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Published on:
February 21, 2022

Learning Management System Guide: Tools, Benefits & More

Learning never stops. It’s either onboarding new employees, supporting clients, or upgrading to a new system…


Or maybe something entirely else.


As a general concept, whatever way you choose to deal with it is your learning management system.


We know. It can get tiresome. This is why, as is the case with most things these days… there’s software for that.


Learning management software (LMS) can make the process much easier for trainers and learners alike thanks to many useful features like:


  • Content libraries
  • Automation
  • Progress tracking
  • Course management, etc.


Think of it like CRM but for learning.


A great LMS training software is robust in the sense that it offers you a lot of help but easy enough to use that it doesn’t require extra work from you.


So let’s break down exactly how it works, compare your options, and make your learning life easier.

What is LMS Software?

lms software


LMS software is a platform created to support, automate, simplify, and streamline learning for companies and educational institutions.


It provides a structure and framework for different types of elearning. Let’s talk about why.

Purpose of an LMS

An LMS manages and delivers all types of content such as documents, audio, and video.


However, they will include features such as rubrics, discussion boards, teacher and instructor-facilitated learning, and they often use a syllabus. Syllabuses are rare in corporate training but courses may start with heading-level indexes to give learners an overview of the topics to be covered.

Benefits of LMS Software

LMS software provides a remote, unified platform and a structure to your typical elearning experience.


Different organizations use it to improve learning efficiency, increase employee retention, and scale their systems with ease.


Below is some data that demonstrates the value of this type of software:


  • A strong onboarding process can improve employee retention by 82% and productivity by 70%, and one of the most important parts of successful onboarding is training.
  • 76% of new employees expect on-the-job training.
  • Learners who use social features like Q&A or quizzes watch 30x more hours than those who don’t. 95% of employees prefer gamified systems.
  • 89% of employees access LMS programs from desktops, 78% from their laptops, and 25% from their mobile devices. Cloud-based options are great because they can be accessed remotely plus they cost less than conferences.
  • LMS market size is expected to reach $15,391 million by 2023.

Content Organization

A centralized system means all the necessary learning materials can be accessed from the same place.


You can easily organize:


  • Learning paths
  • Programs
  • Individual lectures
  • Supporting content
  • Online knowledge databases, etc.


Assign them to categories by type and importance so nothing ever gets lost.

Easy Access to Learning Material

Speaking of content organization, having all of your learning material in the same place gives users easy access to everything they could need within the platform.


No need for them to lose time searching for answers around the internet.


With a software LMS, everything each learner needs can be catered to and personalized for them so they are always just a few clicks away from the information they require.

Track Learners’ Progress

Do you know how your students are doing?


Learning management software lets you see how far along they got, whether they need help, and which modules tend to get people stuck.


Progress awareness is the best way for you to troubleshoot and optimize your processes.


How else would you even know something’s wrong?


On the students’ end, they also get to see a personalized dashboard that shows them their progress. Paired with point systems or some other form of gamification, this can help motivate learners to pay closer attention to the material and help them work faster.

Automation

Saving time any chance you get is always a good idea.


And with an LMS, you get the tedious, repetitive tasks such as manual onboarding or data processing out of the way.


Your teachers get to spend more time on curriculum, customization, and support knowing that important administrative matters are still getting done.

Cost Efficiency

Despite what you may assume when you think of adding “another expense” to your monthly or yearly bills, adopting a fitting LMS will help you increase your revenue, not dig into it.


On one hand, this software can cut your expenses significantly:


  1. It supports remote learning, so expenses like the commute or space renting are unnecessary
  2. By automating time-consuming processes and teaching as many learners as you need to at the same time, you become more efficient and get to the returns faster


On the other hand, your profits increase:


  1. By improving employee retention, you save money for every repeat onboarding process you now don’t have to go through
  2. Your employees become more productive and happy, which increases your revenue


to math

Source


Yes, getting the right learning management system software pays off.

LMS vs. eLearning Software 

A learning management system is the learning platform while elearning software is responsible for powering the courses that are hosted within the LMS. For this reason, an LMS is also referred to as an elearning platform.


The concept can be understood using an analogy of the smartphone. Instead of developing individual systems, modern smartphones just provide platforms that can host applications developed by other organizations. This was not the case for early cell phones such as Nokia and Motorola.


Smartphones are built by different companies but all use the same applications developed by other organizations. These applications include Android and iOS. Such a move to the platform model reflects a trend where business activity shifts to an ecosystem.


In fact, it has been predicted that, in the next six years, 30% of global economic activity could be mediated by digital platforms. LMSs are one example of such platforms.


Many LMS vendors offer platforms that provide more than just hosting third-party content. They may also perform the following functions:


  • Enable users to create their own courses.
  • Allow instructors to create teams and assign them courses.
  • Allow users to communicate with each other using the LMS.
  • Gamify the learning experience.
  • Provide content storage.
  • Provide certification.
  • Allow users to set and track their goals.
  • Provide visibility on what other users in the system are learning (social learning).
  • Provide real-time analytics and reporting.


