APIs, eLearning Software, Integrations, Learning Management System, Online Training System
19 Essential Features Of A Learning Management System (LMS)
If you want to commute somewhere quickly without public transportation, you need a car or a motorcycle. Simple, right? The same goes for managing learning programs online — to do this best you need a Learning Management System (LMS).
An LMS is a powerful tool used by organizations to streamline online training. Learning Management Systems can be used in a variety of ways; customer education, employee training, onboarding, extended enterprise training, and more.
If your LMS is cloud-based, users can log in from anywhere in the world to access the online curriculum. Or, if they have virtual classes scheduled, they can attend them through the LMS. User progress like attendance and test scores are stored directly in the LMS for admins to conveniently report progress and monitor engagement.
Now that you understand Learning Management Systems from a bird's eye view, let’s talk about the LMS features you should look for!
- Intuitive Interface for Admins and Learners
- Blended Learning
- Course Management
- Supports eLearning Content Formats
- Language Translations
- Security Features
- Learning Paths
- LMS Reporting
- Visual Branding
- SCORM Compliance
- Virtual Classrooms
- User Management
- Portals for Training External Organizations
- Single Sign-on (SSO)
Intuitive Interface for Admins and Learners
Nothing is more frustrating than going through online training that seems like it was designed on a platform from the 90s.
The purpose of a Learning Management System is to streamline training an audience online. One way LMSs do this is by creating intuitive learning experiences for both the end user and the company administering training.
An LMS that lacks an intuitive dashboard, makes it difficult to navigate the system (for all parties). It’s hard to describe what a good user experience feels like with words, but a user-friendly Learning Management System makes it easy for everyone involved. This includes your company that’s creating courses and managing learning, and the users enrolling in courses and participating in classes.
An example of an LMS providing a good user experience is letting students continue where they left off on unfinished courses. You can imagine how frustrating this would be for students if they had to complete training courses in one sitting.
If you are selling training courses and classes on the LMS, your system needs to support eCommerce. Using a Learning Management System with eCommerce, you can sell courses directly on the platform or with an existing eCommerce provider like Shopify.
An LMS with eCommerce also helps you:
- Connect with payment gateways such as Stripe and PayPal to accept payments.
- Create a landing page to advertise your courses online and help people purchase training.
- Report on revenue generated from selling courses on your LMS.
- Reach external customers and partners and funnel them into professional development conveniently.
You’re using a lot of software. From HRIS systems to CRMs. If your customers and their data live outside of your LMS, shouldn’t you be able to integrate the two? We think so! Integrations are the bridge between an LMS and external software applications.
Here are a few common types of LMS Integrations:
- Web analytics like Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel.
- CRMs like HubSpot and Salesforce.
- Video Conference apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
- CE-tracking and reporting software like CE Broker.
- Digital badge and certificate platforms like Accredible.
- API and Developer Access.
Certificates and Accreditation
An important part of professional development is maintaining certifications. Learning Management Systems help you create personalized certificates and deliver them to your audience.
Especially if you’re in the Continuing Education business, listen to your state’s regulations to understand how flexible you need your certificate feature to be. Using a Learning Management System like Academy Of Mine (AOM), you can customize certificates to include issue and expiration dates, company colors and emblems, the student’s name who earned the certificate, and much more. You can also design certificates via existing templates or use built-in templates to get started.
LMSs should always store certificates for learners and admins to download.
Isn’t it funny how some people like listening to audiobooks and others prefer reading or watching a video to learn? Blended learning takes this into account by teaching using both online or digital and traditional face-to-face learning. The point of blended learning is to keep users engaged by giving them a variety of learning activities.
Your LMS is blended-learning-friendly if it’s capable of creating self-paced courses, which students go through in their own time, and virtual classes that happen with an instructor and students present. Some Learning Management Systems also are designed to help you schedule and manage in-person classes, but that’s not required — as long as your LMS lets you host virtual classes using apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
Imagine your organization hosts an online training using Zoom. If your LMS integrates with Zoom, you can create, host, and report webinar attendance afterward. After the training class ends, you can enroll the attendees into on-demand eLearning for them to complete on their own time. This is a good example of blended learning that happens 100% online.
Change happens so often in business: new customers come and go, state regulations change, your product and service shifts, etc. The same can be said about managing online training. Since no course is going to stay the same forever, your Learning Management System should make it easy to update content and groom courses.
