Common features for learning management systems

Learning management systems (LMS) have been around since the 1990s, though at the time, employee learning and development often meant in-person training. Today it is common for employees to take training classes online to meet certification requirements or expand their knowledge and many companies offer some type of learning management system.

But two factors are contributing to the rise in popularity of LMSs in 2022. The first is the COVID-19 pandemic, which challenged HR professionals to accommodate remote work and put an end to the majority of in-person training programs. The second factor is the current employee turnover trend where workers are participating in what’s been called the great resignation or the great reshuffle, resigning at historic levels. Employee development is an effective tool employers have to retain talent, and deploying meaningful training programs for all employees is essential to meeting retention goals in this new work environment.

Today’s workforce wants the flexibility to work remotely and to feel their company is investing in their growth through learning and development opportunities. If companies are going to meet their training and retention goals, they are going to need the right technology to get them there.

What are the different types of LMSs?

A learning management system is software that companies use to develop, deliver, and track training for employees. While there are systems designed for educational organizations to use with students, such as Google Classroom and Canvas LMS, there are also a variety of systems for corporate training departments, some specific to industry.

There are also different LMSs depending on the preferred hosting method. Cloud-based LMSs are hosted in the cloud, meaning hosting, implementation, and maintenance are handled by your LMS vendor. Self-hosted LMSs are stored on an organization’s server, which means your team is responsible for monitoring software updates regularly and making sure there is hosting capacity.

What to look for in a learning management system

The essential LMS features for you and your company can depend on specific needs and desired outcomes. However, “based on the discussions we have with customers, these four features tend to be most important to look for across the board,” said Chris Mathiopoulos of TalentLMS, a leading LMS platform and content provider.

1. When choosing an LMS, human resource departments should look for a program that provides an intuitive interface for administrators and end-users. This will help increase engagement with learners and allow trainings to be published in a timely manner.

2. Another key LMS feature to look for is automation of employee onboarding and training. Automations for course assignments, email notifications, and learning paths help streamline the process and take the manual work away from busy HR professionals.

3. Choosing a low-maintenance program that allows easy access to make changes to workflows and data when needed is essential.

4. Finally, your features list should include an LMS that provides a built-in library with ready-made content. The LMS-provided content can be used alone or complementary to your existing content.

How to evaluate a learning management system

How do you determine which LMS is suitable for your team?

“First, begin by listing your requirements and consulting all relevant stakeholders,” said Mathiopoulos. “Think about what types of training you want to deliver and what metrics are important to you and your company. For c-level executives, training courses that align with business goals and contribute to success could be a top priority. Department managers may be most interested in delivering and tracking specific knowledge and identifying learning gaps. It is also essential to understand what is important for the learner’s experience in order to achieve these goals.”

Many LMSs offer free trial periods that allow you to try different programs before deciding which is the best fit. You can upload sample content to your trial accounts and test the journey of the learner and administrator to evaluate each experience. Utilizing the free trial offerings can be the most effective way to study LMS functionality.

Example learning management systems

There are a large number of learning management systems available for HR departments and corporate learning teams. Some are robust standalone systems, and others are built into other software like human capital management systems. Here are just a few examples of learning management systems available today.

SAP Litmos
Lessonly by Seismic

What is the most popular LMS?

There really isn’t one LMS system that is right for every employer. The best learning management system is the one that works best for your organization.

But there are several review websites online that rank LMS systems according to user reviews, such as Reading reviews and comparing features will offer you the best information for which software is best for you.

Here are the current top LMS on G2 by popularity:
1. Talent LMS
2. SAP Litmos
3. Cornerstone

Top 10 Common Features of an LMS

Reporting – Having access to reporting analytics allows for easy measurement of training efforts. Administrators can analyze user activity, progress, and course completion reports.

Assessment tools – Based on pre-set standards, the admin can evaluate user progress and identify learning gaps or areas of improvement.
Course management – A ready-to-use library of courses and learning content, with the ability for the admin to upload existing content to the platform, is essential. Management and customization of the courses are easy and accessible for the admin.

Intuitive interface – One of the main goals of using an LMS is to make the process easier for the organization and the user. The platform should be easy to navigate and provide a user-friendly experience, one on par with the many consumer-facing platforms your employees use in their daily lives.

Automation – Streamlining workflows that would otherwise be manual responsibilities for HR professionals. Admins can automate tasks such as course assignments for new employee onboarding, and email reminders are sent to users when courses are due.

Certification and compliance tracking – Allows organizations to track and ensure that essential compliance courses are completed and passed. If a compliance course is failed, the course can be reassigned to the user until they have met certification.

Integrations – Having an LMS with integrations compatible with applications an organization is already using allows for data to be synced across platforms, making the workflow seamless.

Personalized learning paths – Users will be more invested if the experience is unique to them. Creating different learning paths based on individual departments or user segments allows for personalized training environments and functionality.

Multidevice accessibility – Users must be able to access and download training content from whatever device they are using, whether desktop or mobile phone, with a responsive display.

