Looking for an example of a learning management system (LMS)? Check out our list of examples! We cover a variety of different types and prices, so you can find the right solution for your needs.
What is a LMS?
Universities are offering more opportunities for remote and hybrid learning than ever before—and that means Learning Management Systems (LMS) have never been more important. But what exactly are they?
Essentially, an LMS allows instructors and learners to engage with educational content online.
An LMS can also be used to quickly develop training programs, cultivate more engaging learning environments, and help students to foster lifelong learning skills. Instructors are also able to dive into detailed reports and track the progress of individual students, courses, and modules.
Students around the world can check out resources and grades from anywhere seeing as most LMS are compatible with mobile devices, though LMS have utility beyond the educational sector. In fact, over 40% of the Fortune 500 use LMS to distribute materials, conduct compliance tests, and onboard remote employees.
What are the benefits of using an LMS?
A good LMS makes educational materials more accessible to learners—whether they’re students or employees. However, the very best systems have a lot of extra benefits!
Monotonous tasks aren’t just dull—they’re time wasters. Fortunately, an LMS can help by automating manual administrative work, like grading and scheduling, so instructors can focus on supporting students and creating more effective learning programs.
With an LMS, you’ll be able to deliver a wide variety of content to your learners. Think courses, tutorials, and assessments that are accessible to anyone with an internet connection. An LMS can also be used to curate an employee handbook or style guide—which prevents vital information from being lost if employees retire or move on.
An LMS allows you to deliver a wide variety of content to your learners. University students can easily access courses and relevant materials, and then complete assessments. The results will be accessible to professors—who will also be able to check out engagement levels across courses and create a first semester onboarding plan for new or returning students.
Similarly, managers can use an LMS to curate an employee handbook or style guide. These digital documents can grow over time, especially if employee feedback is encouraged, and they ensure that critical information regarding best practices isn't lost when team members retire or move on.
Saving time and money
Learners will be able to enjoy a wealth of knowledge for free thanks to your LMS! It’s also a paper-free experience. Instructors won’t need to spend a fortune printing out materials to bring to class, and students can take notes digitally and win virtual badges and commendations. Distanced learning also reduces the demand for physical classes, saving even more time, money, and hassle.
An LMS negates the need for off-site training requiring extensive travel. Businesses will reap a financial benefit as a result, and won’t have to shell out for costly accommodations and transportation, seeing as video content (such as pre-recorded training seminars or tutorials) can be hosted in an LMS. University instructors won’t need to spend a fortune printing out materials, either! Students can access a wealth of resources directly and at any time.
And, because an LMS makes distanced and hybrid learning more feasible, demand for physical classes is reduced. This also gives instructors the opportunity to adjust their pedagogical model to include elements that might’ve been unavailable in physical classrooms, or too costly or time consuming, such as quick polls and quizzes, interactive games, and collectable badges. Instructors opting for a hybrid learning model can then prioritise practical instruction in class.
LMS excel at providing personalised learning, and this is hugely important as students learn in different ways. Instructors can create varied content and incorporate video, audio, presentations, and games, engaging quizzes and surveys, and host collaborative events. A well-organised LMS also allows students to navigate content at their own pace and according to their topic preferences.
Your LMS will provide you with detailed insights into how your learners are engaging with content. You’ll be able to examine which courses are proving most popular and how well individual learners are progressing through a module, and subsequently develop even better materials. Granular feedback also enables instructors to support students who may be struggling.
An LMS works hand-in-hand with blended learning programs—where students utilise both online resources and offline lectures. Learners can attend classes in the digital or physical space, supplement their classes with upskilling modules, and even check their grades when they’re on holiday. This level of accessibility makes it easier for learners to meet attendance goals, too.
Most LMS scale with your audience—whether it's composed of a small group of students or a large corporate structure. It’s much easier to store and secure the vast quantity of data needed to provide educational programs seeing as LMS are typically cloud based, and this also means that learners can access courses remotely.
