To Compare LMS Systems the Right Way, You Need to Understand How They Operate

Over the last few years, the traditional learning management system has reinvented itself as a learning experience environment over a simple learning management platform. The LMS is now a more user-centric space, encouraging more collaboration between all participants (learners, instructors and admin included) while the industry itself is driven to create a vertical stack of integrations from the foundation of an LMS. Bluntly stated: learning is no longer the action, but the result.

What does this mean for you, if you’re in the process of procuring one? Now, more than ever, you need to understand how the software itself works. What features are fundamental? Does the software need physical space to store your data? Do you need the technology, or is a traditional approach to education enough? What costs what? When you factor in costly long-term contracts, the sheer choice of suppliers, your own security needs, IT infrastructure, and the whole reason you’re using LMS software to begin with, this is not a step you want to skip blindly past.

Never fear, the ultimate guide to learning management software is here. We’ll walk you through the basics, offer some use cases, discuss how it’s hosted, and showcase the features and trends to watch out for when comparing systems. 

Learning management systems: A quick rundown

Something to know about the eLearning industry is that it’s forever growing. While this means more innovation from a competitive pool of vendors and the credibility of an in-demand market, it also creates a large pool of suppliers and platforms from which to choose the right LMS for your needs.

The global eLearning market is expected to be worth$238 billion by 2024. (And that was estimated before a worldwide lockdown flooded the market with thousands of new customers.) It’s so popular because online training is anywhere between 30–70% less expensive than face-to-face courses in the long run. It saves time because it negates any need to travel and reaches new audiences as it’s not bound by borders or to one physical location, only the user’s internet connection.

So, what is an LMS?

Think of it as a central repository for the delivery and monitoring of online training initiatives. Some systems will give you the ability to author content as well, or pull it from third party software or platforms. Anyone with the right credentials can access the system, whether as a learner or instructor. Many LMS increasingly come under the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) umbrella, a tech term for a cloud-based service accessed via the internet as opposed to one downloaded as an application onto a desktop or internal network. (More on the pros and cons of both later.)

While the term ‘learning’ may make you inclined to think the LMS is best for educational institutions, it’s more and more commonly being used in businesses, organisations, corporations and nonprofits alike to deliver training initiatives. As an example: franchisees can be unanimously trained across borders, sales personnel can be kept up to date on new initiatives, accredited professionals can be reminded of compliance renewals, and new hires can be given company information before they’ve even set foot in the building. It’s important to understand which of these differentiating consumer groups you fit into, becausedifferent supplierswill cater to different organisational structures and training objectives.

Why you need to know the basics

You’ve done preliminary research, perhaps even drafted an RFP or RFQ, and now you’re facing the task of reading through a number of responses that go into the dozens of pages. How can you be sure you’re comparing systems on key points that matter to you? Take accessibility, a crucial consideration in particular for remote and segmented workforces. Do you know the standard tech requirements for your industry? What the public sector needs will differ to what is appropriate for private. Did you know the corporate eLearning market is being driven more and more by talent management, enhancement and retention? Is this something you want to consider in future, amalgamate now or simply don’t need?

Many organisational decision makers become overwhelmed by the sheer number of suppliers vying for their attention, and we’ve seen many who come to regret purchasing a particular product because they didn’t fully understand the system or their own needs. This leaves many with an LMS that doesn’t have the functionalities their learners require, nor the systemic metrics admin need to fully understand that. It’s then not only a painful process to extricate yourself from a contract, research other systems and go out for tender again, but it’s a waste of resources, time and money, and a trying test of your employees’ enthusiasm for the eLearning experience.

What do people use LMSs for?

Face-to-face teaching is not—and has not been for a while—as viable an option as it once was. Take remote workforces, for example. It’s near impossible for them all to fairly receive the same training while divided across states or countries, and rarely financially sustainable for an organisation to maintain the costs of training in each location. Or maybe the problem is learner demand versus a lack of physical space and few instructors. The sheer cost of the F2F model. A global pandemic. An LMS makes all these scenarios largely irrelevant, by providing instructors with a single platform for making, monitoring, assessing and providing certification for course material.