Security – Verified LMS vendors ensure employee and organization data is managed according to data security best practices. This means hosting the data on secure servers and performing daily backups to ensure data is not lost.

LMS Features Comparison Points and Benefits

When considering the functionality that will work best for your organization, reviewing the comparison points and benefits can help make your decision clear. Looking at the list of common features above, you can create a points chart to rank the features that are essential for your LMS to have.

For example, if your organization already has content and courses created that simply need to be uploaded into a platform, choosing an LMS with an extensive content library may not be a priority. Instead, you may want to ensure a platform is easily customizable and has the file capacity to upload your content, no matter the format.

Suppose your goal for using an LMS is to solely conduct standardized employee compliance training as an organizational requirement. In that case, an LMS focusing on certification and compliance tracking would be a better fit than a platform that promotes personalized learning paths for users.

“The major benefits most organizations will be looking for in an LMS are the time and cost savings, as well as the reporting components,” said Mathiopoulos. “Ultimately, utilizing an LMS will cut down on the time that employees and HR professionals must spend on trainings and is a budget-friendly option for organizations. Having reporting capabilities, on whatever level, is always going to be an essential part of tracking employee trainings.”

Gamification – pros and cons

Gamification involves applying game-like elements to non-game applications. Framing the learning experience to feel more like a game sparks the competitive nature in many users and increases motivation to complete assignments. That is why many LMSs, including TalentLMS, have gamification features incorporated into their platforms. Like a typical video game, LMS elements include points, levels, badges, leaderboards, and rewards. This feature is designed to make learning fun promoting engagement and continued education for users.

However, it is also important to evaluate the downside of using this feature. Some topics and trainings are not intended to be fun but are meant to educate users on crucial subjects, such as compliance training for workplace safety, anti-harassment, and risk management.

What are the employee benefits of an LMS?

Using an LMS is not only to the benefit of HR professionals but is valuable to the employees using the program as well. “Offering an LMS is a good way to attract and retain employees,” said Marianna Stavridi of TalentLMS. “Nowadays, employees will look for an employer who provides the opportunity for skill advancement through upskilling and reskilling regularly. Employees tend to be happier when they feel they are improving and advancing their knowledge for their career.”

One of the most applicable benefits of using an LMS today is the ability for remote workers to train or complete courses from anywhere.

“Having the flexibility to complete courses on their own timeline and in their preferred space, whether at work or at home, is ideal for many employees,” said Stavridi. “Using a learning management system also significantly reduces the time spent on trainings. Instead of attending day-long classes, content is readily available on-demand for employees to access at any time. Having easy access to revisit content can help with retention of information for users as well.”

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most important features of an LMS?

The most important learning management system features can depend on your organization’s specific needs and desired outcomes. Still, there are a few general features you should look for in an LMS. Reporting analytics is one of the most important features for an LMS, according to 82% of learning and development managers. Other important features include automation, assessment tools, certification and compliance tracking, and personalized learning paths.

● Reporting – Allows you to easily measure your training efforts and export data for deep analysis.

● Automation – Helps to create learning paths and streamlines parts of your workflow that would otherwise be manual and complex.

● Assessment tools – Allows you to evaluate a learner’s progress and identify learning gaps.

● Certification and compliance tracking – Allows you to track and ensure that compliance courses are completed.

● Personalized learning paths – Helps you organize and manage the training of individual departments, creating different training environments for different user segments.

What are the benefits of an LMS?

There are countless benefits of using an LMS, but the top benefits fall under the categories of organization, engagement, and cost.

Having an easy-to-use, consolidated training platform allows you to distribute courses and measure results in a standardized way across the organization. LMSs increase learner engagement by providing the flexibility to complete trainings anytime, anywhere. A major factor in increasing employee engagement is tailoring courses to the audience’s preferred experience. Industry data shows that 75% of employees prefer video-based learning over reading information.

Finally, one of the most appealing benefits of an LMS for HR departments and company executives is the significant cost savings. By cutting the course development overhead, instructor fees, venue costs, and travel expenses, using an LMS for employee training is the most cost-effective option for organizations of all sizes.

What kinds of integrations are important in an LMS?

General integrations that are important for seamless workflow include syncing with an organization’s HR system, tying in video tools, and linking to work calendars.

What are common pitfalls when signing up for an LMS?

Common pitfalls you may encounter when setting up an LMS include failing to evaluate user experience, not scheduling ample time and resources to the implementation process, and signing up for a platform that is not scalable.

If an LMS platform has not been adequately evaluated for the user experience before implementation and becomes hard to navigate for the learner, low user engagement and course completion are possible.

Some systems will require a lot of time and development resources for implementation. HR and IT departments must be sure there is ample time to work through proper setup before pushing it out to the whole organization.

Future needs are often overlooked during the process of choosing an LMS. However, it is crucial to have a system that covers the current needs and will also be able to support an organization’s growing needs moving forward.

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