ffective and fruitful learning experience is concerned not only with the methods you use but with the tools and platforms A learning provider may simply pick the wrong instrument, even though it may work in the beginning.
Imagine practicing car driving skills by riding a motorcycle. Sounds wrong, right?
Sure, it can help you get the basics and road traffic rules, but it won’t be great for teaching car driving skills. The same applies to choosing the right LMS: using an installed LMS to provide online or blended learning will be a mistake.
However, for on-site learning or onboarding in a government agency, this one, out of all types of LMS, will be the one. Benefits and features matter, and matter a lot to the organization’s needs and goals.
In this article, we will cover crucial types of LMS, how they are different, and how their features can make learning smoother.
Understanding why LMSs are so different
As you know, the true power of any learning management system lies in its functions. They define what a single creator, instructor, or academy can or can’t do.
- Basic features: Each LMS has at least some tools for the following: administration, course creation, monitoring, scheduling, communication, and content management.
- Advanced features: Yet, the sky is not the limit, and as learning provision turns into or supports businesses, thus, the marketing, sales, and branding features are essential, too.
All in all, the types of LMS largely depend on the functions and characteristics, the combination of which shows their true value. What is it? An ability to answer a learning provider's needs, strategies, and goals.
Primary Types of Learning Management Systems
To build a learning experience, the learning provider would need to pick one of the different types of LMS solutions. Yes, there are plenty of them, and each will have its advantage due to the focus on specific functions.
Before considering advanced LMS formats, let’s cover the most popular ones:
#1. Saas LMS systems: Putting flexibility first
Before all, SaaS LMS systems are web-based learning management systems developed by a third-party vendor. Thus, it is flexible and easily accessible, as you don’t need to download anything. Just register and create your account.
It usually has simple and easy-to-use features. With them, educators can build a standard learning environment and create a structured course. Interestingly, some of them offer tools for distribution and communication.
Even though the cloud LMS may be limited in terms of customization or advanced functions, this type of LMS is one of the most popular options in the industry.
Examples: Academies, like Dribble or TheFutur, use cohort or community learning platforms, while single creators seek LMS software with marketing options.
💡Best for: single creators, business and niche academies
#2. Installed or on-premise LMS: For seekers of control over data
In contrast to web-based LMS, this type is quite the opposite. It requires the organization to install the software on the premises and servers of the company.
Yet, it may offer much more regarding customization options and functions. Organizations usually tailor it specifically to the learning needs or policies. Notably, that way, they have complete control over the data creation and distribution, adding to security.
However, an installed LMS is quite a pricey solution, requiring resources to set and maintain it.
Who uses it? It is quite popular among traditional educational institutions or actors operating in strategic industries that intersect with government, finance, tech, security, or telecommunications.
💡Best for: large corporations and niche actors valuing data protection and security.
#3. Open source LMS: With a focus on advanced options
This particular type of learning management system is ideal for tech-savvy actors who know how to use source codes. Why? Open code LMS, like any open-source software, has a code that is open to its users. It contemplates that they can modify it to suit their preferences and goals.
What are the benefits? An open source LMS is highly flexible and customizable, giving significant freedom and control to create advanced systems. Nonetheless, a colossal downturn is that advanced programming knowledge is a must to set it right.
LMS example: The OpenEdX platform is used by many educational institutions worldwide, from universities to NGOs.
💡Best for: large and middle organizations having specific needs and tech support to handle it.
#4. Closed code LMS: A ready-to-use platform
Contrary to the LMS above, a closed code LMS (or proprietary LMS) is a type of management system, the code of which is owned by a third party. Notably, it can even be a ready-to-use SaaS product, where all upgrades are provided by the LMS developers.
It is not as advanced as the open-source LMS and will cost some fee, depending on the features.
Examples: Litmos and Blackboard refer to this type of LMS, meaning higher education, and schools, agencies, and corporate actors often use it for learning, training programs, or coaching sessions.
#5. Enterprise LMS: Packed option for large organizations
An enterprise (or commercial) type of learning management system is a software that puts scalability at the center. It usually offers powerful features for management and handling courses for many learners. Moreover, commercial LMS focuses on multiple formats for course creation and handling.
That’s why large corporations and enterprises often opt to handle training, onboarding, webinars, and coaching sessions for their employees.
Examples: Docebo and TalentLMS, corporate LMSs, are cases of such platforms, focusing mainly on corporate training solutions.
💡Best for: enterprises and large corporations.
#6. Free LMS: For educators on a tight budget
If we take pricing as the criteria, then we can for sure determine free learning management systems. As you may guess, totally free options are often pretty basic. Still, for a simple course, some free LMS can work.
So, yes, the free LMS costs you no fee and may be great for a start. However, they offer no support and can be pretty basic.
Note. Many SaaS LMS offer free plans and trials, which can be good alternatives, especially if you are making the first steps in course creation.
💡Best for: small businesses, EdTech startups, creators on a tight budget.
