What is an LMS, really? In this ultimate guide, we share everything there is to know about learning management systems, and why they are so important.
What is a learning management system (LMS)?
A learning management system (LMS) is a digital platform or SaaS solution for creating, administering, organizing and distributing courses and training programs. An LMS lets you manage all your organization's training from one central place. This includes everything from self-paced e-courses to real time classroom training (both online and on-site).
The purpose of a learning management system is to facilitate training interventions. Areas of internal use include skills development, employee onboarding, compliance training and certification management. An LMS can also be used to educate stakeholders outside of your organization. (We dig into more use cases further down in this article.)
Learning Management Systems then vs. now
For some people, the term "Learning Management System" may have negative associations. Not surprising, you may think. After all, most legacy systems are slow, clunky and difficult to navigate.
Historically, most LMSs offered limited functionality. They focussed solely on the distribution of course material, usually through SCORM files. This meant that the entire course creation process took place outside of the LMS environment. Dedicated course creation tools can be costly and quickly add to your training bill. Not to mention the hassle of using multiple systems simultaneously.
A modern LMS covers the entire learning lifecycle. Its wide range of functions lets you create, package, share and follow up on course material. Dynamic admin roles make it easy to involve subject matter experts and department heads across the entire organization.
Who uses a Learning Management System?
Learning management systems have two primary user groups: those who receive and those who deliver training. In the LMS world, these are referred to as Learners and Administrators.
Your learners are those who take your courses. They can be divided into two sub groups: internal and external. Internal learners are your employees, board and other internal stakeholders. External learners include customers, suppliers, resellers and partners.
In most cases, you may need to train a number of different Learners at the same time. A modern LMS can help you manage multiple learning journeys simultaneously.
Administrators are those who manage, design and deliver training. In a modern LMS, you will find dynamic administrator roles. Here, an administrator’s admin rights range from being a course creator or instructor, to managing and following up on a training program. These admin roles can develop over time as the administrator’s needs and responsibilities change. Given this flexibility, administrators can sit anywhere in the organization, making it easy to involve department heads and subject matter experts.
How do you use a Learning Management System? (LMS use cases)
A modern and dynamic LMS can be used across a variety of organizations and business functions. We have listed some of the most common use cases below.
HR and L&D: Build a learning organization
HR (Human Resources) and L&D (Learning & Development) professionals use an LMS to help the organization reach its learning goals. Building up a strong internal skills capital is an essential part of achieving business objectives. An LMS with extended knowledge sharing functions can help leverage internal knowledge and encourage self-directed learning. These are the characteristics of a learning organization.
HR professionals, team managers and department heads use an LMS for speedy onboarding of new employees. Onboarding programs, introductory courses and company information can all be managed within an LMS. The purpose is to give new employees a positive and productive start.
Compliance officers, operations managers and department heads use LMSs to train employees on regulations, business ethics and best practices. Having a solid compliance training framework is an essential part of staying compliant and avoiding fines and reputational damage.
Customer & partner education
Customer Support and Customer Success functions use an LMS to educate customers. Customer onboarding, user manuals and product guides are examples of customer training that can be managed within an LMS. The more knowledge your customers have, the easier it is and the happier they are to use your products and services.
Sales professionals use learning management systems to train partners, resellers, agents and other external stakeholders. The more they know about your products or services, the better they become at selling and represent your offering.
Non-profit organizations and charities use learning management systems to educate volunteers in a fun and motivating way. This can help volunteers stay passionate and motivated to contribute. Do not let boring training kill the spirit.
What are the advantages?
Your LMS can have a dramatic impact on your business’ ability to meet its goals. A skilled workforce is a key contributor to any positive business result. But regardless of use case, here are some general advantages of using a learning management system. These include improved efficiency and ability to scale your training interventions. As a result, many organizations benefit from reduced costs and resources associated with training.
ROI of a Learning Management System
Before investing in any business system, it is important to consider the expected ROI (return on investment). We recommend doing thorough research. To help you get started, we have done some of the work for you.
"Investing in a learning management system delivers 300% ROI and pays for itself in 90 days."
"Studies show that for every $ invested in training, companies receive $4 in return."
"Companies using e-learning tools have the potential to boost productivity by 50%. For every $ invested, it can receive $30 worth of productivity."
- The Focus Media
Which KPIs can I improve with my Learning Management System?
