Learning Management System: What's the Best LMS Software?
If you're responsible for the training efforts of a small to mid-sized business, you may see a learning management system (LMS) as a tool that's only helpful for larger organizations.
The truth is that if you choose the right kind of LMS software, a learning management system can be worthwhile for organizations of all sizes and types.
What Is A Learning Management System?
What is an LMS?
It's a tool that helps you store, manage, deliver, and monitor your organization's training efforts.
Some learning management systems contain a bare-bones authoring tool as well, but content creation is not their main purpose.
An LMS has two interfaces: a user interface, where learners take their courses, and an administrative side, where learning and development (L&D) professionals manage learning programs.
Managers or L&D professionals can use the administrative tools to:
- Add new course content
- Add new learners
- Assign courses or learning pathways
- Set automated reminders
- Track individual progress and performance
- See analytics and reporting for your whole audience
What are the Benefits of an LMS?
Using an LMS is smart business, regardless of your organization's size.
An LMS Saves Money
Using an LMS to organize online training is much more cost-effective than hosting big face-to-face training events for everything. With online training, you eliminate travel expenses, venue costs, and all related expenses. You also make the most of trainer and course development money by creating reusable, on-demand resources instead of a fleeting experience.
If you're already invested in online training, adding an LMS to your toolbox can still increase the organization and cost-effectiveness of your efforts. Analytics and tracking will show you where you're falling short so you can find more effective and efficient solutions.
An LMS Lets You Update Content Quickly
If you're relying on presentations, paper handouts, or even decentralized files, then you can't roll out an update for every little change. It's cost-prohibitive. And essentially, that means your materials are always somewhat out of date.
When you're distributing all material through an LMS, there's little cost to pushing a small change out to everyone simultaneously. One file upload and you're done.
An LMS Helps You Train Consistently
An LMS can introduce consistency to your training efforts in several ways.
Centralized course storage means everyone gets the latest version of your training materials.
Online courses also remove the X factor of "good" vs "bad" instructors. Humans go off-script, and sometimes instructors add their own information – great if it's accurate, terrible if it's not.
Finally, on-demand delivery means you don't have to coordinate a time for everyone to meet for a training day. You don't have to interrupt everyone's workflow. LMS course access allows each employee to fit training into their job's rhythm.
This means that training can be delivered briefly and regularly, instead of rarely in overwhelming volume.
An LMS Tracks Progress and Performance
As individuals and as an aggregate, LMS software lets you see whether your learning audience is meeting the goals and objectives you set.
Old-school training efforts can be something of a black box. You feed input to the learning audience and it's a mystery how well it works.
Is the training helpful? Necessary? Effective? How could it be improved? You could conduct a learner survey, but objective data's hard to come by.
In an LMS, you can track quantitative information like test scores and course completions that provide a window into what training accomplishes, not just how learners feel about it.
An LMS Streamlines Regulatory Compliance Efforts
The centralized nature of an LMS also simplifies your regulatory compliance.
For example, easy course updates make it simple to roll out regulatory changes.
Each employees' record contains proof of training completion for inspectors or auditors to review. Plus, reporting can make the process of identifying who needs what training – and who is overdue – an extremely simple matter.
An LMS Allows You To Do More with Less
For all the reasons listed above, an LMS makes it possible to train more employees on more topics for less money and with fewer L&D personnel.
A small business with off-the-shelf courseware can manage an organized onboarding and training experience for its employees without needing to hire additional personnel at all. Their regular manager can assign and track online course completion.
What Kind of Learning Management System Do You Need?
LMS software comes in a few different flavors. The best learning management system for your organization might not be the best LMS for someone else.
Custom-Built Learning Management Systems
Really big corporations can choose to have the Cadillac of LMS software experiences. A custom-built LMS offers complete control over every feature and aspect of the system. It fits your organization like a bespoke suit.
Obviously, this is expensive. An organization must either hire a vendor to develop the software or use a knowledgeable in-house team. Both options create a large up-front cost. Custom learning management systems also require ongoing technical expertise to maintain and upgrade.
Self-Hosted Learning Management Systems
A self-hosted LMS is the traditional model, especially for medium to large businesses. While a self-hosted LMS requires less expense and effort than custom-built software, a significant amount of IT and development resources are still required to install, update, and maintain the software.
As the name implies, self-hosted applications are installed on your organization's server. The upside of this is flexibility – an organization can forgo the development expense of creating their own LMS, but still gain the ability to customize, brand, add features, and manage the system exactly as they want to.
Cloud-Based / Software as a Service (SaaS) Learning Management Systems
LMS software that operates on the SaaS model is what you'd call "cloud-based." As an individual user, you don't have to install anything on your device or worry about updates. As an organization, you're outsourcing technical headaches like server space, version upgrades, bug fixes, and downtime to the software vendor.
That makes a cloud-based LMS the best solution for small to medium businesses without internal IT skills.
One of the downsides of this model is data security. The encryption and secure log-in features will be enough for many businesses, but if your organization offers training with proprietary secrets or other high-security information, you'd want to distribute those courses another way. If that's a big concern for you, you need a self-hosted LMS, whether it's custom-built or enterprise.
However, if you don't have extensive security concerns, there are many other upsides to the SaaS model.
It's scalable – if you're small and growing, a SaaS LMS can meet your needs now while allowing for future growth. This software usually comes in tiered service, so you can start with the plan you need and upgrade in moments. It's also cost-effective since you're not paying for features you won't need until later.
Additionally, cloud-based LMS software makes learning materials readily available. Learners can access their courses from any device with a browser and a signal. That's convenient for non-office workplaces, where employees may be in the field or on their feet but never out of arms' reach of their smartphone.
It's just as accessible from the administrative side – managers can assign courses, add new employees, or track learner performance on their phones. No need to access desktop software on a single workstation.
Did You Know 360Training Has Its Own LMS?
You probably know us for our course content, not our software.
While we do offer career training and compliance curriculum to individuals, we also offer whole-business solutions to our enterprise partners. Our broad catalog of workforce training coursework makes us an ideal match for anyone without their own L&D department.
- We keep up with regulatory content so you don't have to. Our courses are approved or accredited by the ruling body in every industry, and we keep up with any changes.
- With industry-specific and more general HR and management offerings, we can provide a whole-business training solution in one place.
- You'll gain access to our powerful cloud-based LMS. It's mobile-friendly and easy to use, and it provides you with the essential elements for intelligent training management. That includes in-depth reporting to keep your compliance requirements straight and your training goals moving along.
- Already got an LMS? No worries, you don't have to use ours. Courses are SCORM-compliant and therefore portable to most LMSs.
- We'll be your partner with training expertise. Every business gets its own dedicated account manager to help you ensure your compliance and training needs are met.
Interested in learning more? Come chat with us about our enterprise solutions and start customizing an affordable whole-business training program today!