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What Is an LMS?

20 minutes

An LMS (learning management system) is a digital platform that centralizes and streamlines the process of administering, delivering, and tracking educational content and training programs.

Today, more and more organizations – from schools and universities, retail stores and coffee shops, to billion-dollar enterprises – already use LMSs or are thinking about implementing one. Are you wondering what an LMS can do or how you can benefit from one? Then check out this comprehensive guide on LMSs to find out everything you need to know – and more.


What Is an LMS?

How Does an LMS Work?

Who Uses an LMS?

What Are the Benefits of an LMS?

Types of LMSs

LMS Standards

LMS Features

LMS Tracking

LMS Pricing

How to Choose an LMS

How to Organize Learning with an LMS

How to Try Out an LMS

FAQ about LMSs


What Is an LMS?

An LMS (learning management system) is a digital platform designed to make learning more efficient, manage users, and organize data. An LMS facilitates access to learning materials, allows administrators to oversee user activity and course details, and automates tasks like grading and reporting to streamline training processes. In other words, an LMS enables the comprehensive management of the entire learning process.

Let’s break down each component of the acronym and the very concept of an LMS:

  • L — Learning. This type of software is designed for convenient learning anytime, anywhere. Learners can access an in-house knowledge base, take assessments, and complete practical assignments.
  • M — Management. Unlike file sharing services, a learning platform is not just a heap of files. It enables admins to manage user data and enrollments in courses, organize content into comprehensive training programs, and control how learners progress in the training they’re taking.
  • S — System. It’s a computer system that processes various types of data and puts them all in order. It collects statistics, runs reports, and automates grading, streamlining the entire training process.

 How Does an LMS Work?

An LMS is like your own online university where you can create, upload, store, and assign online courses for learners to access and take on PCs, laptops, tablets, or smartphones, in a browser, or via mobile app. It provides the option of online training, as well as the possibility of learning offline. 

From your existing courses, ebooks, and videos, you can build an entire corporate knowledge base or establish specialized learning paths for given positions or employee groups, like new hires or franchisees. 

Who Uses an LMS?

The size and scope of organizations that leverage LMSs are pretty broad. They can be a large global enterprise with thousands of learners or a startup that uses an LMS for small businesses. And of course, there can be nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and educational institutions that train a variety of audiences. 

Here are just a few examples of people and enterprises that benefit from an LMS in their work:

Corporate trainers 

Trainers in large global enterprises rely on a corporate LMS to onboard new employees, deliver compliance training, and foster professional development and technical expertise. They use learning management systems to monitor learners’ progress and personalize training content, enabling each learner to develop skills tailored to their specific job roles and needs.

Small business owners

Small business owners often use LMS solutions to provide cost-effective and standardized employee training. Whether it’s a retail store, a restaurant, or a tech startup, an LMS enables entrepreneurs to deliver consistent training materials and evaluate employee performance within a reduced budget. For example, companies that are short on resources to provide computers for staff training might employ an LMS for mobile learning. Employees can access training content via their smartphones to learn at a time and pace that’s comfortable for them. 

Educational institutions

Universities, extracurricular schools, K-12 schools, and other institutions employ LMS platforms to support both traditional learning and online learning environments. Teachers and professors use LMSs to distribute course materials, post quizzes and assignments, and engage with students in a collaborative learning setting. 

Nonprofit program managers 

Nonprofit organizations can leverage an LMS platform to provide training and educational resources to their staff and volunteers all over the globe (this is especially important for international NGOs). Program managers track the progress of volunteers working on various projects, ensuring they gain relevant skills and knowledge to contribute to the organization’s mission. 

Government agency administrators

Government agencies use LMS systems to deliver training and compliance programs to their employees. It’s especially important to make sure that every member is up to date with current policies and regulations. LMS platforms help streamline the administrative processes involved in managing a large workforce, making it easier to track and report on training progress and compliance efforts.

What Are the Benefits of an LMS?

