We all know that knowledge is power but it needs to be harnessed in ways that can benefit all of us. When it comes to online learning, what better way than powering it with an LMS! Organizations are struggling to keep up their resources in today’s knowledge race in a fast-changing technology environment. The technology industry has been making great inroads into the eLearning sector.
Let us now take a look at the types of LMSs that organizations can leverage to forward their Learning and Development. The different types of Learning Management Systems (LMS) have a variety of features and combinations.
As per elearningindustry 58% Of Businesses Are Planning To Adopt Enterprise Social Networks By 2020.
By communicating internally via social media, businesses are seeing increased levels of productivity as employees can talk in real-time. The tools that come with an LMS can greatly benefit them in the long term.
It can get challenging when comparing what you want from your LMS so here’s us shedding some light on the various LMS types so you have all the details to get a better understanding of major LMS types and help you make the best decision given your needs.
Installed LMS software vs Web-based LMS
This is the classic old way in which applications were installed on our computers. In organizations, it’s installed on the premises onto your server. It has high set-up fees and the IT infrastructure has to be maintained in-house. You may need to maintain your own IT staff for this purpose along with annual maintenance costs for the installed LMS. Overall it is an expensive proposition.
The Internet has transformed the way information is disseminated seamlessly. Web-based learning management systems were a natural progression with the advancement of technologies. Web-based LMS’s today are growing in popularity due to instant availability across multiple devices in real-time.
The specialty of web-based learning management systems is that it mostly works on through the browser. It is delivered to your browser or web-based solution through the internet. LMS software vendors manage their software and update, improve, and maintain the application continuously. Web-based LMS software usually costs only a small fraction when compared to the installed LMS software.
A key difference
Installed LMS software can only be accessed only on-premise where it was installed. So for example, if your corporate organization or school had installed LMS software, it could be accessible only at those locations. So as a teacher, or a trainer you can only conduct classes’ onsite. This is rather inconvenient for students also as it does not facilitate flexible learning from any other location thereby impacting both content engagement and software adoption.
Web-based LMS on the other hand offers convenience as it can be used from any location having internet access. Teachers or corporate trainers can teach online and students can attend classes from anywhere. LMS administrators can also access and do their configuration from any place. As a result, web-based LMS offers a lot more flexibility.
Let’s take a look at a snapshot view of the differences:
|Installed LMS||Web-based LMS|
|Installed on your computers on-premise||Installed on the cloud infrastructure|
|Expensive > High set up fees, infrastructure costs, IT staff costs to be borne by the organization||Cost-Effective > This is economical if LMS is provided by a vendor who manages the application and services from cloud infrastructure to web-based delivery|
|LMS Updates and Upgrades have to be physically installed on all installations||LMS updates and upgrades are done centrally from the cloud. A single update is sufficient for rolling out changes to all users|
|Accessible only onsite||Accessible everywhere with an internet connection|
|The organization has to devote energy to Information technology services||The organization can focus solely on learning and development through LMS|
|Lack of flexibility in payment models||Flexible usage plans can be delivered with pay-as-per-user|
|This will be more time consuming to configure or change services, features, or users||Ramp up and Ramp down of services, features, and users can be done centrally with ease|
|Trainers and students have to be onsite||Trainers and students can be based anywhere and can access the LMS with an internet connection.|
Hosted LMS vs SaaS LMS
Hosted LMS and SaaS LMS have hosting on the cloud as common. The difference between hosted LMS and SaaS LMS is the maintenance of the infrastructure.
In the case of a hosted LMS solution, you as a corporate organization or a school or college will be responsible for hosting the LMS yourself. That means you have the controls for its uptime and security of the server. Technical updates and upgrades have to be managed by your IT teams or your technology associates.
In a ‘Software As A Service’ (SaaS) application, the full application service is the responsibility of the LMS vendor. The LMS vendor will maintain the software, do necessary upgrades, own and manage the infrastructure. You as a customer, only pay for the usage which may be per user per month rate or an annual rate.
SaaS LMS works out to be economical as the same infrastructure is shared among many LMS clients. So for example, School A, University B, and corporate organization C may share the same cloud-hosted LMS infrastructure. They will however be using different individual instances of the LMS application. This provides separate features and data for each instance.
