A beginner’s guide to learning management systems
Advice | March 21, 2022

A beginner’s guide to learning management systems

5 minute read

Learning management systems (LMS) help you plan, manage and report on training activities more effectively. Discover the LMS features that are essential for getting the most out of your digital training programme

Training is a vital part of any business: it helps employees develop new skills, retain knowledge, and learn about the latest industry regulations and policies. Whether you’re working on-site, in the office, at home — or in a mix of all three locations — digital learning is at the core of many organisations’ training programmes.

To make sure your organisation and employees – or even customers and partners – get suitable online training, then you may consider using a learning management system, or LMS. At Digits, we’ve worked with a number of brands of various sizes and training requirements who want to implement LMS software and make sure they get the most from their eLearning.

Here’s an overview of the most important elements to consider when looking for the best learning management system for your business.

What is a learning management system (LMS)?

What is a learning management system used for?

Benefits of using a learning management system

Who needs a learning management system?

How to choose an LMS


What is a learning management system (LMS)?

A learning management system (LMS) is a digital platform used to create and deliver workplace training programmes and courses and assess their impact through analytics and reporting. There are many types of LMS platforms, the most popular being Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) systems — also known as cloud-based LMS. All businesses will have different training requirements, and there’s a great range of LMS software available to choose from — all with a variety of features you may wish to use.

The term ‘learning management system’ can be used for a broad range of tools, which may have significant differences and aimed at various user groups. For instance, an enterprise LMS (used in corporations) will vary considerably from one designed for a school or university. Learning systems for corporate brands will be updated frequently and have the capacity to have new functions to be included, whereas one for an academic setting may not have these capabilities.

You will also have to consider how your LMS is installed — either operating as a cloud-based service or hosted on your company’s hardware system. Most organisations typically opt for cloud-based LMS solutions because they are more easily updated by the provider, and can be accessed anywhere, and on any device


What is a learning management system used for?

An LMS is used to create, deliver, and monitor learning and development content. You can build lessons online and turn them into courses, offer those courses to your audience, and assess performance. Your LMS may be implemented across these user groups for training:


Employee training

For the onboarding process, you can automate and simplify mandatory tasks while your new hires study at their own pace. Your LMS can include useful information such as compliance policies or details about their new company, or even items about their role and career advancement. Training courses can include company guidelines, policies and codes of conduct.

A great LMS will have built-in functionality that allows training activities and content to be re-accessed at any time, which is particularly helpful for new employees and staff with special training and development needs. Some advanced LMS have gamification functionality, which rewards learners for participation and nudges learners to engage with content more regularly.

Recording individuals’ skills and areas of expertise can help you with succession planning and creating a learning culture in your organisation. Details on a person’s progress are also available, with reporting and monitoring tools to help you assess return on training investment, identify skills levels, and conduct a thorough training needs analysis.

Improving employee training through an LMS helps to empower your people, says Digits LMS sales manager Andrea Matkin. “All your learning is in one place. You can access learning activities and programmes, whilst businesses can track employee learning — and that can include compliance and career advancement, as examples. But an LMS is not just for tracking, because learning can be used to engage and empower employees to seek out learning opportunities to aid their professional development. You can also reward learners with gamification features, ensure employees remain compliant, and offer training and support for career progression.”


Partner and customer training

You can also use your LMS as an ‘extended LMS’ to provide training to external groups such as partners and customers, if appropriate. With customers, for example, you can create training guides for new users or new products. Using an LMS for this purpose — rather than training manuals shared via email, for example — helps you to create user communities through the LMS’s social features and create clearly defined learning pathways.


What are the benefits of using a learning management system?

There are many benefits of using an LMS for training your employees. Not only may you find ongoing financial savings by using this software, but your employee’s will also have the chance to complete training when they want, and you can tailor the courses to their requirements. Here’s why LMS software could be a benefit to your business.


Cost savings

You can save a sizable amount on your budget for learning and development when opting for online training. You won’t need to worry about travel costs for an instructor or site rentals, for instance, because the training will be on your learning management system. And because all the information will be in the LMS, you also don’t have to consider printing out materials.