HR departments can use an LMS to create a detailed onboarding process. This ensures that new starters have a smooth entry into the workforce and access to courses that contain information pertinent to their role. This onboarding process can be standardised across departments, too.
What industries benefit from having an LMS?
An LMS is going to be especially useful to academic institutions—but they can be used effectively by a number of industries to train and upskill employees.
Companies can conduct compliance training and assessment with an LMS, and promote a consistent standard of training, in a way that’s cost effective and secure. Plus, an LMS is a great way to ensure that all employees have access to learning materials, important documents, and the latest processes.
The following industries make good use of LMS:
- Educational institutions
- Private tuition
- Training institutions
- Local governments
- Nonprofit and charitable organisations
- Veterinarian services
- Travel and hospitality
Comparing different types of LMS
There are hundreds of LMS to choose from—and no two systems are the same! LMS vary, with some being better suited to smaller audiences, some being free, and some even boasting open-source code. So, let’s take a look at the most common types of LMS you’ll find on the market.
Enterprise vs individual
An individual (or consumer) LMS is ideal for learners looking to upskill themselves. They’re typically easy to use and modestly priced, but come with restrictions. For example, you might not be able to upload your own content or create your own courses, and some individual LMS don’t support multiple users.
Enterprise LMS (also known as commercial LMS) are far more robust and scalable, and a better option for academic institutions. Enterprise LMS also pack more features—giving instructors the ability to generate courses with quizzes, games, whiteboards, and social learning links. All these tools make for a more engaging learning experience, and one that can be tailored to suit your learner’s needs.
Free vs commercial
Free LMS are a mixed bag; some are downright dodgy and best avoided, and others are reputable open-source platforms well suited to smaller learning groups. These free alternatives are also customisable, allowing each institution to establish its own branding and processes, and anyone can browse the platform’s code to check for vulnerabilities.
Unfortunately, most free LMS lack dedicated support teams. This can make the setup process quite difficult if you don’t have an in-house IT team to troubleshoot issues.
Commercial LMS come with a price tag, but you’ll get some nifty features for your money. For a start, a commercial LMS will typically have its own support staff available to walk you through setup, and a sleek user interface. UX design might seem like a minor aesthetic perk, but cluttered screens can frustrate learners and grind progress to a halt.
SaaS vs licensed
Scalability is a major consideration when it comes to picking an LMS, with academic institutions and businesses keen to invest in a system that can handle a growing number of learners. A Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) LMS is hosted on the LMS vendor’s servers, saving costs, and relies on the cloud to make content available anywhere. A licensed LMS, however, is usually hosted on the institution’s servers—and tend to be more expensive to run.
An SaaS LMS boasts increased flexibility because of its subscription-based plans. Instructors can upgrade or downgrade as necessary, and enjoy the fact that updates and IT support remain the responsibility of the vendor. Licensed LMS will require an in-house IT team that can handle administration, technical support, and consistent maintenance, and make decisions about how and when to scale the system.
Do I really need an LMS?
LMS systems come with a myriad of features and benefits for both instructors and learners—but are they really worth the time and money it takes to get one up and running? The short answer is that it depends on your institution’s goals, audience, and budget.
An institution with 50 or more learners will likely find an LMS to be hugely beneficial when it comes to creating a high standard of educational content and centralising those resources.
In addition, an LMS is a great way to chart learner development thanks to in-depth reports that can be generated in a few clicks. These reports offer insights into popular courses, individual student paths, and assessment results. And, if you’re keen to mix social learning into your LMS strategy, most systems allow you to incorporate links to Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin, extending your reach to even more potential learners.
Smaller institutions might find the associated costs and upkeep of an LMS prohibitive, however. Other institutions may want a more explorative way of delivering content to learners, and institutions with a high percentage of offline learners may not want the bulk of their resources locked behind an LMS.
