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Table of Contents
- What is learning management software?
- Why do you need a learning management system?
- Learning management system comparison by category
- The top learning management system vendor reviews and best practices
- Major features of learning management software
- How to compare learning management solutions
- Three tiers of learning management software
- Choosing the best learning management software
What is learning management software?
Learning management software, also known as learning management systems (LMS) and e-learning software, gives organizations a platform to teach and train employees. These systems often include features that
- deliver custom curriculum and quizzes
- provide the tools to build courses
- host video and audio files
- and engage learners through gamification
You’ll find today’s learning management software bundled within an HRIS platform, alongside an employee engagement software, or as a standalone system. Many companies find so much success with their internal training via LMS that they use the systems as the basis of their customer loyalty and engagement strategies.
Why do you need a learning management system?
Rarely does a job candidate come to your company fully ready to take on all the challenges of their new position. Whether it’s learning to adapt skills to a new industry or understanding the company’s custom processes, every new team member will need to invest some time in training. To ensure each new hire and current employee gets up to speed, companies must inventory skills, identify what’s missing, and empower their workforce to bridge that knowledge gap.
This is a complex task. But investing in tools and systems that shape the skills employees need will pay off in the long run. From onboarding and training to ongoing education and skill development, learning management software helps businesses facilitate the consistent transfer of critical knowledge and skills to workers.
However, since nearly every HR software vendor offers learning management software, discerning between options is tricky and time consuming. To simplify the buying process, this guide will examine the learning management software market, provide a learning management software comparison chart, and feature LMS case studies for organizations of any size.
Learning Management System Comparison (by category)
|Skillsoft||Unboxed Technology (Spoke)||Adobe Captivate|
The top learning management system vendor reviews and best practices
- The Best Learning Management Systems of 2019
- 2019’s Top Gamification Software Vendors for Enterprise, SMB, Sales, Retail, and LMSWhat You Need To Know Before You Train Employees on Software
- Yes, IT Has A Role To Play In Compliance. Here’s How Technology Can Support Any Company’s Corporate Compliance Program.
- Knowledge Management for SMB: How to Retain Expertise During Turnover
- 6 Signs It’s Time to Switch LMS Software Providers
- 5 of the Best eLearning Software Options
- 8 Important LMS Features for Your E-Learning Program
Benefits of learning management software
Learning management software systems deliver and manage educational and instructional content, as well as identify and assess individual and organizational learning or training goals. The system then tracks employee progress towards meeting those goals, and collects and presents data for analyzing the entire process. Additionally, the best learning management software integrates with other critical platforms, such as HR, accounting, or even ERP software, which enables management to measure impact, effectiveness, and overall cost of training initiatives.
Talent development and skills management is the most straightforward motivation to adopt a training system. However, if your business must track employee training to uphold industry, government, or company standards, then an LMS can streamline this process. An LMS can help:
- Centralize and automate learning administration
- Consolidate training initiatives through employee self-guided services
- Customize learning or training content and enable knowledge reuse
- Document and report learning activities
You can customize an LMS to ensure that training covers topics that enable the growth and success of each employee and the business. To determine which system best fits your company, you must identify the programs you’ll offer. Common topics include:
- Certifications and compliance
- Workplace safety, diversity, and inclusion
- Management, supervisor, and leadership development
- Communications, computer, or sales skills
Major features of learning management software
Curriculum and content management
Content management is the basis of any learning management system. These tools give you an interface to upload, edit, create, and delete the curriculum that your trainees will follow. Because this is where you will spend the majority of your time, you’ll want to make sure that the content creation tools are easy to use and make sense for your training needs.
Depending on the types of courses you’ll offer, consider these tools within the content and curriculum management features:
- Video upload and editing
- Document storage
- Ability to make microlearning lessons
- Visual editors for content and layouts
LMS software with great curriculum and content management
Gamification and engagement tools
Gamification is mainstream, and while many companies purchase standalone gamification software, you can boost employee and learner engagement through gamified elements like leaderboards, badges, and rewards within nearly every LMS.
Gamified elements in learning management systems have been tied to boosted engagement, higher return rates, and more consistent learning outcomes. To include these tools in your learning curriculum, look for software vendors that provide engaging interfaces, alerts, notifications, and competitive elements to activate friendly competition alongside the learning objectives.
Learning management systems with gamification and engagement tools
Quizzes and assessments
How do you know that employees retain the lessons you worked so hard to create? Quizzes and assessments check the level of material retention your employees reach. And today’s LMS software can take the feedback generated through learning assessments and use it to personalize next steps. The tool might guide the learner to other courses to fill remaining skills gaps, or it could pass feedback to the training coordinator to improve course material.
LMS with quizzes and assessment tools
Skills and certification tracking
Companies in highly-regulated industries often need tools to help track employee certifications and facilitate training for these certifications. Learning management software provides the perfect platform to store employee certification data and set reminders for update alerts. These tools can even provide reports to executives, insurers, and government regulators on the certification status of each of the employees.
Learning management software with skills and certification tools
In 2018, 52 percent of web traffic happened on mobile devices, which is up 222 percent from 2013. The pace at which users have switched from desktop to mobile isn’t likely to slow down much, and companies who want to provide their employees with useful and timely learning opportunities must make their training content mobile accessible.
Mobile access to learning can take the form of a mobile-ready LMS, a custom mobile app developed by the company, or a website with mobile-friendly features. Whatever form it takes, mobile learning gives employees access to training even when they’re not at their desks.
