Comparing LMS Systems the Right Way
You Need to Understand How They Operate
This article first appeared on Acorn Resources in February 2021.
Over the last few years, the traditional learning management system (LMS) has reinvented itself as a learning experience environment over a platform that simply manages learning. The LMS is now a more user-centric space, encouraging more collaboration between all participants (learners, instructors and admin) while the industry itself is driven to create a vertical stack of integrations from the foundation of an LMS. Bluntly stated: Learning is no longer the action, but the result.
What does this mean for you, if you’re in the process of procuring one? Now, more than ever, you need to understand how the software itself works. What features are fundamental? Does the software need physical space to store your data? Do you need the technology, or is a traditional approach to education enough? What costs what?
When you factor in costly long-term contracts, the sheer choice of suppliers, your own security needs, IT infrastructure, and the whole reason you’re using a learning management system to begin with, this is not a step you want to skip.
Never fear, the ultimate guide to learning management software is here. We’ll walk you through the basics, offer some use cases, discuss how it’s hosted, and showcase the features and trends to watch out for when comparing systems.
Learning management systems: A quick rundown
Something to know about the eLearning industry is that it’s forever growing. While this means more innovation from competitive vendors and the credibility of an in-demand market, it also creates a large pool of suppliers and platforms from which to choose the right LMS for your needs.
The global eLearning market is expected to be worth $238 billion by 2024. (And that was estimated before a worldwide lockdown flooded the market with thousands of new customers.) It’s so popular because online training is anywhere between 30–70% less expensive than face-to-face courses in the long run. It saves time because it negates any need to travel and reaches new audiences as it’s not bound by borders or to one physical location, only the user’s internet connection.
So, what is an LMS?
Think of it as a central repository for the delivery and monitoring of online training initiatives. Some systems will give you the ability to author content as well, or pull it from third party software or platforms. Anyone with the right credentials can access the system, whether as a learner or instructor.
Most learning management systems come under the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) umbrella, a tech term for a cloud-based service accessed via the internet as opposed to one downloaded as an application onto a desktop or internal network. (More on the pros and cons of both later.) While the term ‘learning’ may make you inclined to think the LMS is best for educational institutions, it’s more and more commonly being used in businesses, organisations, corporations and nonprofits alike to deliver training initiatives.
As an example: Franchisees can be unanimously trained across borders, sales personnel can be kept up to date on new initiatives, accredited professionals can be reminded of compliance renewals, and new hires can be given company information before they’ve even set foot in the building.
Why you need to know the basics
It’s important to understand which of these consumer groups you fit into, because different suppliers will cater to different organisational structures and training objectives. That’s not to mention the other systems out there, like the learning content management system (LCMS).
You’ve done preliminary research, perhaps even drafted an RFP or RFQ, and now you’re facing the task of reading through a number of responses that go into the dozens of pages. There are many factors you may not have considered.
- How can you be sure you’re comparing systems on key points that matter to you? Take accessibility, a crucial consideration for remote and segmented workforces.
- Do you know the standard tech requirements for your industry? What the public sector needs will differ to what is appropriate for private.
- Corporate training is being driven more and more by talent management, enhancement and retention. What does that mean for your workforce plans?
Many organisational decision makers become overwhelmed by the sheer number of suppliers vying for their attention, and we’ve seen many who come to regret purchasing a particular product because they didn’t fully understand the system or their own needs. This leaves many with a learning management system that doesn’t have the functionalities their learners require, nor the reporting analytics admin need to fully understand that.
It’s then not only a painful process to extricate yourself from a contract, research other systems and go out for tender again, but it’s a waste of resources, time and money, and a trying test of your employees’ enthusiasm for the eLearning experience.
What do people use learning management systems for?
Face-to-face teaching is not—and hasn’t been for a while—as viable an option as it once was. Take remote workforces. It’s near impossible for them all to receive the same training while divided across states or countries, and rarely financially sustainable for an organisation to maintain training costs in each location. Or maybe the problem is learner demand versus a lack of physical space and instructors. The sheer cost of the F2F model. A global pandemic. An LMS makes all these scenarios largely irrelevant, with a single platform for making, monitoring, assessing and providing certification for employee training.