Third-party providers design their software products to play well with LMSs. For instance, this is achieved by making sure the programs are SCORM-compliant. SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) is a way of standardizing how online courses are authored.


Without SCORM-conformant LMSs and training content, sharing learning content and integrating learning systems would be a challenge. Besides SCORM, other common formats include AICC, xAPI, and CMI5.


To recap their differences:

LMS

eLearning software

  • A robust system or platform that hosts eLearning software
  • Responsible for powering courses and content within a platform
  • Can simply host third-party content
  • Can also include content and perform many functions, including tracking, certification, gamification, etc.
  • Provides the learning material and content that functions well within an LMS
  • Doesn’t come with its own structured platform outside of an LMS

Types of Learning Management Software & Their Benefits

 Learning Management Software Benefits

Cloud-Based LMS

A cloud-based LMS is one that allows you to access and use the LMS without having to install any hardware or software. Instead, users have to log in on a web portal to consume learning content. The portal is mostly the service provider’s website. Tovuti LMS is an example of a cloud-based learning management system.


Instructional designers usually upload elearning courses directly using their internet browsers. The content can be stored on the cloud and can easily be accessed by any approved user regardless of their location.


With the introduction of cloud-based learning management systems, online training and elearning have become highly effective both for students and corporate learners. Educators also have a chance to develop and launch easily-accessible elearning courses that are cost-efficient.


Interestingly, a study by Capterra reported that 87% of LMS customers prefer cloud-based systems as opposed to on-premise hosting. 


To add, another market report claimed that elearning and cloud-based LMS platforms will help the global elearning market to grow and support innovations such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and microlearning.


For instance, with microlearning applications, cloud technology can help to augment and synchronize the data processing capacities of smartphones. Also, cloud-based LMS solutions can help to address the computing and digital engine speed requirements of demanding applications such as VR and AR.


Hence, rather than implementing expensive upgrades to existing devices that are using VR or AR, you can purchase a cloud-based solution. In turn, this will save you costs and improve your device infrastructure while also helping you adapt to ever-growing changes, requirements, and upgrades for evolving technologies such as VR and AR.


Cloud-based LMSs are growing in popularity since they offer increased accessibility to such sophisticated technologies. Besides being accessible from anywhere at any time, cloud-based LMSs have proven to be an important asset for continued education, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.


Organizations that have on-premise hardware and software have had difficulties in delivering training content to their learners during the pandemic. In fact, most of them have had to purchase cloud-based solutions to ensure that their training is not disrupted.


Cloud-based LMSs improve and enhance your elearning programs by giving you the ability to manage your training and development from anywhere in the world. All you need is an internet-connected device to propel your business ahead of its competition.


Below are some other benefits that come with cloud-based LMS platforms.

Quick Installation and Highly Configurable

Cloud-based LMSs do not have complex installation processes. This means that you can create portals, brand them, create courses, and manage enrollments from the time you purchase the system.


Also, cloud-based solutions resemble social media. The familiarity associated with social networks makes them easy to use.

Cost-Effective

Cloud-based LMSs are affordable since there are solutions that cost only a few hundred dollars monthly. After you make your subscription, you will just log in to the system and migrate your data. 


Also, you can select your desired features instead of paying for bundled features, some of which you will never use. Moreover, you don’t have to pay for upkeep, support, and maintenance.

Accessible Anytime and Anywhere

Your administrators, educators, and learners can log in to your LMS from any location at any time. All they need is a computer, smartphone or tablet, and an internet connection. They can also get tracking and performance reports regardless of where they are located.

Scalable

Whether your organization is a small startup or a large company, a cloud-based LMS is a solid investment that can easily be scaled to accommodate growing learner numbers. To add, they allow the management and promotion of certain users to ensure that everyone has access to online training when they need it.

Mobile-Capable

Cloud-based LMS solutions can be accessed from a variety of mobile devices. Importantly, they allow learners to access elearning content from any device to increase training adoption rates and improve course completion.

Collaborative

collaboration

These LMS solutions allow a global workforce to remotely access learning courses from a centralized repository. This ensures consistency, smooth delivery, and evaluation of learning content across geographical borders.


Each member of your team can work on their respective projects, upload them directly to the system, and leverage inbuilt feedback tools. Collectively, they can work on projects and share ideas regardless of their location.

Improved Security

Cloud-based learning management systems allow users to share data without worrying about such data being compromised; being lost or stolen. This is because they are securely hosted on platforms that are safer to use and better encrypted.

Streamlined Training

Cloud-based LMSs automate training program processes. These include registration, course delivery, assessments, course completions, and much more. 


These platforms are also user-focused and easy-to-use and facilitate learning by ensuring learners have easy access to training materials from any place in their times of need.


Increased Storage

All your learning content and other learning resources will be directly uploaded to your LMS. This frees up space on your local devices and hard drives. Additionally, content creators and collaborators can share the information stored on remote servers without worrying about their accounts and file sizes.

No Management Required

Cloud-based LMS platforms don’t need software to be installed on your organization’s hardware systems. Instead, the LMS provider manages your platform. Therefore, all you need to do is log in, create courses, and manage the distribution of elearning courses.

