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What Is a Learning Management System, and Do You Need One? - HRDQ

What Is a Learning Management System, and Do You Need One?

The earliest learning management systems were developed in the late 1990s, but these platforms have evolved significantly in the last few decades. Learning management systems are increasingly common in the corporate sector, educational institutions, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.

Anyone that has ever been tasked with launching an employee training program knows just how much work is involved in the process. Adopting a learning management system can help support different aspects of the learning process by providing a centralized learning hub where all learning content, training programs, and courses can be managed and delivered.

For organizations that are looking to implement a training system that is cost-effective, scalable, and flexible while also providing efficient tracking and reporting of training results, an LMS is a no-brainer.

How do you know if a learning management system is right for your company? Let's take a closer look at what these programs are and how to know whether your organization should make the transition.

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What Is a Learning Management System?

A learning management system is a platform or software app specifically designed to help you plan, create, and assess a particular learning practice. It is a place where all of your training content can be stored together in one neat place while also allowing you to track this content.

Often referred to as an LMS, you'll also hear learning management systems called learning experience platforms (LXP) or learning activity management systems.

It's worth noting that there is also a type of platform or software known as a learning content management system (LCMS), which isn't exactly the same as an LMS. This type of program is used to actually write learning content. While these two systems can work together and act in a complementary way to one another, they are technically distinct programs.

An LMS Platform

People in charge of training and development often find that an LMS can make their lives tremendously easier. They can use these programs to discover and assess learning goals at the individual and organizational levels, track progress over time, and compile and present data that results from the learning process.

An LMS doesn't just help deliver content but can also assist in analysis when it comes to onboarding, skills gaps, and compliance.

How Can You Use a Learning Management System?

Learning management systems can be useful for a wide range of organizations, including educational institutions and companies.

Employee Accessing Training Programs

Any group that needs to gather, organize, share, and analyze resources, documents, and people skills (aka knowledge management) can likely benefit from one of these programs.

Onboarding and Training

In the business environment, two of the most common learning management systems used are employee training and onboarding. New hires can easily access training programs using this software and can even provide feedback so employers can assess the effectiveness of their training course materials. Additionally, this allows managers to understand which areas might need extra attention to ensure that employees can seamlessly integrate into their new roles.

Employee Completing Onboarding and Training

Extended enterprise training purposes can also be served by learning management systems. Whether your company engages in or is considering implementing partner, member, and customer training, an LMS can help with this, too.

Instructors can create learning experiences that are fully immersive for the users, allowing them to cultivate their problem-solving abilities and develop new skills.

Sales Training

Employee sales skills can also be improved through learning management systems.

Employee Sales Training

Whether you want your team to enhance their abilities in relation to customer interactions or product knowledge, an LMS can streamline this process and ensure that your sales team is in tip-top shape.

Retention and Development

Efficiently and effectively communicating new information to your existing team is an essential part of any business, and an LMS can help with that, too. Employees can be assigned courses through the system to ensure they are up-to-date on any product changes and have all the necessary compliance and product knowledge.

Employee Developing Their Job Skills

Beyond that, an LMS can help your organization's employees continue to develop their job skills over time, allowing them to grow within their roles and further develop their careers.

Blended Learning

One of the nice things about learning management systems is that they can be used to combine online learning tools with a traditional classroom setting.

Employee Accessing Digital Learning Content

The digital learning content can be customized to fit the needs of each employee, while traditional-style learning can provide the benefits of in-person education.

What Are Some Common LMS Features?

Of course, the specific features and functionalities in your LMS will depend on which platform or software you choose to implement at your organization.

Logging in to an LMS

That being said, many of the most popular choices share some common features, including:

  • User-friendly interface: Platforms are typically specifically designed so that users can easily navigate the software intuitively
  • Responsive design: These programs are designed to be accessed from any type of device, whether it's a laptop, desktop, smartphone, or tablet. No matter what device an employee is using, learning management systems can be displayed in the best possible format for a given device and even sometimes offer the ability to download content to be used offline.
  • Catalog and course management: Instructors and administrators alike can manage the catalog of content they offer and help build a learning experience that is more customized to the needs of their employees.
  • Certification and compliance support: When using a system designed for compliance training and certification, instructors and admins can assess the skill sets and potential performance gaps at the individual level.
  • Reports and analytics: Many learning management systems offer reports and data that help to demonstrate the effectiveness of their online training initiatives. These metrics and tools can be used to analyze individuals and groups as a whole.
  • Automation: Tasks that are tedious and repetitive can be automated through an LMS, such as handling group enrollments and adding and deactivating users.
  • Gamification: You'll often find that learning management systems offer gamification features to help boost engagement and motivation.

These are only some of the features you might find in an LMS these days. Some learning management systems might even incorporate AI to help create personalized learning experiences and localization to automatically present the most appropriate version of a particular course based on the user's location.

What Are the Benefits of a Learning Management System?

Does your organization want to save time and money? If you're like most companies, the answer will be a resounding yes.