So, the short answer? A more diverse range of organisations than you might think use online learning platforms. Basically any and every industry you can think of has applications for the learning management system.
Learning is not strictly limited to higher education institutions, though its roots can be found within the education sector. Many other industries need LMS functionality such as compliance assessment and certification, refresher training, onboarding, offboarding, continual professional development and eCommerce to survive and thrive.
- Nonprofits might choose a learning management system as a cost-effective way to consistently train their global community of volunteers.
- Consultancies may like the option to have their eCommerce and sales training in one central location.
- Corporations might like that workplace training initiatives can be tracked and aligned with other business metrics and processes like succession planning.
- Small and medium businesses might enjoy the cost-benefit of blended learning—mobile learning, online courses, instructor-led training and on the job.
So, if you’re worried there isn’t an LMS that best fits your needs, you can rest assured that it’s out there.
Why you need to know about the use cases
While it’s great there’s a flexible learning management system for all shapes and sizes, don’t be fooled into thinking there’s a one-size-fits-all option. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of introducing a new, innovative technology that promises to make your work life easier, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence. Knowing why you need the software is important, because lacking that understanding means you won’t know how a solution will address the issues or gaps you’ve highlighted, and you may end up with a system that gives you more headaches than you set out to remedy.
Why use learning management software?
The short answer is that an LMS offers the space for instructors or admin to both easily create various types of training modules and content, from readings and quizzes to lectures and assignments and deploy it quickly and en masse. Training software is designed to streamline and deliver online learning, automate paper-heavy admin processes and ensure consistent training across teams, departments, franchises, companies and countries.
Beyond the delivery of online training and centralised data is where you start to see some really interesting benefits. A powerful learning management system can be a crucial advantage to business strategies, boosting your return on investment, increasing profitability and fast-tracking scalability (yes, really). How so? By buying a little hope. Let us explain.
Attract and retain the right people
The door-to-door days are gone. Recruitment is almost entirely reliant on technology, from job seeking websites to video interviews. It only makes sense that infrastructure used for other stages of the employee lifecycle in your organisation is used for the very first step.
We know, we know. The premise of automating organisational culture from the outset seems a little dystopian. But consider that the younger sector of the workforce want meaningful, fulfilling work more than job security. This means you have to reframe the idea of engagement and motivation when looking at candidates, and turn the act of recruitment into a show-and-tell of what your organisation can offer employees in terms of growth and purpose.
Challenging employees to better themselves while giving them the tools to do it is literally what a learning management system is about. Job knowledge, skills and personality assessments can all be conducted through an LMS. Onboarding and pre-commencement can be hosted in portals adjacent to your learning management system, giving new hires a glimpse of the training process you can offer.
Why you should care about recruitment
External rewards are not what employees today are after; it’s the opportunity to learn, develop and flex new knowledge. Employees want an intrinsic motivation before anything else. It’s also more profitable in the long run to re- or upskill current employees than it is to hire new ones.
Recruitment also directly affects retention. Around 40% of new employees leave an organisation within the first six months because they feel under-qualified or neglected. Many positions can go unfilled for months or years without the right talent to fill them. Turnover costs a third of an employee’s annual salary to replace not only them, but their output, knowledge and productivity. So, even if it doesn’t pay to get recruitment right the first time, it will definitely save you a lot of money.
We’ve seen too many organisations not utilising the intangible assets in their company: Namely, their people. We’d go so far as to postulate that the future belongs to those organisations who devote care and time to their employees, because they’ll be the ones reaping the rewards of a motivated and innovative workforce, as well as the resulting growth in their respective industries, market competitiveness and increased profit.
Learning programs built around people should focus on capabilities. Thought leader Josh Bersin described it brilliantly when he said a team or organisation is less a grouping of people, and more a grouping of skills and capabilities. This highlights that it doesn’t matter how many people you have, but rather what those people are capable of doing. If you don’t have the right skills or capabilities in the right job roles, well, you don’t have the right people.
How amazing would it then be to have a system that identify the capabilities of each individual within your organisation? The right learning management system can do that.
