What is an LMS?  Look for these 5 features

LMS software is everywhere. They're helping schools to run smoother, empowering businesses to train their employees better, and even making your favourite coffee shop experience more consistently enjoyable.

But, what is an LMS? Curious about how having one could benefit your organisation? Keep reading, as we explain what an LMS is and highlight the five most important features for you to consider.


What is an LMS?

An LMS, or Learning Management System, is a software application that allows organisations to create, manage, and deliver online courses and training programs. It provides a central hub where educators can create and upload course content, track learner progress, and facilitate communication and collaboration among learners.

LMSs are widely used in educational institutions, corporations, and other organisations that offer online learning. They provide a structured and organised platform for delivering educational content, managing learner data, and assessing learner performance.


How does an LMS work?

An LMS works by providing a digital environment where educators can create and manage courses. Learners can access these courses through an online portal or website. Here's a simplified overview of how an LMS works:

1. Course Creation:

Educators can use the LMS to create and structure their courses. They can upload course materials such as videos and documents, using them to design engaging learning activities.

2. Learner Enrolment:

Learners can enrol in courses through the LMS. They will have individual accounts that allow them to access course content and track their progress.

3. Course Delivery:

Learners can access the course materials, complete activities, and take quizzes or exams through the LMS. They can also interact with educators and other learners through discussion boards or other messaging features.

4. Progress Tracking:

The LMS tracks learner progress and performance, providing educators with data on completion rates, assessment grades, and other relevant metrics.

5. Administration and Reporting:

Administrators can view and analyse learner data, generate reports, and manage user accounts and permissions.

Overall, an LMS streamlines the process of creating, delivering, and managing online courses, making it easier for both educators and learners to engage in effective learning experiences.


Types of LMSs

There are various types of LMSs available, each with its own features and functionalities. Some common types include:

1. Cloud-based LMS/ SaaS LMS:

These LMSs are hosted on the cloud, allowing users to access them from any device with an internet connection. Vendors such as OpenLearning develop the online learning platform and take care of the servers, software updates, and security for hundreds of institutions and businesses. If you do not have IT staff, this is the best option that allows you to focus on delivering your best online courses.

2. Self-hosted LMS:

Self-hosted LMSs are installed on the organisation's own servers, giving them more control over data and customisation options. However, there is often a high cost in terms of the human resources and money involved in developing and maintaining the software. Any software updates must be done manually by the organisation.

3. Open-source LMS:

These LMSs are built on open-source software from vendors such as Moodle, allowing organisations to modify and customise the system according to their needs. Usually, open-source LMS are self-hosted by the organisation as well, contributing to the same high costs in terms of human resources and money. 

Who are the main LMS users?

LMS users can be categorised into different roles:

1. Educators:

They create and manage courses, upload content, and interact with learners. Otherwise known as: learning designers, instructional designers, lecturers, trainers, teachers, facilitators, content developers, e-learning developers.

2. Learners:

They access and complete courses, achieve learning outcomes through the content and activities, and contribute in discussions.

3. Administrators:

They manage user accounts, permissions, and system settings.

The type of LMS and the roles involved may vary depending on the organisation and its specific requirements. Read more about the key roles to consider when forming a successful eLearning team.


How are LMSs used?

An LMS (Learning Management System) has a wide range of use cases and can be beneficial for various organisations and industries. Here are some common LMS use cases:

1. Corporate Training:

Businesses and organisations use LMSs to deliver training programs to their employees. Whether it's onboarding new hires, providing compliance training, or offering professional development courses, an LMS can streamline the process and ensure consistent and effective training across the organisation.

👉 Read more: Resources on using an LMS for onboarding and training.

2. Higher Education:

LMSs are widely used in colleges and universities to deliver online courses and support traditional classroom-based learning. They provide a platform for professors to share course materials, interact with students, and track their progress. LMSs also enable students to access course materials, collaborate with classmates, and submit assignments online.

👉 This university used an LMS to deliver a transition program for Grade 12 students who missed their entry requirements, with 87% receiving an offer to study.

3. Professional Development:

LMSs are valuable for individuals looking to enhance their professional skills and knowledge. Many online learning platforms offer courses and certifications through LMSs, allowing learners to access the content at their own pace and convenience.

👉 These short courses are equipping students, working professionals, and job seekers with the skills most demanded by employers.

