Every great thing starts with either an idea to make something better or a need to overcome challenges. So you’ve decided to get an online learning management system (LMS) for your business. However, with hundreds of e-learning apps out there, choosing the right one for your business can be daunting.Determining what features should comprise your LMS app would require careful consideration of your business needs and goals. How does your education or training delivery program function? Is your organization in education business or corporate training? Do you need your e-learning app to integrate with any other software? Do you want the app for your own business or want to build an online learning marketplace? Will your business model change in the coming years? Now, these may be some of the questions that you may find perplexing. And we can discuss them in more detail before you get started.
In this article, let’s take a look at the top features of a successful online learning management system:
1) Intuitive User Experience
A good user-interface design is as vital to e-learning applications as any other software. No matter what the purpose of a software app is, a clean and intuitive design not only improves its usability but also acceptance by the users. A recent study found that more than half of companies using learning management systems want to replace them because they want a better user and administrative experience. Your e-learning app should be quick to learn for your users. Information and instructions should be easy to find. It should guide the user from one step to another in their learning. Ease of use is a must-have LMS feature for any kind of e-learning or e-training application.
2) Content management
Just as the learners of your LMS need excellent usability features, the teachers/trainers need useful content management functionality. They would need to manage the teaching/course curriculum for different classes and manage the subjects and lessons in all the courses. They must be able to upload instructional videos and documents supporting those videos. They’ll want to link assessment tools such as tests and quizzes to the learning materials. Perhaps even share learning materials and activities between different learning paths or courses. And depending upon your business goals, you may want your LMS to support the latest international standards for interoperability and data exchange between e-learning applications. To be able to accomplish all of these efficiently, a robust content management feature is a must-have for any online learning management application.
3) Mobile Capabilities
With the ease of use and freedom of mobility that mobile devices provide, a majority of people today prefer using their mobile devices to access all types of content online. It’s been long since many online businesses started adopting the mobile-first approach in their online applications.If you deliver your education or training material over a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet, that would significantly enhance the usability and acceptability of your LMS. It should, at the very least, be done by implementing a mobile responsive design layout on your LMS website. Although, you should preferably get the support for mobile learning implemented using mobile apps made for Apple and Android phones for greater control over the delivery of features over mobile devices.
4) Support For Blended Learning
Education apps are very effective in imparting knowledge through recorded or live online presentations and supporting documents. However, delivering practical teaching is where e-learning systems lack. At times, the teachers may need their students to practice skills by hand in a lab, or instructors may need to give on-job demonstrations to their learners. In such cases, your LMS must have the features to blend online education with onsite training. Simply put, here’s how a great LMS will support this: It will be able to record registrations online – whether they are for lectures, seminars, workshops, on-job demonstrations, practical lab classes, etc. The students will be able to consume theoretical learning material online through live or recorded mashup videos, whiteboards, virtual classrooms, and related documents. The offline practical learning event for the same will be tracked, recorded, and combined in the same learning path to deliver a full blended learning approach.
5) Learner Assessment and Reports
Every type of teaching needs proper testing programs to assess the knowledge and skills gained by the students. Your school LMS software must facilitate the teachers to be able to create flexible tests and quizzes related to every subject or lesson. These can be in the form of subjective type questions requiring short or long essay style answers, or dictations, or objective type questions requiring fill-in-the-blanks, single or multi-choice options, true or false answers. If you’re running a school or college, your teachers should be able to know which of their students have completed particular learning assignments and which ones have not. It should be able to track and report on a learner’s progress through a learning path. This would help the teachers in knowing the difficulty level of their teaching material as well as the students who may need special attention. You can go even further to implement the automatic marking of the tests and quizzes. This can be done easily with a hundred percent accuracy with objective type questions and dictations. Whereas for subjective type questions, an AI-based assessment algorithm can be written to match the answers with a data bank. And depending upon the needs of your teaching program, the tests can be randomized, and assessments can be weighted, proctored via webcam and screen recording, and even combined with offline practical evaluations.
Let’s face it – learning can be boring for the vast majority of students. And this is not the challenge with school or college education, but even in the corporate training environments and specialized skills development. Teachers and trainers always need to find ways to make learning more fun for their students or learners. It is vital for the institution from the branding and marketing perspective as well because they need to show great results. Gamification is the application of game-design elements in any type of business or productivity software. In your e-learning app, this would involve awarding points, badges, trophies, and ranks to the learners. Studies have shown that such game-based mechanics promote friendly competition, keeps the learners interested and involved, and helps them in retaining information longer.
Depending upon your business needs and the purpose for which you’re acquiring the LMS, you may either opt for full-fledged e-commerce functionality or the simple online payment and billing features. If you’re looking to get an education app developed for your school or college, then you may need only the basic billing features to track and receive payments online and provide invoices. If you want to build an online learning marketplace platform similar to Udemy, Skillshare, Coursera, Masterclass, Lynda, etc., you would want to generate revenue for yourself as well as the instructors using your platform. So your LMS platform would need at least the basic e-commerce features such as add-to-cart, up-sell and cross-sell through course recommendations based on learner’s history. It would also need marketing ability for instructors to promote their courses. You may need to integrate multiple payment gateways to support multiple currencies. Invoices, billing features, and detailed revenue reports are some of the other basic e-commerce features that you would need to integrate.
8) APIs and Integrations
If you’re going to use the LMS app for your organization, you may want it to integrate with your other software so that you can sync reports and some other business data in one place. E.g., staff member accounts, customer accounts, invoices and billing reports, etc. Now, this will largely depend on your other software, whether they provide an API (application programming interface) to help with this integration. If you’re going to launch an online learning platform, you may want to integrate various third-party services within it. These can simply be payment gateways to enable online payments through the platform, integrating with accounting software such as Xero or QuickBooks, or integrating with a popular video-conferencing tool such as GoToMeeting or Zoom, etc. Again, this will mainly depend on your business idea behind the LMS you want to develop. In any case, you should consider getting an API developed for your LMS. It will facilitate the users to integrate your platform with some automation tools such as Zapier, or team collaboration tools such as Slack, or email marketing tools such as MailChimp, etc. It will significantly improve the accessibility and, thus, the usability of your LMS platform.
9) Business Analytics
As a business owner, you want your software to provide you concise and actionable insights that would help you grow your business. The reports should make sense to you, so you should get them custom designed as per your preference. You should not have to make the calculations yourself – the software should tell you what the trends are, what areas are lacking and need attention, what areas are performing well that you should capitalize on, and so on. These precise business insights into the efficiency of your institution should help you find out areas of opportunities to help you grow your business further.
E-learning apps are unarguably the future of the education business. And online learning management systems of today are not necessarily simple tools with a singular purpose. Which features and functionality will form the core of your LMS application will largely depend upon the needs and goals of your business. We’d love to hear what you think and would be glad to help you get started on the right track to launch your LMS successfully.
(Chief Business Analyst at Zapbuild)
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