- First, as an end-to-end training solution.
- Secondly, by developing, improving and maintaining specific competencies, capabilities and skills for particular job roles.
- Thirdly, tracking and mapping those capabilities against the gaps within your organisation.
Why you should care about capabilities
Skills like project management will always be beneficial. The return on investment is pretty obvious, because learned knowledge is reinvested back into the business by employees. Taking it up a notch, upskilling and reskilling employees with capabilities for specific job roles can translate to lower employee turnover (with knowledge less likely to be used in other workplaces) and higher morale (as employees see their employers investing in them and their co-workers).
An LMS, using your data, can describe each job role and function in your organisation and then maps the capabilities the perfect candidate needs for that role. If you don’t have that person within your organisation already, you can then create a development plan for the existing employee best primed for succession. Not only does this save time on recruitment, but it better utilises the human resources already at your fingertips and it allows for continual upskilling of loyal employees already familiar with and invested in your company ethos.
Better performance management
In recent years, HR has shifted away from simple matters of admin to focus on talent management. It’s not about yearly performance reviews; creating a positive and developmental employee lifecycle is the endgame of performance management. The best leaders will guide their employees to learn new skills and use their talents to achieve both organisational and personal goals, with the best way to do this being through a learning management system.
HR needs access to data from all stages of the aforementioned employee lifecycle in order to effectively manage performance. Metrics like advanced reporting enable admin to see employee development on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, and an individual and organisational scale:
- Where has an employee come from, and what experience do they bring?
- What goals do they intend to achieve with your organisation?
- What role would they like to see themselves in within five years?
- How are they progressing through their learning and development (L&D)?
- Why are employees leaving?
This is all feedback that can be captured within an LMS and used to adjust and customise learning pathways to suit not only a learners’ progression and goals, but business structure and strategies.
Why you should care about performance management
There’s a new generation entering the workforce that need a non-traditional approach to L&D that leverages their tech savviness and increasingly flexible work/life arrangements. This new wave of workers is also more likely to jump between roles than their job-for-life mums and dads. Like we’ve already said, they rate the opportunity to learn and grow as the number one reason they take a job, ranking it twice as enticing as a pay rise—making it all the more important to nurture that growth.
A learning management system allows for a holistic and proactive approach to performance management, rather than a reactive one. Instead of trying to correct course after a failed training program, pathways can be designed to strengthen developing capabilities while targeting those that are advantageous to the organisation. The combination of an engaging employee training program, personalised learning materials and flexible learning platform gives employees develop a greater sense of their place in the wider business operations.
Types of LMS hosting
A university campus takes up a lot of real estate. Similarly, the data associated with learners needs a large repository to live in. In tech speak, the term we’re looking for is hosting.
Hosting refers to how data is stored at or in a certain location. (You’ll see why we say at or in later.) How a learning management system is hosted affects not just the type and quality of support you have access to, but also your level of accessibility, network security and how much you have left in your piggy bank when the bills come in. While you can get a desktop or mobile learning app, there are really two types of LMS hosting you’ll ever want to consider: Local and cloud.
- Local or on-premise learning management systems are stored on your own data server. In this case, the LMS is simply a product sold to you by the supplier and the onus of maintenance, hardware management and servicing is on your shoulders (on top of learning management).
- Cloud-based hosting refers to traditional SaaS platforms. All your data is hosted securely on the vendor’s server, where it is maintained and scaled by said vendor.
Which one you end up choosing is down to your budget, needs and literal physical space, but there are a few key points you’ll want to consider when comparing systems.
Ah, the mysterious cloud. Far and wide the most popular choice for deployment; 87% of LMS buyers opt for it over on-premise alternatives. Its popularity dates back to the rise of Apple’s iCloud and now the term is synonymous in most people’s minds with their data buzzing somewhere up in the heavens. This isn’t technically wrong, as the cloud is simply a term given to data stored via the internet—meaning it has some efficient benefits.
