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Learning Management Systems

Learning Management Systems (LMS) provide a framework through which learning content is delivered and managed. LMS software allows for an anytime, anywhere learning environment, delivering and tracking eLearning courses and testing. A Learning Content Management System (LCMS) enables the organisation to learn content from Courseware authoring tools and presentation of the content to students. Learning Management Systems are related to Training software. Find the best learning management system for your organisation in Australia.

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Learning Management Systems Buyers Guide

Learning management systems are software platforms designed to help instructors create, manage, track, and scale learning content for large audiences consisting of; existing and prospective customers, business partners, and employees. Used by professionals operating in virtually any industry vertical, these tools put onboarding, training, and career development into the hands of instructors and students, giving them access to learning opportunities from anywhere across the world.

LMS tools provide the framework for managing learning material and progress anytime and anywhere. Unlike conventional LMS applications built for people studying from behind their desks, today's systems are designed for professionals without a desk, with a more dynamic lifestyle. These tools enable proprietors in sectors like real estate, manufacturing, automotive, and education to train their teams on and off-site, throughout the day, and without interrupting their workflow.

Rich in functionality and broad in scope, learning management systems can be used for a variety of learning content, from aviation simulators to early years education. However, most users in the corporate sector rely on them for compliance, safety, product knowledge, and soft skills training. Together with progress tracking tools, eLearning applications enable instructors, educators, and entrepreneurs to create and sell digital or blended academic experiences in their areas of expertise.

Also known as learning content management systems (LCMS), these platforms come with many benefits. They help businesses combine their learning initiatives and knowledge base management operations with their employee support, customer success, sales, and marketing activities. This enables them to speed up onboarding and mentoring. It also helps them facilitate hands-on experiences, increasing every stakeholder's awareness of the culture, policies, and practices of the business. As for the wider industry, these tools can also help companies meet their compliance training deadlines and boost their productivity.

As they allow users to create, present, and manage their learning content through courseware authoring tools, LMS tools share some of their functionality with authoring and training software. On a Venn diagram of tool capabilities, LMS applications would share much of their functionality with eLearning Authoring Tools Software, Learning Experience Platform Software, and Course Authoring Software. But users would be right to point out that LMS is also the area of convergence for Training Software, Talent Management Software, and School Management Software. Also, as Mobile Learning Software grows into a category of its own, it's plain to see that many LMS tools could easily fit into this category too.

LMS software tools may vary widely in terms of functionality. They may also share many of their capabilities with a range of software categories. But most LMS applications will be able to offer at least these five functions to their users:

  • Import, create and customise online coursework
  • Offer synchronous and asynchronous, individual and team-based learning options
  • Provide online, offline, and blended learning opportunities
  • Deliver customised learning resources through interactive and adaptive learning technology
  • Track student progress, manage classrooms, assess learning, and grant certifications

What are learning management systems LMS?

Learning management systems are applications used to create, manage and deliver online learning content. They help instructors, educators, and professional development teams curate courses. These courses are used to train their customers, B2B partners, and employees on matters of compliance, safety, business procedures, soft skills, or corporate culture.

From small classrooms to university-led courses and from workshops to fully certified courses offered by accreditation bodies, LMS platforms can provide career development opportunities at any scale. In a virtual or blended learning setting, students and trainees can benefit from access to forums, quizzes, and web conferencing facilities from virtually any device, while course providers can enjoy curating customisable assessments, authoring course content, and mapping outcomes for every student.

Combining the functionality of a virtual learning environment (VLE), management information system (MIS), and sometimes even human resources information system (HRIS), an LMS tool can assist professionals in a variety of administrative activities. This includes attendance management, pastoral care, staff, and payroll management, as well as onboarding, engagement, productivity, and customer success management.

Many of today's LMS platforms are web-based, cloud-native, agile, and modular. They are utilised by mid-sized and large companies and sole proprietors in a variety of industries. They enable managers to cooperate online and offline remotely, with one another and with employees, gaining valuable insights into learning progress, comparing cohort results, and accessing custom-made analytics dashboards and reports. They can also help inform performance reviews, set off promotion-in-place initiatives, and reduce turnover rates.

As they don't require in-depth programming skills to create, import, and manage courses, LMS tools can be used by most people in the professional sphere. This includes traditional educators like university professors and tutors, as well as people in non-traditional roles, such as personal trainers, life coaches, and therapists. It also includes creatives, such as music and drama teachers, graphic artists, photographers, and interior designers. But its main users are made up of back-office workers, such as business administrators, accountants, HR managers, and consultants in sectors like FinTech, software development, engineering, stock trading, and property portfolio management.