So, the short answer? A more diverse range of organisations than you might think use learning management software. Basically any and every industry you can think of has applications for the LMS.

Learning is not strictly limited to educational entities, though its roots can be found within the education sector. Many other industries need LMS processes such as compliance assessment and certification, refresher training, onboarding, offboarding, continual professional development and eCommerce to survive and thrive. Nonprofits might choose an LMS as a cost-effective way to consistently train their global community of volunteers. Consulting businesses may like the option to have their eCommerce and training in one central location. Corporations might like that training initiatives can be tracked and aligned with other business metrics and processes like succession planning. So, if you’re worried there isn’t an LMS that best fits your needs, rest assured, it’s out there.

Why you need to know about the use cases

While it’s great there’s an LMS for all shapes and sizes, don’t be fooled into thinking there’s a one-size-fits-all option. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of introducing a new, innovative technology that promises to make your work life easier, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence. Knowingwhyyou need the software is important, because lacking that understanding means you won’t know how a solution will address the issues or gaps you’ve highlighted, and you may and you may just end up with a system that gives you more headaches than you set out to remedy.

Why use learning management software?

The cookie cutter answer is that an LMS offers the space for instructors or admin to both easily create various types of content, from readings and quizzes to lectures and assignments and deploy it quickly and en masse. The software is designed to streamline the delivery of online learning, automate paper-heavy admin processes and ensure consistent training across teams, departments, franchises, companies and countries.

But it’s beyond the delivery of online training and a centralised place for data is where you start to see some really interesting benefits. An LMS can be a crucial advantage and supplement to business strategies, boosting your return on investment, increasing profitability and fast-tracking your scalability (yes, really). How so? By buying a little hope. Let us explain.

Attract and retain the right people

The door-to-door days are gone. Recruitment is almost entirely reliant on technology, from job seeking websites to video interviews. It only makes sense that infrastructure used for other stages of the employee lifecycle in your organisation is used for the very first step.

We know, we know. The premise of automating organisational culture from the outset seems a little dystopian. But an LMS actually shows prospective candidates an organisation-wide learning culture and that you take L&D seriously. The younger sector of the workforce want meaningful, fulfilling work more than job security. This means you have to reframe the idea of engagement and motivation when looking at candidates, and turn the act of recruitment into a show-and-tell of what your organisation can offer employees in terms of growth, advancement and meaningful contributions.

Asking yourself how you can ensure you’re recruiting people who see the meaning in their work for your organisation, have the drive to achieve goals, improve skills and possess the right capabilities to fill the gaps you have? Challenging employees to better themselves while giving them the tools to do it is literally what a good LMS is about. Job knowledge, skills and personality assessments can all be conducted through an LMS. Onboarding and pre-commencement can be hosted in portals adjacent to your LMS, giving new hires a glimpse of the training you can offer.

Why you should care about recruitment

The excessive offer of external rewards is not what employees today are after; it’s the opportunity to learn, develop and flex new knowledge. Employees want anintrinsic motivationbefore anything else. It’s also more profitable in the long run to re- or upskill current employees than it is to hire new ones. Recruitment directly affects retention. Around40% of new employeesleave an organisation within the first six months because they feel underqualified, neglected and without the right or any training. Many positions can go unfilled for months or years without the right talent to fill them. Turnover costs athird of an employee’s annual salaryto replace not only them, but their output, knowledge and productivity. So, even if it doesn’t pay to get recruitment right the first time, it will definitely save you a lot of money.

Leverage human capital

We’ve seen too many organisations not utilising theintangible assetsin their company; namely, their people. Aptly titled human capital, people are one of the most valuable components of any business. We’d go so far as to postulate that the future belongs to those organisations who devote care and time to their human capital, because they’ll be the ones reaping the rewards of a motivated and innovative workforce, and the resulting growth in their respective industries, market competitiveness and increased profit.