To establish a competitive advantage, continuing education is critical if your organization is to realize any long-term success. Indeed, technology has allowed jobs and industries to evolve faster than before.

The same technology can allow your organization to quickly and easily create learning environments more than ever before.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) LMS

Software-as-a-Service is software that is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted by the software vendor. Common pricing models for LMSs in this category offer different levels depending on the number of users. This means that they can be scaled faster as the number of users grows.


SaaS is also known as on-demand software, hosted software, and web-based software. They are hosted on a cloud, which in this case refers to the internet. Cloud solutions are available in multiple service models but SaaS is the most common.


Most of us trust the cloud to store much of what is precious to our everyday lives. Indeed, we store photos, music, videos, and even passwords on the cloud. Yes, we trust it that much and that’s because it makes our work so much easier and ensures our data is secure.


Due to the cloud’s powerful and easy-to-work-with nature, SaaS has become one of the infrastructural models that power elearning. During the last decade, learning and development (L&D) teams have enabled greater reach with lower maintenance to users globally.


Before the cloud, LMSs were self-hosted. Today’s elearning scene is built on cloud-based infrastructure such as SaaS and, from the look of things, this is how it’s going to be for a long time.


SaaS LMS platforms offer more flexibility and time savings, are easier to use, and are more cost-effective. To add, they are better suited for a learning strategy that is future-proof. They operate much more like the rest of our technology; through the cloud.


Hosted LMSs set the pace for modern elearning. However, times have changed considerably and the current online learning environment can only be best-served by frameworks such as SaaS LMSs. Hence, as your learning grows and scales, it is time to be more innovative and invest in a future-friendly elearning platform.


To access your SaaS LMS, you just need a web browser to log in with your credentials. You don’t need any software or hardware to access this model of LMS platforms. The LMS provider is the one who hosts and updates the product.


A SaaS LMS is up-to-date and provides your learners with a modern learning platform. Technology is evolving everywhere as can be seen with the introduction of advancements such as facial recognition on smartphones and self-driving cars.


Similar to how other technologies are moving businesses to new frontiers, the cloud, and especially SaaS LMS is a type of technology pushing elearning to new boundaries.

Benefits of SaaS-based LMS Platforms

Benefits of SaaS-based LMS Platforms

Faster Deployment

SaaS providers usually have teams of professionals which reduces the overall time of deploying your LMS. Especially, with service providers who offer customization, you have the added advantage of technology and specialized skills available with full training. You also get customization features on how the LMS works.


If you self-host your LMS, you will need highly-skilled staff who will first have to learn the platform. After learning the basics of the platform, they will also need to know how to customize it. SaaS eliminates all these.


SaaS Saves on Server Space

Server spaces in organizations come at a premium. A SaaS LMS will be hosted and supported by your LMS provider. This leaves the clients to be free to fill their servers with whatever elearning content they please.

No Limited Access

Today, many organizations are running schemes that allow employees to flexibly work from home or from a number of corporate sites. Indeed, this improves flexibility but can be a headache especially if the employees are unable to access LMS software from their personal devices.


SaaS LMS eliminates this problem since users are able to log in to their dashboard and instantly access content, no matter where they are.

Easy to Get Started

For large organizations, installing self-hosted LMS software is not always straightforward. Individual teams usually don’t have the permissions to install the digital resources they need. Mostly, they will have to wait for tech teams to assist them with such issues which can be quite frustrating.


SaaS LMS solutions allow the employees to trial the LMSs on their own and get started right away as soon as they find the right tool.

SaaS LMSs are Up to Date

Self-hosted traditional software is long-winded, clunky, and disruptive. They also rely on their users to check for updates and carry them out when necessary. A SaaS LMS features regular updates, bug fixes, and upgrades. All these functions are carried out centrally by the software provider.

Open-Source LMS

Open-source refers to a software program whose source code is available to the public and can be modified as the users and developers see fit. Open-source software is the product of public collaboration.


Over the last few years, open-source software has gained popularity. As an example, schools are looking for cost-friendly elearning solutions to provide online access to content that teachers and students want. Open-source LMSs provide just that. Moodle and Totara Learn are examples of open-source LMSs.


It may be hard to grasp how powerful the idea of open-source software is and how it has changed software development if you are not a techie. However, the idea is simple; users have access to the software’s source code.


This means they can check out the code and use it as they please. They can add or delete parts, and modify others to create unique products that match their users’ unique needs.

But why is open-source software so popular?


For starters, open-source software is in line with academic institutions’ community values of freedom, peer review, and knowledge sharing. In the same way anyone can download and use open-source software at no cost, users and developers can write new features, improve performance, fix bugs, or simply learn by examining how other people solved programming problems.


Secondly, compared to proprietary LMSs that come with considerable price tags, open-source LMSs are free to download. You also get the option of installing such software on as many servers as you want. No one will come after you to take the platform from you, increase licensing costs, or make you pay for upgrades. Also, no one can force you to adopt features you deem unfit for you, or dictate to you the number of users you can have. The source code can never be taken back from you once you have it.


