f you’re exploring a new digital training solution for your business, it’s easy to become confused by a mountain of industry lingo and insider-terminology.
Despite being fairly young, the digital training (also called eLearning) industry has done an impressive job of creating its own mind-boggling language in a short space of time.
We’ve put together this guide to demystify the situation so you can confidently navigate the market and choose the best solution for your business.
You can also check out our eLearning glossary for more helpful explanations of important terms.
What is an online training platform?
“Online training platform” is a broad term that describes web-based software that provides an end-to-end training solution for businesses. That means that you can create, deliver and track a piece of training over the internet, usually in the form of an interactive course.
Because “online training platform” is a broad term, there are many kinds of training software that can fall under it, while being quite different in their function.
Some solutions may even describe themselves as an online training platform, while only providing a piece of the puzzle, such as only creating courses, or only delivering and tracking courses.
We’ll explore the different types of training solutions that may be described as an online training platform, but first, is an online training platform even worth the effort?
Why choose an online training platform?
While decoding the different types of online training platform can be a challenge, investing in one can be truly worthwhile.
Online training has many advantages over face-to-face training, including:
- More cost-effective.
- Scalable to hundreds or thousands of learners.
- Three times quicker for learners to complete.
- All data is tracked automatically.
- Greater flexibility for learners for when and how to do their training.
- Ideal for remote and hybrid workers.
- Training is delivered with consistency.
Without a doubt, it’s worth taking the time to find the right online training platform for your business.
Types of online training platforms
An authoring tool is software that focuses on creating courses, or “authoring” courses.
Authoring tools are one of the oldest forms of training software, and many older authoring tools, such as Articulate Storyline and iSpring Suite still require users to download software to their desktop, making team collaboration difficult.
Newer authoring tools, such as HowToo Creator or Chameleon Creator are web-based, allowing you to create courses from your web browser. This has the advantage of instant saving and updates, meaning that your team can collaborate in real time on creating training courses instead of messing around with cumbersome files and USBs.
The downside of authoring tools is that they typically require a separate platform for sending the finished courses to learners, and tracking the learner’s progress and results. Because of this, authoring tools are usually matched with an Learning Management System or Learning Experience Platform - see below.
Learning Management System
Learning Management Systems (LMS) are databases for managing learners and training. Another invention from the early days of digital training, they typically worked to deliver and track training created in an authoring tool.
Industry influencers love to cry that “the LMS is dead!”. Yet the LMS remains an important stalwart of the industry due to their advanced functionality for managing the records of hundreds or thousands of learners, as well as their tracking and reporting capabilities.
In response to growing demands from businesses for end-to-end solutions, many LMSs have developed course creation components. However they are typically a rudimentary after-thought and lack many important features for creating quality courses.
Want to know more about LMS solutions? Check out our complete guide to LMS’s here.
All-in-one training platforms have risen up in the past five or so years to meet the needs of small businesses who cannot afford the combined costs of an authoring tool and LMS, and are also looking for a simpler solution.
All-in-one platforms, like HowToo Growth, Coassemble and Easygenerator combine course creation software with simplified distribution and tracking capabilities.
They are ideal for smaller businesses with 200 or fewer learners, as they lack the features necessary for easily handling large numbers of learners.
Learning Experience Platform
Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs) are another new type of online training platform that have come to compete with Learning Management Systems in recent years.
Learning Experience Platforms are primarily for curating and tracking training content from around the web, and promoting a more social approach to learning.
Taking inspiration from platforms such as Netflix and social media, learners can manage their personal profiles and consume a wide range of materials that may count as training, such as podcasts or blogs, from a regularly updated feed of options.
While LXPs have shown promise, they have typically only seen uptake from very large businesses and can be expensive and difficult to maintain. They may or may not include the ability to create and assign training courses.
Microlearning is an umbrella term for any piece of learning that is super short, or “bite-sized”. Microlearning as a concept came to popularity in 2018 in response to panic about shortened attention spans, as well as the ubiquity of smartphone technology.
Microlearning platforms, such as EdApp, Yarno or 7Taps, typically allow users to create short courses in a web browser, then assign them to learners who complete the courses on their phones.
Because of it’s mobile-first nature, microlearning can be good for distributed workforces, such as in transport and distribution industries. They can also be good for sending short quizzes on a more regular basis to reinforce knowledge the learner has already learned.
However, mobile learning is not ideal for longer pieces of training (10+) as many microlearning platforms lack advanced interactive features, and learners can struggle to maintain their attention on their phones for long periods of time.
How to choose the best online training platform
Now that you know about the main types of online training platforms, you might be starting to have an idea of which solutions might be right for your business. But even if you know what type you want, knowing exactly which platform is right for you is another level of decision making.
Below is a checklist of must-have basic features for each component of an online learning solution. Use this checklist to ensure that the platforms you explore aren’t missing or ignoring critical features in favor of fancy (but unnecessary) extras.
- Platform is quick, easy and intuitive to use.
- Wide range of available interactive questions and activities.
- Visual course storyboarding tool.
- Trackable assessments with automatic scoring.
- Branding options, including logo and colours.
- Team collaboration and review tools.
- Courses adapt to different screen sizes.
- Courses are WCAG 2.1 Level AA accessible.
Publishing / Distribution Features
- SCORM or xAPI package publishing (for LMS or LXP distribution).
- Online link publishing (for quick, no-tracking distribution).
- In-platform distribution (for all-in-one solutions).
- Easy upload of learner details.
- Email notifications for learners.
- Learner dashboards.
- See courses not started, in progress or completed by learners.
- See the score achieved of completed assessments by learners.
- See average score or pass/fail rate per assessment question.
- High-level summaries of course and learner results.
- Filter reports by dates, courses or other segments.
- Downloadable PDF reports.
Choosing an online training platform is a serious decision for businesses to make. To dive deeper into some of the topics explored in this article, check out the following articles: