A Learning Management System (LMS) is a software application to help plan, implement and assess the learning process.
It provides a course owner with the tools to manage and deliver content, monitor the learner's participation and assess performance. It should provide the ability to support a blended learning program, mixing traditional course delivery with newer digital and interactive tools, including online courses, virtual live sessions and discussion forums.
Components of a LMS
Most LMS solutions have these key features:
- a database of learners
- creation, publication and management of courseware and calendars
- management access and approval signoff
- automatic enrolment and reminders for mandatory courses
- creation of course rosters, and a registration processes.
- facility for uploading and management of documents containing curricular content.
- delivery of course content over web-based interfaces, most often allowing remote participation by the instructor or pupil.
- communications between trainers and learners, using instant messaging, email and/or discussion forums.
- various methods of assessment and testing
- built in analytics tools and ability to provide comprehensive reporting
- manager and administrator access to view progress of learners, analytics, administer courses and approve content, generally controlled through defined permission levels
- integration with human resource systems for tracking employment eligibility, compliance needs , performance goals etc
Key Benefits of Learning Management Systems
An efficient LMS system helps organisations:
reduce administration overheads through the more efficient delivery and management of learning programs
improves profitability through a more effectively trained workforce, driven by greater training participation
ensures compliance requirements are met in regulated industries.
What to look for
There are a myriad of LMS providers , some form part of broader capital management systems, others, like Seertech, focus exclusively on learning. Make sure you select a vendor that meets your needs, as well as offering capabilities that you will grow into as your business and learning function expands.
Here are a few essential ingredients:
Your LMS should allow trainers to manage training programs by uploading all their content to a central location. This allows employees and learners to access the learning materials at any time and from anywhere with Internet access.
Cost Efficient Delivery
Your LMS should reduce the resources required for traditional methods of delivery. That means LMS training programs should be easily organized and scheduled according to the convenience of learners and conducted in "virtual classrooms" or through online courses, reducing learning logistics costs and the time spent away from their work.
No two learning environments are the same. Each company has its own specific needs and an effective LMS should be customizable to reflect the unique workflows and objectives. This shouldn't mean a bespoke solution that can be isolated from software upgrades, but rather a highly configurable product that can meet the company's needs without tailoring the software itself.
An effective LMS provides learning programs suited to specific job roles , it should also recognise that some people can make multiple job roles, requiring a combination of learning paths. It should offer a mix of compulsory courses, essential for continuance in a role, as well as optional programs for people who want to progress their career or take on new functions.
Learning is never an isolated activity. Even though a lot of corporate learning these days happens through interactive courses that people pursue on their own, courses need to include options for communication with course leaders, other learners and with managers. This will improve learned retention and create a more engaged workforce.
Your LMS needs to accommodate a variety of course media, including videos, images, audio and text. It should also support a variety of content creation applications and delivery mechanisms, including conferencing products and collaboration tools.
Increasingly mobile devices are being used to give staff flexibility about where and when they follow learning activities. This flexibility attract more employees, improves completion rates and increases the productivity of the learners. Hence, mobile support for your LMS is increasingly critical, with content display tailored for specific devices.
Your LMS should offer comprehensive assessment tools , enabling instructors to easily gauge learning achievements, set automate grading and establish a certification processes. Trainers should also be able to utilize a number of security controls to prevent cheating in online tests.
Managers, HR and L&D administrators should be able to monitor the effectiveness of learning programs , including detailed reports on course acceptance, completion rates, user ratings and compliance reports, for individuals, groups and divisions. This will enable trainers to identify the progress of any individual, evaluate the quality of training content, as well as giving business managers visibility to the progress of training and compliance goals.
Even if your training needs are largely in-house, as the function expands it is likely you will see the benefit of reusing some of the material for partners, suppliers and customers. Hence, your LMS needs to be expandable to include learners outside your organisation, with the necessary workflow, security and delivery mechanisms to support this external involvement.
If you do repurpose your learning content for partner organisations and customers then your LMS will need to incorporate a payment function, enabling users or organisations to enrol on indidivual courses or full learning paths, paid for by individuals or by companies, according to a variety of pricing methodologies through various payment methods.
The learning space is changing rapidly. It's essential that you choose a LMS that is evolving as quickly. Check to see that your shortlisted candidates are still actively developing their product, with regular update cycles.