5 learning management system types

5 learning management system types
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The last several weeks have been unusual for online learning companies.

We at Syndicode have been following tech news and reports from educational companies, and they all show one thing – online learning is the way to go. Not only because coronavirus will make students and educators understand the advantages of remote education. And not because online learning provides more independence (which is essential shall another pandemic strike). 

Mainly, online education now, more than ever, shows its crucial advantage – equal availability.

Just in several weeks, Pearers, of the most significant learning platforms, gained more than 500,000 Italian followers. A perfect case of how a learning management system software allows learners from all over the world, be it Italy or China, get access to learning. 

Following the trends for LMS design and development, Syndicode has prepared an extensive review of the 5 learning management system types (as well as far more practically applied info).

Why companies opt for e-learning development?

Now online education businesses track more than 400% increase in activity in their services. Still, an obvious question is – what does a non-educational business have to do with it?

The reality is, to be competitive, companies have to invest in the skills of their employment. 

Having a consistent educational program and an LMS algorithm improves your employee’s knowledge shows that the company is invested in growth, and decreases churn-out rates. 

We at Syndicode aren’t surprised by the spikes of online learning.

It is evident that e-learning only required a decisive push to be brought into the mainstream. Now, it’s up to business owners to join the trend and maximize the return

Learning Management System is the way

Education only brings results if it’s consistent. Employees and management should have a system that they can trust. Think about Duolingo: the site makes learning languages easier because it creates a measurable daily system. You can use the same approach to motivate your employees and track their progress. 

What is an e-learning management system?

Learning management system (LMS) is a system for tracking, managing, organization, documentation, and delivery of education concepts of programs.

These tools help to make quizzes, tests, controlling practice, organizing teamwork, and reporting on the progress.

A lot of them have ready-to-go templates with a pre-set number and structure of classes. Your employees know exactly how many modules they need to pass and see their results. 

What learning management system to build?

Universities, companies, and individuals can’t use the same learning system. The functionality and structure of the software can differ depending on its purpose and requirements.

We asked expert developers at Syndicode about the main types of LMSs – they distinguished 5 types that make up the learning management system cornerstone. 

1. Custom vs. Ready-Made LMS

The first question that business owners face when they start to contemplate online learning is whether they should build their online system. At first glance, it seems that getting a ready solution is a cheaper and faster option. Is it the case?

Ready learning management system 

  • Canvas,  Docebo Learn, and others – work well for small teams of 1-20 people. There’s no need to build a custom solution if your organization only includes a few people. YOu will be able to accommodate your needs within a limited functionality of a ready tool.
  • You know a specialized existing solution. If there’s a good LMS that’s adapted specially to your niche and fits company needs, you can start implementing learning with that system. 
  • Outsourcing technical responsibilities. If you don’t have expertise or budget for custom development, it’s better to start with a limited solution than delay learning altogether.

Advantages of using a custom solution 

Even though using ready solutions works in some scenarios, developing an independent platform is a better idea. Let’s take a look at scenarios when creating a custom LMS is a must. 

  • You want to dedicate a clearly defined budget for learning. Once you’ve built a corporate system, you no longer need to pay fees per employer or on an hourly basis. At the initial stages, your budget has to be higher (development and testing costs), but later on, it will considerably drop and remain on this level. With ready platforms, you depend on third-party privacy policies and never know how the costs will change. 
  • Specific training methods. Courses and quizzes don’t work well enough for all employees. Depending on your niche and team preferences, you might need more specific learning management system types – a peer-to-peer mentoring program or practical on-hands experiences. Ready solutions can’t take these specifics into account.
  • Attracting educators. If you plan on cooperating with experts and creating programs for sale, you need a platform that will stand out from solutions that exist on the market. An out-of-the-box platform is a powerful competitive advantage that allows you to create better content.
  • Code ownership. In third-party online learning management software, you have no control over the quality of their functionality and interface. One bad update – and your entire team will feel the consequences. In your service, you can always restore the previous version or debug the software. 
  • Developing a learning management system that fits business requirements. You can adapt to your goals, capacities, and priorities. 