Time-efficient training

An LMS can offer your employees just the information they require, which is presented in an organised and direct way. That means training times are reduced for learners. For example, instead of sitting through an online training course for half an hour, your employee can just click on the module they need and get the information they need to learn more quickly.

They can also test their understanding by taking quizzes or exams, and demonstrate how they apply that knowledge to their role, through on-the-job training activities. If they wish, they can also watch videos to show any of the more complex tasks or processes they may use.


Self-paced learning

This is asynchronous learning, where someone can finish the course at their own speed and intensity. The student doesn’t have to be available to take a module at a certain time or speak to someone about the class. Using this learning technique via an LMS can also improve interaction and boost knowledge retention. You can also combine animation, question-and-answer forums, plus online reading, for students to engage with the learning materials. It allows them to use their own timelines and pace.


Analytics and reporting

Both reporting and analytics of training are some of the most valuable features of a learning management system. Such insights can be useful, because it gives the opportunity to develop online training plans and to even personalise programmes.

Your LMS should have reporting and analytics functionality that aligns with your eLearning objectives. To make the most of analytics, data should be updated in real-time; access to relevant, timely information gives L&D teams the opportunity to change tact based on key indicators such as employee engagement and completion rates. Real-time data also allows issues to be flagged immediately and resolved before becoming a crisis. Also, not all training may be online, so you should be able to add any offline assessment results to individuals’ learning records.


Simple training resource development

Having an LMS lets you modify activities and modules quickly and easily, without having to revise entire programmes. These updates can be viewed by learners in real time.

Once you’ve implemented an LMS and have got to grips with its features and capabilities, you might want to translate some of your existing face-to-face training courses into digital, or blended learning. Developing eLearning programmes gives you more options when it comes to how you present training materials — using text and audio content, videos, games and assessments, for example. Learners should also be able to access their account and materials either through their computer, tablet or smartphone, and ideally using a browser-based LMS.


Who needs a learning management system?

Businesses with more than just a few employees can benefit from having an LMS. If you don’t have a large in-house IT team, a SaaS solution offers the flexibility of an online training platform without the technical requirements associated with an on-premise solution.

If there are any company policies or regulations your employees will need to know, then a learning management system will keep them up to date faster and more conveniently. Any new legislation or policies can be added into modules, and these updates will ensure compliance and help the company avoid paying penalties or fines in future.

An LMS provides a centralised platform that can be accessed anytime, from anywhere. By eliminating multiple touchpoints, you can offer learners a more streamlined way of learning while providing L&D teams a ‘one stop shop’ for delivering and monitoring training material.

LMS platforms can also be configured to your business needs; this includes adding or removing features based on their relevance to your organisation, tailoring the overall look and feel to reflect your branding and company values, as well as bespoke content formats to ensure the highest employee engagement (and knowledge retention) possible.


How to choose an LMS

When deciding which LMS is the best solution for your business, you’ll need to make sure to set your goals — or you might not choose the correct one without knowing what you want to achieve with it. These goals will need to be feasible, definite, measurable, and with a set completion date.

Also: know your audience. You’ll need to have knowledge of your learners because the success of the learning management system will depend on those it aims to train. So, find out about the demographics of participants, how many there will be, their current skillsets and knowledge levels, plus their technical capabilities. You’ll want to choose an LMS that is user-friendly and engaging, so as many people as possible can use the system without needing extra support.

Check what your current learning and development strategy is, so you know what learning materials you have already and what changes you may need to make. List your requirements, too, so you can search for platforms that have the correct functions and are compatible with your company’s infrastructure or technology.

“You’ll also need to consider your wider learning strategy,” says Matkin. “Will your LMS include the options to self-serve learning, for example, or will it provide opportunities for social learning? Does it need to integrate with other systems you already use – such as your HR software — to ensure accuracy of people data and a streamlined user experience? There’s lots to consider upfront when choosing and implementing an LMS; doing so before the project starts will really help your investment pay off.”

Once you’ve considered these points – as well as price and maintenance costs – your next step will be to see an LMS in action. So get in touch with Digits and request a demonstration of our learning management system and begin to experience this great business asset yourself.



Rosie Nicholas

Rosie Nicholas

Rosie Nicholas is a freelance L&D and business journalist and editor.
Learning technology LMS Workplace training