Alternatives to LMS: what, when and why?

The learning management system, or LMS, used to be an integral part of most organizations’ learning ecosystem, and for good reason. But times change, business needs and user expectations change, and of course, technology changes too. The traditional solution is no longer the default answer in all situations, so let’s explore the LMS alternatives now available.

alternatives to LMS

When and why should you consider LMS alternatives?

Just to be clear: this is not an ‘LMS is dead’ article: learning management systems have their place. If you need to host and track elearning courses alongside other non-digital employee training programs, and need the administrative functions too, then an LMS may well still be the answer. The Fosway report on Learning Systems from January 2019 makes interesting reading on this:

Despite the backlash, the traditional LMS is not dead and compliance is still a core driver. Despite the broader shift to learner engagement, the demand for better management of learning including gold-plated compliance, continues to be a core driver for many learning system projects. For all the talk of the death of LMS, our research shows that less than 1% of buyers believe they will be able to turn off their LMS, even if they want to! But whilst compliance continues to be a core driver, it is also changing. There is a shift from compliance meaning attendance/completion, to compliance meaning competence. This changes both tracking and reporting significantly, shifting away from the course and into the workplace.”

The truth is, these days there is a lot more to online learning than neatly-packaged, SCORM-compliant elearning courses that we send users a link to and then mark as completed once done. Here are some reasons why an LMS alternative could suit your learning ecosystem better.

An LMS...

– Is built to meet organizational needs, with little expectation that learners will spend much time in it.

– Often requires a time-consuming multi-step process to get SCORM content approved and uploaded.

– Is geared towards delivering knowledge and content, with data focused on completions, assessment scores and reach.

– Doesn’t usually enable the creation of content, although may include an off-the-shelf library of resources.

– Restricts access to people within the organization – or costs a lot of time and money to enrol others onto the LMS.

 

You want or need...

– Your audience to be able to interact with your content and learning platforms in the flow of work as well as providing you with data.

– Simple, flexible processes that let you share content more quickly – particularly in fast-moving contexts like retail environments

– A growth-focused (rather than compliance-focused) take on employee learning and development.

– L&D teams, or even SMEs in the business, to be able to quickly and easily create and publish content in one place.

– Your content to be available more broadly – perhaps to temporary staff (like seasonal workers in retail), freelancers, contractors or suppliers – without unwelcome extra costs.

What are the alternatives to LMS?

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but these are some of the LMS alternatives available and some considerations to keep in mind.

  • A low-end LMS (like the LearnDash WordPress add-on) could work well for smaller organizations that want to host courses and get some basic tracking.
  • Elearning portals, built using something like Learning Launchpad (more on this below) or SharePoint, can curate resources and content (including modules built-in authoring tools) into one place, and often can draw on useful features like forums and tracking.
  • Virtual learning environments (VLEs) tend to be used in the education sector but their focus on learner collaboration above performance tracking could work in other instances – graduate or induction programs, for example.
  • Fosway identified next-generation learning environments (NGLEs) as a recent disruptor to the market. These tend to facilitate things like social learning, video and microlearning and generally are more focused on the user experience than traditional LMS products.
  • If employees already regularly use your intranet and it’s part of their workflow, you could capitalize on this and build learning experiences as microsites

A learning record store (LRS – there’s no shortage of acronyms in this business!) is another option, using xAPI to receive data from any number of unconnected learning solutions. This becomes the central repository for storing and analyzing learning activity.

An important question: what data do you really need to track?

It’s worth noting this observation from Fosway: “L&D doesn’t invest much in analytics compared to HR – it is inward looking not business focused when it comes to measuring impact. Good data and analytics are essential for good decision-making and proving you make a difference.” 

Don’t focus on tracking completion rates or session durations if those aren’t the metrics that actually matter. In some cases (like BP’s online induction program, described here by Nick Shackleton-Jones), unique visitor numbers or page views might be relevant and impactful, and those can be provided by (for example) Google Analytics, without need for an LMS.

Skip the admin and get your content directly to learners with Learning Launchpad

If all the above has opened your eyes to a world beyond the LMS, Elucidat’s brand new Learning Launchpad could be just what you’re looking for! 

elearning portal learning launchpad

Learning Launchpad lets you create any number of web portals, each one its own learning experience (or curated collection of Elucidat projects) but collated, managed and tracked in one place. This could be the ideal solution if you need an LMS alternative and:

  • your audience includes groups outside the organization – users can self-register and access content on any device so you can reach diverse audiences for a much lower cost than would be involved in enrolling them onto an LMS;
  • learners don’t have ready access to PCs (shop floor retail employees, for instance) and you want a responsive, multi-device solution easily accessible online; 
  • you don’t have the L&D team manpower to manage the administration of a full, traditional LMS, but want genuinely valuable data and analysis; or 
  • you want to open up content production to others in the business – they can produce projects using the ease and flexibility of Elucidat and share them directly with learners through the Learning Launchpad.

In summary…

The LMS landscape is changing! There are more ways than ever to deliver online courses and learning experiences, and a growing range of alternatives to LMS. Questions around your audience, the resources available to you, and the data you need will all inform the choice you make. 

Find out more about Learning Launchpad

We’d love to show you how Learning Launchpad could transform learning management in your organization – contact us to book a demo.

Learning launchpad

Stephanie Karaolis

Stephanie is a freelance learning designer and copywriter, drawing on a decade of experience in the industry, including roles at Saffron Interactive and in BP’s Online & Informal Learning team. She shares her learning ideas regularly on her personal blog.
Stephanie Karaolis

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