person education in your training initiatives, so ensure your LMS includes support for blended learning. You can use an LMS to handle scheduling, wait lists, and adding and dropping participants for in-person events as well as other types of live training sessions, like webinars.

The Right eLearning Specifications

There are a variety of technical eLearning specifications that standardize course content and facilitate compatibility with LMSs. Think of the LMS as the wall socket and your courses as different types of appliances you can plug into it. If the course doesn’t “fit” your LMS, you’re out of luck. These standards also affect interoperability with authoring tools and third party course libraries. Two of the most widely used standards are SCORM and xAPI.

LMS Specification Standards

As noted above, an eLearning specification is a set of rules that governs compatibility between an LMS and learning content. Three of the most common are SCORM, xAPI, and AICC.

SCORM

The Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) was originally created in 2000 by the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative of the U.S. Department of Defense, and it remains the most popular eLearning specification. It is based around its titular shared content objects, or SCOs. An SCO is a package that represents a granular item in the LMS, like a specific course score or pass/fail status. These SCOs are intended to function with a web browser for broad compatibility and easy access. An application programming interface (API) facilitates communication between the LMS and the SCO.

xAPI (Tin Can API)

The Experience API (xAPI) — formerly called Tin Can API — is a more modern eLearning specification and SCORM’s primary competitor. xAPI has advantages over SCORM in terms of flexibility, reliability, and data collection capabilities, but it lacks SCORM’s simplicity and widespread acceptance. An LMS that supports both standards is a modern day necessity.

AICC

The Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee (AICC) is a legacy standard that is used by organizations that have yet to update to another specification. While it is relatively secure, it lacks many modern features, and organizations should only prioritize AICC compatibility if they know they’ll be using courses that require it.

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