Everything you ever wanted to know about Learning Management Systems

Everything you ever wanted to know about Learning Management Systems, but were afraid to ask, particularly as they’re big business – with nearly 600 varieties from which to choose, it’s nearly a $10 billion industry.

So what is a Learning Management System (LMS)?

Basically, it’s an essential tool if you’re providing eLearning. How else will you know who has done what, when they did it, how long they spent on it or if they passed the assessment?

If you’re thinking of buying an LMS, the bottom line, of course, is the price – there are 2 main ways pricing is applied. The first is by how many users you have and the second is by how much content you have.

As with anything, do your homework first before committing to anything. For example, whilst some LMSs may offer free things with the contract, you may be forced to use their proprietary software to build your elearning. Will this give you the flexibility you may need?

Does the LMS you’re considering provide you with the tracking tools you need or the reports you need?

Keep in mind your long term training goals – will the LMS you’re considering enable you to keep records or review learner data?

An LMS can help with many of the tasks of data and learner tracking relating to administration, but be sure you have a very clear idea of what your needs are before making your final decision.

Most LMS companies will let you test their products before you commit. Have a checklist of what are essential and desirable features.

Consider the following and how important they are for you (not a comprehensive list):

Rosters: A digital roll call sheet for sending out course invitations and to track attendance.

Multiple device access: Ability to deliver content over such things as desktops, laptops, phones or tablets.

Course calendars: Creation and publication of course schedules, deadlines and tests.

Student Engagement: Akin to having a virtual classroom to encourage students’ interactions with others, such as instant messaging, email, and discussion forums.

Assessment and testing: Creation of knowledge retention exercises such as short quizzes and summative assessments.

Grading and Scoring: Advanced tracking of student performance over time.

But – and it’s a big but – why pay when you can get an LMS for free?

Eliademy, Forma.LMS, ILIAS and Opigno are five open source (i.e free) LMSs, and that’s where I would start, if I were you!

Although, to be honest, that’s not quite true. It’s a bewildering marketplace and you could do a lot worse than to see how Webanywhere can help. I’d definitely go there first!