Systems built around human capital focus on capabilities, not individuals or their records. Though leaderJosh Bersindescribed it brilliantly when he said a team or organisation is less a grouping of people, and more a grouping of skills and capabilities. This isn’t to take the human touch out of an organisation, but to highlight that it doesn’t matterhowmanypeople you have, but ratherwhat those people are capable of doing. If you don’t have the right skills or capabilities in the right job roles, well, simply put: you don’t have the right people. (See above: recruiting the right people.)

Thinking about how hard it would be to identify the numerous capabilities of each individual within your organisation? How amazing would it be to have a system that understands all of your human capital for you? Yes, an LMS really can do that. First, with training for general knowledge applicable to many organisations and industries; secondly, by developing, improving and maintaining specific competencies, capabilities and skills for particular job roles; and thirdly, tracking and mapping those capabilities against the gaps within your organisation.

Why you should care about human capital

Courses or skills like project management will always be beneficial to a job role or business. The return on investment is pretty obvious, because these skills are reinvested back into the business by employees. Taking it up a notch, upskilling and reskilling employees with capabilities for specific job roles can translate to lower employee turnover (thanks to knowledge that is less likely to be used in other workplaces) and higher morale (as employees see their employers investing in them and their co-workers).

An LMS, using your data, can describe each job role and function in your organisation and then maps the skills, experience and capabilities the perfect candidate needs for that role. If you don’t have that person within your organisation already, you can then create a learning pathway for the existing employee best primed for succession. Not only does this save time on recruitment, but it doesn’t waste the human resources already at your fingertips and it allows for continual upskilling of loyal employees already familiar with and invested in your company ethos.

Better performance management

In recent years, HR has shifted away from simple matters of admin to focus on talent management. It’s not about yearly performance reviews; creating a positive and developmental employee lifecycle is the endgame of performance management. The best leaders will guide their employees to learn new skills and use their talents in areas and ways that achieve both organisational and personal goals, and (sensing a pattern?) the best way to do this is through an LMS. 

HR needs access to data from all stages of the aforementioned employee lifecycle (recruiting, onboarding, L&D, succession, and even offboarding) in order to effectively manage performance. Metrics like advanced reporting enable admin to see employee development on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, and an individual and organizational scale. Where has an employee come from, and what experience do they bring? What goals do they intend to achieve with your organisation? What role would they like to see themselves in within five years? How are they progressing through their L&D? Why are employees leaving? This is all feedback that can be captured within an LMS and used to adjust and customise learning pathways to suit not only a learners’ progression and goals, but business structure and strategies.

Why you should care about performance management

There’s a new generation entering the workforce that is not familiar with the ways of old. They need a non-traditional approach to L&D that leverages their tech savviness and increasingly flexible work/life arrangements. This new wave of workers is also more likely to jump between roles than their job-for-life mums and dads. They rate theopportunity to learn and growas the number one reason they take a job, ranking it twice as enticing as a pay rise—making it all the more important to nurture that growth.

An LMS allows for a holistic and proactive approach to performance management, rather than a reactive one. Instead of trying to correct course at the end of a failed initiative, pathways can be designed to strengthen areas of weakness while targeting skills that are sought after or advantageous to the organisation. When provided with not only an engaging learning program, but a learning pathway personalised to their goals or ideal job role, employees develop a greater sense of their place in the wider business operations and increased loyalty to their employer.

Types of LMS hosting

A university campus takes up a lot of real estate. Similarly, the data associated with learners needs a large repository to live in. In tech speak, the term we’re looking for is hosting. Hosting refers to how data is stored at or in a certain location. (You’ll see why we sayatorinlater.)

How an LMS is hosted affects not just the type and quality of support you have access to, but also how much you have left in your piggy bank when the bills come in, your level of accessibility and network security. While you can get desktop and mobile LMS applications, there are really two types of LMS hosting you’ll ever want to consider: local and cloud.