4. K-12 Education:

LMSs are increasingly being adopted in K-12 schools to support distance learning, blended learning, and flipped classroom models. Teachers can use LMSs to share lesson plans, assignments, and resources with students and track their progress. LMSs also facilitate communication between teachers, students, and parents.

👉 This not-for-profit company uses online courses to teach social inclusion and identity in schools.

5. Nonprofit and Associations:

Nonprofit organisations and association use LMSs to deliver training and educational programs to their members. LMSs provide a cost-effective way to reach a wider audience and engage learners in an interactive and flexible learning environment.

👉 This association is using an LMS to teach 800+ learners how to communicate in Malaysian Sign Language.

6. Healthcare and Medical Training:

LMSs are used in the healthcare industry for training healthcare professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and medical staff. LMSs can deliver continuous professional development courses on medical procedures, patient safety, compliance, and other relevant topics, ensuring that healthcare professionals stay up-to-date with the latest knowledge and skills.

👉 This Australian university delivered just-in-time education to prepare nurses and frontline workers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

7. Government and Public Sector:

LMSs are used in government agencies and public sector organisations to provide training programs to employees and citizens. LMSs can offer courses on topics such as cybersecurity, government policies, public safety, and more.

👉 This government agency delivered financial education online to help 170,000+ Malaysians qualify for low-interest loans.

8. Vocational and Skills Training:

LMSs are widely used for vocational and skills training, offering courses in various trades and industries. Whether it's learning coding, graphic design, plumbing, or culinary arts, LMSs provide a flexible and accessible platform for individuals to acquire new skills and enhance their career prospects.

👉 This training centre uses and LMS to provide online Smart Factory training for 31 organisations.

These are just a few examples of the diverse use cases for LMSs. The flexibility and scalability of LMSs make them applicable to a wide range of industries and learning environments. Whether it's for large corporations, educational institutions, or individual learners, an LMS can revolutionise the way learning is delivered and managed.


What features should you look for in an LMS?


Feature 1: User-Friendly Interface

How easy is it for you and your learners to use the LMS?

One of the key features to look for in an LMS is a user-friendly interface. A user-friendly LMS should be intuitive and easy to navigate for both educators and learners.

For educators, the interface should allow them to easily create and organise course content, manage learner data, and track learner progress. It should have an intuitive design that provides quick access to important features and functionalities.

For learners, the interface of the online learning tools should be visually appealing and easy to understand. It should have clear navigation menus, course progress indicators, and clear instructions for accessing course materials and contributing to the discussion.

A user-friendly interface enhances the overall learning experience by reducing the learning curve and allowing both educators and learners to focus on the content rather than struggling with the system.


Feature 2: Customisable Course Content

Does the LMS offer useful course authoring tools?

Another important feature to consider when choosing an LMS is the ability to customise course content. A good LMS should offer useful course authoring tools that support you in creating engaging and interactive courses.

These tools may include features such as drag-and-drop editors, multimedia integration, interactive quizzes and assessments, and customisable templates. They should enable you to create content that aligns with your teaching style and learning objectives.

Some LMS platforms like OpenLearning have incorporated generative AI tools into their course authoring tools, enabling you to generate course content, activities—and even the whole course structure—significantly quicker. If you are short on time but want to deliver a high-quality learning experience, this is an additional useful feature to look out for.

Customisable course content not only enhances learner engagement but also allows educators to deliver content in a way that suits their pedagogical preferences and the needs of their learners.


Feature 3: Progress Tracking and Reporting

Which data matters, and can the LMS track it?

Progress tracking and reporting are essential features of an LMS that enable educators to monitor learner progress and performance. When considering an LMS, it's important to evaluate its progress tracking capabilities and the types of data it can track.

A robust LMS should be able to track various data points, such as course completion rates, assessment grades, time spent on different activities, and learner engagement. It should provide you with easy-to-understand reports and analytics that help you identify areas of improvement and make data-driven decisions.

Some LMS platforms take this a step further by providing learners with their own progress tracking tools, too. For example, OpenLearning offers learner portfolios which automatically collects and showcases their contributions in the course.

The ability to track and analyse learner data not only helps you assess the effectiveness of your courses, but also makes it possible for you to provide personalised learning feedback and support to individual learners.


