Deciding which LMS is right for your organization can be a hefty task. With over 1000 LMS vendors to choose from it may be hard to figure out where to begin. We believe the key to finding the perfect LMS for your organization is to evaluate the type of training program you manage and consider the type of training program you would like to have in the future.
No two training programs are alike. They can have vast differences due to contrasting industries, or share the same industry but are unique due to their business models. The same is also true for an LMS - no two platforms are alike. There are different types of LMS platforms to support different types of training programs. When evaluating an LMS for you organization it's important to keep in mind the type of training program being administered dictates the type of LMS you need.
In this article you will learn the main types of training programs with needs for an LMS and the different types of LMS solutions that can be found in today's market. You will also be able to identify the type of training program you have and the functionality you require out of an LMS. We've created a decision tree infographic that determines your best fit LMS by focusing on the type of training program you are administering. Grab your infographic and continue reading to unlock the magic to successful training.
Different Types of Training Programs
There are endless characteristics you could use to describe a training program. They usually have a lot of moving parts and are extremely integral to an organization's growth. The best question to ask yourself about your training program for LMS evaluation purposes is: What type of training program do I have now and what type of training program am I trying to implement?
It's important to evaluate these areas when assessing your type of training program:
- What is the nature of my training program?
- Who is my training program for?
- What is my relationship to the trainees?
What is the nature of my training program?
There are three main types of training programs found within an organization:
- Extended Enterprise training program
- Employee training program
- Academic training program
Extended Enterprise is the concept that a company does not operate in isolation because its success is dependent upon a network of partner relationships. An extended enterprise (aka partner) training program focuses on training among those individuals within an organization's network of partners. Training is centered around the knowledge and technical skills needed to improve performance in a specific job role. Many organizations view extended enterprise training as a necessity; using it to ramp new hires up to speed quickly, boost performance in areas of need, update skills of existing workers in preparation for implementing new technology, develop new processes, and much more.
An employee training program focuses on employee development and helps gradually improve skills, acquire new knowledge and progress in a career. It focuses on employee growth and future performance, rather than an immediate job role. Employee development is considered fundamental for Human Resources.
An academic training program (often referred to as school curriculum) is used to train k-12, college and university students. It pertains to a particular set of courses and/or activities that a school designates. Training content is related to a student's grade (or academic) level or field of study.
The audience you are training should distinctly fit into one of these three categories. If you have trainees that fall into more than one category, you should have different training programs for each, and evaluate them separately from each other to get the most out of your training program and LMS.
Who is my training program for?
Next, you'll need to classifying the type of people you are training: who is my audience?
The most common audiences for training programs within an organization include:
Identifying your trainees is an important step in choosing your right fit LMS platform. More than 1000 LMS vendors compete in today's learning platforms marketplace - each equipped with different features to support different types of training programs. Knowing your audience gives way to the type of functionality you will need your LMS to possess.
What is my relationship to the trainees?
The final step in analyzing your training program for LMS evaluation purposes is understanding your relationship to the trainees. Are they immediate employees or students to your organization? - or do they fall under the management and reign of a partner organization or subsidiary company?
The difference between the two may seem minor at face value, but the relationship the trainer (training organization) has to their trainees will play a big part in the functionality needed from an LMS.
One of the major obstacles in administering training is ensuring that trainees are properly trained. This task becomes increasingly harder when trainees are not actual employees or students of whom is administering training. For example, franchisee's employees are not actual employees of the franchisor; so ensuring training is completed and effective becomes harder to maintain.
The good news: once you're able to properly identify your relationship to your trainees, finding an LMS that can address your training challenges without comprising certain aspects of your training program becomes a lot easier.
Now that you have fully assessed your training program you can now answer part of the original question you sought to answer: What type of training program do I have now?
Let's dive into the different types of LMS platforms and the find best fit for your organization.
Different Types of LMS Platforms
With continuous LMS vendor market growth, one thing is certain: learning management systems are here to stay. There are tons of things to consider when it comes to opting for the right platform. With so many LMS vendors, and their differing LMS features, it can seem like an impossible task to sift through them all to find your perfect fit. Taking into consideration the features and functionality you will require from an LMS for your unique training program will set you well on your path to discovering which is the best option for your business and making a decision.
Learning management systems have matured a lot within the last decade - a time when LMSs were all very similar and generic. As the demand for virtual learning has increased, the trend of specialized systems within the LMS market has also emerged. Companies are realizing the benefits of training and the power an LMS that's specifically designed for their industry has. The LMS market can be broken down into three segments:
- Extended Enterprise LMS
- Employee LMS
- Academic LMS
Extended Enterprise LMS
As mentioned above, an extended enterprise training program focuses on training among those that are in your partner network. Partner Networks have a unique training challenge that no other industry faces: managing a training program that has so many independent entities is complicated. An extended enterprise LMS (aka partner or channel LMS) has distinct functionality that address the challenges faced when administering training to multiple audiences.