Nevertheless, just because open-source software is free to download and use, that doesn’t mean there are no costs involved. For instance, organizations have to run servers from where the open-source software will be operating. Alternatively, they can pay vendors to host it for them.


Besides, while open-source software can be customized to the user’s liking, mostly it will involve the time and skills of a software programmer, who needs to be paid after all!

Benefits of Open-Source LMSs

Benefits of Open-Source LMSs

Free or Low Cost

The most appealing benefit of open-source software is the fact that it is free to use. You don’t need to provide any credit card information or choose a payment plan. However, there are some exceptions to this case. Some open-source platforms require a nominal fee. These are known as ‘freemium’ systems where you get the basic source code for free, but pay an additional fee if you want upgrades or add-ons.


Freemium platforms are ideal for organizations that can’t afford monthly or yearly licensing fees but can spare some money for additional features.

Fully Customizable

Open-source LMSs feature source codes that can be customized to meet your organization’s needs. The only requirement for such customization is that you must have programming knowledge and experience. If that’s not the case, you can hire a programmer.


Customization allows you to adjust the layouts of your courses, incorporate your company’s branding, and personalize your dashboards. Hence, you can modify every aspect of your learning platform to achieve your elearning goals. The best part is that you don’t have to get permission since the system is free to use.

Ongoing Support and Active User Community

Most open-source LMS platforms feature online support resources such as training tutorials and FAQs. They also come with complete and active user communities. These provide much-needed support when you need it. 


You can find tips, tricks, and advice to help you master the system and improve its functionality. You can also ask questions when you need help with troubleshooting and similarly offer help to others if you are in a position.

Control Over Your Content

If you are using a hosted LMS, your courses will be designed using the tools offered by your platform. However, what happens if your software provider decides to discontinue some of these services and features?


Such discontinuation may happen and you may find yourself lacking a tool that you were heavily relying on. Consequently, some areas of your course may no longer function as they were initially.


Still, you may find a work-around. Nevertheless, you are still at the mercy of your software provider. This is not the case with open-source solutions since you are in full control.

Retention of Customer Data

When running a hosted LMS, your learners aren’t exactly your own. If you decide to migrate to another platform, it is not easy to migrate with user data. You will be limited in whatever data that can be collected by the integrations offered by your LMS.


However, with an open-source LMS, you have more control of your users’ data. You can also dictate how such data is handled and secured. In these days of GDPR compliance, this should not be overlooked.

You Own Your Business

While you may be using a hosted LMS solution, the business you’re building isn’t entirely yours. Some portion of your business and efforts goes into building and promoting the brand of your LMS developer. You may build a good reputation and do well for yourself, but after all that effort, you are still tied to your software vendor.


In contrast, with an open-source LMS, you fully own your business. The business you are building is entirely yours, your brand comes first, and the community built around your platform is also yours. To add, this model is adaptable to what you want to build and what your learners need.

Proprietary LMS

Proprietary LMS is a platform that features licensing fees and ‘closed code.’ To access these platforms, subscriptions and license fees are required. These are usually paid for on an annual basis and also include other fees for maintenance and support.


Therefore, if you are considering a proprietary LMS, find out what features the licensing and subscription fees cover and what they don’t. This will help you identify if you actually need a paid-for platform or if a free and open-source solution will suffice.


However, if your budget will allow, proprietary LMS platforms offer a high degree of external support. The platform is managed and maintained by your software provider. There are also technical teams ready to offer personal support for issues that may arise as you use their product. 


Your focus will, therefore, be on creating awesome elearning content for your users. Nonetheless, the initial investment is just one factor to consider when deciding between a proprietary LMS and a free solution.


Since proprietary systems are ‘closed’, users need to trust their vendors regarding their ability to maintain the platform in the long-term against issues such as bug fixes, security patches, and mergers or market forces.


By now, you have seen some overlap in the types of LMS platforms. For instance, a cloud-based LMS can be offered as a SaaS solution and is proprietary in nature. It can also be free if the vendor has a trial version or a free model that has fewer features. Similarly, an open-source platform can also be viewed as a free LMS.


Therefore, the features and benefits of the platforms are the same especially if they overlap in nature as described above. 

Pros of Proprietary LMS

A proprietary LMS is reliable. It has a well-known name and does what other LMSs do; the creation, delivery, and tracking of elearning courses. It also offers training and support which ensure that the system is well functioning.

Cons of Proprietary LMS

Proprietary LMSs are not free. You will have to continuously pay for the service. This is a disadvantage for smaller organizations that may not have the budget. It is also rather restrictive since users don’t have much space to test out new things and features.


To add, customizing your internal learning portal is more of a dream than a reality. This is because such aspects are controlled by your vendor. Moreover, such customization, if available, may come at an extra cost.

Free/Open Source versus Proprietary LMS

If your organization is considering purchasing a new LMS, there are some considerations to make. There are two options that you will have to choose from; free LMS or proprietary LMS. Importantly, you need to compare free/open-source solutions with proprietary platforms to assess your return on investment (ROI).