Course management is important, so your company can make content updates in the LMS without hassle. This feature sounds so basic, but we’re mentioning it because not every LMS provider optimizes their software to make managing courses easy. We’ve had clients switch to AOM that told us their past system would throw errors and cause issues for students, after updating courses.
Here is an overview of what course management is about:
- Creating courses.
- Updating existing courses.
- Using templates to simplify course creation.
- Assigning badges, points, or certificates to an LMS course.
- Adjusting the order of course content.
- Reporting on classroom progress and attendance.
Another important factor when it comes to managing courses in your LMS is course authoring. By the way, course authoring just means creating courses.
The LMS provider your organization decides to work with should allow for easy content creation and give the option to use 3rd-party Authoring tools like Adobe Captivate to create content externally.
Supports a Variety of eLearning Content Formats
Learning Management Systems are the standard platform for delivering and managing online learning (eLearning). There are certain formats that courses are made up of that work well with LMSs. One of those formats is called SCORM, which is essentially a zipped file, of course-modules that can be imported and exported into virtually any LMS. We will talk more about SCORM later.
Here are some common formats supported by an LMS:
- PowerPoint Presentation.
- Text or HTML.
- MP4 and other video formats.
- MP3 and audio files.
- SCORM (versions vary depending on the LMS provider).
LMS Localization & Language Translations
Localization is the process of translating course material into different languages. If you are using an LMS to train employees, and all of your teams are native English speakers, then translations won’t be necessary. Alternatively, if you’re training international teams that speak a variety of languages, translations would be an important LMS feature.
There are two types of translations that Learning Management Systems offer. The most common of the two translations happens at a global level. In other words, only administrators with permission can change the language of the LMS (this translation affects everyone). The second translation option — which offers more flexibility — allows translations to happen at a user level. So, if there are 10 people in the LMS, each individual can translate their course to a preferred language without impacting others.
Even when managing internal training for a small business, you want to keep user information and L&D data protected. For starters, always choose an LMS provider that promises to never share data from user to user and hosts their training management system following the correct security protocol.
Here are some security features that your LMS should have:
- Secure and complex password requirements.
- 2-Step verification.
- Frequent Data Backups.
- System audit logs to monitor all activity in the platform.
- Locked content that prevents user downloads.
- SSL and Single Sign-on.
- GDPR compliance.
You can learn more about keeping your LMS secure in this LMS security features guide.
A Learning Path helps your company bundle together multiple courses to be taken in a specific order. If your users are enrolled in training, then part of the learning manager's job is to ensure users are completing the correct courses. Organizations with a large course catalogue find learning paths helpful for combining related courses, to make up a larger program (learning path) for users to progress through.
LMS Reporting: User-Progress Reports
Learner reports are used by admins in the LMS to track user progress and platform usage. For example, using a Learning Management System, your company can monitor course completions, test scores, attendance records, how much time a user spends with material, and more.
Choosing an LMS with all-in-one learner reports empowers your company to effectively report on your learners’ progress and engagement. Learner reports can also give your company detailed insights to improve training for future customers, employees, partners, etc.
Learner Assessment and Engagement Tools
Learning for the sake of learning without being able to evaluate your progress in a course is counterproductive.
LMS assessments like multiple-choice quizzes and written assignments, help your company monitor users’ progress in training. Assessments also set the standard for learners, by helping them understand if they’re putting enough time into a course or not.
Here are some examples of Learning Management System Assessments:
- Multiple-choice, short-answer, or other style quizzes.
- Surveys to provide admins with useful insight into a student’s learning experience.
- Interactive video assignments.
- Written eLearning activities.
- Group discussions to entice collaboration between different users in a virtual class.
- Pass/Fail capabilities. These are important for courses, where passing an exam is required to get a certificate.
Visual Branding & White Labeling
Branding is everything in business — it is the reason why some people choose to eat at Applebee’s rather than Chili’s or TGI Friday’s.
A company’s branding highly influences the average consumer’s decision-making process. A white-label LMS allows your company to customize the visual design of the platform to look and ‘feel’ like your company. This is important so that employees, customers, and other users enrolled in training feel comfortable.
A great Learning Management System can be customized to look and function as you please:
- Attach a Logo.
- Paint the LMS with your brand colors.
- Customize dashboard titles, text areas, and buttons.
