An effective learning management system (LMS) is essential for organizations of any size that are serious about building a lasting learning environment. According to a recent report, 98% of companies are now using an LMS as a foundational piece of their learning and development strategy.1
Although the adoption of an LMS is almost universal, finding one that aligns with your organization's needs and objectives isn't always as straightforward as it might seem. The market is overflowing with different LMS solutions, each boasting unique features and benefits. Even at Absorb, we see our customers using our LMS to achieve very different outcomes. We see customers like Symend use Absorb LMS to fuel their global talent acquisition strategy, while customers like Mister Car Wash will be using our platform to retain great talent.
With so many choices, how can you ensure that you pick the one that's right for you?
Comparing different LMS types
AI-powered LMS solutions have gained immense popularity in recent years because of how easy they are to implement and their ability to scale with your business. These systems are hosted on external servers, providing users with accessibility from anywhere with an internet connection. One of the primary advantages of a cloud-based LMS is its cost-effectiveness, as it eliminates the need for extensive hardware and software infrastructure. Automatic updates and backups are typically included, ensuring the system is always up to date and secure. Some additional benefits of an AI-powered LMS are:
- Learners can more easily find the content they're looking for and, in so doing, help future searchers get better results. AI refines results with every new search.
- When learners efficiently find the content they're searching for, they gain the skills they seek and are motivated to come back for more.
- By simplifying admin tasks, companies save time and money. Find information faster, act on activities immediately, and identify opportunities with the power of artificial intelligence.
Open-source LMS solutions provide great levels of flexibility and control. They can be customized to meet an organization's specific needs, and are often favored by organizations with in-house development teams. The open-source nature allows for community collaboration, resulting in a wide range of plugins and extensions that can enhance functionality.
But this increased control and customization comes with the burden of responsibility. Organizations using open-source LMS solutions must invest in ongoing maintenance, development, and support. The initial setup can be more complex, and you need to commit resources to continually manage and update the system. While the software itself is often free, the total cost of ownership can be higher due to the investment in maintenance and development.
Proprietary LMS solutions are typically offered by software vendors and come with a pre-packaged set of features and functionalities. They’re known for their user-friendly interfaces, customer support, and reliability. Smaller organizations that don't require extensive customization, or have limited IT resources, can find proprietary LMS solutions a practical choice.
The downside of a proprietary LMS is its limited customization options, you may have to adapt your processes to fit the software's features rather than the other way around. Additionally, proprietary solutions are known for their licensing fees, which can be substantial, especially for larger user bases. Lock-in can also be a concern, as switching to a different LMS can be challenging and costly.
Assess your unique circumstances and objectives, and consider the pros and cons of each LMS type to determine which one aligns best with your organization's goals.
Choosing an LMS for your requirements
When choosing an LMS, defining your unique requirements lays the groundwork for finding a system that ticks all your boxes and drives your organization forward. Here's four key steps to define those parameters:
1. Identify your training needs and goals
Take a step back and assess your organization's landscape. Ask yourself:
- What are my organization’s training needs?
- What are my organization’s training program goals?
- What are my organization’s business's goals?
- What skills should we be focusing on as a company?
These could span various areas, from streamlining employee onboarding and compliance training to fostering a culture of continuous learning.
But don't just stop at what you need today. Future-proof your decision by considering the trajectory of your organization and the potential challenges that lie ahead. Reflect on your current LMS (if you have one), and pinpoint what's missing or what could be improved. Insights like this will guide you toward the right solution for your organization and learners.
2. Understand your audience
People are at the heart of any training initiative, and understanding your learners is vital. Generally, learners fall into four categories: auditory, visual, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. Knowing your audience will enable you to find an LMS that delivers the right kind of content in a way that resonates with them. That’s why recognizing the diverse learning preferences of today's learners underscores the importance of exploring various teaching styles, including microlearning, asynchronous learning, and blended learning. Let’s take a look at each of these different learning styles.
What is asynchronous learning?
Asynchronous learning is a flexible, self-paced approach to education that allows you to learn on your own schedule. It's perfect for busy individuals who want to take control of their learning journey, offering the freedom to access educational materials when it's most convenient.
Try it: Guide your team to a more effective study routine through structured daily schedules. Allocate time for each topic, boost productivity, and enhance retention with asynchronous learning.
What is blended learning?