Free/open-source LMSs don’t require licensing fees and reduce the overall cost per user. On the other hand, proprietary LMSs are subscription-based with additional fees for maintenance and support.


Additionally, free/open-source software costs nothing to upgrade, though programming experience is required. In contrast, proprietary LMS may not include free upgrades with the main product. You might have to buy such features separately.


Below are some comparative aspects that you need to consider before settling for either a free/open-source LMS or a proprietary platform.

Free/Open Source LMS Incur Other Charges

Free/Open Source LMS Incur Other Charges

If you decide to go with an open-source platform like Moodle, it will cost you nothing. However, you will have to purchase servers to host the LMS. You will also need to train personnel to operate the servers and optimize the platform to run smoothly in your environment.


Some of these hosting charges and expenses relating to the training and salaries of employees that will run the system might be more expensive than moving to an outsourced model. This might not always be the case as some self-hosted solutions can save you lots of money.


However, in general, you might find out that outsourced hosting might save you money and allow your organization to take advantage of experts familiar with the running of such platforms.

Installed LMS

Installed LMS follows the traditional software owning model: purchase the product, get a license, and then have it hosted on your server.


After that, it’s up to you to manage and maintain the software.


You may need a tech expert to handle it for you but other than that, the payment is usually a lump sum instead of a monthly subscription, after which you renew the license yearly and continue using your LMS.


Based on the license, you might be allowed to alter the code under certain conditions (open-source) or only to use it as is.

Pros of installed LMS

  1. You don’t need the internet to use it
  2. You own the software
  3. It’s more customizable than web-hosted

Cons of installed LMS

  1. Takes longer to deploy
  2. Maintenance and upgrades are up to you
  3. Scaling can be complicated

Web-hosted LMS

In contrast to installed LMS, web-hosted LMS is stored on and accessed through the internet.


What does that mean for your company?


Web-hosted LMS doesn’t take up any storage space. It’s hosted on a remote server and managed on the provider’s end, which means they are in charge of all the maintenance, upgrades, and such.


Web-hosted LMS

Source


On your end, you pay for web-hosted software monthly or yearly within a subscription-based model and enjoy the polished product even if you don’t have an in-house IT team.


The downside? You don’t have ownership over this type of software. You also don’t get to customize it as much.


On the upside, you get some significant benefits.

Benefits of web-hosted LMS

Fast deployment

Web-hosted LMS can be more generic than installed, but on the bright side, that means it’s locked and loaded for deployment.


As soon as you can start your plan or free trial and make your accounts, the software is pretty much ready to go.

Affordable

It’s less of a risk to try out a subscription-based software that costs a few hundred dollars per month and then quit if it doesn’t work out.


In comparison, installed LMS requires an immediate, larger lump sum before you even have enough time to test it out.


If you’re not sure about the software you’re buying or are trying LMS for the first time, this is something to think about.

No tech skills required

You don’t need special skills in-house to handle a web-hosted LMS.


All the complicated parts are taken care of on the back-end so you can enjoy a hassle-free, user-friendly experience without worrying about fixing bugs or upgrading the system.

Scalable

Web-hosted LMS grows with your company.


As soon as you need more than you already have, you can simply migrate to the next subscription plan or add the specific features you need. Again, the tech part isn’t your concern.

Commercial LMS

Commercial LMS can be installed or service-based. It’s typically quick to deploy and easy to use but you have to pay a fee for it.


However, it’s important to note that this isn’t a universal model.


Commercial LMS can have many different faces with only a couple of features shared between all. Unlike open-source, commercial LMS doesn’t allow you to modify the source code.


You pay for a fully prepared software you’ll then use as is, with some level of customization included in that package.

Pros of Commercial LMS

Typically, your commercial LMS bundle comes with the following:


  • Support and training
  • New, on-trend features
  • Basic customization
  • Decent scalability, especially the SaaS type
  • Affordable prices


Overall, there are plenty of options out there when it comes to commercial LMS so it’s likely you’ll find one that suits you unless the cons outweigh the pros in your case.

Cons of Commercial LMS

Here’s where you may rethink using a commercial LMS:


  • You may have to pay additional fees
  • Customization isn’t as advanced as with some other LMS tools
  • Commercial LMS isn’t free

Free LMS

free lms

Learning management systems help educational institutions and businesses to develop, deliver and track elearning programs. However, most of these platforms come with pricing plans. These can especially be expensive for businesses with limited budgets.



Indeed, deciding on whether to use a free LMS or a paid one is an uphill task. But what exactly is a free LMS? How does it differ from open-source LMS?


A free LMS is one that does not come with licensing costs. The only expenses you will incur are related to integrating the system with your other learning tools and its maintenance. Most free LMSs are open-source, hence there is no difference between the two. The difference only applies to the angle you are looking at it. One is from a technological perspective (open-source) while the other is from a pricing perspective (free LMS).


When settling for an LMS, you need to consider factors such as installation costs, ongoing maintenance, and license fees per user or course. Besides, there could be other hidden expenses that could strain your budget.