Local or on-premise LMSs are stored on your own data server or warehouse. In this case, the LMS is simply a product sold to you by the supplier and the onus of maintenance, hardware management and servicing is on your shoulders. Cloud-based hosting refers to traditional Software-as-a-Service (Saas) platforms. All your data is hosted securely on the supplier’s server, where it is maintained and scaled by said supplier. Which one you end up choosing is down to your budget, needs andliteral physical space, but there are a few key points you’ll want to consider when comparing systems.

Cloud

Ah, the mysterious cloud. Far and wide the most popular choice for deployment;87% of LMS buyersopt for it over on-premise alternatives. Its popularity dates back to the rise of Apple’s iCloud and now the term is synonymous in most people’s minds with their data buzzing somewhere up in the heavens. While not technically untrue, the cloud is simply a term given to data stored via the internet. 

Scalable

‘Requires little investment, no physical space and can expand easily and without direction.’ If you would have answered, ‘What is elastic scalability?’, you get a point. One reason cloud-based systems are so popular is they can match your input as it grows in real time. The infrastructure used in cloud-based systems is dynamic, taking the burden off IT: the process is almost entirely autonomous, rather than manual and vertical (upgrading to a larger package) or horizontal (physically creating more space).

Accessibility

Today’s learners are untethered and collaborative, seeking on-demand L&D that empowers them to learn. As they’re accessed via the internet, cloud-based systems can be used any time, anywhere, by any learner. In the age of remote working and flexible work hours, it’s almost a non-negotiable to offer this kind of ‘ungated’ access. In fact, learning management software is often nicknamed ‘learning on demand’, because this is literally what it offers.

Cost effective

Many organisations opt for the cloud-based model because it’s simply inexpensive. There’s no cost for implementation or deployment, and maintenance and support are often bundled into the price you signed up for. (We do recommend double checking with vendors on the latter point, though, as where we like to be transparent with our pricing, others are not as upfront.) Additionally, many cloud pricing models are based around what you use, further lowering operating costs and allowing you to budget more accurately.

Local

A little closer to earth is the locally hosted LMS. Once this LMS is in your hands, it’s your responsibility. Hosting on your own data server puts the onus of maintaining, upgrading and running it on you. If you’ve got IT infrastructure already in place to manage this, great. If not, you’ll find it’s a steep and expensive learning curve in the quest for full control.

Development capabilities

An in-house team has free reign to develop and enhance your LMS as they see fit. The timeline for upgrades and new features is entirely up to you, if you have the budget, resources and business goals to support the development cycle and any ad hoc costs that may arise. Any problems that may arise will also take priority, and any downtime or maintenance needed can happen when it suits you.

Security

The inherent security of hosting an LMS on your own data server is what draws many organisations in. You might even be based in a location with patchy or no internet access (such as a mining company or franchises in small towns), where a cloud-based service is not viable. You may have strict security protocols surrounding sensitive user data.

Smaller upfront cost

As we said, purchasing an LMS you intend to self-host is like purchasing a house. Once the keys are in your hands, you own it and you’re free to do what you want with it—but it’s also your responsibility. It’s easy to take cost at face value without factoring the bigger picture: yourtotal cost of ownership. Operating costs for data servers will stack up over time, and inevitably, your hardware will need upgrading. So while it may look like a cheap sum now, the real cost of on-premise LMS usually hits later.

Why you need to know the difference

Have you considered that software hosted on your internal servers will limit the number of users who may need to access the LMS offsite? Hear us out: the biggest disadvantage is that a locally hosted LMS is reliant on your IT infrastructure, including your servers and internet. This could delay career development for employees and strategic workforce planning for your organisation, if learners’ access to progression hinges on their presence onsite.

It’s factors like this that make it crucial to consider how your LMS will be hosted. While either option can look good at face value, you’re making a long-term investment. It’s important to consider how your choice will impact your budget, learners, business plans and growth now, lest you find yourself with an untenable and expensive platform later.

Where your LMS is hosted

Even if it’s hosted over the internet, your data will still be anchored somewhere. A user has to connect to at least one data server via the internet to access the data in the cloud. Where that data server is located directly impacts where your data is hosted.