An LMS can eliminate the need for instructors, travel expenses, location hiring, and more. Beyond that, employees can use the LMS to complete their coursework at a time that works for them, avoiding the outcome where entire teams have to stop what they're doing during work hours to relocate and engage in a group training program.

Employee Accessing an LMS

Of course, these are only some of the benefits of learning management systems. Some additional advantages include:

  • Offering personalized online training and learning experiences
  • Giving managers the ability to monitor the progress and performance of users
  • Helping to eliminate repetitive tasks
  • Allowing online training and learning content to be distributed easily and consistently across the organization
  • Creating a centralized learning hub where all learning data can be stored in one place
  • Offering leaders the ability to efficiently and simply update learning materials, activities, and modules
  • Providing advanced encryption and security features to ensure that all content and data are kept secure

Are you wondering how to create and allocate a training budget for your new hires? Take a look at our guide to make sure you're devoting enough resources to this important task without overspending.

Do You Need a Learning Management System?

Any organization that needs to deliver consistent or standardized training materials to remote teams or multiple locations can benefit from implementing a learning management system.

Employee Using a Learning Management System

Let's look at some tell-tale signs that a learning management system could help your organization thrive and grow.

You Want to Improve Efficiency in Your Training Process

If you are training new employees using a system that involves paper-based records, managing spreadsheets, or sending out emails on a one-off basis, you are almost certainly spending more time on the administration aspect of training than you need to.

An Efficient Training Process

Having an LMS can both simplify and automate these repetitive tasks. Employees and learners can access learning information on their own, allowing them to enroll in courses, get connected to necessary training programs, and track their progress when using an LMS, which can significantly reduce the administrative burden.

Your Organization Is Growing

Ensuring that your training and learning experiences remain consistent gets ever more difficult as your organization grows and expands.

A Growing Organization

Using an LMS can help you create standardized courses, materials, and assessments that allow the entire process and its results to be much steadier and more predictable.

Employees Lack Engagement and Interaction

If your current training program has your employees struggling to keep their eyes open, an LMS can help increase engagement and interaction in the training process. Engagement is an essential part of successful training, as employees are much more likely to take in and retain information when they are interested, motivated, committed, and excited to learn.

Team Members Engaged in Training

An LMS can help foster a sense of community through features like chat, discussion forums, and virtual classrooms.

For additional tips to improve your training programs, check out our guide to keeping employees engaged and motivated during training.

Your Organization Operates In an Industry With Strict Compliance and Regulatory Requirements

Another important consideration when trying to decide whether or not your organization needs an LMS is the industry you operate in. This type of software or platform can help ensure that all necessary training and certifications are received by employees in industries with strict compliance and regulation requirements.

Employee Completing Necessary Training

Additionally, documentation can be provided by an LMS. These programs can also track the completion of programs so you can always quickly and easily ensure that everything is above board.

You Would Benefit From Training Evaluation and Data Analysis

Training employees isn't cheap, so it's crucial to have the ability to evaluate the effectiveness of training programs. That can be difficult to do when your training process is essentially manual.

Reviewing LMS Analytics

Rather than collecting individual surveys from your team members and trying to compile the information into a useful report, you can use an LMS to receive robust reports and analytics regarding the success of your training and learning programs. By having the ability to measure the impact of your training initiatives, you have the power to make data-driven decisions that help improve learning outcomes in the future.

Looking for other ideas when it comes to gathering input after training? Take a look at our guide to collecting employee feedback.

Your Team Is Remote

An LMS can be useful for a company that employs in-office workers, but this type of system can be particularly helpful for organizations with remote teams. The geographic gap is something that always has to be considered when training new teams, and an LMS can help ensure that employees can access online learning opportunities at any time from anywhere in the world.

A Remote Team Member

An LMS can do just that if you're searching for a way to allow new hires and existing employees to engage in asynchronous learning. These programs allow your employees to learn at a pace that works for them without sacrificing training consistency.

Soft-Skills Training Course For Your Team

Deciding whether or not you need a learning management system can be a significant decision for an organization– at an enterprise level, they can cost tens of thousands of dollars depending on the program you choose and the features and functionalities you're prioritizing.

Whether or not you choose to implement an LMS, having a centralized hub for all your training materials isn't particularly useful if the materials themselves are subpar. If you're ready to upgrade the soft skills training you offer your new and existing employees, you've come to the right place. At HRDQ, we offer a wide range of soft skills training programs perfect for remote and in-office teams.

Using the HRDQ Reproducible Training Library

If you're searching for a flexible, customizable, and reproducible soft skills training program for your team, you'll want to take a look at our reproducible training library. With more than 90 virtual and classroom instructor-led courses that can be downloaded and delivered immediately, you'll find precisely what you need for your next training event.

Do you have any questions about learning management systems? If so, be sure to leave us a comment down below, and we'll get back to you within a day or two! We do our best to ensure every comment and question receives a reply in a timely manner, and we'd love to help you out however we can!

Recommended Training
Reproducible Training Library
  • Downloadable & customizable
  • Both virtual and classroom classes
  • 90 half-day courses
Learn more
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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.