What is a Learning Management System (LMS)?

1st December 2022

what are LMS

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The need to stay competitive through better education is one thing many businesses have in common. One way that has become ubiquitous is through delivering training via a learning management system (LMS).

A study by IBIS Capital found that 41.7% of Fortune 500 companies worldwide use this technology to boost their businesses. IBM also found that companies that use learning technologies see a 16% increase in customer satisfaction.

But what is an LMS and how can using one benefit your organisation?

In this blog, we seek to explain….

What is an LMS?

A learning management system or LMS is a software-based or SaaS platform that lets you create, organise, deliver, and report on training courses and programmes. It is a hub for storing and accessing information that can help users learn efficiently and conveniently. 

Training assets are uploaded and organised in the server component of an LMS and user profiles are authenticated and managed. 

End-users such as administrators, instructors, and students access the LMS through a user interface, typically on a web browser. 

What are the Advantages of Using an LMS?

There are several key advantages to using a learning management system to deliver your training, most of which sit with the flexibility and reach an LMS offers. 

As a user or learner, some of the top benefits that will be experienced are:

  • Deliver training flexibly and on-demand
  • Reduce costs compared to classroom-based training
  • Increase reach
  • Manage and curate training content
  • Monitor and track learner performance
  • Improve retention rates
  • Update learning content easily
  • Deliver targeted training depending on the audience
  • Reduce onboarding time

LMS Licencing Types

There are several types of learning management systems that you can choose from, with each one having its own set of advantages and disadvantages:

Proprietary

Proprietary LMSs are owned by your organisation and are restricted from any modifications, reverse engineering and other uses. They are closed-source and come with licence costs per user.

Open-source

On the other hand, open-source learning management systems are designed to offer complete freedom to share, change and update the platform depending on requirements.

Setting up an open-source LMS can be resource-intensive and requires programming know-how. Continued contributions to its development are from a broad developer base, which can lead to extensive functionality, sometimes excluded from the ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions.

Managed LMS

With this model, LMS management is outsourced, including setup configuration, user base, course creation, certification, feature updates, and more. This service is gaining traction among organisations as it takes the burden off in-house teams by letting a reliable management company take over costly and time-consuming tasks.

LMS Pricing Models

Pricing models vary greatly from vendor to vendor. However, there are four common ways that learning management systems are priced: 

Subscription

This model is based on a monthly fee for each active user. Usually, the vendor will offer pricing brackets. This is the most sensible option if you are a smaller organisation that wants to minimise monthly outgoings but retain growth potential.

Licencing

Typically this model involves an annual fee that is reviewed and renewed annually, or there is an upfront fee. With this option, you have to upgrade software as and when there are technological advances.

Freemium

This option offers free basic features, but costs will increase as more advanced features are used. Although ‘freemium’ is an option, it does make it hard to budget for overall costs.

Perpetual licence

Like the licensing model, this is based on a fee paid when you buy the software. There are no fees or subscriptions to think about, however, it does not account for software upgrades in line with technological advances.

As you can imagine, budget requirements vary hugely depending on the depth and breadth of your programme. As well as the initial outlay, it is crucial to consider:

Ongoing management costs – how will you administer and manage it?

Internal resource requirements – do you need a team in place for this to work?

Implementation costs – what impact will implementation have on your day-to-day business?

Onboarding requirements – who needs to learn what about the new system?

eLearning content production – how will you design and implement your training courses?

Ongoing maintenance and support costs – how will you maintain your LMS and offer the necessary support to users and learners?

Key LMS Features to Look Out For

The features relevant to your requirements are dependent on the audience you plan to train. For example, learning management systems designed for training internal staff often have different features from those designed for training channel partners or customers. 