Blended learning represents the convergence of conventional classroom instruction with digital resources, creating a holistic approach to education. It integrates face-to-face teaching seamlessly with online tools to accommodate a wide range of learning styles and preferences.
Try it: Foster peer engagement in classroom sessions and bolster knowledge with accompanying online resources. Stand back and watch your team’s comprehension and retention skyrocket.
What is microlearning?
In a world where time is of the essence, microlearning offers an efficient approach to education. It's all about breaking down complex topics into bite-sized lessons. Whether it's a short video tutorial, a quiz, or a concise summary, these tiny learning modules enhance retention and fit perfectly into a busy schedule.
Try it: Take the key messaging from your long-form courses and compress them into short-form video lessons ranging from one to five minutes.
3. Consider your organization's size and scalability needs
We’re firm advocates that an LMS isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. Your organization's size and future growth plans play a significant role in determining the appropriate LMS. Tapping the full potential of eLearning requires an extended enterprise training platform built for the job. If you foresee rapid expansion or have a large workforce spread across various locations, scalability should be a top priority. Similarly, consider your timelines and the resources required to launch a new LMS. For instance, does the LMS provide automatic user import features or the ability to import historical data from your current system? Such capabilities could save you significant time and effort.
4. Prioritize the role of user experience in LMS selection
Let's face it — even the most feature-rich LMS would be futile if your learners find it complex and unengaging. User experience is paramount, and a great LMS should deliver learning in an intuitive, enjoyable manner. Look for an LMS that offers a seamless, user-friendly interface, a variety of content types, and is compatible with multiple devices.
According to research by Brandon Hall Group, while innovation is rapidly improving learning technology, the market convergence creates several complications:
- Integrating systems has challenges. Getting LMS, LXP and HCM learning tools to work together can be complicated due to different data models and APIs. Lack of integration leads to a fragmented learner experience.
- Transitioning platforms is disruptive. Organizations that adopted a legacy LMS are hesitant to rip-and-replace it despite its limitations. Migrating data and re-training admins on new systems requires significant effort.
- Choosing the right vendor mix is difficult. With many overlapping platform options, selecting the right tools to meet each business need is complex. Organizations risk overspending and underutilizing purchased capabilities.
- Role confusion is increasing. As capability gaps narrow, the distinctions between LMS, LXP and HCM learning tools are blurring. Buyers struggle to understand platform differences.
- Data and analytics suffer. Disparate systems lead to learning data silos. Lack of integrated reporting and analytics makes it tough to get a holistic view of learning programs.
In making sense of this convergence of technology and capability and in preparation for making buying decisions, companies might ask themselves some key questions:
- Are we clear on what we need our LMS to do for us?
- Do we have a clearly documented set of requirements for data, security, capability, and integration?
- Have I involved the right internal partners in preparation for making this decision?
- Do we have a list of questions that we want answered?
Key features to look for when choosing an LMS
A feature-rich LMS can be the difference between a successful training program and one that struggles to deliver. Here's your guide to the key attributes an LMS should ideally possess.
Course creation and management capabilities
A powerful LMS should be more than just a storage space for your training materials. It should offer robust course creation and management capabilities. Look for features like simple course authoring tools that let you produce interactive, interesting content. Also, make sure that the LMS is compatible with a range of content formats, including text, videos, audio, and more. Moreover, the system should enable seamless content updating and versioning, ensuring your course materials are always up to date.
Reporting and analytics tools
The value of an LMS lies in its ability to provide insights that drive your learning strategy forward. A high-quality LMS will feature in-depth reporting and analytics tools. These can help you track learner progress, measure the effectiveness of your training programs, identify areas for improvement, and ultimately, prove the ROI of your learning initiatives.
Mobile learning support
Mobile learning has become a non-negotiable feature when it comes to your LMS functionality. Your learners should have access to training no matter where they are or what device they’re using. Therefore, it's vital to choose an LMS that offers mobile learning support and provides a seamless, responsive interface for users on smartphones and tablets.
Integration with other business systems
Your LMS should integrate effortlessly with your existing business systems. Whether it's your human resources information system (HRIS), customer relationship management (CRM) software, or your organization's web conferencing tools, look for an LMS that can sync with these systems. This will help maintain data consistency throughout your company and streamline your workflows.
