In a competitive environment with hundreds of Learning Management Systems to choose from, how can you avoid wasting time looking at LMSs that won’t work for you? How can you make sure the LMS company you decide to partner with offers a platform with the features your company requires? What about understanding the amount of technical service and support you will need while using an LMS?
Answering all these questions boils down to research!
However, when you search “learning management system” on Google, you get over 2 billion search results…When looking for an LMS, regardless of the audience you’re going to be training or the reason for training in the first place, you need to become familiar with the different types of LMSs, common LMS features, and benefits. Don’t worry if this sounds like a lot because in this article we’re going to cover everything and more, so you can choose the best LMS.
Why you need an LMS
The main goal of an LMS is to simplify eLearning delivery and management in your business. You want to streamline the experience for every party involved in training: managers, instructors, and users actually enrolled in training courses.
Using an LMS, eLearning content can be delivered on-demand or in real time. On-demand, otherwise known as self-paced learning, consists of learning through the use of videos, PDFs, tests, and other learning materials that can be accessed by users on-demand. Live learning on the other hand happens in real time and involves instructors being present during the training.
Using built-in features and 3rd party integrations, LMS software automates time-consuming tasks and helps your business train employees, customers, partners, and other stakeholders more efficiently.
At the highest level of deciding what type of learning management system your company needs, you should first become familiar with the main two different types of LMS.
A cloud-based LMS is a learning management system based online. Since these LMSs are hosted and backed up on the cloud, learners enrolled in the platform don’t have to install software or hardware. Cloud-based platforms are usually created and made available to you by an LMS provider – a.k.a – a SaaS LMS company like Academy Of Mine. A large benefit to working with a SaaS provider is being able to create training programs without having to build your own LMS. Additionally, when you partner with this type of provider, your system is hosted and backed up for you and you have a technical support team at your side.
Open-source systems are software applications that you download from a third-party and then install on your own server. One immediate benefit to open source software is customization; Open Source LMSs are essentially a learning management template that you can design and customize to meet your specific training needs. It’s a lot easier said than done though.
If you don’t have the technical experience in developing and customizing software then just work with a SaaS provider. Most SaaS LMS companies do not offer customizations, but Academy Of Mine does.
Common LMS use-cases
Safety and compliance training
Safety and compliance training courses help prevent injuries on the job and ensure that employees and customers are treated professionally and appropriately in the workplace. Using an LMS you can simplify delivering and managing training courses and webinars online.
Continuing education and license maintenance
Whether you’re offering accredited continuing education courses or are just offering extra-curricular training to customers, LMSs are designed to handle this.
Just as you can offer courses and virtual-live training to customers and partners, you can also deliver training to your own employees.
Improving customer experiences
How satisfied are your customers? Increase customer satisfaction and decrease churn by keeping customers engaged through a customer training program created with an LMS.
Provide your partners with a training program that leaves less room for doubt and confusion while in business with you. You can effectively create an engaging and interactive learning experience for partners online using an LMS.
HR and onboarding
Onboarding is an employee’s introduction to your company, giving employees a great impression is important. Onboarding that’s streamlined and easy to follow is helpful for getting employees up to speed and producing results in your company quickly. Using an LMS, automate tedious HR documentation, deliver eLearning courses, and schedule live training sessions to improve your onboarding experience.
Picking the Best LMS in 4 Steps!
1) List your training program requirements:
Who are you training?
Are you training employees, customers, partners, or students? Are courses being sold at a profit or is revenue generation not a part of your training program’s plan? Becoming an expert on the audience your training will help you eliminate certain LMSs as a choice. For instance, if your number one priority is to sell training at scale externally, then your LMS must integrate with eCommerce sites and payment gateways.
How large is the audience you are training?
Certain LMSs are more scalable than others. One easy way to find out if an LMS is built to handle many users on the platform is to just ask a provider while speaking with them. Some LMSs are designed for enterprises with 5,000 or more employees, and other LMSs are designed for small-medium businesses. If you’re self-hosting on a system you built, make sure your server can handle the number of users and data populating it!
Content accessibility (mobile-friendly or only works on desktop)
Our opinion as a cloud-based LMS provider is that all LMSs should work well on both computers and smart devices like tablets and smartphones. If your company is only interested in users being able to train on their laptops or desktops this may be a different story. Something else to consider – does your eLearning need to be accessible on a mobile app? If that’s the case, you’re eliminating the majority of LMS companies as an option.