Feature 4: Collaboration and Communication Tools

Does the LMS encourage users to build their learning community?

If great learning design is the main ingredient in successful online learning, then collaboration and communication are the 'secret sauce' that is crucial to the whole experience—especially as it boosts intrinsic motivation among learners. A good LMS should offer built-in tools and features that facilitate collaboration and communication among learners and educators alike.

These tools may include discussion boards, messaging systems, real-time chat, and collaborative document editing. They allow learners to interact with each other, ask questions, share ideas, and receive feedback from facilitators.

By fostering a sense of community and enabling peer-to-peer learning, collaboration and communication tools enhance the learning experience and promote engagement and active participation.


Feature 5: Integration with Other Systems

Can you customise the LMS to suit your needs?

Picture this: You have found a platform that ticks all of the boxes above, but there's just one thing you really, really, need for your course—and it's missing... and you don't have the power to 'install' it as an additional feature. If you choose a platform that doesn't support integrations, this missing piece could end up being the Achille's heel of your whole program. 

Integration with other systems is an important feature to consider if you have specific requirements or use other tools and platforms in your learning ecosystem. A flexible LMS should have 'learning tools interoperability': you should be able to integrate it with other systems to streamline workflows and enhance the learning experience.

For example, integration with a content management system (CMS) can make it easier to upload and manage course content. An xAPI integration with a learning analytics tool can provide more comprehensive data analysis and reporting.

When evaluating an LMS, consider its compatibility with your existing tools and systems, as well as its ability to support future integrations.


Getting started with an LMS

If you're new to using an LMS, getting started can be a straightforward process. Here are some steps to help you get started:

1. Define your learning objectives: Clearly identify what you want to achieve with your online courses and training programs.

2. Choose an LMS: Research and choose an LMS that aligns with your needs, budget, and technical requirements.

3. Set up your LMS: Follow the instructions provided by the LMS provider to set up your LMS. This may involve creating user accounts, configuring settings, and uploading initial course content.

4. Create your courses: Use the LMS's course authoring tools to create and structure your courses. Upload relevant content and multimedia.

5. Enrol learners: Invite learners to join your courses by providing them with access codes or enrolment links.

6. Monitor learner progress: Use the LMS's tracking and reporting features to monitor learner progress, identify areas for improvement, and provide timely feedback and support.

7. Continuously improve: Regularly review learner feedback, analyse data, and make improvements to your courses and the learning experience.

Remember, getting started with an LMS is just the beginning. It's an ongoing process of refining and enhancing your online learning programs.



In summary, an LMS is a software application that allows organisations to create, manage, and deliver online courses and training programs. It provides a centralised platform for course creation, delivery, and learner management.

When choosing an LMS, consider important features such as a user-friendly interface, customisable course content, progress tracking and reporting capabilities, collaboration and communication tools, and integration options.


FAQs about LMSs:

Q: How do I calculate the ROI of learning or training with an LMS?

A: To calculate the return on investment (ROI) for your LMS investment, take into account factors such as the cost of the platform, the cost savings from replacing previous training methods, and whether the courses have achieved your desired outcomes. The LMS should be able to provide data on course completion rates, learner engagement, and learning outcomes for this purpose.

Q: How do I evaluate an LMS for my specific needs?

A: First, identify your organisation's objectives for implementing an LMS. Determine the specific features required, such as those mentioned in this blog post. Next, research and compare different LMS providers, considering factors such as cost, scalability, customer support, and user reviews. It's also important to request demos or trial versions of the LMS to test its functionality and user experience.

Q: Can an LMS be customised to suit specific organisational needs?

A: Yes, many LMSs offer customisation options and integration capabilities to adapt to the organisation's requirements. Depending on the type of LMS, you can either reach out to the customer support team with your request or collaborate with your IT staff to customise the software.

Q: How can an LMS enhance the learning experience?

A: An LMS enhances the learning experience by providing convenient access to learning resources, the flexibility of time for busy learners, personalised learning experiences, asynchronous discussions, and rich data which can be used to provide  targeted feedback and improve the course.

Q: Why type of LMS is OpenLearning?

A: OpenLearning is a SaaS LMS platform which offers a powerful combination of generative AI course authoring tools, a social learning environment, and a global course marketplace that increases access to high quality education around the world.



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Topics: Course Design Tips

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