As a competency management company, we talk to business and learning leaders all the time about their workforce development programs. Our conversations often center on how they can maximize their learning management systems (LMS) to advance the knowledge, skills, and abilities of their employees. People want to understand the big picture – and specific LMS features, too.
Inspired by those conversations, we pulled together this list of handy LMS features – organized around the needs of learners, small organizations, and large organizations. Review the list. Then let us know if you agree! We’d love to know what you think!
For employee and customer learners, an LMS is the place to take courses and get results. “Results” include documentation of completed courses, test results and, ultimately, learning that improves skills and competencies on the job. We have four favorite LMS features for employee learners:
1. Subscriptions. With a single registration, employees and customers can access bundles of courses through subscriptions. Those who want to learn Microsoft Office, for example, can take dozens of courses across a range of Office applications and skill levels.
2. Curricula. This guided course of study prompts learners to progress through a series of courses, building on knowledge gained from a previous course. We particularly appreciate LMSs that support choice within the curricula to allow, for example, three required courses and six electives across the available classes.
3. Certifications. Employees love having tangible proof that they’ve completed their courses. Some courses have built-in certificates of completion; others do not. We favor an LMS that eliminates that variability with certificates for every course. Certificates should allow an organization to personalize certificate designs and layouts. The best certificate features support customizing the colors, fonts, and logos that support the brand as well as the flexibility to include fields (name, course title, date of completion, etc.) that are most important to the organization. Some LMSs support multiple templates, so certificates earned through one part of the organization look different from those earned in another.
4. Course Credits. For some organizations, awarding course credit is an important credential to acknowledge course completion. Some credits, or continuing education units (CEUs), are tied to professional certifications or regulation compliance. It’s helpful when the LMS automatically awards the credits for those courses – and when the technology supports self-reported credits for courses taken outside the system.
Even for small organizations, an LMS can help save time, improve access to courses, and improve planning and evaluation efforts. Our top LMS features for smaller organizations do just that.
5. Tracking. Knowing what training individuals and groups have completed is powerful information. Flexible reporting of these training records can inform business decisions for owners and training managers alike.
6. Automation. For anyone tasked with enrolling employees or customers and registering them in courses, entering data for an individual is an essential LMS capability. When faced with multiple enrollments and registrations at the same time, though, automations such as bulk enrollments and bulk registrations are welcome time savers! We see automation at its best when it’s applied to course and curriculum assignments, such as automatically enrolling new employees into a new hire curriculum.
7. Rich Course Selection. Often, an LMS provider will facilitate access to a broad training catalog from multiple vendors, so learning and business leaders can select exactly those courses that will produce the desired outcomes. A true LMS will support the selection and delivery of different course topics, types, and vendors.
Larger companies have many of the same needs as smaller ones; only more so. When supporting hundreds or thousands of learners, an LMS should help streamline processes for efficiencies while offering the flexibility required for a larger program.
8. Automation and Integration. By integrating with other web technologies and web services, an LMS can deliver additional functionality through applications or services that companies already use. Integration with any one of many online shopping cart apps, for example, supports e-commerce for organizations that sell their courses to the public or chargeback learning costs to internal departments. Or integration with an HR system can automatically manage learner accounts and course registrations in tandem with HR triggers like hiring, promotion, or termination. For data extraction and custom reporting, integration with any number of other systems supports a richer data set for review.
9. Course Catalogs from Multiple Vendors. The ability to choose courses from multiple vendors is important for large organizations who need to customize their catalogs to fit their workforce development needs. Chances are, large employers will select a wide range of courses from a variety of providers to meet the needs of their diverse and geographically distributed workforce.
10. Custom Courses in Multiple Formats. To maximize the learning experiences for students, the LMS should support multiple file types and formats, from standards like SCORM and AICC to repurposed PowerPoint, PDF, and video files. Some LMSs offer proprietary course authoring tools. For instance, Avilar provides WebMentor Author to create courses that run in Avilar’s WebMentor LMS. One benefit of this arrangement is that such courses may tap into the features of that LMS in a way that standards-based courses cannot. For example, when WebMentor Author courses are created in multiple languages, WebMentor LMS can automatically present those courses in the language individuals use to log into the system. An employee who comes to the LMS using Spanish would see the course content in Spanish; a French learner would see the French version of the same course.
There are many great features of LMSs. We selected 10 of our favorites, with a bias toward delivering efficiencies and flexibility for all users, employees, and customers as well as learning professionals and business leaders in small and large organizations.
If you’re looking for an LMS to support your organization – or want to know more about what to look for, please contact us. We’re always happy to help! Or read our white paper on best practices for implementing an LMS. Enjoy!