Some suppliers might be based in one country but host all the data on their LMS overseas as it can be cheaper in other jurisdictions. For some, hosting data offshore may seem like a viable way to save money in low-tax countries. Smaller organisations might even see an opportunity to reduce the space needed to store data onsite. But for Australian organisations, with Australian users, Australian security laws to comply with, and who may not be familiar with the difference betweenlegal disclosureand unauthorised access of data, there’s a chance you may not even be told where your data is stored.

It’s important to be aware of this as your data is considered resident in the hosting country, meaning it may be subject to another country’s privacy laws. You risk violating clients’ privacy or legal data requirements if you unwittingly allow user or organisational data to be disclosed to overseas parties. That’s a PR nightmare and a devastating financial hit just waiting to happen.

Learning management system features

Carefully comparing LMS features is one of the most important steps to ensure you are choosing the right system and the right vendor.

Many vendors service specific industries or markets, which means the features they offer will be optimised for those end users. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, you might find yourself in the precarious position of procuring an ill-fitting system that causes more problems than it solves. And when you consider an LMS is designed to streamline administrative processes, improve efficiency, reduce company costs and increase user engagement, it’s all the more important to considerately weigh up your options.

It’s also crucial to consider the functionality of LMS features. Again, the functionality of a feature might differ across applications: a content library for a university student will be customised entirely to their individual coursework, but a mining company might populate a catalogue with the same compliance training for most—if not all—staff. Similarly, a university student might have time to sit down during the day and watch long-format videos. Corporate executives likely will not, preferring bite-size chunks of information. Getting the picture yet?

While not acomprehensive view, the following features are some of the most indispensable and (we suggest) non-negotiable when comparing LMSs.

Content development & library

The content housed in your LMS should reflect your brand identity, voice and ideals (particularly if you use an LMS for eCommerce). Many LMSs offer readymade or pre-populated content libraries, which is great for fast implementation but might not align with your branding. We suggest querying vendors on the content authoring they offer. Some may have an authoring tool within their system, which makes for easy creation and deployment. Others might allow you to pull content from third party providers and subject matter experts.

The real reason it’s so important to have a vast and comprehensive library of content is so customised learning pathways can be easily and quickly created. Without the right content in a centralised location—or the ability to quickly pull it from an integrated provider—learners will face an uninspiring catalogue of content. This then impacts the quality of learning analytics produced, and can lead to subpar performance management, ill-researched choices for succession and unaddressed gaps in knowledge. 

Accessibility

The true function of accessibility is asynchronous learning, which occurs when learners access coursework in their own time, on their device of choice, and from wherever they are in the world. It’s more cost effective and scalable for an organisation to allow for any time, anywhere access to an LMS, because it means learners aren’t restricted to certain hours of the day (when they may have other responsibilities or priorities) or location (such as the office, to which they might have to commute or cannot access outside of work hours).

Accessibility is not just a choice for some, but a need, and one you’ll want to have high on your list when comparing systems if your workforce includes remote workers, consultants and freelancers, as well as people with disabilities. WCAG is the baseline level of accessibility required by Australian Government agencies, for example. And whilst Internet Explorer enjoyed a heyday, it’s not supported by many new software products—so if that’s your organisation’s go to, you’ll have to factor that in.

Integrations

People retain information better when they can share it with others. With a number ofintegrations,you can ensure that A) your learners cancollaboratively master new skills,and B) the system itself can partake in a little sharing of data.

Web-based lectures, live streams, video conferencing and instant messaging (aka channels like Zoom, Adobe Connect, Microsoft Teams and Slack) all facilitate what’s known as synchronous learning in an LMS. Even through face-to-screen interactions, social interactions in the name of knowledge sharing foster trust, strengthen team dynamics and solidify new concepts and skills for learners. Without a sense of collaboration within the LMS, it may be seen as taboo amongst employees in the workplace—detrimental to the health of organisational structures dependent on teamwork.