If you are limited on a budget then you might need to consider a free LMS. Also, if you only have a handful of learners, a free tool may be the best fit for your organization. Here are some reasons why:


  • Despite having limited features and courses, your users will still get a good overview of the free LMS. They will still achieve learning in a free environment.
  • Free LMSs are open-source, meaning they are open for everyone to inspect, modify, and enhance according to their education and business needs.


Organizations that use free LMS tools have lower software costs and still benefit from the core features of these platforms. Additionally, the open-source nature of these solutions allows more customization without purchasing expensive licenses.


Ideally, free and open-source LMS platforms are the best option for companies that have their own development teams of programmers and instructional designers. Time is also a factor to consider since most of it will be spent learning, modifying, and customizing such an LMS.

When Should You Choose a Free LMS?

To begin with, ‘free is never really free!’ Free and open-source LMSs involve costs associated with hosting, support, and maintenance. Also, the fact that they lack out-of-the-box features makes this option time-consuming, and as they say, time is money!


Still, some organizations prefer this model. For example, if you have an in-house team of designers and programmers, you will love the customization that can be achieved using free LMS. Yes, it takes a lot of hard work but you can create any type of elearning content with a free LMS if you are determined and dedicated.


Alternatively, you may be looking for a ready-made, user-friendly option. Most LMS vendors offer free plans of their paid LMSs. This is a great way to test and experience the basic features of the software. You can make mistakes while learning at no extra cost.

Summary of LMS software types

We’ve covered a lot of ground with your learning management system options. This comparison table should help summarize the main points for better memory:

LMS type

Pros and cons

Cloud-based

  • Quick installation
  • Cost-effective
  • Easy to use
  • Accessible
  • Scalable
  • Mobile-responsive
  • Improved security
  • Streamlined training
  • Collaborative
  • Storage increase
  • No management required

SaaS

  • Fast deployment
  • Saved server space
  • Easy to start
  • No limited access
  • Up to date

Open-source

  • Free/low cost
  • Fully customizable
  • Active user community
  • Control over your content
  • Customer data retention
  • Yours to manage

Proprietary

  • Reliable and secure
  • Active support
  • Yours

Installed

  • Belongs to you
  • No internet required
  • Highly customizable
  • Secure
  • Potentially expensive to start with
  • Harder to scale
  • Maintenance is on you

Web-hosted

  • Fast deployment
  • Affordable
  • No tech skills required
  • Scalable
  • No proprietary ownership
  • Less customizable

Commercial

  • Great support and training
  • Latest features
  • Basic customization
  • Decent scalability
  • Affordable
  • Additional fees are possible

Free

  • Open for anyone to inspect or modify
  • Good option if you don’t have a lot of learners
  • Low risk
  • Lacks advanced features
  • Time-consuming
  • Long-term difficult to sustain


That was pretty comprehensive. By now, you should have a solid idea of what kind of LMS you might prefer for your business.


But how do you know if you actually need one at all?

How to Know if You Need a Learning Management System

Learning Management System

You can use the following steps to assess where your elearning programs stand, the different considerations you should take into account, and the potential for your organization to realize maximum ROI with a new learning management system.

1. Set Goals and Objectives for Your eLearning

  • What is the reason your learners want training?
  • How many employees must you train?
  • What are the compliance issues to be met?
  • Do you have ready-made content or need new material?
  • Do you already have an LMS or other online learning platform?

2. Assess Your Learners’ Circumstances

  • What is the volume of training that each learner must undergo in a year?
  • How engaging is your learning content? Can it be delivered in a single overview session or does it need more involved participation and assessment?
  • Are your learners dispersed in different locations or located in one place? If dispersed, does traveling between the different locations require considerable costs, time, and accommodation?

3. Evaluate Your Organization’s Ability to Manage a Self-Hosted LMS

  • Do you have the required expert personnel to run and manage a self-hosted LMS?
  • If none are available, what would it cost to implement such an in-house platform?

4. Assess the Value of Choosing Free/Open-Source versus Proprietary LMS

  • Do you need a ready-made solution or do you prefer a platform that comes with a wide array of configurable options?
  • Does your budget allow you to comfortably acquire either of the options?

Types of Courses

Learning management systems are associated with online learning and elearning. Courses offered using LMSs come in different standards and formats. However, you can also use an LMS to manage courses that take place outside the platform. These include classroom training and field-based training.


With that in mind, below are the types of courses that you can offer using an LMS.

eLearning Courses

This includes training content, tests, exercises, and practice questions that learners either pass or fail. Elearning courses come in different formats or standards. This is similar to how digital photos come in different file types including .jpg, .png, or .bmp.


The most common elearning standard is SCORM. Others include AICC, xAPI, and more recently, CMI5. These standards dictate how learning content is authored for LMS systems.


Generally, most learning management systems will allow you to upload and then assign, deliver, track, and compile reports on elearning courses. Importantly, take note if the learning management system you are evaluating can support elearning courses in the formats that you intend to use now and in the future.