There are a lot of obvious advantages of using an LMS both for businesses and learners:

For businessesFor learners
Reduce training costsAccess learning content anytime and anywhere
Cut down the time needed for employee onboardingEnsure increased engagement and a consistent welcome experience
Stay on top of compliance training and keep everyone up to date with the latest regulationsSee higher compliance and workplace safety levels
Deliver quality product training at scaleFoster increased confidence in your sales associates and customer support specialists
Maintain a unified approach to marketing, sales, and customer service through channel partner training Establish streamlined communication between partners and affiliates
Educate end users on product qualities or features with customer trainingBoost customer satisfaction
Create individual learning plans at each stage of the employee life cycleImprove work performance and create opportunities for promotion
Measure training effectivenessEnsure knowledge retention

You can see that these benefits of a learning management system create many training scenarios or situations where you can use it. Feel free to look into more cases and learn exactly how corporate LMSs can drive your business success.

Types of LMSs

Let’s move to a more technical part to discover what types of learning platforms exist and how they differ. Here’s a description of different types of LMSs:

Corporate vs. Academic LMSs

Both corporate and academic LMSs provide access to course materials online and automate different aspects of training processes, but they have some differences:

  • Learning goals. Academic learning is aimed at producing good students who have a profound knowledge of subjects and strive to learn more. Here, theoretical knowledge as the basis for strong practical skills is the end goal. In turn, corporate training focuses on practical application, and one of its main objectives is ROI. 
  • Course timeline. For workforce training, time limits are shorter, so a corporate training platform must be flexible to fit all time frames and business needs. Semesters, trimesters, and quarters — these are the time frames for educational institutions. For them, scheduling units such as holidays, exam times, and periods are needed.
  • Certifications vs. grades. Corporate software usually offers the capability of tracking and completion in the form of certifications. Academic software typically tracks learners’ progress through its grading system. It provides grade books for monitoring attendance and assignment results, as well as keeping other information on each student in the roster.
  • Tools for social learning. Other functionalities that an academic learning platform usually provides are capabilities for creating student groups for class projects and breakout sessions, discussion boards, and a built-in web conferencing tool. 
  • Content updates. Educational LMSs don’t need to be updated regularly because the content is mostly based on the sciences and humanities. In contrast, a corporate LMS should have the ability to quickly and easily update courses to match changing market needs.

Also read: → Best Corporate eLearning Platforms

Free vs. Commercial

When choosing between a free, open-source system and a commercial platform, you need to know that not all open-source LMSs are, in fact, free. There may be no license fee, but you may need to set up a server and a hosting architecture, customize certain features and branding, and regularly upgrade your system – so you need technical talent in your team to succeed. 

The ideal solution for users without an IT background is commercial LMS software. It’s typically much easier to deploy and use, offers tech support services, and doesn’t incur additional costs.

SaaS/Cloud LMS vs. Locally hosted LMS 

You can either store all the data on your company’s own servers, thus hosting the system yourself, or you can select a SaaS LMS platform and leave it to your vendor to deal with server load, backups, and security. A SaaS platform is the best match if you don’t have IT staff in place and want to focus on creating learning content. 

Some companies avoid cloud-based learning management systems because of data security concerns. They believe that their information that is stored on a remote server might become compromised. However, there are different ways to safeguard your data. For instance, ensure that the LMS vendor has effective encryption protocols and will back up your information.

LMS vs. LCMS (Learning Content Management System)

If you’re going to build courses in-house, you can choose between two alternatives: either buy an LCMS with course-creating functionalities or purchase an LMS and an authoring tool separately. 

However, here you can face two problems:

  1. Built-in course editors usually have serious functional limitations.
  2. Not all LMSs and authoring tools are fully compatible. 

If you want to avoid compatibility problems and create beautiful interactive courses, choose an LMS with a bundled authoring tool like the iSpring Learn LMS that comes with iSpring Suite. This integration allows you to create professional-looking e-courses, easily upload them to the platform, and enjoy advanced reporting capabilities.

LMS Standards

Selecting a unified standard for both eLearning authoring tools and LMSs means that information will be successfully shared between them. 

