A Learning Management System is a powerful tool that manages all aspects of the learning process. Just like Microsoft Word helps us write documents, and Outlook helps us manage emails, a Learning Management System (LMS) is a software program that helps operators create, manage, and deliver eLearning courses.
Over the past 20 years, software for managing complex databases has been combined with digital education frameworks. This technological partnership creates a tool that: delivers and manages instructional content, identifies and assesses individual training goals, tracks the progress towards meeting those goals, and collects and presents data for individual learners, as well as the organization as a whole.
The most common form of LMS consists of two separate parts:
- A server component that performs the core functionality (creating, managing and delivering courses, authenticating users, and serving data and notifications).
- A user interface that runs inside a web browser (like Firefox or Explorer), that is used by administrators, instructors, and students.
What does an LMS do?
A Learning Management System allows any organization to develop electronic coursework, deliver it with unprecedented reach and flexibility, and manage its continued use over time.
An LMS allows users to:
- Create eLearning content (lessons)
- Organize the content into courses
- Deliver the content (either internally to employees/students or to a wider internet audience)
- Enroll students in courses
- Monitor and assess students (e.g. attendance, grades)
An LMS may also have interactive features for students such as threaded discussions, video conferencing, and discussion forums.
Who Uses an LMS?
Traditionally, the LMS was used in educational institutions. Learning management systems have been used for several years to deliver coursework in schools. However, over the past two decades, more and more companies are using LMSs to deliver training internally to their employees, as well as externally to customers.
Today, any of the following could be using an LMS:
- Businesses of all sizes, from large multinational enterprises to small and medium-sized businesses
- Organizations, including Non-Government Organizations and non-profits
- Government agencies (municipal, provincial, and/or federal)
- Traditional educational institutions (schools, universities, or colleges)
The LMS market was worth $2.55 billion in 2013, with an estimated compound annual growth rate of approximately 25.2%. By 2018, the LMS market is expected to be worth over $7 billion.
The first step in using an LMS is creating the content.
Course material can be made from “scratch” by writing the lesson right inside the LMS, or by importing existing material from a Word document, a PowerPoint presentation, article, or classroom training manual. Advanced LMS platforms let developers add course material from various sources and in different formats, and even allow incorporating multimedia files (e.g. video, audio, graphics) to the lessons.
Another option available, through some LMS providers, is to have the course developed by professionals. This may cost more upfront, but often the benefits to the company far outweigh the extra expense. Professionally developed eLearning programs tend to be higher quality, with better production values, and featuring more interactive elements. Overall, delivering a higher quality product will increase student engagement and retention. There is also potential for re-sale of the program to other companies or students.
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The next step after creating the eLearning material is to organize it. This can be as simple as offering a single course or as complicated as having multiple courses offered in a specific sequence, and to only certain student groups.
An LMS should allow clients the freedom to structure their eLearning offering in a way that best suits the needs and structure of their business or organization.
A more developed LMS offers a set of organizational tools that can be combined in multiple ways thus giving clients ultimate flexibility in how they deliver their lessons, whether within a single small business or in 20 worksites across the world.
How courses are delivered to students depends on the needs and structure of the business or organization.
For example, some courses might be made for a restricted audience (i.e. for employee training inside a company) or they might be meant for a wider population, either as a free offering or as paid courses (such as an online school offering web programming courses).
A modern LMS should be able to handle any specific application, allowing organizations to serve and manage both small and large numbers of students, to have restricted or open enrollment, and be easily integrated with payment processors for paid courses.
LMS platforms should also be able to cater to mobile devices, with responsive user interfaces, touch friendly interaction, and offline accessible modes.
The ability to manage courses and users is what puts the “M” in LMS. There are three kinds of LMS users:
The administrator is the person who sets up and configures the LMS for an organization or company.
The instructors are the individuals preparing the lessons and accessing the learners’ progress. In a smaller business or organization, the administrator or instructor might be the same person.
Learners might be company employees of a large organization, government agency, or private business, or students enrolled in the courses from an educational institution offering lessons to the general public.
Managing users involves registering them in the LMS, assigning them to courses, interacting with them as instructors, determining what kind of content they are allowed to see, organizing tests and conference sessions, grading them, and handling their payments.
A good LMS takes the tedium out of these tasks, automating all the repeated actions, and allowing LMS users to perform changes and updates to multiple items (i.e. students or courses) all at once.
Monitoring and assessing student progress
One of the most important features an LMS offers (and a huge time-saver), is the ability to track and monitor the students’ progress in real time.
Whether dealing with 10 students or 10,000, an LMS gives administrators fast, automated access to enrollment statistics, attendance records, student grades, and many other performance metrics.
A comprehensive LMS should also include real-time alerts and notifications, for example, letting instructors know that a student has submitted his homework, or that an e-conference session is about to begin.
Another must for advanced LMS platforms is reporting. An LMS should have the ability to query and display data in graphs and charts, allowing administrators to easily spot trends or issues.
Common Features of a Corporate LMS
There are close to 600 varieties of Learning Management Systems available for purchase today. Each is unique, and has features designed to meet the needs of a variety of trainers and educators.
In addition to the basic features described above, common components or features that can be found in many LMS platforms include:
- Automatic enrollment: Logic within an LMS which registers and reminds employees about mandatory courses.
- Enhanced Security: Many corporate LMS solutions have single sign in, advanced authentication, and firewalls to ensure data security.
- Rosters: A digital roll-call sheet for tracking attendance and for sending invitations to class participants.
- Distributed instructor and student base: Remote participation by the instructor or pupil allows courseware to feature multiple teachers or experts from across the globe.
- Course calendars: Creation and publication of important dates related to the course schedules, including project deadlines and tests.
- Student Engagement: Interaction between and among students, such as instant messaging, email, and discussion forums.
- Assessment and testing: Creation of knowledge retention exercises such as short quizzes and comprehensive exams.
- Grading and Scoring: Advanced tracking and charting of student performance over time.
Advanced LMS features
In addition to these basic features, there are many advanced features an LMS may include, such as:
- eCommerce: The ability to sell courses to third parties, and integrate with payment processors such as PayPal and Stripe.
- eConferencing: The ability to organize and hold e-conference sessions, with multiple students participating through audio and video.
- Excel Uploader: Using MS Excel, administrators can easily create multiple users accounts, upload hundreds of classroom and training records, and download training reports within minutes.
- Whiteboard: Online whiteboard functionality, so instructors and students can create and share writings and drawings in real time.
- Mobile friendly: The ability to use the LMS with mobile devices (smartphones and tablets), including being able to study when offline.
- SCORM compliant: The ability to integrate with third party systems and exchange data through eLearning standards such as SCORM and Tin-Can.
- Custom branding: Many LMS systems have the ability to use a company’s own branding and/or can create custom themes for the LMS user interface.
A Learning Management System is a technological tool used to deliver online education and training. An LMS gives clients a way to create and deliver content, organize courses, manage users, and monitor the progress of multiple users, all with relative ease. An LMS may also provide additional advanced features including the ability to manage payments, custom branding, or eConferencing. Learning Management Systems are the future of training.
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With our Learning Management System you can assign courses, manage training records and certificates, run reports, transfer data, schedule classroom courses, and much, much more. It is a fully customizable, all-in-one solution used by hundreds of organizations of all sizes.