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A Guide to Learning Management Systems

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Make an educated decision on what is the right learning management system for your organisation’s needs.

The learning management system is a nuanced software. It can be both soft and hardware, cloud based or self-hosted, utilised for employee training or eCommerce, applied in almost any industry. But perhaps the largest point to takeaway about the LMS as a tool for learning is that it can enable user-led discovery and instructor-led training, all the while supporting your entire organisation.

Taking it back to its roots, the LMS was designed to supersede a power based educational dynamic with a user-led and outcome-oriented learning experience. Sounds cliché, but it’s key when considering the age of the majority of your users. They’re adults (duh), which means they have their own priorities and responsibilities outside of the training you may be offering. And spoiler alert… Just because you’re offering them training doesn’t mean they’re necessarily under any obligation to prioritise it. This is why the amorphous LMS is so handy.

However, it can be easy to be blindsided by this all-encompassing solution. Choosing the right learning management system for your needs requires understanding what you are trying to achieve by using an LMS—because this is how you’ll determine the features and type of LMS that are best fit for your organisation. The functionality of features can be multi-faceted, in the way that gamification can motivate employees in the present and build their future problem-solving abilities. Some other feature vs functionality enigmas include:

  • Learning pathways to address an individual’s skills gaps and fairly standardised learning pathways for job roles.
  • Robust reporting analytics to determine your ROI on training and to forecast the future learning resources you’ll need.
  • Anytime, anywhere and any device accessibility for an inclusive eLearning environment and general usability.

Of course, while we encourage you to think laterally about how features actually function, we implore you not to get caught up judging features by the wrong attributes. Avoid:

  • Judging by hype. Software developments move quickly, but many developments are still in their infancy and haven’t been tested enough to determine true efficacy.
  • Basing your expectations on others’ results. No one-size-fits-all solution, remember?
  • Deeming every feature a must-have. Don’t be afraid to sacrifice a nice-to-have.

We recommend value judging by the experience of using one. Think about these 6 considerations:

  1. Relative advantage, or the idea that technology that is perceived to be innovative and life-changing increases rate of adoption. Ask vendors for their development roadmaps if you want to get a good idea of their plans for the future.
  2. The reality of trial vs implementation. Create testing grounds within an LMS to weed out bugs before they affect your entire.
  3. The user experience. Simply put, if learners can’t easily use the system, they won’t.
  4. Compatibility of your content, internal systems and external integrations. In the event your LMS doesn’t play well with other systems, you’ll find yourself duplicating effort, siloing data and leaving room for error.
  5. Blended learning. What processes can LMS streamline or replace, and what are those it would better complement?
  6. Workforce planning. The future of learning supports your organisation by ensuring you have the right people with right skills when you need them.

After all that, there’s also the choice between LMS models. The two really worth comparing are cloud-based and open source LMSs. Cloud-based is:

  • Highly scalable
  • Cost-effective long-term
  • Easy to use.

On the flip side, cloud-based LMSs can be heavily reliant on the internet and may come with hidden fees at a vendor’s discretion. Inversely, an open source learning management system gives you complete control over three main fronts:

  • Customisation
  • Development

But on the other hand, burdens you with the responsibility of customisation, development and maintenance—which requires some serious technical expertise.

There are alternatives to both options, too, if you realise that an LMS is outside your budget, your content needs are concentrated, you only offer a few courses, or your training is seasonal. We’ll admit the learning management system isn’t the right fit for everyone, which is why this guide is about determining what solution is the right fit for your organisation.


This article is a summary of Acorn's original post. Read their full article - The Only Learning Management System Guide You Need in 2022 (Seriously). 

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