User support and service quality
Last but certainly not least, consider the level of user support and service quality provided by the LMS vendor. Even the most user-friendly system may occasionally have problems, so you'll want to know there is reliable support on hand to assist. Check the service levels guaranteed by your LMS provider, the hours of support, and the channels you can reach them through like email, phone, or live chat.
Pricing models and budget considerations
After you’ve defined your learning requirements and the features you need, the next step is to evaluate costs. Each pricing model has its own advantages and potential hidden costs, so it's essential to consider your budget, usage requirements, and long-term goals. Here's some guidance on how to evaluate different pricing models:
1. Subscription-based pricing
- Predictable recurring costs: Subscription-based models often provide a fixed monthly or annual fee, making budgeting easier.
- Regular updates and support: Subscriptions typically include software updates and customer support.
- Scalability: You can often adjust your subscription as your user base grows or scales back.
- Long-term costs: While monthly payments can be manageable, the cumulative cost over several years may be higher than other models.
- Potential vendor lock-in: Switching to a different LMS can be challenging and costly, as you're committed to paying ongoing fees. On average, contractual obligations can range from 1-3 years.
2. Pay-per-user pricing
- Cost proportional to usage: You pay for what you use, which can be more cost-effective for organizations with fluctuating user numbers.
- Scalability: Easy to add or remove users as needed.
- Incentive for efficiency: This model encourages efficient use of the LMS, as you pay per active user.
- Unpredictable costs: Costs can vary from month to month, making budgeting less straightforward.
- Hidden costs: Be aware of overage charges if you exceed your user limits.
- May not incentivize engagement: Pay-per-user models might discourage user engagement if users are removed to cut costs.
3. One-time purchase pricing
- Upfront cost: You pay a single, typically larger fee, and then own the software with no ongoing payments.
- Full control: You have complete control over the system and can host it as you see fit.
- Potential for long-term cost savings: Over a longer period, a one-time purchase may be more cost-effective.
- Upfront investment: The initial cost can be substantial, which might not be suitable for organizations with budget constraints.
- Maintenance costs: You're responsible for updates, support, and hosting, which can incur additional costs.
- Limited scalability: You may face additional costs if you need to expand the system to accommodate more users or features.
To evaluate pricing models effectively, consider the following budget-related factors:
- Total cost of ownership (TCO): Look beyond the initial price and factor in the costs over the technology’s lifetime, including ongoing maintenance, support, and potential hidden costs.
- Scalability: Assess how your LMS needs may change as your organization grows. Choose a model that will grow with you.
- Budget flexibility: Consider your organization's financial stability and ability to make upfront payments or handle fluctuating monthly costs.
- ROI: Think about the return on investment you expect to achieve with your LMS. Different models may have varying impacts on your organization's ROI.
- Vendor reputation: Evaluate the LMS provider's reputation for transparency in pricing and customer satisfaction.
To make an informed decision, assess your organization's needs, budget constraints, and long-term goals. Carefully evaluate the pricing models and potential hidden costs to select the LMS solution that aligns best with your objectives and financial capacity.
Data security and compliance
Data security and compliance are paramount, especially for organizations operating in regulated industries such as healthcare, finance, or education. In these sectors, safeguarding sensitive information and adhering to industry-specific regulations aren’t merely options; they’re legal and ethical obligations. Scrutinize the platform's encryption methods, access controls, and data storage practices. A strong LMS will provide detailed documentation of its security measures, undergo regular security audits, and ensure compliance with data protection regulations like GDPR or HIPAA, where applicable.
Why choose Absorb LMS?
Choosing Absorb LMS is choosing an award-winning, AI-powered solution. We offer a unified platform, that delivers on engaging learners and elevating their learning experiences. Built to cater to the evolving needs of the digital world, Absorb LMS isn't just a tool for today but a robust solution designed for the future. With our cloud-based structure, you get the advantage of accessibility, scalability, and security — ensuring your LMS solution is as agile as your organization's learning needs.
Experience the future of learning with Absorb LMS. Book a demo.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
What support does Absorb LMS offer?
- Absorb LMS is committed to offering robust support to our users around the clock. You can rely on us to respond to your questions and resolve your problems in real time because we offer 24/7 assistance, 365 days a year.
How easy is it to implement and use Absorb LMS?
- Ease of use and implementation are among the key strengths of Absorb LMS. To help you get started, our team of experts is here to onboard you to your new LMS and partner with you to integrate any of your existing systems.