‘Requires little investment, no physical space and can expand easily and without direction.’ If you would have answered, ‘What is elastic scalability?’, you get a point. One reason cloud-based systems are so popular is they can match your input as it grows in real time. The infrastructure used in cloud-based systems is dynamic, taking the burden off IT: The process is almost entirely autonomous, rather than manual and vertical (upgrading to a larger package) or horizontal (physically creating more space).
Today’s learners are untethered and collaborative, seeking on-demand L&D that empowers them to learn. As they’re accessed via the internet, cloud-based systems can be used any time, anywhere, by any learner. In the age of remote and flexible work, it’s almost a non-negotiable to offer this kind of ‘ungated’ access.
Many organisations opt for the cloud-based model because it’s simply inexpensive. There’s no cost for implementation or deployment, and maintenance and support are often bundled into the price you signed up for. (We do recommend double checking with vendors on the latter point, though, as where we like to be transparent with our pricing, others are not so upfront.) Additionally, many cloud pricing models are based around what you use, further lowering operating costs and allowing you to budget more accurately.
A little closer to earth is the locally hosted learning management system. Once this LMS is in your hands, it’s your responsibility. Hosting on your own data server puts the onus of maintaining, upgrading and running it on you. If you’ve got IT infrastructure already in place to manage this, great. If not, you’ll find it’s a steep and expensive learning curve in the quest for full control.
An in-house team has free reign to develop and enhance your LMS as they see fit. The timeline for upgrades and new features is entirely up to you, if you have the budget, resources and business goals to support the development cycle and any ad hoc costs that may arise. Any problems that may arise will also take priority, and any downtime or maintenance needed can happen when it suits you.
The inherent security of hosting a learning management system on your own server is what draws many organisations in. You might even be based in a location with patchy or no internet access (such as a mining company or franchises in small towns), where a cloud-based service is not viable. It also works if you have strict security protocols surrounding user data.
Smaller upfront cost
Purchasing a learning management system to self-host is like purchasing a house. Once the keys are in your hands, you own it and you’re free to do what you want with it—but it’s also your responsibility.
It’s easy to take cost at face value without factoring the bigger picture: Your total cost of ownership. Operating costs for data servers will stack up over time, and inevitably, your hardware will need upgrading. So while it may look like a cheap sum now, the real cost of on-premise learning management systems usually hit later.
Why you need to know the difference
Have you considered that software hosted on your internal servers will limit the number of users who may need to access the LMS offsite? The biggest disadvantage here is that a locally hosted LMS is reliant on your IT infrastructure, including your servers and internet. This could delay career development for employees and strategic workforce planning for your organisation, if learner progress hinges on their physical presence.
It’s important to consider how your choice will impact your budget, learners, business plans and growth now, lest you find yourself with an untenable and expensive platform later.
The importance of where your LMS is hosted
Even if it’s hosted over the internet, your data will still be anchored somewhere. A user has to connect to at least one data server via the internet to access online courses. Where that data server is located directly impacts where your data is hosted.
Some vendors might be based in one country but host LMS data overseas as it can be cheaper in other jurisdictions. For some, hosting data offshore may seem like a viable way to save money in low-tax countries. Smaller organisations might even see an opportunity to reduce the space needed to store data onsite.
But for Australian organisations, with Australian users, Australian security laws to comply with, and who may not be familiar with the difference between legal disclosure and unauthorised access of data, there’s a chance you may not even be told where your data is stored.
It’s crucial to know as your data is considered resident in the hosting country, meaning it may be subject to another country’s privacy laws. You risk violating clients’ privacy or legal data requirements if you unwittingly allow user or organisational data to be disclosed to overseas parties. That’s a PR nightmare and financial hit just waiting to happen.
Learning management system features
Many vendors service specific industries or markets, which means the features they offer will be optimised for those end users. When you consider a learning management system is designed to streamline administrative processes, improve efficiency, reduce company costs and increase user engagement, it’s all the more important to considerately weigh up your options.
It’s also crucial to consider the functionality of LMS features. Again, the functionality of a feature might differ across applications. A content library for a university student will be customised entirely to their individual coursework, but a mining company might populate a catalogue with the same compliance training for most—if not all—staff. Similarly, a university student might have time to sit down during the day and watch long-format videos. Corporate executives likely will not, preferring bite-size chunks of information.