Integrations have the added benefit of ensuring you can push and pull data from other crucial systems into the LMS, such as HRIS, payroll, CRMs and third party content providers like Skillsoft or LinkedIn Learning. And without standards like OAuth and xAPI, you can say goodbye to the dream of an internal talent marketplace, because you won’t be able to leverage human capital data from HR or pull learning analytics back into HR systems.

Compliance management & certification

There are very few organisations where compliance training is non-mandatory or just plain non-existent, and there’s a hell of a lot of industries with ever-evolving and strict legislation to comply with. Combined with integrations such as HRIS (long form: Human Resource Information Systems), an LMS is the easiest way to streamline and automate your compliance management. We understand well the drawbacks of manual compliance certification and management: it costs time and money, and is a monotonous chore for those who have to routinely take it—especially if it’s flown under the radar for months and suddenly they have to find time to do it.

You should be asking vendors if their LMS allows for any reminders and refreshers to be scheduled to go out at the interval of your choosing. This way, learners can be proactively kept abreast of upcoming due dates, rather than reactively scrambling to complete certifications in time. For those job functions with inflexible regulatory requirements, a lack of compliance management can also mean fines, loss of revenue and revocation of any requisite licenses or credentials. Automating the process ensures proper governance, minimises risk and prevents poor or negligent conduct.

Learning analytics

Any LMS worth its code will offer a broad range of readymade templates for assessment. We recommend looking for eLearning products that take a qualitative approach to online training. Why? Certain metrics and assessment tasks combine to boost proficiency and productivity to help admin—and the system—better understand gaps in each learner’s knowledge. (Remember when we talked about managing performance better?)

There are a few reasons learning analytics are an important feature of an LMS. First, you won’t be able to accurately create learning pathways without the right methods of assessment or metrics to ensure learners are progressing through those assessments. Secondly, if you’re going to all the effort of investing in an LMS, why wouldn’t you make sure you have the right metrics to determine your ROI and if you’re on track to achieve predefined learning outcomes or initiatives? And lastly, without the predictive analytics many LMS can offer, you’ll have to manually slog through pages of data to create individual learning pathways for every learner in your system.

A user-friendly dashboard for tracking progress and reporting on everything from overall cohort completion rates down to individual user statuses is something to look out for—emphasis on user-friendly. It’s important to ascertain not just if vendors offer reporting, but how advanced and astute their reporting functions are. Otherwise, you might find yourself paying for additional plugins or programs that give the depth of reporting you’re after, which can blow out the budget and stakeholders’ expectations.

Software trends to consider

Much like fashion, trends come and go in the learning management software space. Education has adapted to the changing needs and proclivities of not only learners, but the world. (Forgive us the ‘big brain’ moment.) And that’s the biggest step forward: from a management-centric approach to a learning environment to one that integrates assessment with user-directed training.

AI

Chatbots and virtual assistants are already widespread across other plains in the technological realm, so it was only a matter of time before they came to LMS software. The goal of implementing artificial intelligence in an LMS is to supercharge the efficiency of your training programs.

The future of AI in learning management software relies heavily onintegrations with the human capital management (HCM)or HR suite to be successful. Just as we talked about pushing and pulling data earlier, it’s crucial here for historical data provided by HRIS to meld with the real-time learning data found in the LMS to identify trends and patterns, and make recommendations of content for learners and learners primed for succession to HR.

The endless capacity to curate content and create linear learning pathways for multiple individual learners is one of the AI’s biggest strengths. The system sifts through content and places only the most relevant and engaging in front of each learner, based on their preference for format (e.g. video or reading), all the while identifying gaps in job roles for HR to utilise in agile talent management. We say let the machines take over.

Why you should keep your eye on AI

A decision made from bad data analysis can result in (best case scenario) a poor outcome or (worst case) a poor and unexpected outcome. Without smart tech, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to turn your LMS from a simple learning environment into an internal talent marketplace. This new wave of technology uses learned data to match employees and contingent workers to the work opportunities their talents are best suited for—without HR having to lift a finger, let alone wade through pages of work experience. It also helps institute agile talent princesses, provide otherwise untapped career development to employees and expand the talent pool beyond applicants.