LMS with mobile learning features
Social learning and message boards
Social learning via message boards, social media groups, and training communities brings employees together around curriculum to discuss important points and spark creative insights.
Look for an LMS that provides any of these features to give employees the classroom discussion experience asynchronously. With these systems, no one has to step into a physical classroom or even meet at a designated time to gather around ideas.
Social learning LMS tools
Course subscriptions and ecommerce
For companies whose main focus is developing training programs as a service, LMS software can include payment features and paid logins that make selling and managing an online course a breeze. Look for ecommerce features, marketing tools, and subscription models in a learning management software if you hope to sell your course.
Learning management systems with course subscription and ecommerce features
How to compare learning management solutions
If you’ve already tried to compare learning management software, you’ve likely discovered it’s an involved process. Many LMS vendors look alike—on the surface. But if you know what to look for, the variations between vendors become obvious.
You want to contract with the right system for your company. Start by deciding which features your company requires in an LMS. Then, after you’ve created a checklist of requirements, examine the following key factors to further evaluate each option.
Integrations and suites
There’s no gentle way to say it: standalone learning management systems are fading. HR software market leaders continue to buy out smaller LMS vendors, and many LMS providers now offer full talent management suites. This is not surprising when you acknowledge the overlap between recruiting, administration, payroll, and performance systems.
Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with purchasing a standalone LMS. But as companies grow, having one end-to-end HR suite can eliminate duplicate data entry and paperwork, as well as consolidate reporting processes. Overall, your unique business needs will determine which system you choose. When conducting a learning management software comparison, a system that integrates with your existing business software and processes, and easily syncs data between them, should be higher on your list than similar solutions that don’t.
Demos and free trials
Who doesn’t love to take a test drive? Set up a software demo or register for a free trial, so you can see each LMS in action. It’s important to experience the software for yourself. You may discover things you didn’t know you wanted, or realize that a pretty interface hides clunky functionality. Experience the software for yourself before you sign a contract.
When selecting software, it’s important to consider a vendor’s familiarity with your market. Do their sales representatives only care about enterprise companies, or do they cater to small business? Do you need a vendor that specializes in your industry? Can you trust your payroll provider to build an efficient and fully-featured learning solution?
In addition to simply posing these questions directly to vendors, the following resources can help you find the answers you need:
- Client testimonials and recommendations
- In-depth case studies and use cases
- Industry recognition or awards
Remember, choosing a vendor is not a popularity contest—many lesser-known or niche players offer reliable functionality and a solid user experience. But choose a vendor that has a proven track record, strong customer support, and standard integrations.
- Which Learning Management system is right for your business?
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Changes in the elearning market
Learning management systems track an employee’s education, qualifications, and skills, then outline materials or courses available to develop those skills. In 2018, the LMS market was worth $9.2 billion—that’s almost $6 billion in growth since 2014, when the market for LMS was $2.5 billion. Several factors drive this significant growth, including:
- A heavy focus on corporate training. Swiftly changing technology and new global regulations require professionals to continuously learn and grow their skill sets.
- The market for Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, has exploded. Several leading online education platforms like Coursera, Skillsoft, and Udemy have started licensing courses to businesses.
- Businesses are replacing outdated learning platforms that they purchased 4-7 years ago. Rapid advancements in functionality and deployment have led to more advanced collaboration and knowledge sharing platforms, and businesses are eager to upgrade.
The sheer volume of LMS options on the market makes workforce training and learning more accessible than ever. If a company is dissatisfied with their current system (or lack thereof), they needn’t look far. Finding learning platforms that you can tailor to your specific business needs is relatively easy, but narrowing the options and choosing between them may prove more challenging.
Three tiers of learning management software
Though the core functions of all learning management software are similar, businesses of different sizes might look for additional functionality or vendor qualifications. Let’s examine some of those differentiators below.
For large organizations, a learning management system that integrates with existing HR or ERP systems is necessary. A full HRIS or HCM system from a single vendor generally has a lower total cost of ownership when compared to implementing and integrating systems from separate vendors. With such large workforces, enterprise organizations benefit from suites that incorporate multiple modules in order to standardize internal processes and connect data.
At minimum, an enterprise LMS vendor should offer a full talent management suite. If a vendor doesn’t offer HR administration functionality as well, then integration with a common HCM system is critical. Additionally, enterprise managers will need strong collaboration features that facilitate sharing employee data across departments. Enterprises may also prefer an LMS that offers a customizable or white-labeled learning portal interface.
Thanks to cloud-based software, medium-sized companies can get all the functionality of enterprise systems at a lower cost— and without the infrastructure. These companies often benefit from faster implementations and integrated solutions that meet all of their talent management needs. Companies will find large vendors that often create a “one stop shopping” solution tailored to mid-market needs, as well as vendors that were designed for the medium sized businesses from the start. Mid-market buyers must be extremely thorough when requesting proposals and signing contracts, as many vendors may only offer critical functionality in tiers or as an add-on.
III. Small Business
Small businesses tend to be young and agile, meaning that they aren’t weighed down by a lot of custom designed legacy HR systems that they need to phase out or integrate. Just like medium sized companies, they can take advantage of the SaaS boom and find low cost, enterprise-level functionality.
Small businesses benefit from an LMS in the same ways as their larger counterparts, but they often need simpler and more economical systems. Small companies with very specific talent management needs may prefer to take an à la carte approach and build an HR system from independent, stand-alone cloud-based vendors. However, with this method, companies are likely to outgrow their tools. Be mindful of this ahead of time and make sure you can export your data when the time comes.
Choosing the best learning management system
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- Which Learning Management system is right for your business?
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