While not a comprehensive view, the following features are some of the most indispensable and non-negotiable when comparing learning management systems.
Content development & library
The content housed in your LMS should reflect your brand identity, voice and ideals (particularly if you use a learning management system to sell online courses). Many LMSs offer readymade or pre-populated content libraries, which is great for fast implementation but might not align with your branding. We suggest querying vendors on the tools they offer for course creation. Some may have an authoring tool within their system, which makes it easy to manage courses, too. Others might allow you to pull content from third party providers and subject matter experts.
The real reason it’s so important to have a comprehensive library of content is so customised development programs can be easily and quickly created. Without the right content in a centralised location, learners will face an uninspiring catalogue of content. This then impacts the quality of learning analytics produced, and can lead to subpar performance management, ill-researched choices for succession planning and poor knowledge retention.
The true function of accessibility is asynchronous learning, which occurs when learners access coursework in their own time, on their device of choice, and from wherever they are in the world. This is more cost effective and scalable for an organisation as it means learners aren’t restricted to work hours (when they may have other responsibilities or priorities) or locations (such as the office, to which they might have to commute or cannot access outside of work hours).
Accessibility is not just a choice for some, but a need for remote workers, consultants and freelancers, as well as people with disabilities. WCAG is the baseline level of accessibility required by Australian Government agencies, for example. And whilst Internet Explorer enjoyed a heyday, it’s not supported by many new LMS platforms—so if that’s your organisation’s go to, you’ll have to factor that in.
People retain information better when they can share it with others. With a number of integrations, you can ensure that A) your learners can collaboratively master new skills, and B) the system itself can partake in a little sharing of data.
Web-based lectures, live streams, video conferencing and instant messaging (aka channels like Zoom, Adobe Connect, Microsoft Teams and Slack) all facilitate what’s known as synchronous learning. Even through face-to-screen interactions, social interactions foster trust, strengthen team dynamics and solidify new concepts and skills for learners. Lacking a social learning process, the health of organisational structures dependent on teamwork will suffer.
Integrations have the added benefit of ensuring you can push and pull data from other crucial systems into your LMS, such as HRIS (Human Resource Information Systems), payroll, CRMs and third party content providers like Skillsoft or LinkedIn Learning. And without standards like OAuth and xAPI, you can say goodbye to the dream of an internal talent marketplace, because you won’t be able to leverage people data from HR or pull learning analytics back into HR systems.
Compliance management & certification
There are very few organisations who don’t follow the ever-evolving and strict legislation of their industry. Combined with integrations such as HRIS, a learning management system is the easiest way to streamline and automate your compliance management.
We understand well the drawbacks of manual compliance certification and management:
- It costs time and money
- A burden to turn into eLearning courses
- A monotonous chore for those who have to routinely take it—especially if it’s flown under the radar for months and suddenly they have to find time to do it.
For those job functions with inflexible regulatory requirements, a lack of compliance management can also mean fines, loss of revenue and revocation of any requisite licenses or credentials. Automating the process ensures proper governance, minimises risk and prevents poor or negligent conduct.
You should be asking vendors if their learning management system allows for scheduled reminders and refreshers. This way, learners can be proactively kept abreast of upcoming due dates, rather than reactively scrambling to complete certifications in time.
Any LMS worth its code will offer a broad range of readymade templates for assessment. We recommend looking for eLearning products that take a qualitative approach to online training. Why? Certain metrics and assessment tasks combine to boost proficiency and productivity to help admin—and the system—better understand gaps in each learner’s knowledge. (Remember when we talked about managing performance better?)
There are a few reasons learning analytics are an important feature of a learning management system.
- You won’t be able to accurately create learning pathways without the right methods of assessment or metrics to ensure learners are progressing through those assessments.
- If you’re going to all the effort of investing in an LMS, why wouldn’t you make sure you have the right metrics to determine your ROI and if you’re on track to achieve predefined learning outcomes or initiatives?
- Without the predictive analytics many LMS can offer, you’ll have to manually slog through pages of data to create individual learning pathways for every learner in your system.