So if you are an educational institution or a corporate organization, you only have to use the LMS and focus on training and learning which make up your core competencies. You can also create courses for eLearning. Even an LMS administrator will make the optimal configurations for using the features of the LMS in the best possible manner to deliver a delightful teaching and learning experience.
Open-source LMS vs Closed source LMS
Open-source LMS’s are gaining popularity for the past few years. The most hyped feature of Open Source is that it’s free to use. Some open-source LMS systems require a nominal fee, where the basic LMS open source code is free, but you have to pay for additional add-on features and upgrades.
Some of the major advantages offered by open-source LMS include the following:
1. You can control your content in the LMS. You can manage features and course creation options, unlike commercial LMS which may phase out or launch new features or workarounds.
2. Open-source LMS gives you freedom and flexibility with customization options. That is a major advantage that the open-source community provides. You have full development and customization flexibility. You will have more control over your data and this is beneficial with laws like GDPR in place and an increase in data privacy.
3. Open-source LMS’s help you to schedule and develop priority features and releases rather than waiting for a commercial vendor to provide them. Commercial vendors may wait for a sizable demand from their customers to launch a feature.
Open-source LMS’s require technological capabilities and will need some development experts to help out. But the positive outcomes are in the completely customizable LMS and a great learner experience as per your expectations. From a long term perspective, it will make sense to go with open-source LMS where you will own the software, and gain advantages of low costs avoiding monthly or yearly expensive licensing fees and getting tied down with a single vendor.
Closed source LMS is proprietary code. All customization can be done only by the LMS owner and may be available as a SaaS application on the cloud.
The teacher, trainer, or the learner can absolve themselves of these complexities. Your focus is and should always be on using the LMS to maximize the quality of training. It is advisable that while choosing an LMS the focus should be on value delivered for education.
Free LMS vs Commercial LMS
There are free LMS available that operate on a smaller scale and may not have many popular features. If you are a small organization and feel that it will suffice you can check them out. You may need a technical team to help out. The other easier option is of course commercial LMS applications.
LMS with Course creation vs Non-course creation LMS
Many LMS’s have an inbuilt feature to create courses. Teachers can use the inbuilt tools to create course content which is a major relief as it helps in the flexibility to develop your unique course content.
On the other hand, some LMS’s require the purchase of additional courseware tools for creating content. Since these tools are not built-in or are offered as freemium features, these may cost extra.
In case you are having plans to use content developed by third parties, you can ensure that it adheres to SCORM standards.
SCORM, which stands for Shareable Content Object Reference Model, is a set of technical standards for eLearning software products. SCORM tells programmers how to write their code so that it can “play well” with other eLearning software. It is the de-facto industry standard for eLearning interoperability.
Integration capable LMS vs Non-integrated LMS
Learning Management Systems today are capable of being integrated with other applications in your organization. These can be of the types of internal calendars, social networks like Facebook and Google Apps, and many more. LMS can also be integrated with talent management systems and other HR applications like performance management, recruitment, and payroll. This helps to provide an integrated and unified view of a user across the whole organization.
The counterparts to this LMS are those that have their core features built-in and don’t offer many third-party integrations. The goal behind having an LMS designed this way is to offer clients a one-stop-shop solution where they can access all their critical tools from one place. This solution can work if the built-in tools for that LMS are all you need but that’s rarely the case since different organizations work with various solutions and tools, all of which are impossible to build within a single LMS platform.
Matrix chart of all LMS Types vs Features
|Type of LMS||Installed on computers||Cloud-hosted||Cost-effective||Easy upgrades||Need for in-house IT team|
|Open Source LMS||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
We have seen the various types of Learning Management Systems available. LMSs have come a long way from being standalone applications installed at the premises to LMSs being hosted on the cloud centrally and accessible by one and all across a plethora of devices. You have to choose an LMS from a long term perspective. Free LMSs require technical assistance while commercial LMSs will have to take care of everything. Integration capabilities will rank high as the future of technology is all about integration and connected devices.
Finding the right LMS depends on your organization plans for the span of rollout and future flexibility in e-learning initiatives and 3rd party integration with applications and social media. Whichever LMS you select, see that it is feature-rich, user-friendly, capable to meet your training and learning goals now and in the future.