This means that any LMS should allow you to import elearning courses from a number of sources. You could be making courses for yourself using a third-party course authoring tool, buying training courses from your LMS provider, or purchasing ready-made content from another training provider.


Notably, if you are using an LMS from one provider and getting elearning courses from another one, you can just upload the elearning courses to the LMS as Scorm files.

Word Documents and PDFs

These are the basic forms of documents, especially for written text. Most LMSs allow you to import these documents which your learners can view and read.

PowerPoint Presentations

PowerPoint presentations are powerful when it comes to creating slides. Trainers prefer this format and your LMS should allow you to import and play PowerPoint-based courses.

Audio Files

These are especially important when recording live sessions which can be accessed later by those who did not attend, or for future reference.

Video Files

These include actual video files or links to videos hosted on online platforms such as YouTube. Ensure that you import video files that your learners can open and view. Also, ensure that your LMS can convert video files to common formats that your learners will be able to launch such as .MP4.

Recorded Webinars

Recorded Webinars

Recorded Webinars

These are recorded audio and video sessions of training that are uploaded to the LMS as learning resources.

Internet/Web Links

Your LMS should allow you to place links that send your users to other websites where other learning activities can take place.

What Industries Can Profit From Having an LMS?

Industry

Why LMS helps

Healthcare

  • Healthcare workers have demanding schedules and need alternative, flexible learning opportunities
  • High levels of specialization and customizable learning paths help them focus on the skills they need
  • eLearning offers interactive content like virtual reality which allows learners to practice operations and complex procedures remotely

Education

  • Online learning allows different learning structures and schedules
  • Remote learning continues to have a crucial role during the pandemic
  • This offers higher levels of accessibility and personalization of learning material to students

Technology

  • Tech teams require highly-specialized expertise and, by extension, equally specialized training programs
  • Modular training and microlearning help complex topics become easier to approach
  • Tracking and analytics show where people need more support so each process can get optimized

Government

  • Growth and development on the job is one of government employees’ highest priorities
  • eLearning provides a relevant, specific, personalized approach that incentivises employees
  • Interactive content raises user engagement and makes learning easier

Human resources

  • Role-specific learning motivates employees to do better and feel happier
  • LMS tools help train, support, and retain new employees for longer


Even a simple learning management system can make a considerable difference in how efficiently people learn.


Instead of simply jumping on the bike and doing their best, learners who use LMS get training wheels, instructors, additional tips and tricks, and anything else they might need to be successful on their ride. 


This is particularly valuable in industries like healthcare where mistakes could have terrible consequences, or technology, where the subject matter is complicated enough.


Below are the learning management systems that make elearning easy.

Best LMSs in 2021

Based on our evaluation, here is a list of the best learning management systems in the market.

1. Tovuti LMS

Tovuti is an all-in-one cloud-based learning management system that gives you all the tools you need to create, deliver, and track the effectiveness of your elearning programs.


It earns its well-rounded, best value for the money rating by being one of the most flexible LMS solutions on the market.


The best part? It caters to your unique needs.


With Tovuti, creating an enterprise-level learning experience and integrating it with other systems you’re using for a unified management point is part of the deal.


tovuti

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2. Coassemble

Coassemble allows you to create, deliver, and train all from the same platform.

coassemble

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One of its strongest points is simplicity because it makes course creation an effortless, intuitive process.


This LMS can help you:


  • Move training online
  • Engage your learners with interactive features
  • Eliminate distractions from the learning experience for both your trainers and learners.


3. Lessonly

Lessonly is a simple and powerful training software that helps clients who deal face-to-face with their customers to learn, practice, and enhance their work performance.


This LMS offers excellent tracking and optimization possibilities to help you onboard and get measurable results fast.


With Lessonly, teams get on-demand practice and coaching sessions and gain new skills at 2.3x the normal rate.


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lessonlly

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4. Thinkific

Thinkific’s powerful platform makes it easy to share your knowledge, grow your audience, and scale the business you already love. Whether you’re educating 10 students or 10 million, you’ve got the easiest technology and best support in the business.


This platform is great for building your custom courses with zero coding skills and making educating an intuitive process.


With Thinkific, you can:


  • Choose from a number of templates
  • Drag and drop content
  • Use interactive elements and data analytics
  • Integrate with other tools
  • Have support on standby when you need it


thinkific

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5. Easy LMS

Easy LMS is a simple and effective LMS that eliminates the hassle associated with big clunky systems. They are the perfect solution if you are looking to create elearning content that is fun and effective.


Best for centralized learning for organizations.


With Easy LMS, you can onboard and continue training your employees easily with custom certificates and learning paths in over 24 languages.

easy LMS

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6. LearnUpon

LearnUpon combines user-focused technology and industry-leading expertise. They help businesses worldwide to deliver impactful training that fuels employee, customer, and partner success.


This software is all about streamlining your company’s progress at a large scale.


You can get inspired by their impressive use cases including sales learning, compliance training, and more.


LearnUpon

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7. TalentLMS

This is an award-winning LMS for those looking to build online courses for any purpose in a few easy clicks, even with zero experience.