- White-label emails.
- Eliminate vendor ties in LMS Portals.
What is SCORM? “A set of technical standards for eLearning software products. SCORM tells programmers how to write their code so that it can “play well” with other eLearning software. It is the de facto industry standard for eLearning interoperability.” – SCORM.com
Formats such as SCORM allow content to be created once and then used across multiple LMSs without alteration. Every Learning Management System should be SCORM compliant, so content can easily be imported and exported. In case an organization has to change LMS providers, SCORM prevents them from having to recreate course content.
Since there have been many version updates to SCORM since it was first created in 2000, double-check that your SCORM packages are supported by the LMS provider.
SCORM also provides detailed tracking of student activities, so you can effectively report on training.
Virtual Classrooms (Instructor-led Training)
Online training can be difficult for people who are used to learning surrounded by others in a hands-on way. Thankfully, Instructor-led Training (ILT), a practice that involves an instructor and students being present during class, helps. The only difference between virtual classes and in-person classes is that everyone joins via their laptop and webcam, rather than sitting in a physical space. If you have ever attended an online webinar or meeting, then you’ve been a part of a virtual classroom!
Scheduling and hosting virtual training is convenient with an LMS because of integrations with video-conference apps such as Zoom, GoToWebinar, and Microsoft Teams.
The main benefit of administering virtual training with an LMS is that everything is centralized. Another pro is that virtual classrooms are more engaging than self-paced courses.
When training courses involve game-like principles, such as a points system, suddenly training becomes more enjoyable.
Gamification is the art of taking something that is not usually thought of as fun (like training) and making it enjoyable like a game. Along with making a course more fun for users, gamification increases user engagement and learning performance.
Here are a few ways a course can be gamified:
- Leader boards
- Social learning
In the Academy Of Mine LMS, you can assign points to different modules in a course. Then, learners can earn points after completing activities or achieving specific grades, and then compete with others using a classroom leader board. With Academy Of Mine, you can also award visual badges to learners after completing different activities.
Unless your organization is okay with students enrolled in a course having the same access as admins and instructors, user management is critical.
Your Learning Management System should make it easy for admins to enroll students into courses and define what permissions each student has in the system. For example, instructors should be able to create and edit courses but students should not. The titles you give users in your LMS are subjective; the point of user management is to control the permissions each of your users has in the LMS.
Here are other ways admins can manage users in an LMS:
- Respond to assignment submissions.
- Add or remove students from an ongoing course.
- Edit user roles.
- Log in to students’ accounts to see and test the student course experience.
- Manage student certificates, activities, and more.
B2B Portals (Onboarding & Training Organizations)
When training separate organizations with one Learning Management System, your platform needs a feature called Portals. Some LMS providers refer to this feature with a different name, like groups, instances, branches, etc. The importance of Portals is that it lets your company create separate training instances for various groups of users.
When we say groups of users, this could mean a few things:
- A group of individuals signed up for a class.
- A partner organization.
- A specific department in a company.
- An organization that you’re training.
One benefit of using a Learning Management System with portals is training multiple clients simultaneously. Each client portal can use a custom domain, be branded and customized, and be filled with whatever training courses are required. If the Portal is for an external customer, then the client can assign administrators from their company to manage and administer the training.
Let’s say you’re providing training to 5 different organizations, you could separate each client’s training with 5 separate Portals. Using LMS Portals, you can also manage customer training separately from your internal programs — so customers don’t have access to internal training programs, and vice versa.
Single Sign-On (SSO)
Organizations using an LMS may already have existing users enrolled in training. Single Sign-on (SSO) prevents these users from having to create and remember new login credentials when migrating to the new LMS. Single Sign-on allows users to log in with their existing work credentials. This makes onboarding easier for the company and the employees or customers using the new eLearning platform.
An LMS should always allow for standard authentication protocols such as OAuth2 and SAML for integrating SSO.
Ready to Buy a Learning Management System?
Finding the best LMS might seem overwhelming, but it’s not that bad with the right plan!
First, we recommend you work with your team to understand the learning management goals. Then, create a list of the features that your LMS requires to reach these goals. The priority should be finding a platform that helps you efficiently train your audiences online. If multiple LMSs are a good fit, come back to your budget. After picking out a few LMS providers, schedule a call with each company to learn more before making a final buying decision. Finally, don’t forget to consider a company’s values and customer support.