Learning and development on a global scale requires a learning management system, or LMS. From creating essential training to deploying it across the organization, an LMS keeps you in control. But with 2020 seeing more feature-packed software on the market, how do you know which LMS to choose? Check out our elearning LMS comparison and find out how you can decide which learning management system is right for you.
What is LMS software?
Before we jump straight into the top LMS systems available, let’s get clear on what exactly is a learning management system. The Wikipedia LMS learning management system definition describes it as:
“a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, automation and delivery of educational courses, training programs, or learning and development programs.”
But what does that mean? Let’s break the acronym down to its components:
- Learning: It’s not just a repository for training. From online learning to classroom sessions, an LMS is your organization’s one-stop shop for all things L&D.
- Management: It’s more than a platform that gives access to online courses and other materials. It’s a well-organized system that empowers you to manage the whole L&D process.
- System: Automating some of the work and removing a degree of human error, an LMS helps make L&D more systematic.
Put simply, a learning management system allows you to effectively and efficiently create, roll out and manage learning and development at your organization.
Benefits of LMS platforms
LMS software has become an indispensable tool for many L&D departments. And it’s not surprising when you look at all the benefits it can bring you and your organization.
- Get responsive: Quickly and easily creating and rolling out online training means you can respond to new learning and development needs at pace.
- Reduce your costs: Easy-to-access online courses allow you to reduce more expensive classroom training and face-to-face mentoring and use them where they have the most impact.
- Use time more effectively: Automating your most time-consuming work, while reducing the hours employees spend away from their everyday duties for training – it’s a win-win.
- Personalize learning experiences: Providing a range of training and different routes through this blended learning creates more personalized experiences.
- Make it convenient: Enabling people to take courses at their own pace – wherever, whenever and on any device – creates a convenient learning experience.
- Create consistency at scale: Rolling out courses across locations, sectors and departments allows you to create consistent skills and knowledge on a global scale.
- Keep track and stay compliant: Reporting provides an audit trail and removes a degree of human error that could open you up to risk.
- Continuously improve: Using feedback, data and analytics to learn from each piece of training you roll out allows you to continually improve.
All these benefits add up to one big gain: Maximizing the impact of L&D at your organization.
Types of Learning Management Systems
While most platforms share a common purpose and many benefits, LMS system features can vary from product to product. When you’re researching LMSs, you’ll notice some key terms keep appearing. Understanding these are essential to making your choice of learning management system LMS software. Here’s our lowdown of the different terms and types you should look out for.
SCORM-compliant: SCORM stands for Shareable Content Object Reference Model. It’s a way of setting up an elearning course so that it can run from any (SCORM-compliant) LMS. Whether it’s off the shelf or built by your team, digital courses can come in different shapes and sizes. If you’re going to run elearning that adheres to SCORM standards, you need a SCORM-compliant LMS.
Cloud-based vs. Locally hosted: Choose between a SaaS (Software as a Service) LMS or storing your data on your own servers. If you host the system yourself, you’re responsible for all server specs, uptime and security. If you choose a SaaS, your data will be cloud-based and your vendor takes care of this work.
LMS vs Learning Content Management System (LCMS): There’s some crossover between LCMSs and LMSs. Both allow you to host and deliver web-based learning, and both are SCORM compatible. The main difference is that LCMS specializes in digital learning – allowing you to create and deliver elearning all in one place.
For more info on the difference between an LMS and an LCMS, have a look at our Learning Content Management Systems Guide: LCMS vs. LMS.
How to choose the best LMS software
As you can see, there’s lots of different LMS types to choose from. Narrowing it down to the best LMS platforms for your organization is all about understanding your key needs. Our friends at LearnUpon have outlined five steps to get you focused and identifying the best enterprise LMS solutions. Here’s a quick summary:
- Step 1: Identify your audience: Think about your learners and the type of training you need to deliver. For example, what are your key learning objectives? Do you need onboarding, compliance or customer training?
- Step 2: Focus on important features: List your “need to have” features. For example, is your focus going to be ease of use or complex reporting? Are you looking for the best mobile LMS, or is quick integration more important?
- Step 3: Evaluate each LMS: Do some high-level research to identify systems that appear to meet your needs. Evaluate each of these. Create a short list of LMS systems that you think could work for your organization.
- Step 4: Look beyond the LMS: Go deeper and do some more research. Look at LMS platform reviews. Explore the aftercare each LMS offers. Sign up for a free trial so you can try them out for yourself.
- Step 5: Choosing an LMS: Finally, it’s time to do an LMS comparison. If you’ve got two or three systems that meet your needs, take another look at those corporate LMS reviews. Share your decision with colleagues and stakeholders for feedback on your decision.
To find out more about each of these steps, check out the full article on LearnUpon.
