The best learning management systems (2022 Update)

Whether you want to train a class, department or upskill your workforce, you’ll need a way to disseminate information between the instructors and those consuming the information. This is where Learning Management Systems (LMS) come in very handy. 

Instead of sending multiple emails or spending loads of time and resources on building a custom website, you can employ an LMS to curate, store, distribute and update knowledge and assessments. 

To get a better understanding of what an LMS is and which one is most suitable for your needs, let’s take a deeper look at LMS software, what it is, how it works and how you can use it.

1. What is LMS software?

An LMS is a centralised digital content repository that allows students and teachers to access and manage all needed course materials from any device. These technologies facilitate cooperation and communication among students, instructors, and parents or even managers by automating the assessment process and tracking student progress.

By offering a simplified communication route between instructors and students, an LMS assists instructors in delivering and managing online learning. Students may access all course content from any device using these software programs, which manage all forms of information. An LMS may be used by instructors for reporting, progress monitoring, assignments, and exams.

An LMS is a software application or web-based technology that is used to design, implement, and evaluate a learning process. It is used in eLearning and, in its most basic form, consists of two elements: a server that conducts the main operation and a user interface that instructors, students, and administrator’s control.

It often allows an instructor to generate and distribute a curriculum, track student involvement, and evaluate student performance. Students may be able to use interactive features like threaded conversions, video conferencing, and discussion forums using a learning management system.

1.1 Who will benefit from using an LMS?

Higher education institutions and companies alike benefit from learning management systems. LMS’s are primarily used to manage knowledge. This refers to the management of resources, documents, human skills,  in terms of the collection, organising, sharing, and analysing of an organisation’s knowledge. However, depending on the organisation’s training approach and goals, the LMS’s precise function will differ.

Businesses of all sizes, national government agencies, local governments, conventional educational institutions, and online/eLearning-based institutions all employ learning management systems. Traditional teaching techniques can be improved while saving time and money for organisations. Instructors and administrators will be able to handle components such as user registration, content, calendars, user access, communication, certificates, and notifications more efficiently with an effective system.

1.2 Typical uses for LMS’s

A) One of the most typical uses for an LMS in a corporate environment is for employee training and inductions. In this scenario, the LMS is being utilised to assist in the training of new employees by allowing them to access training materials from a variety of devices. When new workers contribute their own expertise and input, companies may determine how effective the training courses are and highlight areas where new employees want more support.

B) LMSs can also be utilised for more extensive company training. This includes training for customers, partners, and members. Customers must be taught how to utilise a system before they can use a new product, which is frequent in software and technology organisations. Providing continuing customer training will also promote customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

C) Employee development and retention are another major use of LMSs in business organisations. Current workers may be assigned courses through the LMS to ensure that they are growing effective job skills, staying informed about product developments, and maintaining relevant knowledge through new product and compliance training.

1.3 How do learning management systems work?

Online learning platforms are generally marketed as an integration inside LMS systems and provide an architecture for creating online courses and other educational resources. Instructors may use these items to generate unique study materials and streamline processes, allowing them to focus on presenting interesting, high-quality classes. For smaller schools, an online learning platform may be a more cost-effective way to provide students with interesting online learning experiences.

A learning management system may be viewed as a huge database that allows users to store and track information in one location. The system and its online learning tools are available to anybody with a secure login and password. If the system is self-hosted, the user must either install the program on their hard drive or utilise their company’s server to access it.

2. Types of LMSs

There are a couple of different types of learning management systems to choose from and deciding on one that suits your needs is as important as the content you want to host on it. 

Let’s look at the different types of LMS’s.

  • Enterprise vs Individual
  • Free vs Commercial
  • SaaS vs Licensed Product
  • Cloud-based vs On-premise
  • Integrated

2.1 Enterprise vs Individual

Enterprise LMS’s are suitable for groups of 500 users or more. It’s very scalable and can be expanded as the company, needs or courses change. Generally LMSs have enormous varieties of functionalities that can be included to aid the learning experience. 

Individual LMSs on the other hand are more suitable for smaller organisations with sometimes less or limited features and functionalities. Although it might be that some features are limited, this will be sufficient to host and share learning content. 

2.2 Free vs Commercial

Free open-source LMSs are more common than you might think, and it can be a great cost saver – especially if you are a small business. The only down-side is that you need to be fairly tech savvy. When an update or a problem arises, you need to understand how to solve the problem or how to integrate the new features yourself into the LMS. 

A commercial LMS is designed with the intention to cater for a market comprising an organisation, college, university, or another educational institution.

2.3 SaaS vs Licensed Product

A SaaS LMS is one of the most popular choices for both small, medium and large organisations. They offer an out-of-the-box solution with support teams, regular updates, bug fixes and frequent free upgrades. It’s also generally cloud-based which makes storing and disseminating information across a wider audience much easier.

Licensed product LMSs offer some of the widest variety of choices in terms of customisation, support and reliability. In many cases it’s also more flexible and built to the requirements of the user – even though it might take a little bit more time to set up. The benefit is that the LMS implementation can happen whenever you or the organisation chooses to, but be aware, you’ll need someone on-premise to update and maintain the LMS. 

With Licensed LMSs, the biggest holdup is the cost for the user licence, but not to worry, the benefit greatly outweighs the cost, especially if you have a cloud based solution – then the implementation, ownership and cost per user drops significantly.

2.4 Cloud-based vs On-premise

Cloud-based LMS solutions are hosted on an off-site server. This enables more security and enables users to access the LMS from a variety of devices, such as PC’s, mobile phones and tablets. 

On-premise LMSs are built as standalone products. An on-premise LMS is a licensed product that is built and installed to predetermined specifications on the server that they choose. This is generally located in a room in the building or an office. The downfall of following this route is that you are required to build and add servers as your user base knowledge or needs grow – and server maintenance is a big task all on its own. 

2.5 Integrated LMSs

Integrated LMSs take the existing software and systems that the company, institution or organisation has and integrates it with the LMS functionalities. This enables you to build an LMS experience that is unique to your organisation and can cater for specific needs and user experiences. 

Integration requires you to connect the LMS with compatible products and software services to make the most of the functionalities. Another benefit is that an LMS can also be hosted separately from the organisation’s other systems and products. 

3. Top LMS platforms

Some of the best learning management systems used by educational institutions include:

  • Moodle
  • Blackboard Learn
  • Schoology

A few of the most popular enterprise level learning management systems include:

  • Adobe Captivate Prime
  • Docebo LMS
  • TalentLMS
  • iSpring Learn
  • eFront
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