What is LMS?

What is LMS?

Learning Management System Helps You:

  • Equip employees with vital job skills
  • Reduce training costs
  • Deliver training in multiple formats
  • Monitor learner progress and performance

Equip employees with vital job skills

Training your employees is one of the most critical undertakings your company can pursue. Especially if you consider that when people don’t receive the proper training, 40% of them will leave within a year.

Beyond that, today’s fast-paced climate demands a constantly evolving skillset that can keep pace with the rapid changes to processes and technology. Your company can only thrive if your greatest asset — your employees — have the necessary skills to succeed.

A learning management system (LMS) provides the tools required to make that happen. These e-learning platforms allow your company to be agile, reacting to developments as they occur instead of being a step behind.

Many employees you hire may have a qualified skillset but need additional training. This could be anything from learning your processes to using a new type of software. For young talent straight out of college or interns, training becomes even more imperative.

Another critical area where LMS supports your company is by enabling compliance training. Adherence to industry regulations is non-negotiable, and making sure employees have required and current certification is vital. You can build courses that specifically educate employees on certain regulations so your organization can prove compliance.

With LMS, you gain a platform for conducting training that will help your employees — and ultimately your company — thrive. An LMS helps accomplish this with tools such as:

  • Learning paths
  • Certifications for compliance courses
  • Mobile access
  • Course customization
  • Third-party content

Reduce training costs

One of the greatest advantages of LMS is the ability to cut down on training costs. In-person classroom training hasn’t gone the way of the dinosaur just yet, but online learning is much more cost-effective.

Imagine a company that hasn’t implemented LMS. They likely use on-the-job training, where employees learn the ropes of their position during the workday. That can be helpful, but it also impacts productivity.

Another option is to conduct classes. That requires an instructor, a classroom, course material and more. Perhaps the company hosts a weekend seminar for training its sales reps. Pulling off the event requires a lot of bills — travel, hotel rooms, food. You can see the expenses piling up.

In-person training has its benefits, but using it as the sole way to train new employees or provide career development isn’t cheap.

LMS solves that issue by giving organizations the ability to create digital courses. This results in:

  • Higher productivity. Teams don’t have to deal with interruptions during working hours.
  • Flexibility. Instead of paying for onsite training, it’s possible to give learners access to content while they’re at home or commuting to the office every morning.
  • Fewer purchases. Each lesson is digital, so there’s no need to buy physical supplies. And if you need to make updates, it’s simply a matter of editing the course rather than purchasing an entirely new set of training materials. That’s a major benefit with how rapidly things change today.

Deliver training in multiple formats

This is core to what a learning management system is and does. Unlike the classroom approach, LMS provides several delivery methods, so your organization can tailor content to your needs as well as those of your learners.

People have different learning styles. What works for some won’t work for everyone. To that end, LMS lets you offer blended learning. Put simply, blended learning is a combination of online and in-person formats. Let’s look at what each of those entails.

  • Online: This includes self-guided courses and virtual classrooms (known as virtual instructor-led training or VILT). Users can access course material from multiple devices to study where and when is best for them.
  • In-person: In this format, learners attend a physical classroom where an instructor leads the course. It provides a more hands-on experience but can be limiting since it involves attending scheduled classes.

When looking into selecting an LMS, you’ll probably run into the terms synchronous and asynchronous learning.

Synchronous learning is an environment where a group of people learn together. This can happen in both digital and physical formats. Think a classroom session or webinar.

In contrast, asynchronous learning refers to each student studying at different times and in different places. Instead of being focused on a group setting, this style centers on the student, giving them freedom to learn on their own schedule.

No matter what training format works best for you and your employees, a learning management system can support it. And if you need a combination, an LMS can do that too.

Monitor learner progress and performance

The goal of training is to help employees gain skills, improve in specific areas or learn the information needed to receive certifications. However, you can’t know if you’ve achieved that goal unless you’re able to assess their performance.

Not only does LMS let you deliver content, it has capabilities for tracking how each learner is doing. Pre-built and custom reports give a snapshot of every individual’s progress. You can drill into specific details, such as looking at the pass/fail status, scoring percentage, number of correct answers and even how long it took a learner to complete the test.

Another way to track learner performance is through gamification elements like a points leaderboard. This is a great way to encourage employees to actively engage with their training. But it’s also a helpful way to show who’s doing well and who’s lagging behind.

