Online e-learning platforms can be very different and adapted to various needs. Learning Management Systems (LMS) are a type of these platforms, which allow users to manage, distribute, and report on online learning. However, with so many different types of LMSs available, it can be challenging to choose the right one, as it depends on one's needs and goals. In this article, we will explore the three main categories of LMSs and help you figure out which type best suits your purpose.
Table of Contents
- Three main categories of LMS
- Consumer LMS
- Academic LMS
- Corporate LMS
- Free LMS - the fourth option?
- Use authoring tools to create content for your LMS
- Beware of 'dirty tricks' from LMS vendors: dont use the built-in tool for elearning content production
- How does a Corporate LMS typically work?
- Which LMS should you choose?
- Final thoughts
Three main categories of LMS
When choosing an LMS platform, it's essential to understand which category of LMS you need. I have identified three main categories of LMS, namely consumer LMS, academic LMS, and corporate LMS. Each category has its characteristics, functionalities, and purposes.
Consumer LMS platforms are intended for individual users or smaller organizations. They typically have limited functionality and are easy to use. Academic LMS platforms are more complex and can handle larger amounts of data. They are often designed for universities or other educational institutions, and they can accommodate many different types of teaching materials, assignments, and courses.
Corporate LMS platforms are designed to meet the specific needs of a company. They can integrate with other systems and software, and they typically have functionalities like reporting, tracking, and management of employee training and development.
Once you have a clear understanding of which category of LMS suits your needs, you can better focus your search and find a platform that meets your specific requirements and budget.
PS. In the following, we mention the e-learning standard SCORM. If you have no idea what it is, it would be a good idea to read SCORM for dummies and busy people before proceeding here.
If you are a provider of standard courses and want to sell them to individual users, you should choose a solution that supports sales and marketing within the platform. It is important to consider how you can differentiate yourself from competitors and market your courses on the platform to maximize your earnings. It is also important to ensure that your platform can handle payments securely and in a user-friendly manner.
Platforms such as Simplero, Thinkific, Kajabi, etc. are examples of such platforms. These platforms typically do not support SCORM, but this is not necessarily a big problem, as you typically will not run your courses outside of these platforms. However, it may be a good idea not to create very complex content in these platforms and limit yourself to videos that can easily be converted to SCORM. This will enable you to both run your content for your individual customers in your own platform, and provide SCORM packages with your courses for running in larger customers' own LMS.
In the academic environment, platforms like Canvas LMS, Blackboard, and the open-source platform Moodle are more relevant. These platforms are more focused on teaching in formal educational institutions and typically include a lot of other functionality in the platform, such as classes, teams, student administration, and assignment submission. SCORM is rarely particularly important in this scenario, as you typically use a lot of other functionality in the platform. SCORM is typically "nice to have" and not crucial.
Corporate LMSs are designed to educate employees within mandatory subjects such as GDPR and security. They are also often used for onboarding new employees, code of conduct, and similar topics. One of the advantages of an Corporate LMS is that you can purchase pre-developed content in the form of SCORM packages from external providers, such as programs in the Office suite, which can be run in your own LMS. Your employees can easily go to one place for education, and with SCORM, you can track and document that employees have gone through the e-learning. Read SCORM for dummies and busy people if you want a quick explanation of what it is.
Free LMS - the fourth option?
We have had a few customers approach after they got burnt by initially choosing a cheap or free LMS plugins in for Wordpress. One of the these was LearnDash. The problem was that while it did support SCORM, it did not store very much of the SCORM data, which rendered it useless for these customers. In general you get what you pay for so we dont recommmend these. Also see Beware of 'dirty tricks' from LMS vendors: dont use the built-in tool for elearning content production which also applies to Wordpress LMS plugins.
Use authoring tools to create content for your LMS
To ensure high quality and flexibility in your e-learning content, it may be a good idea to use a separate authoring tool to create content for your LMS platform. This way, you can avoid being locked into a specific LMS provider and easily reuse your content across different platforms.
You can find a list of some of the best authoring tools in our article "Best programs for creating e-learning in 2023?" These tools allow you to create engaging and interactive content that can be easily exported to different formats, including SCORM, which can be uploaded to your chosen LMS platform. Some popular authoring tools include Articulate 360, Adobe Captivate, and iSpring Suite.
Beware of 'dirty tricks' from LMS providers: Dont use the built in tools for e-learning content production
- Or at least use with care.
When choosing an authoring tool to produce content for your LMS, it's important to be aware of potential pitfalls when using content modules within the LMS platform itself.
Some LMS providers claim that their platform can run SCORM content, but this doesn't necessarily mean that you can export the content you create in their content module as SCORM.
If you can't export the content as SCORM, you may end up locked into a particular LMS provider, which can limit your flexibility and make it difficult to switch to another provider in the future. To avoid this, it's important to investigate whether the LMS you're considering supports SCORM content export and create your content in a separate authoring tool so you can export and import it to different LMS platforms as needed.
How does Enterprise LMS typically work?
You can upload e-learning modules, send messages to users, and determine whether an e-learning course is mandatory or voluntary for employees. You can also combine multiple e-learning modules into e-learning courses and group them into different groups. You can decide whether it should be assigned automatically to groups of users and much more.
Examples of Enterprise LMS include Cornerstone OnDemand and SAP Successfactors LMS. However, you don't always need to use a large and expensive Enterprise LMS. Our own LMS, Activate LMS, is designed to be a cost-effective alternative to larger solutions.
Once you've set up e-learning content in an Enterprise LMS, it's most common for employees to receive an email notifying them that e-learning is ready for them.
Employees then log into the LMS via their smartphone, tablet, or computer and complete the course. The LMS stores various information about the employees' responses to questions and the time they spent on learning. This is called tracking, and it also ensures that employees can resume learning where they left off the e-learning course last time.
Typical functionality for Enterprise LMS includes SCORM compatibility, registration and reporting of user results, and sending emails with course diplomas, info about new courses, or reminders if a user has missed a deadline. Additionally, you would typically want automated user administration, for example.
Which LMS should you choose?
When choosing an LMS platform, consider your needs and goals for your e-learning program. If you want to sell online courses to individual users, a platform like Simplero or Thinkific would be a good option.
If you need a platform for formal education at an educational institution, platforms like Canvas or Moodle are more likely to suit your needs.
On the other hand, if you're looking for a platform to train employees on mandatory topics or onboarding, an Enterprise LMS like Cornerstone OnDemand or SAP Successfactors LMS might be the best option for you. If you need to use an Enterprise LMS, it's important to ensure that it's SCORM-compatible so you can track and document employee progress and results in your e-learning programs.
Choosing the right LMS platform for your e-learning program can be a crucial decision for your business or organization. It's important to take the time to evaluate your needs and goals for your program, as well as consider the different types of LMS platforms available.
Some factors to consider when choosing an LMS include:
- Scalability: Can the LMS grow with your organization as your needs change and expand?
- Customizability: Does the LMS offer options to customize the platform to better fit your organization's branding, requirements, and workflows?
- Integrations: Does the LMS easily integrate with other tools and systems you already use, such as HR software, CRM, or communication tools?
- Support: Does the LMS provider offer reliable and responsive customer support to help you troubleshoot issues and get the most out of the platform?
- Cost: What is the total cost of ownership of the LMS, including setup, licensing, hosting, maintenance, and support?
By carefully considering these factors and comparing different LMS platforms, you can make an informed decision that will set your organization up for success with its e-learning initiatives.
Don't hesitate to reach out if you have questions.
You can also learn more about our LMS, Activate LMS.