Multichannel learning

Millennials—whether you love them, hate them or are just plain sick of hearing about them—are rapidly becoming the prevalent demographic in the workplace. They’re not only tech savvy, but tech-dependant. This new generation of employees want to learn and grow, but they want to do it in their own time, at their convenience and using familiar or innovative mediums. Enter: multichannel learning.

The concept is self-explanatory: content is delivered through more than one channel to educate the end user. It creates a high quality and flexible (and, if as above, equipped with smart tech, highly adaptable) learning environment. And it’s not just about where learners access their content, but how. Where there’s text for those who can use their laptop to learn, there need be complementary audio for those commuting in their cars—making multichannel learning a crucial tool for accessibility.

Why you should keep your eye on multichannel learning

Multichannel learning allows for anytime, anywhere access to training, which fosters an interest in lifelong learning. This in turn leads to faster development and application of skills learned, and an ever-present cycle of continual professional development.

For individuals with visual, auditory, cognitive and mobility disabilities, it’s important they can access learning content in pursuit of the same learning outcomes as their peers. Your learner population is no doubt diverse, so it’s important to create a learning environment that is comfortable for and welcoming to all. You’d be forgiven for thinking LMS accessibility is a single feature. However, it’s a series of features and design principles that alight to create a positive user experience (UX).

Intelligent discovery

The near-ubiquitous LXP sent out something of a war cry to the LMS when it barged onto the scene. Josh Bersin coined the phrase learning experience platform (LXP) to describe a select few platforms that were focused less on management and more on experience (duh), but the LXP has become its own behemoth in the time since.

The problem with the early iterations of the LXP was that intelligent discovery became hard, as users had to trawl through pages and pages of content. Most organisations also don’t want to pay for more than one system, so the industry has moved towards creating integrated platforms or end-to-end solutions. Instead of existing as a separate platform, the LXP now makes up a new stack (aka data ecosystem, aka technology infrastructure, aka a list of all the tech specs used in a single application) that includes the humble LMS.

An LXP pulls content from different sources and third party providers to recommend and deliver tailored pathways for users. Sound familiar? It’s because AI, skills mapping and data analytics underpin the functionality ofintelligent discovery.

Skills

Most LXP systems already included some kind of skills-based categorisation for content. The new wave of thinking is towards building skills or capabilities assessments, inferences and learning pathways based on and that feeds back into LXP content. This allows learners to view content (and only content) that is relevant to their previous and current experience, career aspirations and interests.

Collective usage

Tracking data, with good intentions. Many LXPs have, in the past, recommended content based on how many others have interacted with it. This is good, but we can do better—especially as a program with high interaction may edge out other, more valuable or credible content. Traffic is not necessarily a good indicator of value. Ergo, today’s swing is towards whatothersrecommend. Confused? The difference is that other users can source content, recommend it for the LXP, and then the LXP decides who it is relevant for.

AI

This is the newest and most innovative approach to content analysis. With a few clicks of a button, your LXP can be programmed to analyse what content is trying to teach people. Automated pedagogical analysis creates a backlog of readymade and personalised training, assessments and microlearning for learners, based on everything from capabilities, credibility and expertise. Chatbots are new additions to this category too; based on conversation, they can recommend new content, pull up training history and estimate how long it may take to finish a course.

Why you should keep your eye on LXP

Talent management is taxing enough for HR professionals as it is, let alone when trying to curate the right content and pathways for individual learners. While succession planning is nothing new, ensuring people are taking the right steps on their pathways is—which is why an LXP is a crucial tool. The consumer is the producer in the LXP; they can recommend content be introduced to the system or be recommended content based on their training history and career aspirations.

