What is a Learning Management System, their benefits and things to consider if looking to introduce one into your organisation.

This article has been designed to walk you through the basics of what a Learning Management System (LMS) is, how they can differ vastly and why it is important for you to know what features and benefits you want and how to maximise its introduction.

So let’s start with what an LMS is and more importantly what it is not.

A Learning Management System or LMS is an online platform that manages your learning and development needs and allows your employees access to their learning whenever they like, on any device they like.

Learning Management Systems have been around for over 20 years, their popularity has grown rapidly and they have become one of the main tools found within the L&D toolkit due to the explosion of smart devices, the changing needs and expectations of learners and the ability to provide standardised quality elearning to the whole organisation.

Originally learning platforms were used to deliver online computer based training via the web, today they can deliver a wide variety of mediums of learning from document management, elearning, workshop management, community based learning, 3rd party learning and many more.

A LMS can be used to support a blended learning approach or be a stand-alone solution for an organisation and it is through an understanding of strategic goals that an informed choice can be made.

In addition to the above a LMS can also provide analytical and statistical data and reports that can help shape the delivery of learning across organisations.

A Learning Management System is not a panacea. It will not solve cultural or behavioural issues facing an organisation. It will not make employees engage nor will it make employees undertake learning.

However, we find with our customers at My Learning Cloud that if used in conjunction with wider undertakings that support change and empowerment (i.e. a strong adoption piece along with the features and benefits that the learning seeks) a Learning Management System can support the shift and make a real positive difference to your organisation and learners.

Are there different types of Learning Management Systems and how much do they cost?

In short, yes. There are a wide variety of Learning Management Systems to suit budgets, needs and wants.

You can acquire open source Learning Management Systems like MoodleLMS for example, it is free to download, but requires the ability and resources to configure to your requirements. Do not underestimate the resources required as at a minimum you will require a programmer and your own servers.

Another option is to purchase it is a SaaS (Software as a Service) whereby you forgo the configuration element and purchase a readymade solution that stores your data on the vendor’s servers and typically includes assistance and updates. This solution works well if you have your own elearning modules and resources and simply want somewhere to centralise and manage.

The last option is to purchase a tailored SaaS which includes elearning modules and resources suitable for your organisation. My Learning Cloud is such a provider. We are tailored for the Health and Social Care sector and provide over 85 elearning courses as standard. So it is important that if you choose this option that you also consider the suitability of the elearning content itself.

With all of the options listed above I would strongly recommend the consideration of “is this solution is to be standalone or integrated with other mediums of learning?”, if it is the latter then it is vital that you find a solution that can deliver against these requirements.

Things to consider when looking at a Learning Management Systems

There are so many features to list in an article like this, but to save you time I have listed the top 5 things to consider when looking at a Learning Management System.

  1. Reporting Functionality – one of the main draws to using a LMS for organisations is the ability to report on the outcomes of the learning undertaken. Some LMS’s provide a simple set of reports whilst others allow for more complex reporting, either way the ability to simply click a button and get the required information is a real plus. So ensure you get the reporting suite you need to help deliver the results you require.

  2. Integration – the ability to link your HR, payroll and rota systems into an LMS is a huge benefit. It simplifies processes, removes duplication and allows for seamless talking between systems. However, it is important to understand the additional costs and configuration this may incur but if your budget can allow for it, I would strongly recommend it.

  3. User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) – this is one of the most important elements to consider. Is it easy to navigate and follow, has it been designed with the learner in mind?

    At My Learning Cloud we believe that good design facilitates good experience. A LMS needs to understand that there will be different user types such as Administrators, Managers and Learners and each screen needs to deliver for them. Also understanding your learners abilities will also help you ensure you get the right Learning Management System for your Organisation.

  4. Support – This often forgot element is so important. If you are purchasing an open source LMS, how will you be supported? If you are purchasing SaaS what support tools are in-place to ensure you are maximising your investment. Does the provider offer training, a support desk, FAQ section? Are these included in the costs or are they extra? What are their response times?  Important questions to ask to ensure you are fully supported.

  5.    Freedom – what I mean by this point is the freedom to self-administrate, configure, alter and tweak. Do you have the freedom to add a user yourself or do you need to submit a request to the support desk and wait 3 days? Do you have the freedom to add in new divisions to your business or do you need to pay a fixed fee for the software provider to do this for you. Again, it is really important that you get a LMS that can work the way in which you need it to.  

 What are the benefits of a Learning Management System?

The benefits to introducing a LMS into an organisation can be massive. The ability to allow the technology to take the strain and administration of Learning and Development challenges away from organisations is huge.

Alongside this is the empowerment element of a LMS, employees (some for the first time) can see the learning they have completed and what learning they need to do. Providing them the tools to undertake learning at a time that suits them can be really powerful.

In addition to this would be the benefit of providing oversight for an organisation with really strong reporting tools, allowing strategic decisions to be made and ROI calculated.

It is important to note that the benefits presented will be different for each organisation.

Ensuring you maximise the Learning Management System

Learning Management Systems can be powerful tools that can help support and shape the provision of learning and development within any organisation, however not keeping the LMS fresh is cardinal sin number one.

What I mean by this is that your LMS should be the go-to system for all things learning and development and sometimes people fail to update the systems and courseware and the system can quite quickly get stale. Ensure you have enough time put aside to keep it up to date so your learners are engaged and your systems fresh!

By Steven Embleton, Chief Cloud, My Learning Cloud

Released 10 June 2019