Here are the five major LMS standards that predetermine the compatibility between an LMS and an authoring tool:

  • AICC. This is the oldest technical standard that lets a course transfer information in HTTP format. It is no longer evolving, but there are some LMSs and authoring tools that are AICC compliant.
  • SCORM. This is the standard that is recognized by almost every learning platform and enables content to interact with the system to track user progress and manage the course structure to a great degree. There are currently four different versions of this standard: SCORM 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, and 2004.
  • xAPI, or Tin Can. It is a nextgen version of SCORM that can exchange data with an extensive number of software, like talent management systems or mobile apps, and tracks most learning activities, including experiential learning and simulations.
  • LMS LTI. This standard is especially popular in higher education because it enables content creators to build courses within their own tools and share them with learners on different platforms.
  • Cmi5. It is the newest standard that provides all the capabilities of SCORM and xAPI together. Thus, cmi5 content can be viewed on mobile devices, even offline, and you can get detailed statistics on any format of content, including PDFs, videos, and games.

Now, let’s proceed to the next level of understanding of what an LMS is and explore it in terms of common features, tracking options, and pricing.

Also read: → SCORM Compliant LMS: How to Find an LMS That Checks All the Boxes

LMS Features

There’s no universal agreement on the full feature set of a standard platform, but you can think of the first three items on the list below as basic LMS features and the rest as advanced. 

  1. User management. It allows you to add and edit users, add their roles, and combine learners into groups and organizations.
  2. Course management. It delivers learning materials to the learners who need them.
  3. Progress tracking. An LMS assesses learner performance in real time.
  4. Content creation. This can be a built-in editor that allows you to create page-like courses.
  5. ILT Classroom. The LMS can provide extended support for classroom-based initiatives (e.g., managing schedules and monitoring attendance).
  6. Mobile learning. Some LMSs have native mobile apps for viewing courses, even when offline.
  7. Social learning. It can serve as a social tool that allows users to publish articles, discuss colleagues’ posts, and like and share content.
  8. White labeling and customization. Your platform can use branding to help maintain brand consistency within the learning experience.
  9. Gamification. Points, awards, ratings, and badges can increase learners’ retention, engagement, and motivation to study harder.
  10. Certification. The LMS can issue certificates of completion for professional certifications.

For more details about must-have and optional features, see this article about LMS requirements.

LMS Tracking

Learning management systems make it possible to track training progress with detailed LMS reports. The essential training metrics and reports typically include:

Learner progress and completion rates

These metrics show how your learners are faring, and you can track how far they’ve come and see if they’ve completed the assigned courses successfully.

Online learning assessment results

This metric helps you monitor skill and knowledge gaps as learners complete training courses, and see if they need more information on those topics.

Course overview

Course overview reports show you what percentage of learners completed a course, how much time they needed to view each activity, and their average scores.

Satisfaction rates

An LMS typically allows you to evaluate learner satisfaction by conducting user surveys, polls, and questionnaires.

LMS Pricing

When looking for a learning management system, you can’t avoid the financial aspect. To choose the best option for your business, see what pricing models exist and how they work.

Different LMS vendors prefer different pricing schemes:

Pay per active userPay per learnerPay as you goLicense Fee / Subscription
You pay for each person who actively uses the LMS during each billing cycle.You’re charged for a fixed number of learners, regardless of whether they are active or not.You pay only for what you use –  the actual users and the courses they take, for example.You pay a monthly or annual license fee for the LMS. The price typically varies, depending on the features included.

To know which method of payment suits you best, see a full comparison table of the most common pricing models with examples of LMSs that offer them.

How to Choose an LMS

If you perform an online search for “LMS,” you’ll get millions of results, many of which will be vendors promoting their products. It’s not easy to choose the best learning management system for your business when the options are so numerous. If you find yourself in a situation like this, the free white paper “How to Choose a Learning Management System” will come in especially handy. 

This free white paper provides training managers and L&D pros with all the essentials needed to make an informed decision and match any kinds of requirements that the higher management and IT department might impose. Check it out and equip yourself with the knowledge of the best way to choose an LMS that will yield a great ROI with regard to training and professional development.


iSpring Learn LMS


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How to Organize Learning with an LMS

Let’s take the iSpring Learn LMS as an example to see how to organize training with an LMS. 

iSpring Learn is a cloud-based service, so all that’s required to register an account is an internet connection and an email address.