A user-friendly dashboard for tracking progress and reporting on everything from cohort completion rates down to individual user statuses is something to look out for—emphasis on user-friendly. It’s important to ascertain not how advanced and astute reporting functions are. Otherwise, you might find yourself paying for additional plugins or programs that give the depth of reporting you’re after, but which blow out the budget and stakeholders’ expectations.
Software trends to consider
Much like fashion, trends come and go in the learning management software space. Education has adapted to the changing needs and proclivities of not only learners, but the world. (Forgive us the ‘big brain’ moment.) And that’s the biggest step forward: From a management-centric approach to a learning environment, and finally to one that integrates assessment with user-directed training.
Chatbots and virtual assistants are already widespread across other plains in the technological realm, so it was only a matter of time before they came to LMS software. The goal of implementing artificial intelligence (AI) in an LMS is to supercharge the efficiency of your training programs.
The future of AI in learning management software relies heavily on integrations with the human capital management (HCM) or HR suite to be successful. Just as we talked about pushing and pulling data earlier, it’s crucial here for historical data provided by HRIS to meld with the real-time learning data found in the LMS to identify trends and patterns, as well as recommend content for learners and spotlight learners for succession plans.
The endless capacity to curate content and create linear learning pathways for multiple individual learners is one of the AI’s biggest strengths. The system sifts through content and places only the most relevant and engaging in front of each learner, based on their preference for format (e.g. video or reading), all the while identifying gaps in job roles for HR to utilise in agile talent management. We say let the machines take over.
Why you should keep your eye on AI
A decision made from bad data analysis can result in (best case scenario) a poor outcome or (worst case) a poor and unexpected outcome. Without smart tech, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to turn your LMS from a simple learning environment into an internal talent marketplace. This new wave of technology uses learned data to match employees and contingent workers to the work opportunities their talents are best suited for—without HR having to lift a finger, let alone wade through pages of work experience. It also helps institute agile talent processes, provide otherwise untapped career development to employees and expand the talent pool beyond applicants.
Millennials—whether you love them, hate them or are just plain sick of hearing about them—are rapidly becoming the prevalent demographic in the workplace. They’re not only tech savvy, but tech-dependant. This new generation of employees want to learn and grow, but they want to do it in their own time, at their convenience and using familiar or innovative mediums. Enter multichannel learning.
The concept is self-explanatory: Content is delivered through more than one channel to educate the end user. It creates a high quality and flexible online learning environment. And it’s not just about where learners access their content, but how. Where there’s text for those who can use their laptop to learn, there needs to be complementary audio for those commuting in their cars—making multichannel learning crucial for accessibility, too.
Why you should keep your eye on multichannel learning
Multichannel learning allows for anytime, anywhere access through online training, which fosters an interest in lifelong learning and a cycle of continual professional development.
For individuals with visual, auditory, cognitive and mobility disabilities, it’s important they can access the same learning outcomes as their peers. Your learner population is no doubt diverse, so you want to create a learning environment that is comfortable for and welcoming to all.
The near-ubiquitous LXP sent out something of a war cry to the LMS when it barged onto the scene. The phrase learning experience platform (LXP) originally described a select few platforms that were focused less on management and more on experience (duh), but the LXP has become its own behemoth in the time since.
The problem with the early iterations of the LXP was that intelligent discovery became hard, as users had to trawl through pages and pages of content. Most organisations also don’t want to pay for more than one system, so the industry has moved towards creating integrated platforms or end-to-end solutions. Instead of existing as a separate platform, the LXP now makes up a new stack (aka data ecosystem, aka technology infrastructure, aka a list of all the tech specs used in a single application) that includes the LMS.
An LXP pulls content from different sources like training companies and third party providers to recommend and deliver tailored pathways for users. Sound familiar? It’s because there are three tenets of intelligent discovery:
- Skills mapping
- Data analytics
- Smart tech.
Most LXP systems already include some kind of skills-based categorisation for content. The new wave of thinking is towards building skills or capability assessments, inferences and learning pathways based on and that feeds back into LXP content. This allows learners to view content (and only content) that is relevant to their previous and current experience, career aspirations and interests.
