Wednesday, 12 October 2016 19:05

What’s in an LMS?: Choosing the Right Learning Management System

Written by Kyle Snowdon & Rebecca Mercer


Learning Management Systems (LMS) have become such necessary components of a 21st century learning environment that it is hard to imagine an institution operating without one. Over the past several years the options for choosing an LMS have grown significantly. Blackboard, Canvas, Desire2Learn, and Moodle are just a few of the major players in the growing LMS market. So how do you choose which LMS works best for you?
All educational institutions should have the focus on student success as their highest priority. In this article, we will explore considerations that educational institutions must make when choosing the best LMS for their students. While absent from this list is the cost considerations, we believe each category presented is essential for learning management systems to possess in order to best serve students.

Mobile Matters 

Over the past decade mobile devices, most notably smartphones, have become essential tools for our daily lives. A 2014 Educause survey pegged smartphone ownership of undergraduates at 86 percent, with a safe assumption that number has increased even more up until the present. With this increase in mobile ownership it is crucial that institutions choose a learning management system that provides additional functionalityon mobile devices. Mobile devices have become not only a nice to have tool for staying in contact while away from home, but for many are the first tool they turn to for most day-to-day operations, including schooling. 


Both instructors and students in higher education have hectic schedules, therefore it is crucial that a learning management system functions properly. Navigating courses, submitting assignments and finding course materials should all be hassle free. The LMS needs to be designed with both the learner and instructor in mind to create the best experience possible. If not, the LMS will not be accomplish the goals of the institution.


If an institution is spending the time and resources to select a learning management system that works towards the goal of student success it is important that supports exist, internally or externally, to keep the LMS up and running for students and staff. The purpose of an LMS is to help extend learning beyond the classroom walls and to accomplish this 24/7 support is often expected. This support should come in multiple forms in order to best assist the user. This includes a FAQ section, LMS guides, phone support online chat, etc. Support should also come in the form of frequent updates and improvements to the LMS to keep up with educational needs and technological advancements.

Additional Features

The first learning management systems may have been created simply to host course content online or provide updated grades, but 21st century learning environments needs significantly more features in order to be effective. Not only are assignment dropboxes a necessity but so is a rubric tool that allows for the instructor to grade, provide feedback, and send the evaluated assignment back to the student.  

The LMS should also support opportunities for media (videos and other visuals), podcasting, discussions, collaborative documents, interactives, etc. Choosing an LMS with these features, combined with constant updates to the platform will ensure our students are given the tools necessary to have a successful learning environment.


Choosing a learning management system is a very big deal. Those in charge of making such an important decision have to act in the best interest of their learners and institutions. Financial considerations always important and some institutions may have to make compromises because of it. Also important is the institution's mission and vision. If weighing one LMS vs another those evaluating should consider the four topics above that we briefly identified as important. It is crucial that the LMS you should can be accessed by students on almost any device, is easy to use, comes with support for all users and has the features necessary to create successful learning environments.





Read 633 times