Step 1: Upload courses

To start training, you need to add materials to the LMS. The process of uploading content to iSpring Learn is similar to working with file-sharing services like Google Drive or Dropbox. Click the “Upload File” button and select the files from your computer.

Upload courses to an LMS

The LMS recognizes ordinary PPT presentations, audio and video files, and text documents, as well as special SCORM courses. You can always combine them into a learning track to achieve a consistent flow – even with the most complex subjects – and set the required evaluation criteria.

Also read: How to Convert PowerPoint to MP4 Video on Windows & macOS

Step 2: Add users

One of the most useful features is the ability to assign different user roles. In any LMS, there are 3 main user types: 

  • A user or a learner who takes the assigned courses and studies the available materials. 
  • An author who can manage courses and training content: they can add and remove courses and assign courses to learners. 
  • An administrator who can add and remove users, gather them into groups, and assign roles. 

With a high-quality LMS, administrators are freed from tedious tasks like manually adding users to the system, as most of the processes are automated. For example, you can invite learners by email or import a list from an XLSX file. You also can divide learners into groups, like “newcomers” and “pros,” or organize them according to their work areas: sales, security, or production, for instance.

Users in an LMS

Step 3: Deliver knowledge

After your content is uploaded and user roles are assigned, you’re ready to present courses to your learners in the most accessible manner. You can grant access to all users or invite specific individuals by email. Then, learners can take courses on multiple devices, including tablets and smartphones. With the free mobile app by iSpring Learn, they can study when and where they want: at home, in a café at lunchtime, while commuting, or even when offline.

Mobile learning

Step 4: Evaluate the results

The ability to measure training effectiveness is one of the main reasons more and more companies are getting started with LMS platforms. You can track the progress of all of your learners in real time and see detailed statistics on time spent, attempts made, and more.

Learner progress in an LMS

How to Try Out an LMS

An LMS trial is a key part of choosing which platform you’ll ultimately go with. You need to experience several LMSs and their feature sets firsthand to eliminate those that don’t suit your needs and pick the right LMS. Once you’ve chosen the platform, you can develop your learning or training program with the LMS’s functionality in mind, maximizing the opportunities that it provides.

If you want to find out if training with an LMS is right for you and your company, take advantage of the free 30-day trial of iSpring Learn.

Launching training will take no more than a day. You don’t need to ask technicians to configure the system – it’s all set up for effective training. To see how easy it is to use iSpring Learn, you can book a free live demo. Don’t miss this chance to see iSpring Learn in action!

FAQ about LMSs

What is a learning management system LMS?

An LMS is a digital platform that centralizes and streamlines the process of administering, delivering, and tracking educational content and training programs.

You can use an LMS to:

  • Deliver and manage content quickly and effectively 
  • Track learner progress and automate tasks 
  • Customize the learning experience 
  • Ensure easy access to materials, and more

What kind of training can I organize and manage in an LMS?

You can organize and manage many different types of training programs in an LMS. These include compliance training, sales training, various eLearning courses, and even customer training programs. The flexibility of learning management systems allows you to tailor and administer training for different training needs, learning objectives, and audiences.

Can I use an LMS offline?

No, an LMS typically requires an internet connection to access and use its features. If you’re an LMS admin, you need to be online to manage and use the platform. 

Learners, however, can often access learning content offline. iSpring Learn allows learners to download courses to the LMS’s mobile app and complete them without internet access. When the user is back online, their progress and learning stats will be updated automatically.


A learning management system is a great platform to streamline and effectively manage learning processes of any format or level of complexity. It also enables you to make your training and learning courses more targeted, actionable, and cost-effective. 

Empower your team with the transformative capabilities of an LMS, enhancing learning experiences, boosting productivity, and ensuring that your organization raises top experts in your field. Try the 30-day free trial of iSpring Learn to witness firsthand how an LMS can revolutionize your training and learning processes.