Learning platforms also provide insight into your company’s learning overall. You can view a variety of metrics:

  • Number of active users enrolled in courses
  • Number of assigned courses
  • How many assigned courses are overdue
  • Number of completed courses
  • Most popular lessons or modules based on views
  • Which courses are the most active
  • Engagement rates
  • Average test scores across all learners

When you analyze performance data at an individual and company-wide level, you can keep your finger on the pulse of your company. This provides insight into what’s effective and what needs improvement. It also helps inform learning strategies and initiatives.

FAQs: The Scoop on LMS

What Does LMS Mean?

LMS stands for learning management system. LMS enables organizations to provide courses, testing and certification to employees via a digital platform. Often, LMS uses a blend of formats to conduct training. These can include self-guided and instructor-led training, along with in-person and online environments.

A learning management system also facilitates the delivery of pre-built courses and provides tools for building customized courses. Administrators can assign this content based on the particular skills and knowledge each learner needs to acquire. This equips employees to perform their jobs to a satisfactory degree.


LCMS refers to learning content management system. While LCMS and LMS both deal with digital training, LMS has broader capabilities. The main function of an LCMS focuses on the C — content. It acts as a platform for building and hosting the lessons employees will access. Simply put, an LCMS is a tool that allows you to populate your LMS with courses. For that reason, LCMS applications are used by content creators rather than learners.

For a thorough breakdown of how the two systems are similar and different, you can check out our article LMS vs. LCMS: Know the Difference.

Who Uses a Learning Management System?

The answer to this question actually has two sides: the type of company and the type of user. Let’s look at them in turn.

Unlike some software, a learning management system can be leveraged by businesses in any industry. After all, everyone needs to make sure their employees are trained for their roles.

However, implementing LMS can be particularly helpful for companies in highly regulated industries, such as finance or healthcare. Using a learning management system ensures employees receive the proper training based on industry regulations. LMS can also provide certificates showing that an employee has gone through the necessary steps to qualify for their position.

As for user types, an LMS is helpful for two groups:

  • Learners: The employees who go through course content are often referred to as learners. They can be anyone from a new hire in training to a seasoned employee that takes a leadership course in preparation for a managerial role.
  • Administrator: This is the person who manages and monitors the LMS. An administrator has a range of responsibilities. Some of their tasks include building courses, updating content, maintaining the portal and creating certifications.

What Features Should I Look for in an LMS?

While your unique business requirements should determine the features you need, it’s helpful to know the capabilities a typical LMS offers. Here’s a quick rundown of the main features and what they do:

Content Library: The majority of learning management system platforms have a library that lets you store training materials. Many solutions also include access to a marketplace with pre-built courses from content providers such as Lynda and OpenSesame.

Content Authoring: Editing tools allow you to build your own courses so you can customize the training material. With multimedia support, you can upload images and videos.

Gamification: This refers to elements such as points, awards and leaderboards. Many modern systems incorporate gamification features. The goal is to encourage user engagement by rewarding them for participating and stimulating healthy competition among fellow learners.

Social Interaction: Features like group chats, discussion boards, web conferencing, blogs and wikis help learners interact with each other. Doing so enables them to share knowledge, provide feedback and connect over learning experiences rather than training in isolation.

E-Commerce: Rather than helping administer training internally, e-commerce functionality lets companies sell courses externally. It offers tools such as a course catalog, custom branding and payment processing.

Quizzes: Assessments allow users to test their knowledge. Admins can configure tests with different types of questions, such as multiple choice or free text.

Grading: This is how employees prove they’ve adequately learned a subject. You can configure the exact score learners need to achieve to receive a passing grade. Most systems have automation for easily grading a large number of assessments.

Instructor-Led Training: A module for ILT lets you offer virtual or in-person classroom sessions. Tools can include a webinar platform, scheduling and attendee tracking.

Surveys: Administrators can use surveys to gather user feedback. This helps them improve different aspects of the course.

Integrations: Many LMS solutions can integrate with other HR platforms. The advantage is to streamline processes. For example, if your company has a required orientation course for new hires, integration between the learning management system and HR software enables you to automatically add them to the course during the onboarding phase.

SCORM and AICC Support: SCORM, AICC, TinCan (xAPI) and cmi5 are the major e-learning standards. Basically, having LMS that supports SCORM, etc. means you to add any content built using those standards. That makes it a critical part of a learning management system.

Mobile Capability: You’ll find that mobile access is a feature most systems support. Some products employ an app for iOS and Android devices, while others offer a mobile-friendly site so the platform is suitable for anything from desktops to smartphones. Either way, the end result is the same: giving users access anywhere they are, at any time they want.

