Everything you need to know about learning management system software

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As a learning and development (L&D) professional, there’s no doubt that you’ll have come across discussions over learning management system software (more commonly referred to as an ‘LMS’). Should your organisation be using one? Is it true that the traditional LMS really is dead? More importantly, what is it exactly and how does it differ from other types of learning systems?

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What is learning management system software?

Put simply, an LMS is the software application that allows you to create, house, deliver, and track your training content. Whether it’s for educational courses, training programs or L&D programs, the LMS helps you deliver these to the right audiences and monitor progress. For example, it might be used to assign induction training courses to new employees so that progress can be tracked and learning retention assessed in a scored test.

The LMS may also be referred to as:

  • Training management platforms
  • Online training platforms
  • Online learning platforms
  • Learning activity management system
  • Training management system

Note that this is not the same as the learning experience platform (LXP) – for more on the differences between the LMS vs LXP, check out our blog post.

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What can I use learning management system software for?

The LMS was initially used in higher education institutions, but is now popular in more commercial sectors. Anyone who wants to deliver and track training with ease might want to consider using an LMS – whether that’s a school, college or university, a healthcare trust or a corporate organisation.

The following are just some examples of cases where an LMS can be useful:

  • Compliance training
    • This is probably the most common example. Compliance training isn’t going away anytime soon, so an LMS is ideal for providing a clear record of which employees have completed the necessary training (e.g. health and safety training).
  • Onboarding
    • This is especially important for organisations with remote employees. A strong remote onboarding process ensures that new hires have access to induction training materials, privacy guidelines, and details about the company whenever they need them.
  • Upskilling and reskilling
    • Upskilling and reskilling are key focus areas for L&D today. The right LMS can help L&D assign the right training to address skills gaps and ensure the organisation is equipped with the skills it needs for the future.
  • Training sales and customer service teams
    • People-facing customers need to update their knowledge regularly. Providing them with courses within the LMS means they are always able to stay up to date on product or service updates, industry changes or communication techniques.

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What are the benefits of learning management system software?

If your current training model is failing to deliver results, it may be time to consider the benefits of having an LMS. Some of the main advantages include:

  • Cost-saving
    • Housing your training within an LMS reduces the need for different events, trainers, venues, travel arrangements and accommodation costs.
  • Flexibility
    • Today’s busy learners want to consume learning at a time and place most suitable for them. An LMS provides them with access to learning materials regardless of geographical location or other commitments.
  • Time-saving
    • How much of your time is taken up with administrative duties? An LMS keeps all your training organised and on track, removing some of the headache. Course content can also be created and updated quickly within the system.
  • Tracking results
    • An LMS allows you to measure the success of your training initiatives – whether that’s engagement metrics (e.g. user login frequency or course completion rates) or assessment results.
  • Increased knowledge retention
    • An LMS gives employees greater control over their own learning process. They have the flexibility to review past modules as required, which helps to combat the effect known as Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve.

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Is learning management system software right for me?

In recent years, there has been debate over whether the LMS has become redundant in light of the rise in personalised, adaptive delivery that’s now intrinsic to modern learning. Advocates of next-generation platforms (e.g. the LXP) may claim that the age of learning management system software is well and truly over.

For example, curation and user-led experience is one of the key capabilities of the LXP that make it arguably more suited to modern learning than the traditional LMS. Other benefits of the LXP include:

  • An open system to accommodate external resources
  • The ability for anybody to contribute their own content
  • Adaptive learning paths
  • Discussion spaces for collaborative learning and coaching/mentoring
  • The ability to track learning outside of formal situations (with the help of xAPI)
  • The ability to track soft skills
  • The capacity for unmarked, practice assessments

This more holistic, personalised approach to learning is therefore ideal for engaging learners beyond just mandatory compliance training.

However, it’s important to remember that there are times when we do still need the formal learning management enabled by the LMS. Compliance training, for example, will always have its place. For a truly integrated blended learning approach, you’ll also want to incorporate formal learning pathways into your strategy, which is where the LMS comes in.

What about today’s more advanced learning systems that combine the best of both? These incorporate the key features of the LXP and its xAPI abilities, without compromising on the formal delivery and tracking associated with the LMS. By integrating the two, the result is that you can successfully engage learners beyond mandatory compliance training, yet are still able to measure and manage formal learning activities linked to unique organisational goals.

The decision over whether an LMS is truly the right choice for you is, therefore, entirely dependent on your organisation’s unique needs.

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