How To Choose The Right LMS Platform: The Ultimate Guide

How To Choose The Right LMS Platform
Summary: Learn the basics of learning management systems and how this software application can be beneficial to your eLearning processes.

How To Choose The Right LMS? Learn The Basics

This article will look at what an LMS is, what types of LMS exist, and explain step by step how to choose the perfect platform for your needs. So, let's get down to the basics first. LMS or learning management system is a repository of educational materials, video lessons, lectures, presentations, books, and courses, which can be accessed from any device anywhere in the world. However, in addition to storing materials, many modern systems are the ultimate tools for creating and managing various training courses.

The main goal of an LMS is to digitize and simplify the learning process in various educational institutions and businesses. Therefore, the prominent LMS use cases are as follows:

  • Employee training
    Regardless of a company's industry, employees must grow professionally and learn new things for the whole company to move forward. An LMS dramatically simplifies this process by setting a comfortable learning pace for each employee. In addition, this approach significantly reduces training costs since there is no need to arrange a series of training seminars for each department. Finally, do not forget about the more convenient tracking of training effectiveness through tests and analytics built into an LMS.
  • Onboarding
    An onboarding process is always difficult for both companies and newly arrived employees. An LMS accelerates an onboarding process by replacing meetings at which the history of a company, the rules, duties, workflow, and other nuances of working in a company are explained to a newcomer.
  • Retaining knowledge
    In addition to a convenient and effective training process, it is essential to maintain knowledge. An LMS is a vast knowledge base where all materials are available to all employees. Any information about the methods that are important for training will always be in one place and open to all employees at any time. Old employees leave a company by contributing essential materials for work in an LMS. New ones come in their place, who supplement the knowledge base with their materials, and this process is taking place constantly.
  • General education support
    Even if you do not transfer an entire learning process to an LMS, this solution perfectly complements a standard learning process with additional features, such as gamification, various types of tests, presentations, and much more.

Corporate training and development of educational programs for students is a complex process that requires specific approaches and tools. Modern LMSs are the perfect way to create practical online training in any industry and field. According to recent statistics, 41.7% of companies save a significant part of the budget on corporate training by implementing an LMS, while an LMS increases employee retention rate to 92%.

What Are The Main LMS Types?

When you start your search for a suitable LMS, you should realize that LMS types comparison may take some time and effort, but the bottom line is that there are 2 main types of LMS, between which you will have to choose:

  1. Proprietary LMS
    This type of LMS is characterized by the fact that a developer wholly owns the platform, and you, as a user, need to pay decent money to use their software product. This approach severely limits your customization options, and you will need to adapt to any changes in the system. In return, however, you get ongoing customer support, excellent service, and reliable functionality. You also get an ideal user service, which includes LMS deployment in your educational process, 24/7/365 support from vendor specialists, constant updates, quick bug fixes, and so on. This type of LMS is ideal if you want to digitalize an educational process in the shortest time possible. Don’t plan changes in your processes that will require customization of the platform in the future.
  2. Open-source LMS
    This type of LMS is often characterized by a lower price or is completely free of charge. Open-source allows you to modify a platform as you need it. You can add custom features, third-party integrations, and redesign and customize a platform to meet changing needs. In contrast to the incredible flexibility, there is often meager support from a developer. You won’t find responsive user support who’ll be ready to solve your problem at any time of the day. All support is limited to FAQs on the website and official documentation you need to understand (which requires technical knowledge). You’ll have to look for answers to questions on official or unofficial forums from other users. Deployment and modification of a platform are also on your shoulders, or you’ll have to hire a separate team of professionals. Open-source LMS is suitable for advanced users who want maximum flexibility and freedom in using an LMS system.

Picking A Suitable LMS Platform: Step-By-Step Guide

So, it's time to start our step-by-step guide that will help you choose the right LMS platform.

Step #1: Define And Jot Down Your Basic Requirements

The first step toward an ideal LMS is to identify your target audience; who you will teach. For example, if you are a large company with more than 100 employees, a simple solution for small groups is unlikely to suit you. To understand which LMS you need, you should write down your basic training requirements:

  • Audience age
    This criterion quite strongly influences your final choice of a platform. For example, if most of your company's employees belong to generation X, the ideal solution will be to choose a platform with a minimum of functionality and a simple design for fast onboarding. Otherwise, you should stick to more complex systems with broad functionality that will allow you to embody online learning ideas. The prime example of age prioritization is Gamma Project, the eLearning gamification system for applied materials. This company is a leader in material engineering solutions. The Gamma project adapted the Open edX interface for employees over 50 since this age category prevails in this company.
  • Audience size
    The number of people you are going to train also contributes to your choice. For example, if the expected audience is quite large and staff turnover is also high, you should think about a corporate LMS with a mass enrollment of students into a course. In addition, the number of people can affect the monthly costs of an LMS.
  • Audience learning tools
    When choosing an LMS to establish a learning process, you should consider the audience’s devices for training. For example, you’ve analyzed that 80% of your learners are using iPads for learning. In such cases, it is vital to look closely at the mobile capabilities of various LMS to choose a platform that works perfectly on mobile devices and helps establish a seamless learning process.