2. Public vs. Private LMS

If you are planning on building a learning management system, you can consider turning it into a revenue stream. Just like Google has courses that are used both by employees and regular users, your company could also share educational content.

The example of tools like the learning management system Blackboard shows that even a simple solution can be highly successful if executed well. You can turn your platform into a publicly available education service and reach thousands of users. 

Benefits of creating a public LMS

  • An additional source of revenue: you can sell your courses for a fee or develop your educational platform as a software-as-a-service with subscription fees. As online education gets mainstream, business owners should consider bringing online courses to their niches and getting passive income. It’s even better if your competitors haven’t done courses yet – you’ll be the first one to introduce e-learning. 
  • Promoting in-house expertise: the e-learning system is a powerful content marketing tool. By presenting the knowledge of your in-house managers and senior specialists, you establish the reputation of an expert. This will lead to more exposure and high-quality conversions. 
  • Reaching the target audience. You can create courses that will interest your target audience and use it as a way to understand potential clients better. Potentially, it can be a powerful instrument for your sales funnels that will attract potential leads long-term. 

Should every e learning management software go public?

Not all knowledge should be shared with other users. Many companies train their team members on confidential materials, share internal methods and secret techniques, and they wouldn’t want competitors to see these insights.

If you’d instead prefer your employees not to be aware of your employees’ skill sets and learning methods, you can develop an internal learning system that will only be available on the company devices. 

3. Installed or SaaS LMS

Before you start building your learning system, consider computing specifics.

You have two strategies:

  • Make software that will be installed on the local device network.
  • Create a system that will be available on the domain via a web browser. 

Installed LMS uses local storage to save, exchange, and process data. The main benefit of this option is security: you have control over all uploaded data and can access it even with low latency. 

Software as a Service is a Cloud service that is available on third-party services. Employees and coaches will be able to access the platform from any device, but they need a stable connection.

The main advantage of this SaaS alternative is accessibility: your employees don’t have to be in the office to learn. They can access learning materials when commuting, on vacations, after work. 

Let’s make a learning management software comparison to see use cases for each type.

Use cases for installed LMS

  • Confidential information: if you operate with protected data, restricting platform access to the company’s local network is a safer option. Employees won’t be able to take sensitive information out of their offices – pretty much like in Apple. 
  • Own powerful computing resources. If you already have potent servers at your disposal, there is no need to pay third-party options additionally. You could still develop a web platform but host it on your local network.
  • Complex functionality. If your training requires working with huge loads of data and fast processing, it’s better to rely on offline learning methods. This way, the productivity of your employees won’t be jeopardized by latency issues. 

Use cases for SaaS learning management software systems

  • Convenience: if your team isn’t motivated to learn, offering them a web solution that can be accessed wherever and whenever will boost their productivity.
  • SaaS can be made public: if you consider releasing your solution to users beyond your company’s team, developing a web-based learning management software will likely bring you higher profits in the long run. SaaS doesn’t have to be installed or take up storage space, accessible everywhere – these are all high selling points. 
  • You can use third-party servers. When you build a SaaS, you can deploy the app in the vendor’s Cloud. If you don’t have your own server space, using a ready infrastructure like AWS or Google Cloud is cheaper. 

4. Open Source LMS vs. Closed Source

The next step is deciding on code availability. Making your LMS open source can attract an enthusiastic community and help you out with its development, but it also means you’ll be giving other people control over the tool. Let’s take a look at the implications behind both learning management system types. 

Advantages of building an open source LMS

  • Help in developing and testing the solution. An open-source community will provide you with regular suggestions on functionality and interface improvements, identify bugs, and add new courses. 
  • It’s a possibility to test out your concept. If it’s your first LMS, showing it to other developers for free gives you a learning space. When you offer a free product, the expectations aren’t as high, and users will be more willing to give your LMS technology a try.
  • You can communicate with other open source creators. When you have your open-source platform, you become a part of a vast community. It will be easier for you to reach out to creators of other solutions and get learning management software reviews because you’ll have something to show during your self-introduction. 