Fortunately, there are a number of LMS alternatives available. A Training Delivery System (TDS) can provide materials to learners via a “portal”, and typically rely on a Content Management System (CMS) to generate and share course content. And whilst TDS sometimes lack the collaborative and developmental features of an LMS, they can be added, and lively community forums are usually happy to recommend other handy add-ons.
How to choose the right LMS
Choosing the right LMS for your institution isn’t always a straightforward process—particularly if you want to provide your learners with personalised plans and dynamic materials. You’ll want to consider all aspects of an LMS before making a decision; like scalability and features, price, and ease of use.
So, we’ve put together a brief five-step plan that’ll help give you a well-rounded overview of your top LMS contenders.
1. Pinpoint your audience
Your learners, and the materials you want to provide them with, will ultimately determine the type of LMS you pick.
Consider your learners first and determine their skill level. There’s not a universal baseline—some students will need a helping hand and other, more advanced individuals, won’t want to slog through courses they’re already familiar with. So, an LMS that allows you to build personalised learning paths is a huge plus.
An LMS with a user-friendly interface will appeal to all age groups and eliminate frustration. However, millennial users may appreciate gamification features and opportunities for collaborative learning—which will also ensure that your content is delivered dynamically!
2. Pick out the features you need
Next up, make a shopping list of the LMS features that you need and want—and remember that these will vary depending on your university or company. A list enables you to easily weigh up whether an LMS meets your requirements.
Features you may want to add to your list include:
- Reports – Track popular courses, how learners are engaging with materials, and key information like test results and completion rates.
- Ease of use – A sleek, uncluttered UI makes it much easier for both instructors and learners to use an LMS, and streamlines the training process.
- Integrations – We tend to use a variety of apps during our work week, and the best LMS integrate with popular names like Zoom, Microsoft Office, and Google Suite.
3. See how much it costs
Nobody wants to break the bank, and there’s really no need to as LMS are available at all sorts of price points. LMS prices vary depending on the size of the brand and complexity of its features, and you’ll want to determine which pricing model suits you best, too.
A pay-per-learner model is well-suited to institutions with mandatory training programs and a set number of users. Pay-per-active-user models are more flexible, and better for universities and companies offering more ad hoc training. Finally, a more traditional licence fee is a great option for larger businesses that tend to offer both mandatory and sporadic training programs.
4. Put the LMS to the test
Once you’ve compiled a shortlist of promising LMS, it’s time to head over to their websites to do some intensive research—with your learners and non-negotiable features in mind. Ditch any LMS that doesn’t meet (or even exceed) your criteria.
Now is also a great time to reach out to systems directly. Speak to an LMS representative to get a guided tour of the system, ask questions, and iron out lingering concerns. It’s well worth checking out a demo of the LMS, if available. Use the system as though you were a student and see how easy it is to login, access content, and reach out to instructors.
5. Make sure your content is compatible
You’ll need an LMS that can support different types of resources. After all, students want new and engaging ways to learn, and the option to pick and choose courses or materials based on their own personal preferences.
So, it’s important to identify the types of content you’ll be delivering. Will you be sharing PDFs and spreadsheets? Presentations and webinars? Maybe even games and videos? Ensure that these file types are supported by your LMS.
Best examples of LMS
Which LMS are worth your time and money? We’ve put together a list of seven of the best systems available today. These LMS all offer something a little different and pack varied tool kits, so you’re bound to find something that suits your learner’s needs.
- Blackboard Learn
- Google Classroom
- Open edX
- Talent LMS
The Potential.ly LMS is a dynamic, flexible system, designed to encourage learners at university and work to upskill themselves. Leading academics, career services, and graduate attribute teams can craft development materials for their students and deliver blended learning, and track engagement in just a few clicks. It’s just as easy for students to use, too. Learners can log their progress within courses and focus on specific skill sets, using materials that will be available to them even after they graduate.
The Potential.ly supports a vast array of files and media-rich resources, and instructors can even upload self-assessments and audits, and integrate into VLEs to embed activities into their curriculum.