In general, there are some key features to look out for:

  • System integration – are you able to integrate your chosen LMS with other internal platforms, such as a CRM?
  • In-depth reports and analytics – can you get your hands on the reports needed to allow for change and also prove ROI (return on investment)?
  • Responsive design – Is the LMS designed with the users in mind? Does it keep users engaged?
  • Intuitive interface – Does the interface easily offer what the user needs? 
  • Certification and badging – Can customised certification and badging schemes be easily created? Is there an opportunity to add bespoke promotional codes?
  • Gamification capabilities – Does the platform include gamification to promote engagement and knowledge checks?
  • Translation tools for global audiences – Will all of your audiences receive training in their own language? The platform and courses too?
  • eCommerce tools – Are you able to sell your courses through integrated sales tools?
  • Mobile learning – Can administration and learning tasks be undertaken on a mobile device?
  • Customised learning paths – Can bespoke learning paths be created for different audiences?
  • Organisational hierarchies – Are there capabilities to allow the creation of different hierarchies within the LMS? This is especially important when training customers and partners that have different internal structures and therefore a need for different levels of training and access. 

Related reading: What Are The Features Of A Good LMS? 

LMS Hosting Options

Some of the LMS products available in the market also offer hosting options for their software. Similar to hosting types, these also come with their own pros and cons:

Self-hosted

A self-hosted or locally deployed LMS is software that you have to install and maintain on your own server. 

This type of LMS requires a level of IT expertise regarding the installation and management of such applications throughout a whole connected system of devices. Data backups, software updates, and license renewals are your organisation’s responsibility. 

Self-hosting will give you a certain level of freedom to modify the environment to fit your organisation’s specific needs, but it will not afford you complete control over the software itself. While controlling the environment is sometimes needed in cases of high compliance and security arrangements, it’s important to note that this requires significant resources, expertise, and maintenance.

Cloud-based

As the name suggests, this type of LMS is hosted on the cloud. The vendor takes care of maintaining and updating the software, and no local installation is needed. 

You only need to log in to the LMS, which most systems let you do anywhere with a device that has internet access. 

What Can An LMS Be Used For? 

A learning management system facilitates learning, helping users accomplish various purposes. The ease at which training modules can be deployed with an LMS has made them almost a necessity for a variety of training, including:

Customer training 

For businesses that sell products that require technical knowledge (e.g. advanced software, medical devices), customers need to be educated on how to properly use them. Failure to do so leads to frustration on the customers’ end and can even result in injuries or worse.

Businesses do not have much control over how their products are used once they have been sold to customers. The environment in which customers use these products can also vary wildly. By utilising an easy-to-access and streamlined LMS, large-scale teaching of customers wherever they are is made simpler. 

Channel partner training 

Businesses can also use a learning management system to educate the entire supply chain—from training channel partners, distributors, installers and engineers, as well as end-customers. By using an LMS to centralise training, product information and the latest practices/skills can be shared easily whilst providing an additional touch point for customers.

Big businesses with branches across borders face the challenge of keeping their workforce, dealers, suppliers, resellers, and other professional partners up-to-date. An LMS allows companies to deploy training courses customised to the needs of each part of their organisation with a unified voice. 

Compliance training 

Taking compliance training online offers greater levels of control and automation. It often forms part of a comprehensive training programme but can also be standalone to complement other business activities mandated by legislation, regulation or policy. 

Delivering compliance training via an LMS minimises risk, creates an audit trail and safeguards reputation. An LMS also offers the ability to rapidly deploy the latest regulatory requirements ensuring everyone is up to speed quickly and easily. 

Onboarding 

Time is a valuable resource, so getting fresh hires or new customers and partners up to speed as fast as possible is critical. The quicker business information and protocols are communicated, the faster business success is contributed to. 

Onboarding via an LMS frees up resources like office space, calendar dates, and instructors to conduct training exercises, which can be used for other, more pressing tasks. 

Employee training 

Developing and sharpening skills is crucial to a company’s ability to innovate and stay on the cutting edge. Staff who get training improve their chances of advancing careers and achieving objectives. They will also feel valued resources are invested in them. 

With the help of an LMS, you can shape promising employees into innovators and leaders while inspiring loyalty and retaining your best talents. 

