Best Learning Management Systems 2021
Educational institutions or businesses with ongoing employee training and development make use of Learning Management Systems to create, distribute, and track performance of their learners online.
Below we’ve provided you with our top picks for the best Learning Management Systems of 2021 as well was some background information on what they are, their benefits, and their disadvantages.
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What are Learning Management Systems?
Learning management systems are platforms used by educational institutions (K-12 schools, colleges and universities) and corporate organizations to deliver training and learning materials, coursework and communications online. An LMS is a single hub used by teachers, instructors and learners. It’s designed to streamline delivery of online learning and allows for a more connected distance learning experience.
Learning management systems allow instructors to track progress, grades and communication, and even automates many of the e-learning processes. On the other hand, students can easily access materials, video tutorials and participate in gamified activities.
What are the benefits of an LMS?
Organizations love learning management systems because it automates many of the tasks associated with learning, and therefore saves the organization time and money. For an LMS to be effective, it must be intuitive and provide a great user experience. Instructors should easily be able to provide materials via the platform, and students should be able to easily access those materials, submit assignments and ask questions. If either of these processes are complicated, it defeats the purpose.
This software also allows the knowledge to remain safe and on platform. Therefore, if an employee leaves a company, the information stays with the company and can’t be shared off platform.
When it comes to the end-user, they’re able to learn from anywhere and choose the courses and modules they are most interested in, making it easier than ever to upskill and further development.
What are the disadvantages of an LMS?
While learning management systems have many benefits, there are also disadvantages. For instance, some learning is more effective in person and translating it online could be difficult for the instructor. Gauging the attentiveness of the learner is also more difficult, while you can track progress when it comes to completion and assignments, there is no face-to-face interaction to ensure comprehension and attentiveness to the material.
Top Rated LMS Software
Best LMS for Instructor led training
Canvas uses an open cloud-based technology to offer all the tools instructors, teachers and professors need to communicate and interact with students online. This platform is used more than any other LMS at educational institutions and is fully customizable to meet your organization’s needs.
The course assembly tools are sophisticated, and modules are easily shared and published on platform, making content management easy.
For instructors, the process for setting up a learning experience is straightforward and simple, and the platform offers unique integration that allows instructors to track learners’ engagement. For example, an instructor can connect their Twitter account to Canvas to be notified whenever a student engages in discussion related to the course.
Several features including Mastery Paths, which automatically releases content based on performance; Speedgrader, which lets instructors preview submissions and provide feedback in a single frame; and Canvas Data which allows instructors to see course data quickly; make administering an online course simple.
Customer support is available via email and phone and there is a large community of Canvas users who share ideas, support and feedback for each other.
- Contact Canvas for pricing.
Best LMS for user experience
Absorb LMS prides themselves in being innovative, saying that they are always growing based on their customer’s needs.
User experience is so important when it comes to online learning programs and this one is both responsive and engaging.
It’s designed for every type of learner, no matter what kind of organization they come from.
For those creating the content, the easy-to-use interface inspires business efficiency and productivity when it comes to developing training and learning.
Even if it’s your first time using a learning management system, Absorb LMS’ sales team and customer service team are attentive and supportive. Many customers have commented on the stellar amount of support they received from the company, eliminating any worry that the technology might be too difficult to implement on your own.
The platform is great for blended learning multimedia content formats, responsive design, social learning and more.
When it comes to calculating your ROI, it’s often all about the data! Out-of-the box reporting allows you to configure dashboards and schedule automated report generators, to make sure that you have the correct data to make the right decisions about your training programs, learning outcomes and organization.
This LMS is not a strong fit for schools who are training student audiences (K-12, higher education, etc.) and organizations with less than 50 learners per year.
- Contact Absorb LMS for pricing.
Best LMS for small to mid sized businesses
Lessonly is a great solution for small to medium sized businesses. It’s easy to get set up on and has a simple user interface for the learner and administrator.
One of the features that HR departments really love is the trigger function. This function allows you to create groups and set a trigger, so that content can be auto sent to employees on specific days. This is a great feature if there is a lot of onboarding happening within a given timeframe and will ultimately free up resources.
While the interface is clean and easy to use, the platform does not allow for extensive customization, and video hosting cannot be done. That said, admins can embed videos within the lessons to get that information to learners.
If you have the content for your lessons, you can create them in 5 minutes using the platform’s authoring tools, allowing you to have your material up and running in no time. Lessons can include text, video, audio, embedded documents, flip cards, practice scenarios, quizzes, chat reply and more – ensuring that each lesson is unique and engaging.
If you’re an admin, you won’t be able to see the platform from someone else’s perspective (ex. A learner or manager), which can make troubleshooting a lesson cumbersome.
- Contact Lessonly for pricing.
Best Free LMS platform
Moodle is an acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment – and this platform is celebrated because it is both free and open source.
Because the design is modular, and plug-in based admins can create and add features as needed.
Unlike some of Moodle’s competitors, organizations who choose to use this platform shouldn’t expect a ‘set-up and go’ experience, organizations should be ready to have their IT department help configure and administer the platform so that it runs the way you want it to.
Admins who are used to drag-and-drop platforms will need to work at this to get it right.
With over 120 language localizations, Moodle is a front runner when it comes to language support.
On the other hand, if you’re into flashy platforms with lots of bells and whistles, this might not be the LMS for you – the interface is basic, yet effective. Visually, it’s been compared to Wikipedia.
Setup can be cumbersome; the UI is not as intuitive as some of the platform’s competitors.
Brightspace by D2L
Best LMS for video assignments & gamification
If you’re looking to optimize engagement on your learning material, D2L is the platform for you. This LMS is focused on video and game-based learning. If you’re looking to build a more traditional learning experience, the platform can also be used for this, but you might be better off with one of D2L’s competitors.
The fact that this platform integrates multiple media makes the content more therefore enticing for employees and learners to complete. This unique tool can be personalized and allows admins to set learning outcomes for employees based on their position and current knowledge level.
The tool lets users set up recognition for hitting certain milestones with awards and certificates. When this feature is activated, it’s easy to see how learners could feel more motivated, celebrated and accomplished via their online learning.
Some users have said that using the built-in course management system can be challenging, but this is nothing a quick training session can’t fix.
- Contact D2L for pricing.
How Our Rating Process Works
We assessed each software based on features, ease of use, value for money, and customer support to help you find the best LMS for your business. We scored them each out of 5 points to help you in your decision process.
Features are important because using an LMS should feel intuitive and easy for learners and instructors. Uploading and accessing course content should be simple and straight forward. Features make the content more engaging and can include gamification, quizzes and video embeds. These aspects of online learning get the users excited, engaged and therefore encourage them to learn more.
Frequently Asked Questions
In order to test a learning management system, you should first identify what features your business needs in an LMS to deliver great content and keep your learners engaged. Ensure that the LMS you choose is optimized for use across multiple devices and develop a strategy centered around what success looks like for your organization. An example might be to have 80% of leadership complete a course within a certain timeframe. Test that strategy and use the data provided by the LMS to adjust and move forward.
The cost of learning management software depends on the features you need in your LMS, the amount of learners you have and how many courses you plan to create. The best way to find out the cost is to contact the service providers. While most platforms charge a fee, there are open source, free platforms like Moodle that allow you to create, publish and manage online course content free of charge. Platforms like these require a technical mind for set up and management; and are not for beginners.
LMS systems are designed to limit opportunities for students to cheat and can be integrated with software that looks for plagiarism or other indications of cheating. An LMS is supposed to be an extension of learning in the physical space, so if you wouldn’t cheat in an in-person environment, it’s not encouraged to cheat via an LMS.