Learning management systems rely on the strength of the internet connections between the content provider and the viewers for sending data like multimedia content. As the process is bandwidth-intensive and requires vast storage capacity, many companies procure their LMS tools from Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers, essentially outsourcing their data transmissions and storage to the Cloud. But some large companies prefer to use on-premises or hybrid services to secure the safety and integrity of their company knowledge bases.

What are the benefits of learning management systems LMS?

The benefits of learning management systems LMS tools for content providers have less to do with the content itself and more to do with its accessibility. While it is obvious that, from a student's perspective, an eLearning platform is only as interesting and engaging as the courses it showcases, there are other gains to be had from using LMS tools, from a content provider's point of view. It may help to break them down as follows:

  • Limited computer literacy requirements: Not many businesses have the time and resources to create multimedia content from scratch, market it, publish it, and generate sales or other quantifiable metrics from it. LMS applications can help break down those barriers by enabling users with limited IT skills to import, create, and publish content online from a single dashboard, using basic drag-and-drop commands to customise, catalogue, and operate it.
  • Branding options: While many of today's courses are at least partially inspired from existing content, outsourced, or co-authored, it's frowned upon and inadvisable for companies to produce and distribute content that doesn't display their branding. Thankfully, many LMS platforms are white-label, offering users the option to make their mark by applying the logotype, theme, slogans, and imagery of their choice. This helps build trust and brand awareness.
  • Quantifiable and scalable results: LMS tools can help companies reach a vast audience for their in-house and off-site training initiatives. It gives employees and trainees immediate access to company information from their mobile devices. With everyone on the same page, managers and mentors can avoid unnecessary tasks and use their time more productively, with real-time insights into the staff's learning progress. This reduces training downtime, onboarding costs, and HR expenses while also streamlining business operations and improving communication across departments.
  • Permanent access: As a self-sustained, self-service tool, a company's LMS can grant users permanent access and control over company content. Without the back-and-forth of checking with their managers, employees feel empowered, trusted, and motivated to stay with the company. Being able to pursue their career development plans from within their existing positions means that they are less likely to leave. For HR staff and other managers, this translates into savings related to recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and training replacements to perform at the same level.
  • SEO and social network marketing: Learning management systems have the added advantage that they publish their content online, often promoting it to existing and prospective users. Therefore, course authors can benefit from having their content search engine optimised and shared across social media platforms, with a virtually unlimited audience.

What are the features of learning management systems LMS?

The features of LMS tools depend on the technological framework (i.e., AICC, SCORM, or xAPI). This will dictate the list of features users can deploy to enrich the customer experience. For instance, full-featured LMS tools sometimes come as mobile apps with offline progress tracking, built-in gamification and badges, leader boards, quizzes, surveys, and VR compatibility.

But most LMS platforms are web-based. For most users, the emphasis lies less on eye-catching attributes and more on ease of use and accessibility, so LMS tools come with this range of basic capabilities that streamline training, assessment, and certification within a virtual classroom environment:

  • Course creation and management: Recruit students, create content and manage course provision for large audiences. Learning management platforms enable users to create and manage their course material in a variety of ways. They can often import and upload their presentations, videos, and graphics. Using drag-and-drop commands rather than entering programming language, they can edit, sort, segment, sequence, and enhance the content. From a central dashboard, they can also recruit, profile, and group students, assign course work and restrict access. Finally, they can customise their virtual classrooms to suit students and customers accessing them in a variety of languages and work settings.
  • Progress tracking: View milestones as they are reached by students, track video views, and gain insight into the order in which they access the content. A must-have feature of LMS tools and all eLearning software applications is the capability to track learning progress for all students individually, as well as the cohort. It grants instructors the ability to view completion rates and progress for their material in real-time. This enables them to adjust the workload, the difficulty level, or the sequencing of their course material quickly, to suit the dynamic lifestyles of today's professionals. While some of the most advanced tools feature even off-site progress tracking and scoring, most users find that tracking online progress only is more than sufficient to gauge learner engagement.
  • Test and assessment tools: Draft, develop, administer, and automatically score tests, exams, and other papers. Educators can streamline their test administration tasks with LMS applications. Most applications will only provide a single pass-fail score per student and test. But other LMS tools will allow students to take a test several times, providing multiple scores for the same test and showing the student's learning curve. They may also display cohort results simultaneously, enabling instructors to compare student performance. With detailed test results at their fingertips, instructors can also pinpoint the topics they should readdress before they move on to a new topic.
  • Blended learning: Provide course linking tools for hybrid workers and students. When it comes to distributed teams, being able to juggle on-site and remote work is a requirement that extends to coursework as well. To satisfy these needs, LMS applications feature tools that enable users to merge physical and virtual content. For instance, they may allow virtual message boards to feature digital versions of post-its and memos or allow users to print digital content for display on a physical message board. They might also feature online wikis and forums that users can contribute to from their desks by digitising their text, sounds, diagrams, or sketches.
  • Mobile learning: Mobile learning: Enable students to access course material through an app and web-based LMS to learn on smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. According to a study published on Researchgate, massive open online course (MOOC) students access their coursework from mobile devices and desktops.
  • Social learning: Produce material that is interactive and collaborative. LMS tools can enable students to highlight phrases or paragraphs, leave comments, and initiate a discussion. Through contextual commenting, learners can drive conversation and collaboration while also enabling social learning (i.e., learning by watching peers and imitating their behaviour).
  • Learning analytics: Produce performance reports for visual analysis. LMS tools can readily produce visual representations of the swathes of data that constantly feeds into it from learner activities. This is especially helpful to business users, as they rarely have the statistical expertise to generate graphs and charts instantly. Being able to view learner metrics like completion rate, time spent on each course, peak learning days, etc., translates into more accurate HR performance reviews, better cost analysis, and higher course management efficiency.
  • White labelling: Customise the UI so that the learner associates the content with the company. LMS tools that offer a white labelling option enable users to claim the content as their own and protect it from infringement and forgery. It also enables them to build their brand image and promote brand awareness across the globe, as learners would be able to see the company's logotype, slogan, theme, layout, and branded media content every time they access their LMS profile.

