According to Nicholas Bloom, William D. Eberle Professor of Economics in Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences and a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), 42 percent of the U.S. labor force is now working from home full time. This stunning figure points to a greater need for learning that can be done remotely, which is why many companies are giving Learning Management Systems (LMS) a second look.
With LMS software, companies can create and deliver e-learning content, track learner access to courses and training programs, measure learner progress, and monitor the success of the e-learning.
Anywhere, any time
The aspect of anywhere, any time is one of the many benefits of an LMS. Users can access e-learning with just a login and password—on their laptop, desktop computer, or mobile device. This flexibility also applies to how users want to learn: many LMSs offer asynchronous learning, where learners can pick and choose the topics they want to learn, and at their own pace.
Most LMSs live on the Cloud, so online learners don’t have to install any software, making the onboarding quick and easy. There may be benefits to a software-based LMS, including the level of customization and branding opportunities available to you—but think about it—how would you get customized software to your remote employees right now?
What it’s good for
An LMS is great for employee onboarding, compliance training, customer training, sales training, training certifications, and employee training. In addition to the subject of the training, you also need to think about the training experience: do you want it to be synchronous or asynchronous? Self-paced? Personalized? Some LMS vendors offer social learning, which allows learners to share what they’re learning and collaborate with their peers and mentors, while others include gamification and artificial intelligence, creating highly personalized, engaging learning experiences.
The Bottom Line
A really good LMS is also great for your bottom line. Let’s toss aside the savings from employees traveling to conferences: that ship has sailed. However, if the LMS is engaging, learners are more productive and wanting to learn more—resulting in better trained, more engaged employees, overall organizational performance, and employee retention. Happy employees tend to stay around!
A major selling point of LMS software is that it tracks learner progress, making it easier for designers to pivot if the software identifies low learner engagement, or areas where learners need more instruction. And because the LMS is centralized, it’s easy to update.
Progress tracking also allows managers to see where employees are on their training journey, allowing them to offer employees additional resources if the need arises—a more tailored “just-in-time” learning approach that meets employees where they are.
LMS features to consider
When you’re looking for the right LMS provider for your company, consider these questions:
- Does it have a mobile app platform?
- Does it allow users to sign in directly to the application, or does it require a layer of administration for access?
- Is it easy to implement?
- Does it allow users to chart their own learning paths?
- What level of tracking does it provide?
- Does it require a long-term contract?
- Does it accept all standard learning formats?
- What size of organization does it support? Can it scale up?
- How is the pricing structured? Is it based on the number of users? Can it be customized to your needs?
With these questions in mind, ELM evaluated the top LMS companies. Here’s a brief summary of some highlights for what we consider to be the top five. We chose them because they all offer a mobile option (most LMS companies do), are easy to implement, offer learning paths, and have rigorous tracking mechanisms.
Top Learning Management System (LMS) Companies
Bloom — Includes really good tracking, including Google Analytics options. The software can be used with all standard learning formats, and is targeted to small to medium organizations. At $400/month for up to 10,000 users and no contract required, Bloom offers an affordable option, and we like the recently added course recommendation functionality.
Articulate Online — Also offers exceptional tracking, including question-level reporting. Unlike the other LMSs in this review, Articulate Online content must be created with the company’s set of development products, which include Storyline 360 and Rise 360. The LMS is targeted to small organizations and costs $1,299/user annually for their “Teams Plan,” which includes the course authoring applications and stock content. The company also offers volume and multi-year discounts.
360 Learning — Uses artificial intelligence to chart learning paths, and accepts all standard learning formats. Unlike the LMS companies in this review, the company requires a one-year minimum contract. The LMS is scalable and targeted to companies of all sizes. We like that the platform provides a great learner experience, recommends additional courses, and offers substantial integrations (at a price). For teams with 1 to 100 users, the price is $8 per user per month.
SCORM Cloud (Rustici Software) — While SCORM Cloud has a mobile app, our assessment is that it needs some work. The software does accept all learning formats, and is targeted to small to mid-sized organizations. In spite of the mobile app issue, SCORM Cloud is a solid contender—especially because users can sign up without an administrator, it’s easy to set up, and easy to administer. We want to point out that their pricing is based on registrations to courses, not users. So, if one user takes four courses, it counts towards four registrations. Pricing examples: $300 for 300 registrations; $1,000 for 3,000 registrations.
Looop — One of the new-generation LMSs, we expect looop to grow and change in the next few years. Looop accepts all standard learning formats, and targets organizations of all sizes. They pride themselves on offering seamless integration through built-in and custom APIs, allowing users to easily create learning paths. The company offers a scalable pricing structure: $299/month for 50 users; $699 for up to 250 users; $1199/month for up to 500 users. They also offer customized pricing for clients between and above these pricing bands.
Find out whether an LMS is the right choice for your remote learning needs. Many LMS providers offer free trials.