Choosing the Right Learning Management System (LMS)


Businesses use Learning Management Systems (LMSs) to enhance online training and elearning initiatives, making these systems increasingly key parts of instructional design and employee training.

ProEdit’s LMS series offers a high-level view of some of the major LMSs to help:

  • Instructional designers and training professionals trying to stay up to date with all the different LMSs organizations are using
  • Business leaders looking to implement a new LMS or better understand the one they have

This article series explores different LMSs on the market today, considering their various applications for designing and conducting corporate training and education initiatives.

How to Choose an LMS

The right learning management system (LMS) can greatly enhance educational initiatives. Whether a company is looking for an electronic framework to structure the delivery of training material to participants, or platforms to assist in generating engaging presentations, there is a variety of options when selecting an LMS. The following questions will help guide the process of comparing available LMS options.

What features are most important to the initiative?

Not every available LMS feature is applicable to a specific training initiative. Though most LMSs have functions that extend throughout the process—from generating curriculum to evaluating participant performance—specialization among them makes it important to find one with features suited to the specific goals of the training initiative.

  • Blackboard boasts a variety of services and platforms, enables access to digital educational content (Learn™), facilitates interaction between students, leverages mobile devices (Connect™ and Collaborate™), manages statistical data (Analytics™), and provides financial service infrastructure (Transact™).
  • Moodle focuses on content delivery via dynamic website creation. It can augment traditional educational models or serve as an elearning platform, with options for interactive forums and databases.
  • CourseMill allows customization of features and works well in a corporate training setting.

What solution fits the available budget?

The cost of LMS services is a major consideration when comparing the types of services offered. Depending on the resources available to your initiative, the depth and variety of a platform affects the overall cost.

  • Blackboard is a high-end solution offering world-class support, depth, and integrated development. It is used by major universities.
  • Moodle is a free, open-source platform. Support is available in an active online forum community, through purchasable manuals, or from partner organizations offering paid services (training, site hosting, etc.).
  • CourseMill charges monthly fees that cover system maintenance.

How large is the training initiative?

The extent of your education initiative will define the scope of the appropriate elearning solution. LMSs with a high degree of versatility and a variety of services might offer more benefit to larger initiatives with more participants and administrative needs. An initiative that is entirely online or involves fewer participants, however, may need more streamlined services.

The size of the initiative can also determine the type of licensing model best suited to its purposes. Licenses can limit the use of the LMS by the number of total users, users simultaneously connected, courses, or other factors.

  • Blackboard can support large initiative sizes. The expense may be prohibitive for smaller initiatives. The licensing model varies by platform (Learn™ limits servers, Collaborate™ features a flat rate, etc.).
  • Moodle is suitable for a range of initiatives. No license is needed.
  • CourseMill licensing limits the number of servers running the system.

What technical resources are available to manage the system?

The amount of technical resources a company wishes to devote to a training initiative can have an effect on which LMS will be best suited to it. If, for example, resources are available to maintain the LMS on the company’s own server, services for remote-hosting and technical support may not be required. Meanwhile, if a more hands-off approach is more appropriate, an LMS that includes maintenance and hosting on its own server could be beneficial.

  • Blackboard offers full support features and remote hosting options.
  • Moodle is an open-source platform that allows extensive customization. It can be hosted in-house or remotely.
  • CourseMill providers handle technical support and system management.

Would social media benefit the initiative?

Social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook are becoming more and more integrated into the business world and into LMS design as well. Some up-and-coming LMS companies are leading the way in innovative social media applications.

  • Canvas LMS sends course notifications via email and uses text messages and social media like Facebook.
  • Interactyx Topyx incorporates personal blogs, social media, and pictures into the education initiative.
  • UpsideLMS links curriculum to forums and online tools. It also features blogs and Twitter feeds.

Because many LMS platforms provide a variety of options, it is possible to find one that meets the specific requirements of an educational initiative. Whether a company tailors a platform like Moodle to its own specifications or lets a platform like CourseMill maintain its educational framework, the educational initiative will use the latest technologies to provide participants with an efficient, engaging learning experience.

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