f you’ve recently entered into a Human Resources or Learning and Development department, chances are you’re coming across the same acronym over and over and wondering, “What does LMS mean?”
Or perhaps you’ve just joined a medium or large business for the first time, and the HR representative in charge of your onboarding has sent you an email asking you to log onto the company LMS to complete some mandatory training.
So if you’re doing a quick internet search right now to try and work out “what does LMS mean in business?” before you have to admit that you have no idea to your colleagues, don’t worry! This guide is here to answer all your questions.
What does LMS mean?
LMS stands for Learning Management System.
A Learning Management System is an online platform for hosting, sharing and tracking digital training programs for businesses.
How does an LMS work?
There are two sides to every LMS: the admin view, and the learner view.
The admin view allows the LMS manager to access features for managing learner records and training courses, and tracking and reporting on learner progress.
At the heart of an LMS is a database of employee records, known as learner records. Learner records can be easily created and managed by an LMS manager. This database allows the LMS manager to assign training to employees, and track their progress.
LMSs also host digital training courses, typically in the form of uploaded SCORM files. Some LMSs might also enable the LMS manager to schedule live training events.
An LMS manager can use the admin view to track data about the employee’s progress, including the results of their assessment attempts. The LMS manager can run reports to demonstrate completed mandated compliance requirements, as well as to improve the quality of the training.
The learner view is what is seen by employees logging into their LMS portal.
A learner will typically see a dashboard of courses that are assigned for them to complete, and may also be able to view and request access to optional training courses.
When a learner is assigned learning by the LMS manager, they may receive an email notification with information about the assigned learning, including a due-by date.
Employees can then log in to launch and complete their assigned training. They can save, exit and relaunch training courses, and see data about their own course progress.
Employees may also receive email reminders if they have not completed their training by the assigned date.
Who manages an LMS?
There are several different roles in a company that may be responsible for the management of an LMS, depending on the size of the company.
A very small company is unlikely to have an LMS, as LMSs can require a substantial cost investment. For small business, an all-in-one platform may be more appropriate and cost-effective.
In a medium size business, a general HR representative is most likely to be responsible for managing an LMS, as learning, training and development falls within the remit of Human Resources.
In a large business, it is likely that the HR department has been split into several sub-department in order to better support the multiple responsibilities of HR. In this case, a specialist in learning and development (L&D) is likely to manage the LMS.
In very large businesses, there may be an LMS specialist on the L&D team that is exclusively responsible for managing the LMS.
Benefits of an LMS
LMSs are ideal for medium to large businesses looking to deliver digital training to a large number of employees.
LMSs have a wide range of advanced features for managing employees, training resources, and training courses. Typically, an LMS on it’s own cannot create training courses, or may be able to create very basic digital training courses.
Together with a course creation tool, an LMS can be used to:
- Onboard new employees
- Upskill current employees
- Capture and retain tribal knowledge
- Deliver remote training
LMSs may also be integrated with other software, such as a Learning Experience Platform (LXP) for additional functionality.
What to look for in an LMS
The LMS industry is highly competitive, with a very large number of LMS platforms available. Distinguishing which one is right for you can feel overwhelming. There are three main things to look for to find the perfect LMS.
Corporate vs. Education, SaaS vs Open-source
The LMS market can be mapped onto a four-quadrant grid.
On one axis, you have Corporate LMSs vs Education LMSs. Corporate LMSs are designed for businesses and employee training, and will have the features to suit. Education LMSs are designed for high schools, colleges and universities, and may not have the features your business needs.
On the other axis, you have SaaS vs open-source LMSs. A SaaS LMS is a complete platform created and managed by a company that is quick and easy to get up and running, but largely cannot be customized. An open-source LMS is more like a framework for an LMS that requires a development team to customize and complete.
Does the LMS have the functions you need? Many LMSs will attempt to advertise flashy features that may actually be unnecessary and distracting for your company. Similarly, some LMSs may advertise in-built course creation tools, but these are often low-quality and difficult to use.
Instead, focus on core features like hosting, distribution, tracking and reporting on learning, and any other additional features that might be particularly important for your business.
Look for an LMS with a clean, easy-to-use interface. Your LMS managers and learners will be spending plenty of time using your LMS, so it is important to choose an LMS that offers an enjoyable user experience.
Sadly, LMSs do not come particularly cheap, which is why businesses typically look for alternatives such as an all-in-one platform when they have 100 or less employees.
The cost of an LMS will usually include an implementation fee, along with a yearly subscription based upon the number of learners and/or features. Large LMSs can cost up to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Where to start
To decide if an LMS is the right solution for you, check out our guide to the best ways to share your training.