The Internet has opened up possibilities, which we never thought were possible - from online shopping to net banking to paying utility bills, all these are today possible with a click of a mouse. Add to this list- online learning or e-learning that needs no classroom or fixed schedule, and the student can learn whenever, wherever at his own convenience. This has been made possible with Learning Management Systems (LMS), which has opened new opportunities in training and education.
The rising internet penetration is slowly transforming the way we learn. E-learning has made on-demand distant learning possible for people from all walks of life through learning management systems (LMS). Today, we are looking at an e-learning market that stands at $ 1.29 billion (India) that provides immense opportunities for businesses to save on training costs. Moreover, it is offering training entrepreneurs, the possibility to reach a wider audience while remaining in a single location.
What is a Learning Management System?
LMS is a digital knowledge repository & software application that can store and track information. A registered user with login can access the training resources from anywhere and anytime on the desired device. An LMS is used by two kinds of users – learners and trainers. The former participate in LMS for online learning, while the latter mainly comprises a team of trainers who distribute information through the LMS. On top of them, there would be an administrator who would be designated for monitoring, tracking, smooth implementation and day-to-day functioning of the LMS.
Potential LMS Users
Educational Institutions: It can improve the scope for learning by making complex topics easier and more interactive giving teachers better tools to improve on their explanations.
Large Corporations: Companies can employ LMS to train employees, external sales channels, franchisees and customers, helps learners to access online learning by themselves at their comfort.
Corporate Trainers: Equips professional trainers to easily make their courses available to learners through easy registrations, enrolments and payment options. Trainers can scale their business by offering it a large number of learners without being physically present. While offering face-to-face training only to high-value clients.
Tuition Teachers: A completely functional LMS make the courses available to students, without the need for them to attend classroom sessions. Students can make use of one-to-one sessions only to clarify doubts and other concerns.
Domain Experts: An individual with good knowledge in a domain can create & launch an LMS course and still be available for personal consulting for his clients, without the need to devote his energies exclusively for training.
Skill-based Experts: These are domains that are largely based on specific skills such as music, fine arts and even bodybuilding. Such experts can launch introductory courses on LMS and can only provide one-to-one sessions for only candidates with a certain level of expertise.
Computer Institutes: Most office executives are eager to improve their skills through online learning and associated certifications without disrupting their daily routine. In such instances, computer institutes can offer LMS based courses to such candidates allowing them to complete courses at convenience within a defined time frame.
Successful Commercial Companies with LMS Model
The trend with LMS is not just limited to trainers, personal coaches, educational institutions and large businesses. Companies have evolved full-fledged revenue-based models involving LMS as a primary platform to reach out to eager learners. Such brands over the period have grown into thriving companies offering high-end technical and creative courses alike. Some of the most popular include:
Udemy: This online learning platform, allows you to learn almost anything from dog training to digital marketing. Though courses are mainly aligned to improve job skills, the platform allows anyone to publish a course through PowerPoint presentations, videos, audios etc. This makes it unique for offering courses on the strangest of topics possible. The platform offers both free and paid courses. Presently, the platform has over 50 million students and 57,000 instructors in over 65 languages.
SkillShare: This is an online platform very similar to Udemy but here the stress is more towards “doing” instead of merely watching learning videos like other e-learning sites. The platform is more focussed towards creative subjects such as animation, music, photography and other creative topics. It does provide free courses, but the low-cost premium membership-based subscription model can unlock thousands of courses and videos lessons. Today, SkillShare has 5 million users with 6,000 teacher contributions.
Coursera: The platform offers a lesser number of courses compared to other sites. But, it makes it up with in-depth subject matter on the available courses. Most of the courses are taught by top university lecturers and professionals. The platform even offers a large library of courses on topics like business, computer science, arts and humanities. Most of the courses are free, but there are paid courses for which the participants receive a certificate on completion. You could even enrol for a full-time bachelor’s degree and master’s program through this platform.
LinkedIn Learning: This is a strictly paid-for-only platform, where none of the courses is available for free. The platform works with a monthly subscription model mostly aimed at professionals through video-based lectures offering practical skills to improve their on-the-job performance. Some of the courses that are on offer include MS-Excel, customer service, employee relations, social media marketing etc. This apart the platform offers courses in graphic design, software development, photography web development and more.
While creating a course through an agency, you can always suggest ways to improve your course delivery by citing examples of User experience and User Interface from one of these above examples.
Selecting an Agency to Develop LMS Website
When it comes to selecting a vendor to develop your LMS, you would have a range of choices, when searching online. However, it is best to stick with a vendor who accommodates your requirements and comes with a final product that matches your expectations. Although there can be many criteria before finalizing a vendor, these could be a broad range of parameters you can evaluate your options with:
Defined Objectives: During the initial discussion with the agency, you need to be upfront with your objectives and what your ideal audience is like. Whether you seek to educate customers on your product, or you seek to sell your courses to the general public. Being upfront would make the agency job much easier to offer suggestions to develop a robust system. This apart a vendor would be able to lock-in the functionalities, configurations and specifications in the planning stage itself.
Mobile interface: As we all understand by now that internet-access has been overtaken by mobiles. You have to ensure the LMS supports multiple-devices and plays out the content on various devices apart from mobile. This can ensure your users have the flexibility to access courses from anywhere and anytime at their own convenience. Always remember to provide seamless user-experience that is intuitive, where the student spends more time learning than navigating, without any hindrances to finding courses and remaining updated on his progress.