Sifting through Capterra's software directory, readers can find out more about the learning management systems featured here and use these insights in their decision-making process. With the option to filter these LMS tools by some of their highlights, users can narrow down their list of preferences and identify the most suitable tool for their business needs.

What should be considered when purchasing learning management systems?

When purchasing learning management systems, users should consider a range of factors. They will point to the impact that the LMS software choices can have on their business performance and whether the software is a good fit for the business. Here are a few essential questions users should ask themselves before deciding on an LMS tool:

  • Technological standards: Learning management systems are built on a set of technical standards specific to eLearning software. Users might come across terms like aviation industry computer-based training committee (AICC), sharable content object reference model (SCORM), and the Experience API (xAPI). These models determine how content platforms perform and what their specifications are. For instance, AICC content, once used in the aviation industry to facilitate computer-based training and simulations, communicates with the platform via HTTP. This makes data transfers secure but cumbersome. SCORM compliant LMS software uses JavaScript to facilitate real-time reporting, gamification, simulation, offline learning and interactive, adaptive, and blended learning. But xAPI, the newest and most versatile communication standard, is what enables LMS platforms to offer mobile apps, offline and informal progress tracking, on-the-job scoring, and cross-platform engagement insights through API integrations. Instructors can use xAPI to harness data from several knowledge bases, help desks, forums, and group platforms, as well as talent, performance, and data management software applications.
  • Acquisition and adoption: Because there are so many stakeholders involved in adopting and embracing an LMS tool company-wide, reaching out to every user is essential. Ease of use and accessibility for all members of staff, business partners, and customers will determine the success of a transition from in-person training to hybrid or virtual learning.
  • Helpdesk availability and customer care: As many of the LMS tools on the market today are cloud-based products offered based on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) agreement, the outcome of an initiative will rely on how responsive and helpful the LMS vendor is. Going incognito as a prospective client may reveal their response times and availability over email, chat, or telephone.

The most noteworthy LMS trends reflect changes in customer lifestyles. When investing in LMS, it's best to ensure that the software application can adapt or even anticipate these changes. For forward-thinking businesses, cutting corners isn't an option if it involves ignoring emerging trends. Here are some of the most relevant of these learning management systems LMS trends:

  • Shift to microlearning: Microlearning boosts productivity and retention rates. It comes as no surprise, as people find it easier to digest bite-sized chunks of information as well as fit microlearning sessions in their busy days. So, LMS tool users would do well to adjust their content to their customer base, trimming it down and structuring it so that employees and customers can absorb and retain it within minutes.
  • Gamification and simulation: Scores, points, badges, leader boards, game-like graphics, and fantasy narratives are some of the incentives LMS platforms can use to enrich their content and tailor it to a younger market. With scenario-based training, businesses can follow the example of the defence sector, which utilises gamification in military and cyber security.
  • VR and AR technology: As users embrace wearables of any calibre, from cutting-edge AR helmets to homemade cardboard VR goggles, the world of augmented and virtual reality is quickly spilling into eLearning. At this rate, VR classrooms should become commonplace within years, bringing online learning to an even wider audience.