Learning Management System Comparison: Create a Framework for Selecting an LMS

stock image 1As more organizations automate administration for education and training, an increasing number learning management system (LMS) options are competing for their attention. Identifying the most effective system isn’t always intuitive. If you’re comparing systems for your own organization, you might be asking questions like:

To create a useful framework for your learning management system comparison, it’s imperative that you address all of these questions. With an emphasis on the features and benefits most relevant to professional education and professional learners, let’s consider all of the major factors involved in making an LMS selection.

Specifically, we’ll provide an overview of the following considerations, all of which must come into play as you evaluate your options:

Identifying the right type of LMS

The LMS market is extremely diverse. On one hand, market diversity means that most organizations will be able to identify a system that meets their needs. On the other hand, the sheer variety of options can make for a long selection process.

First things first, let’s sort through some terminology so we can focus on what we really want:

The biggest question you need to answer is whether your primary objective is to manage learners or create content. If the answer is both, then you need to determine which fundamental aspects of an LMS or LCMS are most important to you. Frequently, industry or niche-specific applications will offer the right combination of people and content management functionality for your organization.

Case in point: the Rievent Platform. Our LMS is built for the continuing professional education (CE) market, and its basic functionality addresses the unique requirements of CE administrators and learners. Reporting, registration, eCommerce, activity delivery, and the lifecycle of CME activity management are fundamental aspects of Rievent, putting us squarely in the “LMS” category. That being said, Rievent also enables administrators to add all common content types, including video. Having that functionality does not make Rievent an LCMS. It just means we’ve incorporated some aspects of content management into our LMS as dictated by the needs of our users.

On some level or another, many industry-specific LMSs cross over into the content management and creation realm. The point is that whatever system you select should help you achieve your organizational objectives, regardless of the acronym used to describe it.

Speaking of organizational objectives, aligning your administrative needs and goals with LMS functionality is critical. If you lack the internal resources or infrastructure to manage your own servers or build a proprietary system, a cloud-based or software-as-a-service (SaaS) application is almost always the way to go. Generally speaking, a SaaS LMS offers faster time-to-launch, near-infinite scalability, and, due to its being in the cloud, greater flexibility for learners.

Assuming you can identify an LMS that meets your industry’s standards for compliance and security (as most organizations will), opt for SaaS. In most cases, it’s more cost-effective and easier to use than its “on-prem” counterparts. Both of those traits should align nicely with most organizations’ institutional objectives.

Meeting your learners’ needs

As someone who administers education or professional training, you want an LMS that:

Any system that ticks all of those boxes will meet learners’ needs for usability and speed. Because it enables learners to solve many of their own problems and self-manage most aspects their education experience, it will also help you maximize efficiency and free up more time to complete valuable tasks.

However, a system’s availability and flexibility are just as important to learners as the ability to view and manage records or request course credit. An increasingly mobile workforce is challenging education providers to make course content available whenever and wherever learners happen to be. For this reason, optimizing the learner experience isn’t just about features. It’s about a system’s fundamental design, too.

That’s why any system you select should include a mobile-responsive interface. In addition to meeting learner demand for on-the-go access to courses or activities, you need to identify systems that deliver a mobile-friendly experience for all learner actions. Event registration, access to records, activity evaluations – all of this functionality must be packaged in an interface that’s just as easy to use on mobile devices as on a desktop computer.

The bottom line: An LMS should be intuitive for learners. The more intuitive your application, the better your learners’ experience.

Comparing features

You’ve identified the type of LMS you need. You’ve verified that it includes the self-service tools and flexible interface that you and your learners demand. Now what?

This is where features come into play. Any answer to the question, “What features should I look for in an LMS?” is highly dependent on an organization’s needs. Features vary according to an LMS’s target market, whether it’s a generic or niche-specific solution, and the system’s underlying fundamentals (SaaS or on-premises). That said, education providers – particularly those providers with professional learners – frequently benefit from the following features:

Takeaway: Set expectations high, and don’t compromise.

The LMS market is full of options. Go for SaaS. Go for mobile-responsive. Go for an industry-specific solution, if possible. There’s little reason to compromise on features either. Look hard enough and you’ll find that system with SSO, eCommerce, reporting, and whatever functionality fits your stringent requirements.

Assuming you opt for a SaaS solution, another positive is scalability. With a cloud-based LMS, you’ll have an application that grows with your organization. Need to add users, increase course volume, or pull additional reports? SaaS makes it possible without manual upgrades or large implementation projects. You’ll also benefit from continuous enhancements, which cloud companies generally roll out automatically as soon as they become available.

So set your expectations high, and go find the LMS that meets your needs and delivers a streamlined, intuitive experience for learners. Using the framework we just discussed, you should be well-prepared to identify and select the most effective application for your organization.