What Can I Gain from Using an LMS?

A learning management system can bring a variety of benefits to your organization. Some of the major advantages include the ability to:

  • Attract and retain talent
  • Speed up the time needed to train employees
  • Ensure employees are properly certified in the necessary areas and provide documentation to prove it
  • Streamline the onboarding process
  • Develop a strong company culture
  • Engage learners for increased retention
  • Encourage participation with gamification
  • Offer multiple formats to accommodate the different ways people learn
  • Customize each individual’s training so all the content they receive is relevant
  • Reduce skill gaps
  • Provide career development and continuous learning

What Are the Different Pricing Models?

The world of LMS pricing can be confusing. Subscription fees, renewals, annual vs. monthly — what does it all mean?

Let’s break down the various pricing models you’re most likely to run across:

  • Per user: You pay a set fee for that covers a particular number of users. For example, if you have 10 users and the price is $10/user per month, that would work out to $100 each month.
  • Per active user: Slight variation on the above model, in that you’re only charged for users who actively use the software during the billing cycle.
  • License: You pay to use the software for a set amount of time, such as a year. Some licenses give you the ability to have as many users as you need without adding extra cost. However, licenses often have different pricing levels that reflect the included features. Accessing certain capabilities may mean upgrading to a higher tier.
  • Pay as you go: This model only requires you to pay for what you need — whether that’s courses, modules, etc.
  • One-time purchase: You pay for the software upfront, without the need to renew any licenses or pay ongoing fees. The major downside is that it’s only available for on-premise systems.
  • Open source: This is the free option. However, even if you don’t pay to access the system, you’ll still need to put money toward maintenance. It also requires resources such as IT personnel and programmers, or a fair amount of technical know-how on your part.

How Should I Deploy LMS?

It depends. You need to factor in your company’s individual goals, current architecture, learning objectives and other details.

Generally speaking, however, cloud deployment is the better choice. To understand why, let’s quickly go over the two main deployment types:

  • On-premise: WIth this method, you pay an upfront fee to buy or license the software and then install it on the physical servers at your company.
  • Cloud-based: In this model, you pay the vendor a subscription to host the software for you. Users access it via the internet.

On-premise deployment may be a better fit if you’re a large organization with the resources to maintain an in-house system. You have full control over the software, giving you more ability to customize it to your exact needs.

A cloud-based platform, on the other hand, is a good choice for companies of any size. But it’s particularly helpful for smaller businesses that don’t have the infrastructure to support an onsite system. Since the vendor takes care of hosting, you also don’t have to worry about maintaining, backing up or upgrading the software.

Another advantage of cloud solutions is the flexibility they offer. Users only need an internet connection to log in. Employees have the freedom to access lessons on their own schedule. That frees them up to be more productive while at the office and can speed up the time it takes to complete their training.

You’ll also find that many of the popular e-learning platforms, such as Docebo, Cornerstone LMS and SAP Litmos are exclusively cloud-based.

Only you can determine whether cloud or on-premise deployment makes more sense for your company. For that reason, it’s always smart to list out your LMS requirements early on. Knowing what you need from the get-go will help guide your search and steer you toward the best potential products.

How Do I Select the Right LMS?

Reading up on what LMS can do and how it would benefit your company is one thing. But wrapping your head around which product is best for you? That’s a different matter.

There are over 750 applications on the market. Talk about a lot of options.

No matter what stage of the buying process you’re at, we’re here to help. Our goal is to provide the information and tools you need to choose the product that’s a perfect fit for your company’s unique requirements.

Whether you’re doing initial research, shortlisting vendors or anything else, we’ve put together some free resources to support your search:

  • An interactive LMS comparison report. This is a great starting point. It’ll show you how top systems compare for a diverse set of requirements.
  • Our selection management platform. This tool can help you streamline your buying process from start to finish. You can manage RFPs, put together a requirements list, shortlist vendors — everything you need to successfully tackle finding a new LMS.
  • A free RFP template and guide.
  • A requirements checklist and list of critical features.

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Learning management articles are written and edited by:

Grace Savides

Marketing Research Analyst

A digital specialist and content marketer, Grace joined the SelectHub team at the end of 2019. Currently, she is a Marketing Research Analyst who writes about learning management systems, talent management and payroll software.

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Mariah Hansen

Lead Editor

As the lead editor at SelectHub, Mariah edits and manages content for more than 40 different software categories, as well as writing for a couple of them herself.

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