The best LMS platforms 2020
So, you’re ready to start your research and identify the best LMS tools for your organization. But with so many companies claiming to have top LMS platforms, where do you start looking? Whether you’re after corporate Learning Management Systems or open-source platforms, we’ve identified 10 of the best tools. Here’s a short LMS software comparison for each of them:
LearnUpon is an award-winning cloud-based learning management system which focuses on the customer. An intuitive interface makes it easy for both admins and learners to use LearnUpon. Continuous feedback and roadmap input allow customers to shape the platform.
- USPs: Easy-to-use; Customer-centric; World-class support.
- Ideal for: Medium to large enterprises who want to maximize their growth through training of employees, partners and customers.
Award-winning Docebo Learn is a cloud-based LMS that’s easy to use and configurable. Docebo applies new approaches and technologies, like social learning and Artificial Intelligence, to support the different ways people learn. A monthly active user price model makes it an affordable option.
- USPs: Highly configurable; Future-focused; Affordable.
- Ideal for: Fast-growing international companies looking to scale training for customers and partners.
Knowledge Anywhere is a centralized learning platform that provides an award-winning end-to-end solution. From strategy to implementation, they have experts on hand to offer support whenever it’s needed.
- USPs: End-to-end solution; Customer-centric; World-class support.
- Ideal for: Organizations in any industry (except formalized education institutions) with over 50 learners.
Totara Learn is an award-winning LMS. It can be adapted and extended to meet exact requirements and seamlessly integrate into technology ecosystems. With no expensive long-term contracts, Totara is an affordable and flexible option.
- USPs: Adaptable; Extendable; Cost effective.
- Ideal for: Organizations of all sizes across all sectors, but Totara is particularly popular with healthcare, government, non-profit and retail sectors.
SAP Litmos Training LMS can be simply and quickly implemented. This award-winning LMS offers rapid automation and embedded Artificial Intelligence. It’s combined with a robust course library – SAP Litmos Training Content – which speeds up rolling out training.
- USPs: Simple integration; Robust off-the-shelf content; Easy to roll out.
- Ideal for: Large, global organizations with distributed workforces.
Priding itself as the best LMS for business, Cornerstone provides a holistic solution. From HR to course content, find everything in one place with this corporate LMS. Use it to manage different delivery methods, as well as informal learning and reporting. Offering world-class support, Cornerstone is easy to roll out.
- USPs: A Holistic solution; Easy to roll out; World-class support.
- Ideal for: Large organizations with a global presence.
Absorb is a cloud-based LMS training system. This platform combines forward-thinking technology that’s built to scale with organizations. It also offers great customer service and support.
- USPs: Future-focused; Scalable; World-class support.
- Ideal for: Small and medium organizations who are looking to grow.
Canvas is a platform for importing, building, and managing courses, as well as creating customizable communications. Specializing in supporting academic organizations, this LMS helps create optimized educational experiences.
- USPs: Mobile; Customizable; Secure.
- Ideal for: Schools, higher and further education institutions.
Chamilo is a simple and free open source learning management system. Describing itself as a virtual campus, this LMS was developed with a vision of collaboration and ethical development. The Chamilo community is on hand to offer plenty of support.
- USPs: Free; Easy to use; Community support.
- Ideal for: Small and not-for-profit organizations.
Efront is a cloud-based corporate learning management system that provides customizable options for growing organizations. It can securely integrate with, and support, the most demanding and complex learning ecosystems.
- USPs: Customizable; Secure; Resilient.
- Ideal for: Blue-chip and other growing enterprises.
LMS authoring tools
So, you’ve identified your organization’s perfect LMS, but your search doesn’t end there. Even the best LMS systems still need engaging learning content if they’re going to be effective. That’s where an authoring tool comes in. Use an authoring tool to produce engaging content, then deliver it on your learning management system.
As with LMSs, there are plenty of authoring tools to choose from. And they all come with different features and benefits. Take a look at:
- Elucidat: our cloud-based authoring tool packed with features and tailor-made for collaboration.
- Articulate Storyline 360: this well-known authoring tool provides a clean and simple approach to content creation.
- Captivate: a desktop-based authoring tool with some great features for producing basic learning content quickly.
You can find out more about each of these and some of the other tools on the market in our full authoring tool review.
An LMS is key to effectively and efficiently creating, rolling out and managing learning and development at your organization. Cloud-based or locally hosted? LMS or LCMS? Packed with features or keeping it simple? When it comes to LMSs, there’s plenty to consider. If you’re going to choose the best platform for your organization and maximize the benefits of an LMS, you need to start with your key requirements. Once you’ve identified your “need to have” features, it’s time to compare the best LMS tools out there.
Of course, even the best LMS systems won’t be effective if they don’t contain engaging learning content. So, don’t forget, you need an awesome authoring tool to complement your LMS.
Want to try out one of these great authoring tools? Book a demo of Elucidat to get started with a free trial.