Organisation Types That Benefit from Using an LMS

Manufacturing

Manufacturing facilities often have complicated processes that require a steep learning curve. There are also strict regulations that must be upheld.  Products are also often sold and installed through a channel that needs consistent training to enable them to fulfil their role in the sales ecosystem. LMSs provide the avenue to deliver consistent and engaging training to internal and external audiences, identify skill gaps and remedy any compliance issues.

Franchises

For your franchise chain to continue growing, a successful knowledge transfer is crucial. With an LMS, you will be able to provide training courses on a platform that can incentivise people to learn the skills needed to do their jobs correctly, educate about your products, build confidence in your brand, and, ultimately, increase profit.

Corporations

From midsize to enterprise corporations, learning management systems are a solution that can help you strategically recruit, manage, onboard, and train your employees and external audience. You will also be able to create programmes that can further develop their skills to improve your processes, strengthen your brand, and improve sales.

Retail

As a customer-facing industry, businesses in the retail sector face unique challenges like high turnover rates and rapidly changing business environments. An LMS makes it easy for your HR department to train new recruits, motivate employees to learn excellent customer service, and adapt to market changes by passing down information on new products, sales tactics, and marketing strategies.

Public sector

Organisations in the public sector are often placed under great scrutiny. Efficiency needs to be a top priority, as budgetary concerns and ongoing consolidation shift under changing political climates. Our managed LMS can help you deliver cost-efficient, high-impact results for your professional development, talent recruitment, and retention—all working within the necessary legal parameters.

Who Uses Learning Management Systems?

LMSs are widely used in global organisations to deliver training to varying audiences. But, there is often confusion around the roles of LMS users.

Here are the two main LMS user types:

Administrators 

As the name suggests, this is the person or team that administrates and manages the LMS, either internally or outsourced. Some of the tasks covered include: creating learner pathways, setting us access, administering eCommerce, support, course management and liaising with various teams to create specific learning plans, and also tracking, monitoring and reporting on specific KPIs.

Related reading: Outsourcing vs In-House – Which is Best for Delivering Your Training Programme?

Learners (or students)

A learner (or student) is the person taking part in the training, such as an employee, partner or customer. They use an LMS to access and complete courses, certifications and compliance requirements. When selecting the right LMS, always consider the learner’s experience. The dashboard, learner pathways and all other features should be created to offer a seamless, personalised experience, making it easy to learn and promoting a learning culture. The ability to assign training based on the individual, job role or organisation hierarchy is key.

How Learning Management Systems Can Be Used?

To explain how an LMS can be used, we’ve broken it down into six areas: 

Creating courses

A course can be created with original material made within the LMS or with existing material uploaded to the LMS. eLearning Courses can be as simple or as complex as required by the organisation and the learners. They may be as straightforward as a single instructional video or have many modules that blend online and offline learning and engage learners with a mix of animations, games, virtual reality, and more.

Learning management systems can also allow integration with online resources, such as embedded YouTube videos and social media posts to expand learning possibilities.

Simple knowledge checks are often used to check retention levels and the effectiveness of training courses. 

Organising courses

Putting together courses in an organised manner is the next step. You can make basic courses with a linear progression or more complex networks with multiple branching paths and course requirements. 

The more courses you offer, the clearer you should make navigating and interfacing. Putting courses in distinct categories while accounting for different users is a good idea.

Organising courses ultimately depends on the size and structure of your organisation, so make sure to get an LMS that has the features to accommodate your needs.

Deploying courses 

With your courses neatly set up, you can let your learners access them. How courses are accessed depends on the deployment model you chose for your LMS (self-hosted or cloud-based) and your intended audience. 

For onboarding and employee training, courses are restricted to company use with provided login credentials. For academic purposes, you can offer your courses for free or through a payment scheme. Either way, your LMS should have the feature set to restrict and open up enrolment and process payments. 

When providing training to external customers, it is vital to have a clear and accessible catalogue that allows for the correct training to be found. When selling training, it is important to use simple eCommerce functionality that allows users to easily purchase training and accept instant payment or quick order processing.

