LMS Demystified: Choosing the Right LMS for Your Needs

Summary: Today’s LMS market brims with choices. Given our previous experience with LMSs (check out our Ledvance case study), we felt the obligation to demystify various LMS types and help you in choosing the right LMS for your needs.

Anyone involved in eLearning must have heard about LMS. You know it’s some kind of platform to put your eLearning courses, it can measure things, issue certificates, perhaps create some learning paths. Naaah, more or less, right?

Not right. There are features to consider according to your abilities and preferences, so please allow us, the Instructional Designers of eWyse, to provide you with a quick guide on LMSs. Hopefully, after you’ve read this blog, the entire concept will be demystified, and you will have what it takes to make a rational decision on what type of LMS is the best for you.

What Is An LMS?

Let’s start with a proper definition: an LMS, or learning management system, is a software application for organizing and documenting online training programs, educational courses, materials, and learning and development programs. It enables users to create, manage, share, track, and analyze these resources.

There are many types of LMSs with each having different features. Before deciding which one to use or purchase, you will want to assess all your needs and requirements, as well as your financial capabilities and your employees’ technical skills.

We will demystify the following LMS types:

1. Installed LMS

Installed LMS is locally hosted, meaning it has to be installed on your premises and your server like an application to your computer. One of its perks is that access is enabled from the company’s network, avoiding system access through the Internet.

This type of LMS is highly customizable and the fact that the database is local eliminates common security risks.

This way you can adjust the system to meet your needs entirely. For example, if the system is too slow, you can potentially make changes internally to make it run more quickly, such as looking at bottlenecks on the network or adding newer hardware.

INSTALLED LMS: PROS

  • Data control: you’re in total control over data, and you can maintain high-security protocols (because user information is stored locally).
  • Highly customizable: almost everything can be customized, and you can brand the LMS to make it entirely your own.
  • Lower ownership cost: unlike other LMSs, this one does not entail any recurring cost, although – mind the first con below :).
  • Integrations: an on-premise LMS lets you integrate your system with other work-related apps with fewer limitations than with other LMS types (e.g. CRM, HRMS, EPR, etc.). Such integrations help you combine data from third-party tools and ensure a streamlined training experience.
  • Security

INSTALLED LMS: CONS

  • Overall expensive: the downside of this type of LMS is that precisely because it is hosted on your server, your team is in charge of setting up, maintaining, and upgrading the LMS. A high-capacity hardware is required.
  • Dependent: software feature development for on-premises software is still dependent on the vendor.

2. Web-Based LMS

Absorb, Blackboard, Google Classroom, iSpring Learn, Litmos, TalentLMS, 360Learning

To avoid spending on high installation prices as it is the case with installed LMSs, a Web-based LMS (which is also called SaaS LMS; SaaS = Software as a Service) may be the better option.Software upgrades, maintenance, and technical fixes remain the vendor’s responsibility. This, in turn, will help save your team an incredible amount of time and energy improving the system, sparing you from buying hardware to run the application at the same time.

WEB-BASED LMS: PROS

  • Affordability: web-based LMS solutions usually require a monthly fee, but it is still much more affordable than developing an installed LMS.
  • Easy installation and high accessibility: the LMS provider takes care of the installation process and the data is hosted on the cloud which makes it possible to access from anywhere, at any time, and any device, provided you have a stable internet connection.
  • All data in one place: the beauty of SaaS LMS lies in its centralized data storage, providing easy access and impeccable organization. All your data is securely kept in one place, ensuring quick retrieval.
  • Flexible growth: your LMS can easily grow as new learners can be added at any time through simple upgrades.

WEB-BASED LMS: CONS

  • Limited integration: although SaaS LMSs can often integrate with other HR systems and potentially integrate with office applications (calendars and email), the level of customization is far better with installed LMSs.

3. Open-Source LMS

Canvas LMS, Chamilo LMS, Forma LMS, Moodle, Open edX, OpenLMS

An open-source LMS is built from an open-source code, making it available to anyone with a level of technical knowledge. If you can check this requirement of your list, an open-source LMS code opens the door to customization, without anyone setting any charges for it.

OPEN-SOURCE LMS: PROS

  • Highly customizable: you can add or delete LMS features, build and customize free online courses, and even modify the entire system to meet your requirements, including branding.
  • Integrations: if you have the skill, it can be set up to integrate with many apps and tools.
  • Ownership: you are the sole owner of this LMS, meaning that you can take full control. Note that this could be a con, too; check the cons section below.

OPEN-SOURCE LMS: CONS

  • Coding skills requirement: the advantage is simultaneously a disadvantage. The level of coding skills and the amount of work the open-source LMS requires can be a dealbreaker – this goes from customization to a later support.
  • Security: in connection with the above, you need top coding skills to ensure there are no vulnerabilities in your codebase.

4. Closed-Source LMS

Adobe Reader, Skype, Java, GoogleEarth, Microsoft Office, Skype

Open-source LMS’s codes are free, but for a closed-source LMS you must purchase a license. This may be a turn-off, but keep in mind that all updates, upgrades, and instructional design will be handled by the vendor, leaving you with more time to concentrate on improving your training.

