Do a quick Google search on “LMS” and you will see key phrases like web-based or self-hosted LMS, SaaS or open-source LMS, and commercial or education LMS. What does this all mean?
There are many things to consider when deciding which LMS is best for your SMB or enterprise. Understanding the basics is the first step.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Learn about the different LMS distribution models.
- Decide whether it’s realistic to host the LMS yourself (we don’t think so and we’ll show you why).
- Choose what your LMS will be used for based on the type of training or industry.
- Figure out what features are a “must-have”.
Just continue reading and in a few short minutes, you’ll be able to answer those questions faster than you can say LMS!
LMS types based on distribution models:
Otherwise known as web-based, this is an LMS that is usually created and made available to you by a third-party vendor. Most cloud-based LMS providers charge for their service using a subscription price, and maintenance, updates, and server monitoring is handled by the provider.
95% of the time, we recommend this solution to clients because it allows them to take their content and distribute it amongst their audience almost immediately after choosing an LMS provider!
Unless you’re trying to start selling LMSs yourself, the thousand-plus hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to build a good LMS isn’t worth it – let industry experts do the dirty work for you!
One downside to most cloud-based LMS vendors is they don’t offer customization. While many of our competitors don’t offer it, we do – since we are a smaller organization, we love building out custom features for your LMS so that your organization can offer personalized training experiences to your customers.
A self-hosted LMS platform is a web application that either you build yourself or license from a 3rd party vendor as a product, then you install and maintain the platform on your own server.
Self-hosting an LMS means you have access to its backend and complete control of its data. Here’s the catch: self-hosting an LMS is extremely time-consuming and costly to set up and maintain. Equally important, if you don’t have a great dev team with experience working on LMSs and maintaining servers, it’s easy to turn your training platform into a business nightmare.
Self-hosting is mostly unrealistic for organizations (even with dev teams) because it’s going to cost more time and money than a cloud-based LMS, and there’s no guarantee your platform will even work.
LMS types based on distribution models #2:
Service as a software (SaaS) is a common business model for LMS providers. Academy Of Mine, for example, is a SaaS LMS provider – we provide customers with a cloud-based solution for training which is hosted on our server and maintained by our expert dev team.
Partnering with a SaaS LMS provider means:
- A professional team will be dedicated and responsible for fixing any issues you might experience, all the way from bugs to customizations, or simply helping you set up an integration or module in a course.
- Your LMS platform has already been tested by hundreds if not thousands of users over many years and optimized by expert developers.
- You don’t have to install anything on your hard drive or computer.
- Training customers, partners, and employees become simple and you can just focus on uploading content into your LMS.
- Data privacy issues are taken care of by professionals with a proven track record.
If you’re asking yourself “what if we just built and hosted the LMS ourselves” Sure you could, but very rarely is this worth it!
Whether you are relying on freelancers for doing everything for you, or outsourcing hosting to an established company and then developing the LMS code with your own dev team, the possibility for platform failures and excessive costs of operation increase dramatically when multiple parties are involved.
Only large enterprises with (500+) employees should consider building, hosting, and maintaining their own LMS because smaller companies can’t afford to take that risk.
Open-source LMSs like Moodle are a platform that you purchase and install on your computer. Only consider this type of LMS if you have an IT team dedicated to installing, customizing, and maintaining your platform.
By all means, open-source LMSs have their time and place! Open-source platforms like Canvas, Moodle, and Schoology are very popular among universities and schools for managing students’ academics, but we don’t recommend these types of LMSs to small-medium-sized businesses for any reason!
Open-source LMSs can be hosted by 3rd party companies, so you don’t have to own a server and host it yourself. Be careful though, one of our clients, Teacher CEU Toolbox was previously using Moodle LMS and their server was being managed and hosted by a freelancer…They were paying MUCH more than they are with us now!
Based on training type or industry
Just because an LMS has the features you’re looking for doesn’t mean it is the ideal platform for delivering your company’s training programs.
Figuring out the best LMS for your organization also depends on the industry your organization is in, and what type of training you will be offering!
Earlier, we mentioned Canvas and Moodle; these are education LMSs.
Academic-based learning management systems usually don’t have many integrations with 3rd-party tools because universities and educational institutions can teach, grade, and facilitate all of their educational needs with basic built-in LMS features.
In schools and universities, the curriculum in a course is usually put together in advance and then updated infrequently – education LMSs don’t always optimize their platform so that admins can easily update courses and make adjustments once a course is live.
Do these platforms have many of the same features an LMS designed for training customers, employees, and partners have? Sure, but they’re not designed for SMBs and enterprises. They’re designed for schools, universities, colleges, and other educational institutions.
Corporate LMSs are built for businesses that train employees, customers, and partners, and are perfect for:
- Safety training
- Compliance training
- Real Estate training
- HR and onboarding
- B2B training
- Healthcare training
- Insurance training
- Selling courses externally
These types of LMSs usually offer white labeling, which allows businesses to personalize their learning platform using visual assets like a company logo, to reflect their brand.
If you have children or are under 30, you probably remember using Canvas or Blackboard to manage courses in high school or college – remember how you could see the vendor’s branding all over the platform?
So which LMS is best for me?
Finding “the perfect” LMS for your company is easier said than done…
Is your company going to be using it for B2B training? Are you going to be selling courses using eCommerce or giving them away for free? Will this platform be used to teach students in a University? These are just a few of the questions you should be asking yourself.
Need help identifying which LMS is best for you? Let’s talk!