A modern LMS helps many different organizations and business functions meet their knowledge objectives. Whether used for internal or external training, you can improve a number of important KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). We have listed the most common examples below:
KPIs for internal training
Whether your goal is to achieve operational, profit-driven results, or if you want to build a learning organization, you can improve a number of important KPIs.
- Reduced time to proficiency.
Effective training helps your employees to quickly get up to speed.
- Reduced time to contribution. Successful onboarding or introductory training reduces the time until your employees can take part in the daily work.
- Improved knowledge and skills retention. The right training format helps your employees to retain new information. An internal academy encourages training and retraining to keep the knowledge up-to-date.
- Improved employee happiness index. Employees who feel that their employers invest in their career development are generally happier.
- Increased employee engagement. Employees who have opportunities for skills development are more likely to be more engaged at work.
- Increased employee retention. When employees feel like they can learn and develop at work, they are likely to stay longer.
- Reduced risk of misconduct. A solid compliance training framework reduces the risk of regulatory misconduct.
- Reduced risk of workplace injuries. Clear and accessible instructions about workplace safety reduces the risk of work-related injuries.
KPIs for external training
External training includes training of customers, partners, resellers and agents. Below are examples of some of the most critical KPIs that can be improved.
- Improved NPS (net promoter score). When customers understand and see value in your products, they are more likely to recommend them to others.
- Customer satisfaction. Customers who understand how to use your products or services are happy customers. It should be easy to get started.
- Fewer customer support tickets. Effective customer onboarding and accessible learning resources reduce the need for support.
- Increased sales from resellers and agents. Educated resellers and agents do a better job selling your products or services.
Key features of a modern Learning Management System
While a modern LMS comes with countless powerful functionalities, some stand out more than others. At Learnster, we are proud to provide our user community with the following power tools:
Built-in authoring tool
A built-in authoring tool lets you design and build your courses - directly within the LMS. Learnster’s authoring tool has a drag-n-drop interface, which makes course creation a breeze (with or without previous LMS experience!). Combine texts, images, videos and timelines. Use blended learning environments for a powerful learning experience.
Involve subject matter experts
Leverage internal knowledge and invite your subject matter experts to contribute to training. Dynamic admin roles enable selected members of the organization to create, review, update or take full ownership of course content.
Personalized learning journeys
Create an automated workflow of personalized courses based on job role, business unit and career goal, etc.
Gather all your company’s courses and training programs in one place. An internal academy makes learning materials more accessible.
Organize more than just courses! A resources library gathers all your company's learning material. This can include documents, how-to guides, video clips and course snippets. Help your learners retrieve knowledge at the point of need.
Quizzes and surveys
A completed course does not necessarily mean sufficient knowledge. Quizzes and surveys are fun and engaging ways to test your learners' knowledge levels upon course completion.
Compliance training helps your organization meet legal requirements. Recurring certification ensures that your employees, customers or partners have passed relevant compliance training. Automatic reminders notify your learners when it is time for training and retraining. When it comes to compliance, nothing can be left to chance.
Certificates and diplomas
Give your learners some recognition! Certificates and diplomas are a rewarding proof that sufficient knowledge levels are met.
Follow-up and analysis
Follow up on individual progress and results to identify knowledge gaps or support needs. Benefit from insights on both group level and individual level.
Compatibility with mobile devices
Encourage learning and course completion by making it mobile-friendly. Compatibility with mobile devices is key, especially for learners who are not desk-based.
Integrations: Synchronize your LMS with other systems
Benefit from a complete ecosystem for HR and L&D. Integrate your Learning Management System with the organization’s internal software suite to maximize the value of all.
LMS and HR systems/HRIS
Integrate your LMS with the organization’s HR system/HRIS to synchronize user data and automate the management of user accounts. The integration helps you create personalized learning journeys whilst reducing time-consuming admin.
LMS and Applicant Tracking System /Recruiting Software
Integrate your LMS with Applicant Tracking Systems and Recruiting Software (e.g. Teamtailor) to create early engagement with your favorite candidates. Introduce your company to the candidate at the interview stage. Roll out preboarding at contract signing.
LMS and Single Sign On (SSO)
Integrate your LMS with your organization’s SSO (Single Sign On) to automate user management and simplify the user login.
How do I get started?
First of all: choose the right LMS for your organization. Different solutions may suit you differently, depending on your company's maturity. Our advice is to buy an LMS that fits your company’s growth phase. You may also want to look ahead and think proactively about your company’s future needs and growth plans.
If this article has been a lot to take in, or if you are still unsure about where to start (don’t worry - we totally get that!), our knowledgeable team is here to help.