If you’re a student in Europe, then you’ve probably heard of Moodle. Moodle is a popular open-source LMS and an established market leader, giving teachers a secure way to curate engaging learning environments for remote and hybrid learners. Moodle is also scalable, able to handle a handful of trainees or thousands of students, and is accessible via mobile devices.
Moodle’s streamlined user interface makes it a popular option across age groups—students don’t have to navigate through endless pages to find courses or upload essays, exam results, or revision materials. Plus, students can enjoy integrations with apps they’re already familiar with, like Microsoft Office.
Canvas is a hugely popular name across the United States and another open-source system. With a simple UI and sign-up process, Canvas ensures that there are no technical barriers between students and their digital learning experience. Instructors will find it easier to group learning materials into units that align with existing state-wide standards, too, and enjoy access to Gradebook and SpeedGrader for more efficient grading.
The LMS supports integrations with popular apps (like Zoom and Microsoft Teams) and offers its very own built-in video and messaging tools. Learners can also quickly swap feedback and annotations on group projects, work in a collaborative space, and track their progress via customisable user profiles. Plus, Canvas is accessible via Android and iOS.
Another big player in the United States, Blackboard Learn is available as both an SaaS and non-SaaS. It’s an easy-to-use system that doesn’t require a wealth of technical expertise to use as either a learner or an instructor—and it makes everyone’s lives a lot easier by automatically collecting and evaluating student work based on assignment submissions.
Blackboard Learn also packs all of the content features you’d expect. Instructors can quickly generate and share content (thanks to handy pre-built templates) or take a deep dive into data analytics, and then host web conferences to supplement hybrid learning. Tests, quizzes, homework assignments, and grades can also be shared in one place.
Google Classroom saw a surge in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic—and not just because it’s free to use! Its interface is instantly familiar to anyone who’s used Google products before, and instructors will particularly enjoy just how easy it is to add safety locks and ban disruptive anonymous users.
With Google Classroom, you can take your pick of custom class themes and integrations (with Google Meet and Google Drive), making it easier for instructors and learners to exchange files within courses. Google Classroom is also compatible with mobile devices, and comes with an impressive array of accessibility options that make up for the comparative lack of features compared to other systems.
OpenEdX is an open-source LMS—and a prestigious one, seeing as it began its life as an MIT research project. The LMS remains incredibly easy to use, however, regardless of your skill level. As a result, OpenEdX is particularly popular with higher education institutions and government bodies.
Instructors rely on OpenEdX to create secure training courses that can be accessed via desktop or mobile devices. The LMS recently welcomed integrations with AR and VR, which is great news for institutions looking for a truly immersive learning experience! OpenEdX is impressively scalable, too, and can be tailored to suit small audiences or larger enterprises.
LMS don’t get much more user-friendly than TalentLMS! This system is virtually ready to use as soon as it’s installed—which makes it a great option for less tech-savvy users. TalentLMS is used frequently by enterprises, and instructors create, upload, and share training content across different departments. Creating courses is straightforward, and materials can be supplemented with video, audio, presentations, and gamification features. It’s also well worth a visit to the TalentLMS course marketplace to see what other users are cooking up!
TalentLMS comes with powerful automation tools that handle monotonous tasks for you—freeing up time that can be spent on students and trainees. And, because TalentLMS is an open-source platform, institutions won’t have to handle server maintenance or technical support.
A good LMS can make an instructor’s life a lot easier. They’re a one-stop-shop, making it possible to generate engaging content and share it directly with your learners, all in the same place. In addition to keeping your educational resources organised, the best LMS will provide you with insights about your learner’s habits and engagement rates, allowing you to provide more personalised support.
There are a lot of LMS on the market, and they all offer a different package, but regardless of whether you’re a small enterprise or a large educational institution, they’re a great way to encourage learners to continue improving and upskilling themselves.