TalentLMS is highly-customizable to make learning more comfortable for learners wherever they are and whatever material they are studying.


It has a user-friendly interface and a very engaging overall experience which makes it a valuable asset for businesses of any size.

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TalentLMS

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8. Moodle

Moodle

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Moodle is a free online learning management system, providing educators around the world with an open-source solution for elearning that is scalable, customizable, and secure with the largest selection of activities available.


It’s amazing to begin with and get all the essential features like online documentation without breaking the bank.


However, Moodle doesn’t have video conferencing. For that and other advanced features, you might need to go for a different LMS.

9. SAP Litmos

SAP Litmos

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The SAP Litmos LMS helps companies all over the world to deliver modern elearning courses.


This LMS is known for:


  1. Quick deployment
  2. Easy integration
  3. Excellent automation.


Repetitive and time-consuming admin tasks that can get completed without you are just some things that SAP Litmos can do in your stead.


You can use the saved time to focus on the curriculum and stay in contact with teachers and learners anywhere from this mobile-responsive, cloud-based system.

10. Brightspace

brightspace

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Brightspace is a leading LMS that gives every teacher, student, and employee the best learning experience. It is ranked a leader in corporate learning by Aragon Research and number 1 in higher education by Ovum.


How come? Well, they take the tech and admin parts off your hands so you can commit to learning at scale.


They’re flexible, robust, and offer high levels of personalization for best results.

11. Docebo

docebo

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Docebo offers its LMS via the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. Established in 2005, Docebo offers a learning portal for companies and their employees, partners, and customers.


AI-based and SCORM-compliant, this LMS is a great fit for medium and large businesses that put efficiency at the top of their priority list.


Docebo doesn’t let mistakes slide.


You can learn full-steam ahead and if there’s any incorrect data along the way, you can trust you’ll be timely notified.

12. Bridge

bridge

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Bridge is owned by Instructure, Inc. This learning management system not only provides employee education but also ensures that learning is connected to career development.


What sets Bridge apart? This LMS is performance-oriented and encourages peer support in every way.


Everything gets done quicker when everyone’s on the same page about what they need to do, how to do it best, and why it matters in the first place.


Bridge is all about closing that skill gap by connecting people.

13. Cornerstone Learning

cornerstone learning

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Cornerstone offers power without complexity. This LMS has robust functionality that will meet your unique learning requirements. It's also simple and intuitive to encourage a culture of continuous learning.


AI-recommended content for self-motivated learning and actionable analytics are just two reasons why over 6000+ organizations use Cornerstone.


They have a bit of everything on their platform for various industries and company sizes.


You can find a solution to fit your requirements sorted by product or need on their website for easy browsing.

14. Absorb LMS

absorb LMS

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Absorb LMS is a flexible learning platform that makes it easy to build and manage training programs for internal and external stakeholders.


We’re talking about an award-winning LMS that offers a number of specialized employee training programs and closes the gap between online training and on-the-job learning.


Absorb also offers 24/7 customer support.


This can easily be overlooked, but learning management tools are still technology and occasionally, glitches will happen.


Whether you’ll be able to handle them in-house or prefer to have your provider ready to jump in is worth consideration.

15. Thought Industries

thought industries

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Thought Industries powers the business of learning with industry-leading learning technology, with completely native tools and integrations that drive higher engagement, learner proficiency, and retention rates for its customers.


Want a customer-oriented learning platform? Thought Industries is technically a CLM (customer lifecycle management).


This software will help you onboard customers, create meaningful connections with them and retain them for much longer.


It’s worth considering for growing a loyal and educated customer base that scales as quickly as your business.

16. Eloomi

eloomi

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Eloomi combines the power of an LMS and continuous performance management in an agile cloud-based solution. It also allows you to simplify skills training and performance improvement with strong user experiences.


This is the solution to check out if the following sounds appealing to you:


  • Pre-made content libraries
  • Purpose-built learning
  • People development
  • Faster and bump-free onboarding


A smart system can save you days per employee, and Eloomi promises to do just that.

Conclusion

lms conclusion

Learning often comes with a few surprising curves. Especially at a larger scale and quick pace that corporations and educational institutions often require.


That’s where an LMS comes in.


A learning management system gives you a platform on which to manage all your elearning needs in one place. There are many factors to consider when choosing a reliable LMS that will meet your organization’s objectives and the learning needs of your learners…


An LMS like Tovuti.


The information contained in this article is pretty exhaustive and comprehensive. However, if you feel that you need more information and personal consultation on the same, why not watch our demo


Or keep reading about online learning on our blog.

Author:
Tyson Chaplin

Tyson Chaplin earned his Master of Educational Technology degree from Boise State University in 2014. He also earned a graduate certificate in Technology Integration and holds teaching certificates in online teaching, special education, and history.

Tyson is an Idaho native who is passionate about technology and how it can help all people learn and better themselves. He has worked in both public and private sectors. Tyson enjoys cooking and traveling with his wife, Malia, and restores vintage video game systems in his free time.

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