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Learn the 6 types of learning management systems

Some of the types of LMSes include SaaS LMS and on-premises. HR leaders should learn about each type so they can choose the right one for their organization.

As with any software purchase, selecting the right type of learning management system is an important decision. Each type comes with its own pros and cons, so HR leaders must work with the software purchasing team to ensure the group is choosing the right LMS for their company.

When evaluating the different types of LMSes, HR leaders should consider the features that are most important to the company and work with IT to potentially rule out certain types of LMSes because of company policy.

Here are six types of learning management systems to consider:

1. SaaS LMS

An SaaS LMS is a cloud-based application that users access through the internet.

SaaS-based systems can benefit the HR team in various ways. For example, the vendor is responsible for maintaining the software and hardware, including developing enhancements and new features as well as ensuring the system is secure. Because of this, company employees don't have to maintain the system or buy hardware to run the application.

SaaS LMSes can often integrate with other HR systems and potentially integrate with office applications, such as calendars and email.

2. On-premise LMS

Buying an LMS and installing it onsite is becoming less popular. However, an on-premise LMS lets employees access the LMS from the company's network and avoids forcing employees to access the system through the internet.

In addition, those responsible for managing the system -- usually IT -- may have more control over the timing of enhancements and new features with an on-premises system than when the vendor is applying them on their own schedule. The IT team can also adjust the hardware to meet the company's needs. For example, if the system is too slow, the IT team can potentially make changes internally to make it run more quickly, such as looking at bottlenecks on the network or adding newer hardware.

However, disadvantages for on-premises software include needing to buy hardware and dedicate resources to managing the system. The vendor is also still responsible for software feature development for on-premises software, so the company will still be dependent on the vendor regardless.

3. Open source LMS

An Open Source LMS is a system built by multiple users who share the code so users can add new features and fix defects as required. Often, open source applications are more cost-effective, and users can modify them to meet their companies' needs if they possess the right skillsets. The open source LMS may be a SaaS product or an installed LMS.

One consideration when using open source LMSes is security. Users may insert unsecure code or make poorly written or untested changes to the codebase.

4. Custom-built LMS

For a custom-build LMS, the company uses its own development team or hires external consultants to build an LMS.

Typically, the functionality is much simpler than an LMS acquired through other means because fewer resources are dedicated to building the product. A custom-built LMS has basic reporting, few -- if any -- dashboards or integrations with other HR systems, and likely no support for purchased e-learning courses.

Usually a custom-built LMS is on premise, so it includes most of the benefits and issues of any on-premise LMS. Only a few employees are usually assigned to maintain a custom-built LMS, so problems could arise if an employee resigns.

5. Learning content management system

An LCMS's primary functionality is content creation and managing the content assets. This includes file storage for a training program, version control, approval workflows and security management for each asset. However, some vendors have gone a step further and integrated LMS functionality into the system, which can potentially make it easier to transition from content creation to employees taking the courses.

6. LMS module

HR system vendors may include an LMS module in an HR system to round out the offering. In this case, the LMS module will likely meet most needs but may lack some advanced features. The vendor may also take longer to add enhancements to an LMS module.

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