Social Learning Features: It has been found out that learners are able to retain knowledge for longer if they collaborate with each other. By incorporating social media features into an LMS, we can ensure students are not just learning but they are sharing their learnings with the fellow community to create engagement across the board. To give rise to an active community that complements and offers quick feedback to each other.
Data & Analytics: A good LMS solution must incorporate performance metrics that take into consideration the adoption pattern of courses and is likely to serve a brand better. It can also look into behavioural patterns of users, whether they stay tightly focussed on one course or keep bouncing around. The system must provide insights into the kind of courses or quizzes the users are completing.
Video Learning Features: New learning systems are expected to have video as a prominent feature, as users look forward to videos as a replacement to books and texts to truly understand a concept. Besides, video accounts for more than 75% of internet traffic presently. Hence, leverage the power of video to help users learn better.
Once the LMS is in place, you must have a training strategy in place to accommodate different sets of users through different training materials and approaches to maximize the learning potential.
Promoting an LMS Website through Online Marketing
An LMS website can be considered similar to an E-commerce website, where instead of selling physical products, the owner is selling courses to an eager audience. Even payment is collected through the integration of payment gateways to the LMS, just like an e-commerce website. Now when it comes to promoting the website, you could use similar online marketing tactics, which are:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Among the multitude of LMS websites available, you want your website to figure prominently on search results. Use a combination of high ranking keywords and long-tail keywords to get a better ranking on SERP to drive traffic to your website. This can be done in-house or you could partner with an agency.
Launch PPC Ads: This is a tactic in paid search, wherein you can target a specific audience while keeping a tab on the spending. PPC ads offer the flexibility to decide when an ad would be displayed based on location, keywords and demographics. And, you only pay when someone clicks the ad. Moreover, Google allows you to improve your brand visibility by allowing the display of ads on partner sites.
Blogs & Associated Content: Once the audience discovers your brand, you want to nurture this relationship through content that educates and informs them. It has let them know how you differentiate yourself from the clutter and stands to deliver better compared to others. Just like E-commerce Blogging, you can create a blog that runs on your website that gets updated regularly with informative and meaningful content. Furthermore, a blog can even help with your visibility on search as each new blog page that gets indexed has the potential to improve your ranking on search results.
Email Marketing: An ideal way to promote your LMS website is by building an email list with the help of a blog or a newsletter and promoting it aggressively. Once you have a critical number of subscribers in place, you would have direct access to the user’s inbox, enabling you to communicate information on new courses or updates on the website that would evince interest from the users. You could even promote your courses with special offers and discounts to increase your paid users or deliver more value to the existing ones.
Social Media Platforms: To widen your brand awareness and user base, there is no better option than having a presence on all major social media platforms. By putting out relevant content on social media, you would be able to attract potential users through organic and paid means. The exercise is analogous to E-commerce Social Media, where content not only generates a backlink to your website but has the potential to go viral when done right.
Adequate Pricing: The price of the course is a major parameter that attracts learners to a platform. Ideally, a website should have a combination of free and paid courses, enabling the audience to “try-it-out” before committing to paid courses. Preferably, the pricing has to adhere to the prevailing standards in the industry. However, if you want to price the courses higher than the rest, then you must offer enough benefits to back it up. The user is always trying to derive maximum value out of a product or service.
Track and Measure: After having promoted your LMS website, you have to keep track of your performance with each strategy. All major platforms allow you to measure performance to gauge the success in achieving your marketing goals. Once you are provided with a metrics report, you can tweak your strategies accordingly to make promotion strategies more effective in due time.
To promote the website is a crucial step helping the growth of your website among users. While starting out, stick with a few basic strategies before branching out with full-fledged strategy involving different strategies and platforms. The best way of going about is by partnering with an agency which has expertise in digital marketing. If your LMS vendor has such expertise it can be a win-win situation for both parties.
Future of LMS
There is no denying the fact that LMS is here to stay and more users would adopt LMS for accomplishing their learning objectives. With increased internet penetration, fall in data costs and access to affordable mobile devices means that more individuals are going to opt for online learning platforms. That said, the future is still wide open, and we want to broadly outline trends that likely to make the most impact, which include:
Mobile Inclined: We are likely to see more number of people accessing learning platforms through their mobile devices during after-work hours and even during their commute. In the coming future, mobile devices would be the primary means of learning with desktops getting relegated to the second place. This makes it more important for learning platforms to have a mobile-first strategy.
Personalized Learning: Increasing technological strides means LMS platforms will be able to cater users with a personalized learning path that would include specific learning style, personal interests and professional learning goals. Learners will have more access to rich multi-media without any glitches and will have more control over the learning process.
Smarter Technologies: Technology will allow gathering of an incredible array of data that will allow instructional designers and educators to design and equip LMS systems to cater to specific demands of the user. In future, we might witness users learning through personalized instruction modules to maximize the learning potential.
More Versatility: Today the LMS is restricted to providing courses to students. But, in future, there is a good likelihood of inclusion of features which allows more communication among trainers and students. Future LMS would allow integration with messaging and video chat platforms to enable seamless communication among students and with trainers without the need to leave learning platforms.
Till now, what we have witnessed in the LMS domain is just the beginning. The LMS model in all likelihood would witness robust growth in the coming years. Due to the comfort offered by the model, more establishments, businesses, and personal trainers are going to incorporate LMS into their scheme of things. We are most likely to see traditional classroom training getting replaced by an LMS setup, even in the most traditional places like schools and colleges. With the present circumstances when the world in the midst of unprecedented circumstances, an LMS model seems the best fit in keeping the learning process going.