Every organization has their own unique way of doing business that has made them successful. This includes unique training processes and workflows that are core to their mission and cannot be changed to generic workflows in order to fit into an LMS that does not accommodate them. An extended enterprise LMS is the perfect solution to this problem - whether you are training your extended audience or not. These type of LMSs allow for customization of user interface and underlying processes to support your specific business model.
Extended enterprise learning systems allow you to manage content, users, customization, branding and rules for each audience all under one portal.
Distinct features of an extended enterprise LMS:
- Allows performance metrics to be incorporated into your training program
- Supports a matrix management structure
- Enables users to have multiple job positions or roles under one profile
- Allows partners to belong to multiple field organizations
- Sophisticated certification programs
- Delegated user management processes
- Allows for complete customization of user interface and underlying processes
Extended enterprise LMS vendors include: LatitudeLearning, Tortal and Accord LMS.
An employee LMS helps accomplish three main training initiatives: training new employees, career development, and compliance training.
New employee training is used to quickly transition new employees into their roles. Career development training is usually tied to an organization's annual review process. Managers assign employees training based on the what skills need to be developed. Compliance training includes HR policies such as sexual harassment courses, CPR course, or diversity courses.
Distinct features of an employee LMS:
- Allows managers to easily track compliance
- Easily integrates with Recruiting and Human Resource Information Systems
- Allows managers to build personal training plans for each employee
- Provides annual review functionality to easily manage yearly employee reviews
- Grants access to HR departments to electronically manage succession planning
- Allows the employee to do career exploration and advance to desired positions within the organization
Employee LMS vendors include: Saba, SumTotal and Cornerstone.
An academic LMS provides a virtual environment for students, parents/guardians (in k-12 learning), and instructors to interact. Instructors can communicate directly with students and parents, as well as share important resources. Instructors also have access to generate and post grades for assignments, tests, final grades, and transcripts. Other LMSs are built to offer courses that last no longer than a couple of hours. Academic LMSs must manage courses that span over 3-4 months.
Managing the scheduling of classrooms, teachers and students outside of a virtual environment is very complicated and requires a lot of data exchange in order to accomplish. For this reason, an academic LMS contains rich functionality in order to maintain virtual and physical classroom environments.
Distinct features of an academic LMS:
- Supports extended courses that span 3-4 months
- Schedule classroom, teacher and student assignments over a long duration of time
- Allows instructors to post and collect assignments and various resources
- Allows instructors to post grades and transcripts that can be stored indefinitely
Some examples of academic LMSs includes: Sakai, Moodle and Blackboard.
You have now identified the type of training program you currently have, and are now aware of the different types of LMS solutions... what's next? Finding your best fit match!
Which LMS is Right For My Organization
Letting your training program dictate the type of LMS your organization needs is crucial in ensuring your LMS investment pays off. Matching up your training program requirements to specific LMS functionality is nearly the last step (more on the final step later) in finding your best fit LMS.
When assessing your training program above, did you:
- classify it as an extended enterprise training program?
If so, then you would have also identified your training program audience to extend further than just your employees to include individuals within your partner network. This means your relationship to atleast some of your trainees is not direct and would require additional workflows than if they were regular employees. You may need some powerful stuff! An extended enterprise LMS equipped with robust features will better serve your training program.
- resonate more with an employee training program?
If so, that means at the minimum you are training your own employees. If you didn't identify any more audiences within your training program population, an employee LMS will suit you fine. Keep in mind that training your extended audience will drive additional revenue. If you aren't including them in your training you are missing out on additional revenue, lower costs, and more.
If you identified more than just employees within your training program audience, you should strongly consider an extended enterprise LMS.
- identify your training program as academic training?
If so, you more than likely will absolutely need an academic LMS. They are the only type of LMS that is capable of handling the type of workflows needed to manage an academic training program. But, if you were able to pull in more audiences than just students when identifying your training program population, it would be worth it to look further into the needs of your training program. Are you finding you have to create workarounds within your LMS (or by using a third party system) to accommodate the needs of your audience? If the answer is yes, it may be beneficial to research extended enterprise LMSs more in depth and figure out if adding a second system would help your training efforts.
One last thing to consider before making a decision on which LMS is right for your organization is: what type of training am I trying to implement? Taking into account the type of training program you WANT to have - not just what type of program you have now - will give way to the type of functionality you will need as your training program grows with the LMS.
Most organizations have different types of audiences that extend outside of the business. These external audiences consist of customers and partners that require training to help make your business a success, but it often gets neglected. A helpful way to identify who is in your extended enterprise network is to pinpoint the people that make, sell, service and use your products. Deciding to extend training past employees means training administrators need flexible LMS tools to effectively define and manage audiences - something an extended enterprise LMS can provide. So even if your current training program only focuses on employee training, but you'd like to incorporate training for your extended enterprise network immediately or in the future, you should seriously consider an extended enterprise LMS.
If you are constantly running into road blocks with what your current LMS (or however you train) can handle? Are you forced to create workarounds because your current training method does not support the features and functionality you need to run your training program at its highest potential? Sounds like you and your training program would tremendously benefit by implementing an extended enterprise LMS.