Mobile accessibility is also critical, as 64% of learners deem it essential to access training materials with their mobile devices.

Managing users

There are three users of an LMS: administrators, instructors, and learners. Administrators set up the LMS, instructors create courses, and learners take courses. 

Managing users includes user registration to the LMS, access restriction to courses, course assignments, student-instructor interaction, exam rollouts, grading, issuing of certifications, and payment processing among other tasks. 

Monitoring progress

The biggest advantage of using an LMS is the treasure trove of data that you can record and monitor. Training progress is the tracking of learner progress through courses and learning programs, providing certificates and badges which the user can access.

A modern LMS can provide real-time tracking of every bit of information that is processed within the system. From enrolment numbers to course completion rates to grades, you should be able to access such performance metrics quickly and easily.

Data mining

Data mining is the large amount of data that the LMS can collect and analyse. This can be used for the purposes of training improvement, decisions about further learning, understanding customer patterns, etc.

Learning management systems can collate and display these figures in readable charts and graphs. With such data on hand, you can see the effects of your training programmes and map them onto your organisation’s overall performance, whether it’s bigger profits or higher passing rates.

Tips for Choosing the Right LMS 

Every organisation has its own set of unique requirements. To make the right decision on which LMS to implement, you need to set out what your organisation’s overall training programme goals are.

  • Ensure you review your current requirements and more importantly your future plans. Choosing an LMS with a high level of flexibility is key here.
  • As well as organisational goals, it is important to take into account your

audience’s requirements. Talk to them, ask them what type of training they need, and what would be valuable to them.

  • Never underestimate the importance of planning and fine-tuning your requirements. When an investment is made without these considerations, adoption rates can be low, and ongoing management resource and cost is often overlooked.

LMS Implementation

Here are the key steps to take when planning an LMS implementation: 

  • Plan/define your objectives and understand training programme goals.
  • Keep an idea of required integrations in mind.
  • Understand how your organisation can benefit from the right LMS choice.
  • Do a training needs analysis.
  • Ask all stakeholders involved how they like to learn.
  • Think about the future, will your LMS grow with you?
  • Look at your internal resources to find out whether there are any gaps.
  • Consider the budget and where it will come from.

How to Make the Most of Your LMS

To get the best results from your LMS and training programme, it is important to:

Plan and launch

  • Take your time to plan your training programme.
  • Have a launch plan in place – make sure everyone knows about it!
  • Begin with a pleasant onboarding experience.
  • Offer system training so learners know how to utilise its features and
  • understand the benefits.

Utilise relevant features

  • Offer learning incentives through the use of gamification.
  • Enable the use of tailored learning paths for each audience.
  • Incorporate both in-person and online training to start with.
  • Make use of eCommerce functionality to build a revenue-generating programme.
  • Set up certification and badging schemes to help measure performance and segment partners.

Keep track

  • Monitor and track training activities to help improve your training programme.
  • Continually prioritise and encourage engagement.
  • Ask for feedback
  • Analyse, analyse, analyse!

The Future of Learning Management Systems

As with every technological advancement, LMS software will also evolve to cater to the ever-changing needs of the end users. We could see more individualised products for more effective learning environments, as opposed to organisations purchasing one-size-fits-all software. The possibility of adding social functions (e.g. discussion boards) may also come to fruition, as well as a more automated and predictive programme that can understand and optimise for steps within a given process.

We are already seeing more users favouring accessibility through their mobile devices, which LMS software will soon embrace. It’s also within the realm of possibility that alternative platforms will emerge, challenging existing vendors to make their products more accessible to the general public.

If you want to make sure your organisation stays competitive, implement a premium learning management system to take learning within your organisation to the next level, and reap the rewards of highly skilled learners that are better equipped for the future. 

Find out more about how Wahoo Learning’s managed LMS can transform the way you deliver your training by giving us a call today on 01460 279927 for a chat or drop us a message.

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