An LMS, or Learning management system, is a software tool that allows you to create, deliver, and report on training courses and programs. There are many LMSs to choose from, each offering different features and capabilities. Every company has different training needs, making identifying and selecting the ‘right’ LMS a daunting process. We want to help you narrow down the options to what you truly need to create and deliver successful training. Let’s get back to basics and take a look at who uses an LMS?, common use cases, the features most learning leaders use, what an implementation looks like, and how to choose the best LMS for your training needs.
Types of Learning Management Systems
The term learning management system is a broad tag attached to a lot of different tools. Under closer inspection, these tools have some major differentiators and serve very different users. For example, an LMS used by a university is a very different piece of software from one used by a software company. Following are some of the types of Learning Management Systems:
1. Corporate vs academic systems: Simply put, a business usually opts for a corporate LMS, while a school or university typically opts for a higher education or academic LMS. The main difference is the number of features and tools each offers. A corporate LMS is frequently updated and enhanced with new features, and offers functionality like white-labeling, as well as the option to integrate with other tools. Whereas an academic LMS won’t provide frequent feature updates and is unlikely to support integrations.
2. SaaS / Cloud LMS vs Locally hosted LMS: You can store all the data on your company’s own servers, thus hosting the system yourself, or you can select a SaaS LMS platform, and leave it to your vendor to deal with server load, backups, and security. A SaaS platform is the best match if you don’t have IT staff in place and want to focus on creating learning content. Some companies avoid cloud-based learning management systems because of data security concerns. They believe that their information that is stored on a remote server may be compromised. However, there are different ways to safeguard your data. For instance, ensure that the LMS vendor has effective encryption protocols and will back up your information.
3. Free vs. Commercial: When choosing between a free, open-source system and a commercial platform, you need to know that not all open-source LMSs are, in fact, actually free. There may be no license fee, but you may need to set up a server and a hosting architecture, customize certain features and branding, and regularly upgrade your system – so you need technical talent in your team to succeed. The ideal solution for users without an IT background is commercial LMS software. It’s typically much easier to deploy and use, offers tech support services, and doesn’t incur additional costs.
Standards of Learning Management Systems
Selecting a unified standard for both eLearning authoring tools and LMSs means that information will be successfully shared between them. Here are the five major LMS standards that predetermine the compatibility between an LMS and an authoring tool:
1. AICC: The oldest technical standard lets a course transfer information in HTTP format. It is no longer evolving, but there are some LMSs and authoring tools that are AICC compliant.
2. SCORM: This is the standard that is recognized by almost every learning platform and enables content to interact with the system to track user progress and manipulate the course structure to a great degree. There are currently four different versions of this standard: SCORM 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, and 2004.
3. xAPI, or Tin Can: It is a nextgen version of SCORM that can exchange data with an extended number of software, like talent management systems or mobile apps, and tracks most learning activities, including experiential learning and simulations.
4. LMS LTI: This standard is especially popular in higher education, as it enables content creators to build courses within their own tools to share them with learners on different platforms.
5. Cmi5: It is the newest standard that provides all the capabilities of SCORM and xAPI together. Thus, cmi5 content can be viewed on mobile devices, even offline, and you can get detailed statistics on any format of content, including PDFs, videos, and games.
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