Quick Guide to Choosing a Learning Management System (LMS)

Designing Digitally


A learning management system (LMS) is a software application that allows businesses to manage their eLearning programs. It allows numerous administrative tasks such as tracking users and their productivity, generating reports, and administering training programs. This system also has the ability to organize content and scale the training in a variety of ways.

With a large selection of learning management systems on the market and new options arriving at a steady pace, it can feel like an overwhelming task to decide on the best solution. Choosing a learning management system will be a little easier if you consider key factors in this quick guide. We will explain the major features/benefits to consider and how they can be implemented.

What are the Major Differences between Learning Management Systems?

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding on a learning management platform. Some are open source and can be modified to a wide variety of needs, while commercial LMS systems are more robust in features and come with a full support staff. The programming languages used within the LMS is yet another consideration, since not all of them are fully compatible with Tin Can API (see below) or iOS systems. Also, since there is a large range of learning management systems to choose from with varying levels of quality, compatibility and price points, it is essential to consider long-term objectives before making a purchase.

Should I Choose a Hosted or Local Solution?

Another important decision is how to host the LMS; should it be located on-site or in the cloud? Both options have their own benefits and limitations. A local solution allows your company to customize many of the features on-site, but it may be limited in terms of how much it can scale with future growth. A hosted solution, on the other hand, does not require hardware upgrades and expensive bandwidth, and most cloud-based LMS systems can grow exponentially as needed.

Choosing an LMS

At the same time, however, there are additional costs/limitations to consider with hosted solutions. The monthly hosting costs could be substantial for large corporations, plus it limits the company’s control over data security. In some instances, the company would not own the actual data either, so it is not always the default best option.

Is SCORM or Tin Can API Sufficient for our Needs?

Most Learning Management Systems are designed to be SCORM compliant, which is now accepted as one of the three major industry standards for eLearning software. It stands for “Sharable Content Object Reference Model”, and it allows numerous types of learning software written to be compatible with each LMS on the market. This allows your content to be transferred to future LMS systems as well, which is certainly a big plus. Then again, SCORM will not always fit a company’s needs. It limits tracking capabilities, plus it is very bandwidth reliant and a complicated format. We can always design custom a LMS solution to bypass these deficiencies, however, so it is definitely worth discussing sooner rather than later.

A newer specification worth considering is Tin Can API, which is also referred to at the Experience API. This database works outside of SCORM and offers much stronger tracking abilities. One of the other major benefits of Tin Can API is that it can effectively track user activities outside of the LMS itself, which allows for classroom and online activities to become more integrated with the learning process.

Which LMS is the Best for Me?

When choosing an LMS for your organization, start by taking a thorough need analysis of your company. This should include strategic goals, technical requirements, security concerns and what you’re looking to do with the software. Defining these needs will help narrow down the possible choices in today’s LMS marketplace, or it may show that having a custom learning management system built would be a better solution.

As we said earlier, there is a lot to consider when selecting an LMS for your learning needs. At Designing Digitally, Inc., we are always glad to help you navigate through these types of difficult decisions to ensure your organization has the perfect eLearning solution in place and the tracking and analytics to support your goals. If you ever have any questions, please feel free to contact us directly at 866-316-9126.