Types of LMS Depending on Learning Style
Learning providers certainly apply various learning approaches. Notably, not every LMS has the right features to serve the purposes of the main methods. In this regard, it is worth differentiating the following LMS types. How can they benefit? Let’s see:
#1. Collaborative LMS: With interaction in the center
Collaborative LMS is a LMS solution that has enough features to provide effective collaborative learning. As it focuses on group interaction and how to learn together, the main tools of such an LMS relate to engagement and communication.
Thus, collaborative LMS is very flexible in terms of content formats, integrations, and tools, as it should provide great immersion of students, active participation, and proper reporting.
Importantly, collaborative learning can take place in:
- Communities. The community-based learning LMS offers virtual spaces where large communities (50+ people) can discuss issues, share needs and reach common knowledge goals.
- Cohorts. The cohort-based learning LMS brings tools that allow educators to effectively manage small cohorts (15-25) of people and help organize their engagement and discussions.
💡Best for: small to large academies or organizations that take collaborative or cooperative learning approaches.
#2. Blended learning LMS: Combining traditional and virtual classrooms
Blended learning LMS is the type of software that is effective for blended learning, with practical tools to combine traditional instructor-led learning and online learning.
The main goal of such an LMS type is to make the learning transition from in-person to online learning smooth.
Such an LMS is flexible and usually offers an online library (for flipped classroom activities), collaborative virtual spaces, and course content options for self-paced learning.
One of the issues is that much depends on the instructors and how they organize the process.
💡Best for: corporate online training, local academies, and educators sharing knowledge in specialized niches.
#3. Adaptive learning LMS: Offering a personalized experience
Adaptive learning LMS is a software that allows instructors to change and adapt the learning to the needs of their individuals. Thus, its features include a flexible course builder, communication tools for feedback, and a room for personalized experience.
Adaptive learning LMS is typically a highly flexible option with the ability to monitor performance and make changes to improve it.
LMS Example: Adaptemy is one of the LMS solutions that position itself as adaptive.
💡Best for: schools, academies, and training agencies working with different sectors.
Specialized Types of LMS
Lastly, there are specialized types of LMS platforms that have a definite focus on specific needs of learning providers. We picked the ones that refer to branding, customization, and content.
#1. White-label LMS: With branding in mind
This type of LMS is characterized by advanced branding options that an LMS may have. It is typical for academies and enterprises that seek tailored solutions aligning their brand with a learning experience.
That way, the white-label LMS allows the creation of personalized learning paths, customization of the design and appearance of the learning system, and adjustment of its elements. It includes domain, color palettes, fonts, and sign-in form modification.
💡Best for: academies and content creators with a powerful brand.
#2. Custom LMS: Tailored for the provider’s needs
Custom LMS is a platform that is made specifically for a certain organization or creator based on their needs and strategies. Therefore, compared to other LMS types, custom LMS is one of the most expensive options.
The key advantage is that you can build a Custom LMS for your unique strategies, learning experience, and vision, controlling every process.
However, not all learning providers manage to create one, as such an architecture requires significant time, resources, and effort.
💡Best for: academies with unique vision, ideas, or desire to control everything.
#3. LMS with content authoring tools: For those valuing content
LMS with content authoring tools contemplates powerful in-built apps, making the course materials and assignments engaging and interactive.
Such a learning management system allows you to use multiple formats, bring interactive elements, and utilize various templates. It offers better course content management and media centers.
LMS example: TovutiLMS is an excellent example of such an LMS with interactive content types.
💡Best for: single creators and academies looking for diverse content options
#4. LMS as Plugins: A way to extend your website
A learning management system is not always complex software; it may be an add-on/plugin that contributes to the website and allows the creation of courses there.
Under this model, you are to use an add-on and its tool to develop your WordPress pages and quizzes to share learning content and organize a self-paced course. That way, you can create your own course, membership site, or even community.
LMS example: One of the most common options there is Learndash. Masteryio is also an option. Both work for WordPress.
💡Best for: single creators, organizations, and businesses already having an audience and website to use.
How to pick one? Determine your needs first
We now know that there are more than enough options. Thus, when choosing the right type of learning management system solutions for your course, you should put your needs at the center.
In this regard, consider the following factors to avoid mistakes:
- Type of learning. Do you provide online or blended, self-paced, or collaborative learning? The LMS with content tools is good for the self-paced, while the collaborative one will need a cohort-based platform.
- Number of students. If you are planning a lot of courses or students, then pick a more scalable option.
- Content. Do you need interactive content options, or a simple course builder within SaaS products is enough?
- Customization options. How unique is your brand and vision of the courses? In that case, you may need at least highly customizable software until you build a custom LMS.
As a result, the choice in regard to types of learning management systems is critical. It can affect the success of your future course or online training. And the options are diverse.
SaaS LMS systems are the most common option due to their flexibility. Simultaneously, Open Code LMS is ideal for advanced courses. However, it is costly as well. On-premise LMS is good for data control and security reasons, while enterprise systems grant scalability.
At the same time, your learning style matters as well. Thus, you may doubt which one is better, Collaborative or Adaptive LMS. Also, you should not forget about specialized LMSs with various customization levels: White label and Custom LMSs.
In the end, the best LMS for you is the one that will reflect your goals, needs, and requirements for the process you are to build.