Choosing the right Learning Management System (LMS) can transform the way your training company operates. But what are the key LMS features to look for? This article explores the top attributes of an ideal LMS, providing crucial insights for training providers aiming to offer effective and user-friendly online learning experiences.
What is a Learning Management System (LMS)?
A LMS is a software tool that allows users to host, build, deliver, and track online training courses. It serves as a centralized portal to access all the educational materials for a business, school, or training company helping create consistent learning experiences for all students, and enables administrators to create rules to manage courses and users.
Companies build their eLearning content modules using courseware authoring tools like Articulate Rise or Storyline, Adobe Captivate, and iSpring Suite, to name just a few, and then host them on an LMS.
There are many different types of LMS to choose from. There are academic LMS and corporate systems. Some have a vertical market focus, for example, supporting an organization’s need to ensure compliance with a particular set of rules or standards like OSHA or HIPAA. Employee onboarding is another popular example of a vertical-focused LMS.
Some are built with LMS features providing functionality around the various training trends and modalities like video-based learning, microlearning, webinars, and integrations with eCommerce, CRM, social media, and HR applications.
Some are hosted on-site, others are cloud-based. Some charge by the user or active users, others have a flat monthly fee or annual subscription. Some are scalable, others are not. Some lock you into a proprietary authoring tool, others are SCORM-compliant and allow you to load your own eLearning content. There are LMS that come equipped with a built-in eCommerce solution, while others integrate with popular third-party platforms.
Choosing the right LMS for your company depends upon your business model and goals. For instance, are you training internal employees on mandatory product safety or human resource policies, or are you selling your content to other businesses to train their employees?
This article provides some valuable tips on understanding crucial LMS Features to find the ideal Learning Management System for training providers selling online training content.
10 LMS Features to Look For:
- Simple user navigation.
There are two sides to this coin. For learners, the site must be easy to browse to find subjects of interest or their assignment. For administrators, the software should offer an intuitive interface to manage users, create groups to segment audiences, assign courses to learners, and track their progress through the curricula. Conversely, administrators should have the ability to turn off LMS functions not in use and have this reflected in the user interface. Many products offer a lot more functionality than most customers use, but these features remain visible to end users and administrators in the UI, making the LMS appear more complicated than it needs to be. This could lead to more support requests when users attempt to access functions that are not being used in a particular implementation.
- Easy content loading and updating.
The LMS should make it easy to load content and create courses even for those without much technical expertise. If you use an authoring tool to create your courses, you can publish your modules to SCORM and easily load them into your LMS for delivery to learners. Modern LMS often allow you to construct larger courses out of individual modules, whether they are SCORM packages, videos, or PDF resources.
When updates are necessary – either new content or to maintain compatibility with evolving web browsers – admins should be able to make a single module update that will be reflected in all courses using that module, saving time and effort.
- SCORM-compliant. With a SCORM-compliant LMS you can choose the authoring tool that is best for the training and maintain ownership over that intellectual property. SCORM standardization makes it easy for content to be repurposed, shared, and updated without interrupting learners’ experience, and enables advanced reporting to track learner progress, completion rates, and more. Data from these reports can be used to prove the effectiveness of your training programs to clients.
- Brandable and customizable by client.
The LMS should enable you to white label each site to reflect you or your clients’ brand, matching each business identity to make your content appear as native intellectual property of every customer. You can do this by adding images, logos, and colors to match a brand’s identity. This makes it a recognizable and trustworthy environment for end users. The LMS should provide the ability for customer-specific content or customer-owned content to be loaded and shared within their user community – while keeping it private and invisible to other customers.Finally, a good LMS will allow you to grant customer access for them to set parameters like completion requirements, deadlines, and passing scores for their user populations, minimizing your administrative burdens.
- Automated course delivery.
The LMS should point learners directly to the course to begin immediately. Businesses can establish pre-set training assignments, where users are automatically assigned certain content when they register. For example, as soon as a new employee has their account created, they are automatically assigned a mandatory new-hire orientation course. Or in some cases, courses are automatically assigned based on information a user selects when they signed up for their account, such as job title, function, or location.
At some point, most training providers will need a mechanism to enable online purchases. The LMS should provide an eCommerce option that lets you set flexible pricing policies by course or client, offer discounts, provide enticing course descriptions, and offer multiple payment options to make purchasing as convenient as possible. Beware of LMS that lock you into a specific authoring tool or online storefront with rigid eCommerce policies.
- Integrates with external LMS.
When providing training content to an organization with its own LMS it is critical that your system integrates with the client LMS. This allows you to see that only authorized people are using your content, make updates to content as needs change, address technical or performance issues within the client environment without disturbing learner experiences, enable advanced reporting and tracking, and retain ownership of courseware. Simply handing off your training source files (SCORM packages) for clients to load into their own LMS means you lose control over your content and the ability to track and report on users if there is no integration between the client’s LMS and yours.
Select a LMS that can grow along with your needs. Today you might be selling single courses to individuals taking career training through a single portal. Tomorrow you might be offering multiple seat licenses to managers who assign courses to their team members in different locations. Make sure your provider can support user populations that will grow over time.
- Superior customer service.
Seek a LMS company that strives to be a partner rather than just a service. You want a responsive team that will help you work out technical issues with a glitch in your module or a browser update, for example, rather than just a referral to the authoring tool’s Help Desk. Your chosen LMS partner should be able to advise on the best ways to construct and deliver your courses, whether that’s through a traditional client portal or through eCommerce and guide you in utilizing detailed usage reports and analytics to improve sales and course completion rates.
- 100% control over content.
Most importantly, you want a LMS that allows you to retain total control over your content at all times, especially when integrating with an external LMS (see Tip #7). You need to be able to regulate access to authorized users, pull content or turn off access after all seat licenses have expired. It’s your intellectual property. You own it. It should never be placed beyond a firewall where you cannot maintain creative control, freely update it to address technical or content issues, or have zero visibility into who is accessing it, how they interact with it, and how they performed.
If the LMS under consideration does not offer these features – especially the ability to always retain complete control over your content – keep looking.
The Firmwater LMS offers all these vital LMS features and more. From an intuitive interface with a simple point-and-click course builder tool to being SCORM-compliant, our system is scalable to support an unlimited number of customizable client sites.
Easy to monetize through our tight integration with Shopify and backed by our unwavering commitment to customer service, we promise that you always maintain control over your intellectual property. Firmwater checks all the boxes for training providers selling content online.
Book a demo with us and find out how easy it is to offer your training content to the world with the Firmwater LMS.