This post has been updated for 2021.
Learning management systems (LMS) help you deliver training materials and organize skills development within your organization. These systems can be extremely useful, but they can also be overcomplicated. The abundance of available LMS features makes it hard to decide which will help, and which will be a distraction.
Before comparing any specific LMS solutions, you should list specific learning goals for your organization. These might include:
- Safety certification updates
- Regulatory compliance
- Internal extended learning opportunities
- Public education for brand awareness or e-commerce
Defining your goals will help you choose the LMS features that work best for your company. Not every company will need government compliance trainings (HIPAA, OSHA, etc.), and others may want to make their training available for subscription access.
Whatever your needs, these eight are the most important LMS features to look for. We’ve also included a few software choices in each section that include the corresponding features. If you want to speed up your research, use our Product Selection Tool. You’ll receive five software recommendations that are tailored to your needs.
1. Course creation
It seems like this would be included in all LMS software out there, but the most basic definition of an LMS does not include a course creation module. Some options require you to bring your own content, which means you’ll need to build videos and content in a separate system and import them into the program. Finding an LMS that includes course creation features will help streamline your processes.
2. Skills/Certification tracking
Skills and certification tracking is one of the most important LMS features for nearly every kind of user. It’s nice to train your employees, but you’ll have no baseline for measuring performance and improvement if you aren’t tracking skills development and certifications—or at the very least, course completion. These features can increase government compliance by making your completed and pending certifications available via a single exportable spreadsheet. Tracking skills learned and certifications completed also gives you the power to report on employee progress, showing the immediate return on your efforts.
3. Mobile learning
It’s surprising to learn that some folks don’t have a computer at home, but a helpful way around this pitfall is mobile-ready learning. When your LMS features mobile capabilities, including responsive design or native mobile apps, learners can participate in training from any location using whatever device they do own. This is especially helpful for certifications that require learning outside of the work day, or for distributed teams where learning can occur between calls or visits.
4. Asynchronous learning
One of the best features for improving engagement and knowledge retention is asynchronous learning—the ability for learners to complete course work at their own pace. This means they don’t have to be present at a set time for a lecture or to talk with an instructor. Combining videos, online readings, messaging, and question/answer forums where students can engage with the material at their own pace and on their own timelines helps promote buy-in and improve return.
Learning for learning’s sake is a great idea in theory, but in the real world (where your employees live), you’ll probably want to incentivize the process. Gamification features can turn learning into a friendly competition. While it may not make your subject matter any more interesting, adding game features to your courses and training programs will engage learners, speed them through the modules, and increase compliance.
6. Video conferencing
Students who need one-on-one attention or have complicated questions will appreciate an LMS that includes video conferencing features. While messaging boards and email may cover most of your communication needs, video conferencing lets you have difficult conversations. Your company will appreciate that you don’t have to pay for an outside subscription to communicate face-to-face with your students.
7. Social learning/message boards
Like so much of what we do everyday, learning is social, and your LMS should include features that help your students learn from one another. This not only enhances the learning process, but is a great way to reduce strain on your trainers. By adding messaging boards and social learning features, your students can ask and answer questions in a forum setting. The best way to show your understanding of a topic is by teaching it, so let your students teach each other.
8. E-commerce and subscriptions
Many LMS programs provide a channel for publishing your content to a wider audience, so you can monetize what you’ve already built. In this case, look for an LMS that lets you gate learning content. To complete a course or learning module, users provide their email address, make a one-time payment, or agree to a monthly subscription. Adding a subscription course to your site is a great way to bring in recurring income using your collective intelligence.
Suggested Platforms: Docebo, LatitudeLearning
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Building your education and training programs takes planning and care, but there are plenty of systems out there to help you along the way. Make sure the software you choose has all the LMS features you need to build and maintain your program and maybe even let your employees self-serve.
Still not sure which LMS features your company will need? Browse and compare options using our Product Selection Tool.