If you have never used an LMS before, assess how you are currently training, even if the solution is impartial like sending a combination of PDFs and videos through email.
2) Define LMS technical specifications
When it comes to investing in a learning management system to streamline your training programs, there are a lot of technical specifications to consider.
Reporting learner progress in the LMS.
If you’re just looking to do basic reporting like monitor learners’ test scores in a course, then most platforms will have this. On the other hand, you may need more advanced reporting features that allow you to monitor how long a learner is spending in a course or be able to analyze the average completion rates in a classroom. Whatever the case may be, your reason for training is different from the next company; get with your team and stakeholders to figure out what type of reporting features you’re going to need for your LMS to be effective.
If you want to learn more about LMS reporting, here’s what our platform offers!
User management is all about giving administrators and instructors in an LMS more permission and access to do things than students enrolled in courses. For example, you wouldn’t want a student to be able to grade their own discussion board submissions or tests in a training course. In the Academy Of Mine LMS, course admins and instructors by default have a lot more control than students, but you can also create user roles from scratch and customize the permissions each role has.
On-demand training (asynchronous) vs webinars (synchronous)
Are your training programs mainly going to consist of on-demand courses that learners can go through in their own time, or are webinars the focus?
Here’s another option: both. This is called blended learning and some platforms like Academy Of Mine are optimized for this. There are pros and cons to both types of training, but they’re most effective when used together!
Enrolling learners in an LMS can be done in a few different ways. If you’re training a lot of users then you want to make sure your LMS is able to onboard a large number of users in one step with a . CSV file. Another enrollment option to consider is self-enrollment: the Academy Of Mine LMS for instance allows both individuals and organizations to purchase access to courses or webinars by themselves online.
3) List out the additional features your LMS needs
Do you need your LMS platform to integrate with 3rd-party tools like HubSpot or Google Analytics? What about a webinar tool? Integrations help you offer a seamless training experience to your employees and customers by connecting your platform with familiar business tools.
Is your LMS going to be used for training employees? Or are you looking for a platform to onboard and train different businesses? If your company is in the latter boat then you need a feature called portals. Customer portals allow you to create separate training portals for each business or group of users you are training. Further, since each customer manages their own portal, you can scale as you grow.
If you’re using a White-label LMS, then you can hide vendor ties and attach your logo, and brand colors, and customize other design elements in the platform to increase the value of training.
How important is visually branding your LMS? With Academy Of Mine, you can adjust theme and text colors, use your own domain, attach a logo and favicon, build new pages and customize menus and text throughout the platform, and more!
Let’s keep it simple: most SaaS LMS companies that sell you a cloud-based platform and handle hosting for you, DO NOT offer customization. They may offer features in the platform that allows you to change some colors and make basic adjustments yourself, but that’s really it.
Open-source platforms like Moodle are designed to be customized and shaped to your specific needs. However, with this type of platform, not only will you be responsible for self-hosting, but you will also be responsible for the programming and coding involved in any customizations. Further, any code you write that fails will be on you to manually go through forums to try and fix it!
No dedicated account manager and support team, manual updates, manual self-hosting…
Ironically, our LMS is pretty much the best of both worlds because it’s cloud-based, we host it for you of course, and we offer customizations built by our expert team of developers. This is one reason customers love us!
Offering certifications to learners who complete a training course is important even when a program is not accredited. If you want to offer certifications in the LMS, do you need to be able to design them on the platform or upload designs created outside of the platform? Our LMS allows you to do both!
Time-based tracking of learners enrolled in courses
Time-based tracking allows you to closely monitor how long learners are spending inside of a course or the modules that make up a course (seconds, minutes, hours, etc). Going hand in hand with this feature is the ability to prevent learners from skipping ahead in a course. If you’re offering compliance training or any type of accredited course this feature may be a priority!
4) Pick the best LMS
It’s time to work with your team and any outside stakeholders to make a list of the LMSs you are considering.
- Figure out whether you want an open-source platform or if you’re looking for most of the technical stuff to be handled for you (SaaS LMS provider).
- Write down the basic requirements for your training programs.
- Follow the other steps we talked about in this guide and refine your choices even more; starting with technical specifications and then going through different features that would be helpful to have!
If you found this article helpful and are interested in a cloud-based LMS, we highly recommend reaching out to our team to see if Academy Of Mine is a good fit for you! If our platform isn’t the best solution for you, we can recommend you another company.