Last updated: 28.11.17

Learning management systems - an essential tool for learning and development?

In the last few years, the market for learning and development tools has seen a seismic explosion, with new software solutions, productivity apps and innovative services emerging each week.

For innovation-minded companies with a commitment to modernising their approach to training, this can quickly lead to a kid-in-a-candy-store mentality, with eager HR, compliance and training managers gravitating towards the newest and most cutting-edge solutions, in search of that silver bullet solution that will revolutionise their learning and development activities overnight.

However, in all this excitement, it's important not to forget that the older, more well-established option often still has a role to play. In this case, that means making sure that your organisation does not overlook the benefits that a learning management system (LMS) offers, as this tried-and-tested technology can still offer a number of key benefits that your business cannot do without.

How does an LMS work?

As the name suggests, the LMS provides a comprehensive infrastructure for overseeing the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of your learning and development activities.

Although these systems are highly flexible and customisable, the basic principles are applicable in all cases, with the LMS providing a medium through which to deliver material to learners, carry out tests, keep track of results and monitor performance trends. Their online nature means they can be accessed by learners and managers from any location, collating data in a central location and sending out automated alerts and reminders whenever necessary.

LMS solutions have been in use by various organisations since the 1990s, meaning they have a lengthy history by technology standards - a testament to the enduring benefits they can still provide for businesses of all backgrounds.

Why do they remain useful?

With the rapid acceleration of technological advancement, it's understandable that some would question the continued relevance of the LMS, especially considering that many of the key tools and functions they offer - distribution of e-learning materials, automated reminders, performance data analytics - can be replicated by other apps and software.

However, these non-specialised tools struggle to match the core benefit of the LMS - its integrated, centralised nature. With an LMS in place, companies can manage their entire learning and development process end-to-end with a single piece of software, keeping all of the learner data in the same place and measuring performance trends over time in a way that's easy to monitor at a glance.

LMS designs can also be adapted to cater to a variety of business needs, including software that can be licensed and hosted locally, as well as software-as-a-service models that can be accessed remotely from any device.

What are the key benefits of an LMS for learning and development?

In this way, an LMS can quickly become an essential component of a strongly-executed learning and development strategy. Employee training and compliance courses are unlikely to have the desired effect without taking the time to ensure that all members of staff are properly engaged, and that any difficulties that may arise are addressed in a timely manner.

An LMS can help to solve all of these potential problems, allowing managers to distribute tailored e-learning content to the relevant staff, and then using the integrated analytics tools to keep track of which learners are absorbing the material, and which may be at risk of falling behind. By codifying progress in this manner, it also becomes much easier for learning and development departments to demonstrate the progress of the workforce as a whole, meaning it will be much simpler to show how returns on investment are being generated.

As such, organisations that are serious about generating major gains through their training initiatives may consider an LMS to be a necessity, rather than a nicety. While it's true that the LMS is now one of many tools available to support learning and development, there are still few solutions that can offer a more tangible impact on your company's bottom line.

Summary: There are all sorts of ways to approach a learning and development strategy - but investing in a learning management system is likely to be one of the best solutions for ensuring the success of your efforts.

Related resources