Learning Management Systems (also termed Course Management Systems (CMS) learning content management systems (LCMSs) and sometimes Corporate Learning Systems (CLS)) have significantly enhanced learning capabilities within educational institutions (universities, schools, training providers etc.) as well as within individual organizations (government departments, businesses etc.). LMS solutions are becoming more attractive to organizations through enhanced features and reliability as well as reducing costs, in particular as a result of significant improvements in Open Source LMS products.
LMS Categories and Considerations
Learning Management Systems (LMS) are available in two broad categories; Open Source (and free) and paid-for (propriety). LMS could be categorised in a number of other ways such as by the market they serve (universities, private colleges etc.), by capability or any other means. Implementing a LMS takes considerable effort therefore it is essential to clearly identify the ‘business’ needs of the organization prior to selecting a LMS to implement i.e. what educational and/or training needs is the organization wanting to address by implementing a LMS?
It has already been mentioned that implementing a LMS is a significant task. The needs analysis, configuration (and possibly customization), training and ongoing support (among other tasks) all take time and effort and subsequently money. In general LMS are very powerful and competent Tools capable of fulfilling way more needs than the average organization will require. The time and effort required in configuring the software to meet the needs of the organization as well as the training in, and administering of, the software should not be underestimated. The effort (and related expense) in implementing and using a LMS however offers significant competitive and economic advantages to organizations and the Return on Investment (ROI) on a well implemented LMS is generally very favourable. LMS are not implement and forget solutions (such as Microsoft Word) however a well implemented, configured and managed solution generally proves hugely beneficial to organizations providing and managing learning and training (including large corporate, government departments, Registered Training Organizations (RTO), individual trainers, Online training providers and so on).
So what are the choices in relation to Learning Management Systems (the below are not LMS reviews but rather some information about a few of the LMS solutions available)?
Free (all Open Source)
Most of the Open Source Systems are based on Apache, PHP and MYSQL making installation simple and inexpensive (or free). The software for each LMS is free to download, install, use and update and all have comprehensive free documentation and forums.
|aTutor||Radiochemistry Society, Los Rios Community College|
|Claroline||Université de Montpellier (France), Universidade de Vigo (Spain), Université du Québec à Rimouski (Canada)|
|ILIAS||Tongji University |
(China), Aerospace Consulting & Services Ltd (U.K.), Novell Deutschland GmbH (Germany)
|Moodle||The Open University of Sydney (Australia), Wichita Public School, Papanui High School (NZ)|
|Sakai Project||University of Oxford, The University of Auckland (New Zealand), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, University of Winnipeg, University of Rhode Island|
Most of the ‘paid-for’ LMS solutions are based on Microsoft .NET and/or Java technologies. Some of the more widely used paid-for LMS Solutions are:
|Blackboard||Mayo Clinic, Lockheed Martin Corporation, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services|
|JoomlaLMS||Iowa State University, Qantas Airlines, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society|
|Learn.com LearnCenter||The Ken Blanchard Companies, Kent State University, Linksys|
|Saba Learning Suite||Hitachi, Insurance Group Australia (IAG), CEMEX|
|SAP Enterprise Learning||Siemens, Home Depot|
|SharePointLMS||Harvard Kennedy School of Government, South Cheshire College, King Saud University|
Which LMS to get
There are valid reasons for organizations to use paid-for LMS Solutions such as licensing agreements with related products, specific integration requirements and so on. For most organizations however the free solutions will offer everything the paid-for alternatives offer (and often more) with all the benefits at a lower cost. The days of limited support, usability and functionality of Open Source software is over in terms of the good Open Source alternatives (the University of Canterbury published an interesting LMS review based on their trial of Moodle and Blackboard LMS solutions).
Which particular Learning Management System to implement and use however is dependent on each organizations requirements matched to the solutions capabilities and constraints. My current favourites are Moodle and ILIAS for their extensive capabilities, reliability, Online documentation and resources and generally lower Total Cost of Ownership (TOC).