CLOSED-SOURCE LMS: PROS

  • No need for in-house IT: the vendor of the LMS provides the entire technical and customer support.
  • Guaranteed compliance: meeting platform requirements in terms of public licenses is guaranteed by an LMS vendor through their license agreement.
  • Security: unauthorized access and malware risks are minimized with the closed-source LMSs.

CLOSED-SOURCE LMS: CONS

  • Requires license purchase
  • Not customizable

5. LMS with Authoring Tools

Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, iSpring Suite, LearnWorlds

If you or your team are not as technically skilled, then an LMS with built-in authoring tools may be the right fit. Authoring tools of such LMS are user-friendly, and although they’re not entirely flexible, you can create your own courses without technical expertise.

LMS WITH AUTHORING TOOLS: PROS

  • Rapid authoring: pre-set templates and themes facilitate the development of your training, saving time.
  • Centralization: courses are created, hosted, and managed in one place. All things considered, it eliminates the frustration of having to constantly switch between various software.
  • Progress tracking: these LMSs allow for the generation of training reports, recording learner engagement, satisfaction and scores.

LMS WITH AUTHORING TOOLS: CONS

  • Lower customization: premade authoring tools are super handy, but if you’re technically skilled, you may find yourself wanting more freedom.

6. Integration-Capable LMS

Google Classroom, EdApp

An LMS that can easily integrate with different applications is called an integration-capable LMS. Generally, we could have omitted this type from the list, as the integration has been added as a feature for the above-listed LMSs. But, as there are more of these babies available on the market, it justifies it being a separate category.

The main advantage here is that integrations are easily set up, as they already come automated with the LMS. There is no need to manually meddle with the LMS and apps.

As a result, you save your energy, time and cost.

7. Non-integrated LMS

The opposite of the integration-capable LMS is a non-integrated LMS. This means there are no connections to third-party apps, and the LMS is purely a simple LMS. Simplicity can be beautiful, don’t you think?

8. Enterprise or Commercial LMS

Absorb LMS, Docebo, EducateMe, Litmos, Moodle, 360Learning

As the name suggests, these LMSs are most likely to be used by large organizations. They are strong: enterprise LMSs can support a large number of users who access the same content simultaneously, and they usually come with abundant premium features.

Enterprise LMSs can entail analytical tools, gamification options, social elements (real-time discussion boards, collaborations), basically an entire myriad of features to satisfy the needy ones. And when you’re working with 500 people or more, this can provide solutions for almost anyone.

9. Custom-built LMS

Talent LMS

If you’re struggling to find the ideal LMS for your needs, you might want to explore the option of investing in a custom-built LMS solution. On one hand, you can have the features you need, while on the other you are safe from splurging on expensive software packed with unnecessary tools.

CUSTOM-BUILT LMS: PROS

  • All the pros from the installed LMS: data control, highly customizable, lower ownership cost, integrations, security.
  • Personalized learning experience: from a custom dashboard, to adapted learning paths, this can be all fine-tuned.

CUSTOM-BUILT LMS: CONS

  • Maintenance: you will need technical skills in-house, which means that this could potentially be quite problematic if the assigned employees leave your organization.

10. Mobile LMS

Blackboard Learn, Canvas, Classter, Docebo, Litmos, TalentLMS

These learner-centric systems enable mobile learning. As we have stated in our Mobile Learning section, today, Mobile Learning IS learning. These LMSs are adapted to portable smart devices, making eLearning entirely flexible. This is why we say that they are learner-centric; the occurrence of learning depends entirely on the learner’s availability.

Conclusion

Of course, many factors will influence your decision on which LMS to choose. The decision may depend on the size of your company, your resources, needs, and visions. You should always keep in mind whether your employees have the technical expertise to maintain the platform internally.

Maybe you are part of a big company and would like the entire LMS to be proprietary and connected to your other systems. In such cases, we recommend using an installed LMS.

If there are not enough people or resources maybe you will rather choose a Web-based LMS where your employees can easily access the LMS through the Internet and you will only need to pay a monthly fee for the vendor to maintain the site. Or you have a high-tech team and want to make the LMS all your own and create it from the start.

Whatever the decision, it should be rational and well-informed. We hope we helped with this article, but do take a look at our cheat sheet below.
Good luck!

Sources: Avelino, Jeanellie. “10 Types of LMS”. EdApp, 8 March 2022.
Entrepreneur Handbook. “Five Compelling Benefits Of A SAAS LMS”. Updated 27 July 2021. Published 2 December 2021.
Sinha, Megha. “Top 8 Types of LMS to Power Your E-Learning Programs”. ProProfs Training Maker, 29 December 2023.
St-Jean, Eric. “Learn the 6 types of learning management systems”. TechTarget, 1 August 2023.

Author: Marija Šimunić
Editor:  Tamara Tomek
Images:  Marija Šimunić

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