Whether the application is in a small business or global enterprise, eLearning should be a deeply personal experience for each learner. A major goal for corporate eLearning is to connect it to on-the-job performance and development. While many LMS use the latest version of SCORM, LXPs utilisexAPI, the newest specification for learning software that makes it easy to collect data about a user from different systems. It allows admin to track data from outside the LXP that may be relevant to training within (say, a third party course, LMS, or even medical device). Coupled with a younger workforce that desires short, sharp, easy to navigate visual content, it’s a smarter way to engage learners and showcase investment in each of their unique journeys.

Potential issues with LMS software

As with any purchase, there are potential usability issues that come into play that are not solely user error. While these are not life-threatening—and in the case of some like scheduled maintenance, purely unavoidable at times—they should be kept in mind when searching for a software solution.

System downtime

Regardless of hosting, any software system will ultimately need a little downtime while software engineers introduce new fixes or enact some bug fixes. With a cloud-based system, you won’t have control over when these are done, though most vendors aren’t going to do them at high traffic times like 9am on a Monday. Even on-premise solutions will require scheduled maintenance to keep things running smoothly. So, while it’s not a real issue in the traditional sense, it is something that will need to be factored in considering anytime, anywhere access may be impeded by system downtime. Make sure to ask vendors what their maintenance schedule is when sending out RFPs.

Outdated tech

Technology is an industry that, while evolving at a faster rate than most, can sometimes trip itself up. An LMS solution purchased now could easily be superseded in three years—but if you’re locked into a contract or purchased a license fee, you could find yourself suddenly working with a clunky UI that doesn’t have as many new features being added or bugs being fixed anymore. Cutting edge doesn’t stay cutting edge for too long, and even we can admit that. The technological infrastructure of most cloud-based LMS should allow you to step over this common IT hurdle, as many vendors put utmost importance on innovation and trends that make their platforms more efficient and effective.

No mobile or tablet app

Funnily enough, mobile and tablet applications for LMS aren’t high on the to-do list of many vendors. As an alternative, most will have responsive design built into the UI, so that a page originally made for a desktop is automatically and logically resized when opened on a smaller screen. And while this is important, there is a difference between mobile layout design and dedicated mobile apps. If a mobile or tablet app is integral to ensure your learners’ engagement or enhance their experience, save yourself and unqualified vendors time and enquire if a vendor offers one before you even get to the point of a demo.

The bottom line

An LMS is not just a concept—it’s software. Over time, you’ll find your learning management software may have some small issues crop up. They will rarely, if ever, be earth-shattering enough to change your mind on investment. But as with anything, it helps to be prepared and know what you’re in for from the start.

However, knowing why you are procuring an LMS and the expertise of your vendor (and/or IT team) bookend the potential problems with software. If you need a mobile app, implementing a system that offers one will sidestep the problem. If there are bug fixes needed, vendor support is at the other end to ensure it runs smoothly and without any disruption to your service. If you’re still a little wary, ask about the aforementioned potential issues when you reach out to vendors for RFPs or RFQs. Most will include resolutions in their proposals.

See how AcornLMS stacks up

In our short eight years, we’ve retained 100% of our near 100 clients—and their collective 1 million users—because we take the time to ensure Acorn is the best fit for them.

Acorn is a multi-tenant, cloud-based LMS, designed with the future of your organisation in mind. The intuitive platform provides eLearning opportunities throughout recruitment and onboarding to continual professional development and can be seamlessly integrated with any existing HR and payroll systems.

Alongside a dedicated Customer Success Manager and Product Manager, our support team are always on hand to ensure each of Acorn’s features function to achieve your specific learning goals.

Book a demo to see how Acorn can supercharge your eLearning.

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Book a call with the team at Acorn today and let’s build the best LMS for you, together. We’ve maintained a 100% retention rate since launching thanks to our incredible platform, great customer service and people-focused approach. So get in touch with one of our eLearning experts for a free discussion about how we can help you truly unlock the potential of your employees.

Experience Acorn for yourself

At Acorn, we’ve designed a system that supports organisations looking to invest in their most valuable asset – their employees. We take the time to learn about our one million (and counting) users to ensure our intuitive LMS is the right fit for them. Get in touch with one of our eLearning experts to chat about how Acorn can help achieve your goals.