Advantages of making a commercial LMS

  • Revenue: this one is relatively obvious. If you manage to attract paid users to your solution, a learning system could be an additional source of income for your team.
  • No third-party influence on the project. If you wouldn’t want other developers or tests to mess with your code, building a commercial platform is a better idea.
  • Nobody digs in your code: if you are using creative solutions and wouldn’t want other developers and companies to take pointers, consider making a paid product right away bypassing an open-source stage. 

Obviously, the main difference between building an open-source and commercial software lies in users’ expectations.

When you are creating an open-source too, users can tolerate half-baked experimental solutions with bugs. With a commercial product, stakes are much higher. This is why, if you don’t have experience and resources to develop a powerful commercial LMS, consider seeking out the help of the open-source community and attract first users for free. 

5. Add-ons or no integrations in LMS

When you decided on the main aspects of your learning system, it’s time to think about additional functionality.

Some companies prefer building a complex monolith solution where all extra features are available on the main menu. Such solutions tend to be slow and cumbersome, but on the other hand, users don’t have to install anything additionally. 

You can integrate ready-made services into your platform, too.

Another approach to take is building essential functionality and interface and developing additional features in the form of integrations. Users won’t see these add-ons unless they install them from the store or library. As with all types, use cases for these two options differ – let’s take a look at the main aspects of these learning management system types.

Use cases for building a monolith system

  • Elaborate on the learning process. Some industries require learners to work with multiple features regularly. Medical or scientific LMSs include hundreds of functions, and a lot of them are routinely used. Often, the feature is needed ASAP, and there’s no time to install it. Plus, when there are so many necessary features, installing each of them manually will be a colossal waste of time. 
  • Full independence from the Internet. Installing an add-on requires an online connection. If there’s no Internet, but a feature is needed asap, the learning process will be sabotaged. So, if you work in a niche where a stable internet connection isn’t always a given (like transportation), consider implementing as much functionality in the core version as you can. 

Use cases for integrations

  • The same learning system for many tasks: if the LMS is used by developers, designers, copywriters, and QA testers, implementing functionality for each of these specialists into the core version will be hard. You’ll end up with a cluttered tool and a terrible user experience.
  • You want to make your LMS public. If you consider attracting clients to your system, lightweight and simplicity should be your priorities. However, make sure to inform users that there’s a possibility to upload add-ons. 
  • Time and budget constrain. Developing a minimalistic core version is faster and cheaper than trying to fit everything in the main functionality. Then you can develop add-ons one by one depending on your budget and priorities. On top of that, it’ll be easier to test and maintain each add-ons one-by-one rather than keep track of multi-layered code.

Let’s summarize the characteristics of these learning management system types.

With a wholesome platform, you bet on the platform’s rich functionality.

For complex industries and those who work in low-latency conditions, it’s an important selling point. Shipping additional functionality to integrations allows you to focus on simplicity and cost-efficiency, which is better for small and medium companies. 

Building an LMS is achievable

If you thought that only big companies could invest in their educational systems, it’s time to change your mind.

The truth is, the hope to save budget by using a ready solution only works short-term – ultimately, fees and subscriptions will cost more than development and testing.

In the long-term, custom learning management software systems are the only scalable and flexible option. Third-party tools just don’t give enough control.

Where to start?

At Syndicode, we are excited to see how LMSs will grow this year and later.

We’ve been helping companies to build learning tools for a while, and it looks like we’ll be seeing even more such partnerships. If you are interested in building your learning management system, contact our developers. 

We will consult you on the business model, structure, and functionality of the solution, prepare an estimate for the project, and answer your questions (with our cases).

If you were considering building an LMS, it’s time to execute the project finally. 2020 is the year to invest in e-learning

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