Learning Management Systems are continuing to get a lot of well-deserved attention, as more colleges and universities launch online programs and design distance learning options for students. But behind the buzz, what are LMSs and how do they work? Put simply, an LMS is a web-based software application that delivers, organizes, and manages educational or training content. LMS solutions can be tied to both online and offline education and they typically include feature sets that handle administration, performance management, course catalog delivery, student registration, course launches, and student tracking and assessments.
What makes LMS tools so popular is their ability to merge front-end and back-end functionality into a single seamless application. Students can access coursework or training material, take quizzes, get real-time feedback, and evaluate courses. Instructors and administrators can build and launch courses, monitor student progress, and generate reports — all through a web-based, user-driven interface that can be customized to fit various groups of learners. For students and for schools, the level of feature-rich, plug and play integration offered by most LMS providers is truly game changing.
Top LMS Providers
It’s no surprise that LMS providers are as varied as the clients they serve. Many offer specific capabilities or features that give them an advantage in one particular niche or industry. But, as we all know, technology is evolving every day, competition is tight, and solutions are constantly being refined. Divided by proprietary and open-source systems, the current top LMS players include:
1. Blackboard. With 51 percent of the LMS market share,Blackboard is a feature-rich solution that delivers robust course management capabilities through customizable architecture and scalable design. It’s easily integrated with existing student information systems and is effective both at augmenting traditional courses with online elements, and developing coursework to be delivered solely through the Web.
2. Desire2Learn. Desire2Learn, or D2L for short, has 11 percent of the LMS market share. Its intuitive interface is designed to promote easy course creation, student collaboration, and class participation. Like Blackboard, D2L’s suite of products can be used to deliver courses solely online, as a supplement to traditional coursework, or as a hybrid solution.
3. Pearson eCollege. Through Pearson Learning Studio, eCollege offers a personalized learning environment that can be scaled to fit clients of all sizes. eCollege serves about 9 million students globally and is the number one provider of LMS services for institutions that deliver their coursework purely online.
4. Canvas. Canvas, by Instructure is a popular open-source LMS. It’s a completely cloud-based solution and features strong content editing capabilities and mobile applications. Fans usually point to Canvas’ clean and modern user interface and full integration with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Docs as its primary selling points.
Open Source Systems
1. Moodle. Although it’s commonly defined as an LMS, Moodle is more specifically, an online course management system. With 19 percent of the LMS market share, Moodle was built to support trainers and teachers who need to develop and deliver online courses efficiently. Its open-source software is free and used globally by universities, schools, corporations, and individual educators.
2. Sakai. Sakai is billed as both a community and a suite of software services. Its active user community leverages the open-source architecture to interact with each other, share projects, and work to improve the software. Sakai is driven by constant user collaboration, content and idea sharing, and dynamic instructor/learner relationships.
There’s no denying that LMS is a rapidly-growing and important piece of the e-learning industry. New players are coming online nearly every day, it seems. For institutions that have yet to access the ever-widening audience of remote learners, understanding how LMSs work and comparing solutions are the first two essential steps. At Enrollment Builders, we help our clients review the options and find an LMS that fits their specific needs and goals. If you’d like to find out more about our LMS implementation or consulting services, call us at 513-518-7824, or request information here.