Online training ( also known as eLeaning and web-based training) has taken over most of the learning initiatives in organizations around the globe. Learners may now consume learning anytime and anywhere as long as they are connected to the internet and have access to a device that supports eLearning content. The challenge for learning and development teams is facilitating all of the learning activities and learners remotely. LMS or learning management systems is the L & D industry’s answer to this specific need.

Basic Functions

Learning management system deploys and tracks online courses. Learning and development teams can upload training content such as PowerPoint Presentations, eLearning courses, articles, case studies, tests, audio and video libraries and many others in the LMS. One can think about it as a one-stop shop for all the training resources a learner can possibly need to meet the learning objectives.

Learner and Trainer’s Access

Learning management systems keep training information private to those who are authorized to use them by means of a sign on page. LMS features a log in or sign in page for learners and a separate one for trainers. Some learning and development teams assign username and password to their learners, while others allow students to sign and provide authorization once permission request has been approved.

Some learning management systems also provide separate access to instructional designers and administrators. Instructional designers will be able to upload, edit and delete training content. Administrators are given permission to manage “classes” within the learning management system.

Trainer’s LMS Features

A trainer’s LMS normally feature access to the student records, including the class roster, attendance report, assessment report, gradebook, grading rubrics, leaderboard, badge creation and awarding, course content and assessments. The trainer can also create classes, add and remove participants. Most LMS include a messaging feature or inbox where the trainer can communicate with the learners.

Learner’s LMS Features

A learner is typically able to access course content, view his own attendance report and access his gradebook. The learner is assigned a profile page, which he can personalize with a photo and a short introduction. Like the trainer’s profile, the learner can send messages to his peers and trainer. Some LMS also feature a class landing page that learners can use as a bulletin board to post questions, updates and send general communication to everyone in class.Editing and uploading materials are not permitted.

Types of LMS

Learning management systems can be deployed in different ways. Here are some of the types of LMS based on how they are deployed:

Cloud-based LMS

This type of LMS platform is hosted in the cloud, which means that it is maintained by the vendor remotely. Any updates or upgrades are carried out by the vendor online. Cloud-based LMS is great for organizations that do not have the capacity to install the LMS locally. The only disadvantage is that cloud-based LMS is often generic and does not give options to customize the look and feel according to the brand’s image and branding.

Self-hosted

Learning management systems that are self-hosted need to be installed in the local server of the users. Some LMS vendors offer direct download from their website and some send physical disc drives to their customers. Self- hosted LMS works well for organizations that require creative control and integration of their image and branding in the LMS. The challenge in self-hosted LMS is having to install, update and upgrade independently, which may require the support of an IT personnel.

Desktop Installed

This requires that LMS is deployed in the desktop of end users. Some desktop applications may be accessed in several devices, which allows learning and development teams to collaborate freely.

Mobile Applications

The beauty of eLearning is its accessibility. It makes sense for LMS to be made available over mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and hybrid devices. The learning and development team can upload the training resources online for their target learner’s remote consumption.

What to Look for in an LMS

Not all learning management systems are created equal. To maximize the use of LMS, an organization must first set their organization’s objectives in getting one. The following features should be considered when choosing a vendor.

  • If you have an existing LMS, you should ensure that the new one will be able to hold all of your existing data. The new LMS should also be able to support different formats. Data migration should be seamless and easy.
  • Social learning has proven to be beneficial in keeping learners engaged and invested in training programs. It is important that an LMS is able to provide a social media component in your training. eLearning blogs and social media groups that facilitate communication and collaboration between corporate learners help in keeping your training program alive. This is also a great way to gauge how your program is doing because feedback and engagement can be checked in real time.
  • Look for an LMS which has gamification capabilities. The learning and development industry is quickly moving towards gamification, so your LMS must include a system to award badges, count scores, and put up leaderboards to encourage learners to compete against one another and stay engaged.
  • A branded course is always better than a generic, run of the mill online training. The training will mean more to your learners if they see that it has been customized for them. A good LMS should provide the means to customize pages with the company logo, colors, fonts, and images. You should also be able to customize the LMS depending how your learners will be using it (i.e. layouts and icons).
  • Reporting is one of the best features of an LMS, but this does not mean just having access to generic report. Report should be fully customizable, so the learning and development team can zoom in on the metrics that has the biggest impact in their organization. Learner performance and tracking completion rates are good, but if the organization wants to track time spent in social learning or completing multimedia assignments they should be able to do so without difficulty.
  • Learning means more to individuals who get personalized learning experience. In eLearning this can be achieved by adding personalized learning path in the organization’s LMS. Learners will be able to choose what courses to take depending on what skills they need to obtain, what challenges they have at work, or what career path they choose. When the decision is left in their hands, they are likely to be more engaged and driven to complete the training program.

Overall, learning management systems make it easier for learning and development teams to achieve eLearning success by providing a structured way to deploy their initiatives. Consistent success can be achieved by setting their objectives and understanding the ins and outs of learning management systems, to ensure that features are able to deliver what their organization requires.