Tracking data, with good intentions. In the past, many LXPs have recommended content based on how many others have interacted with it. This is good, but we can do better—especially as traffic is not necessarily a good indicator of value and a program with high interaction may edge out other, more valuable or credible content. Ergo, today’s swing is towards what others recommend. Confused? The difference is that other users can source content, recommend it for the LXP, and then the LXP decides who it is relevant for.
This is the newest and most innovative approach to content analysis. With a few clicks of a button, your LXP can be programmed to analyse what content is trying to teach people. Automated pedagogical analysis creates a backlog of readymade and personalised training, assessments and microlearning for learners, based on everything from capabilities, credibility and expertise. Chatbots are new additions to this category too; based on conversation, they can recommend new content, pull up training history and estimate how long it may take to finish a course.
Why you should keep your eye on LXP
Talent management is taxing enough for HR professionals as it is, let alone when trying to curate the right content and pathways for individual learners. While succession planning is nothing new, ensuring people are taking the right steps on their pathways is—which is why an LXP is a crucial tool. The consumer is the producer in the LXP; they can recommend content be introduced to the system or be recommended content based on their training history and career aspirations.
Whether the application is in a small business or global enterprise, online training should be a deeply personal experience for each learner. A major goal for corporate training is to connect it to on-the-job performance and development. While many LMS use the latest version of SCORM, LXPs utilise xAPI, the newest specification for learning software that makes it easy to collect data about a user from different systems. It allows admin to track data from outside the LXP that may be relevant to training within (say, a third party course, LMS, or even medical device). Coupled with a younger workforce that desires short, sharp, easy to navigate visual content, it’s a smarter way to teams embrace training and showcase investment in each of their unique journeys.
Potential issues with LMS software
As with any purchase, there are potential usability issues that come into play that are not solely user error. While these are not life-threatening—and in the case of some like scheduled maintenance, purely unavoidable at times—they should be kept in mind when searching for online training solutions.
Regardless of hosting, any software system will ultimately need a little downtime while software engineers introduce new fixes or enact some bug fixes. With a cloud-based system, you won’t have control over when these are done, though most vendors aren’t going to do them at high traffic times.
Even on-premise solutions will require scheduled maintenance to keep things running smoothly. So, while it’s not a real issue in the traditional sense, it is something that will need to be factored in considering anytime, anywhere access may be impeded by system downtime. Make sure to ask vendors what their maintenance schedule is when sending out RFPs.
Technology is an industry that, while evolving at a faster rate than most, can sometimes trip itself up. An online training solution purchased now could easily be superseded in three years—but if you’re locked into a contract or purchased a license fee, you could find yourself suddenly working with a clunky user interface that isn’t being updated. Even we can admit that cutting edge doesn’t stay cutting edge for too long. The technological infrastructure of most cloud-based learning management systems should allow you to step over this common IT hurdle, as many vendors put utmost importance on innovation and trends that make their platforms more efficient and effective.
No mobile or tablet app
Funnily enough, mobile and tablet applications for LMS aren’t high on the to-do list of many vendors. As an alternative, most will have responsive design built into the user interface, so that a page originally made for a desktop is automatically and logically resized when opened on a smaller screen. And while this is important, there is a difference between mobile layout design and dedicated mobile apps. If a mobile or tablet app is integral to training success, save yourself time and enquire if a vendor offers one before you even get to the point of a demo.
The bottom line
An LMS is not just a concept—it’s software. Over time, you’ll find your learning management software may have some small issues crop up.
Knowing why you are procuring an LMS and the expertise of your vendor (and/or IT team) bookend the potential problems with software. If you need a mobile app, implementing a system that offers one will sidestep the problem. If there are bug fixes needed, vendor support is at the other end to ensure it runs smoothly and without any disruption to your service. If you’re still a little wary, ask about the aforementioned potential issues when you reach out to vendors for RFPs or RFQs. Most will include resolutions in their proposals.
Issues will rarely, if ever, be earth-shattering enough to change your mind on investment. But as with anything, it helps to be prepared and know what you’re in for from the start so you can get the best learning management system for your needs.