Step #2: Define Technical Requirements To Future LMS

The next step will be to create a list of technical requirements for a platform. You should approach this process with all responsibility since these requirements are your main tools for creating an educational process.

  • Supported content types
    To understand what kind of content you need, you should know ​​your training course and visualize it in your head. Write down all types of content needed to convey your idea and material as clearly as possible, and this list will help you search for a future LMS. Also, pay attention to how this content is added to an LMS system. You should choose systems with built-in tools for creating courses. For example, suppose your training requires a wide range of different assessments and tests. In that case, you should take a closer look at Open edX LMS, as this platform supports more than twenty types of assessments ranging from standard tests to open response assessments.
  • Learning delivery
    The content submission form also plays a role in the choice of an LMS. There are three types in total: 1) synchronous (interaction between students and teachers occurs in real time and each task has a clear deadline), 2) asynchronous (interaction occurs with a delay through various chats and emails and tasks do not have clear deadlines), and 3) hybrid (a combination of the two previous methods).

For example, your course in classical literature requires a lively discussion of various topics from the works, and here you cannot do without video conferencing, which is part of the synchronous learning. Of course, not all LMS support this feature out of the box, but video conferencing from Сanvas LMS is an excellent example of its implementation.

  • Reporting and grading system
    Pay attention to different methods of assessing knowledge and make a list of those present. In addition, set the requirements for the functionality and flexibility of a reporting system. For example, TalentLMS provides quite detailed reporting on the passage of assessments, showing the results of all students, the percentage of passage, and other analytical data that is useful in analyzing the success of the training.
  • Various enrollment options
    This point depends on the size of your audience. For example, if you expect a large influx of students, you should choose an LMS system with the ability to add a large number of students with one CSV file (in addition to the standard enrollment option). This feature is present in Docebo LMS.

Step #3: Make A List Of Nice-To-Have Features

Once the backbone of the main features is clear, it is worth thinking about additional features that will expand your learning opportunities and which you would like to see in the LMS of your choice. Usually, the list of other features looks like this:

  • Social learning
    This feature is an additional way of arranging a learning process, tied to various group discussions, assignments, etc. For example, Paradiso has built-in discussion forums, one-on-one Q&A with experts, and group chats for discussing multiple topics. All of these features are part of social learning.
  • Mobile learning
    To expand the audience and create seamless learning, the future LMS platform must support mobile devices. For example, the well-known Moodle LMS has its mobile application for iOS and Android, giving students access to online courses.
  • Courses selling
    This feature is optional, but you can’t do without it if you want to monetize your courses. An excellent example of this feature is Absorb LMS, which allows authors to sell courses and tools for creating courses. The platform has the necessary functions, such as a shopping cart, a wide selection of payment gateways, discounts, and other features that allow authors to sell courses faster.
  • Certifications and awards
    Make your courses more unique by issuing a certificate of completion that students can attach to their portfolios. TalentLMS has built-in functionality that allows educators to fine-tune certificates for courses. For example, teachers can customize the appearance, text of a certificate, certificate expiry date, and more.

Step #4: Choose Your LMS

The final step: It's time to choose an LMS for your needs.

LMS Types Comparison Chart

Let’s compare proprietary LMS and open-source LMS according to several criteria.


The price worries many when choosing an LMS to create online courses or an entire training system. And in this aspect, proprietary LMS and open-source LMS have some differences that can significantly affect your choice.

Proprietary LMS is a wholly paid solution and is distributed using several different payment models:

  • Pay-per-learner
    The name speaks for itself. You pay a fixed price for a set number of learners. For example, TalentLMS will ask for $59 per month if your group has up to forty students.
  • Pay-per-active user
    You pay for active students who use an LMS during a billing cycle. For example, iSpring Learn LMS will charge you $3 per user per month if up to 300 people use an LMS.
  • License fee or subscription
    You pay a fixed amount per month for the opportunity to use an LMS. Often you can choose between different tariff plans, which may include various functions (more functions—more expensive plan). For example, the Teachable LMS business plan will cost you $249 per month.

In the meantime, open-source LMSs are completely free and do not require any purchase. The only costs that will be required are the costs of implementing the LMS and the hardware on which it will be based. An excellent example of such an LMS is Open edX, created by Harvard University and distributed entirely free.

Time And Effort For Implementation

The complexity and speed of implementation also depend on the type of LMS you choose. Proprietary LMS is often easier to implement in an educational process since all work is done for you by an LMS vendor. For example, Paradiso LMS has its implementation services and helps with platform implementation from the planning stage to live launch.

Open-source LMS is not as simple as proprietary. You will need technical knowledge to implement it. If you are not that tech-savvy, you will have to hire a dedicated team of specialists to help you implement the open-source LMS of your choice. For example, you can contact official Open edX partners, such as Raccoon Gang, Abstract Technology, Arbisoft, and others. These vendors provide official services for working with the platform. They can help you implement this platform into your educational processes and add custom features to satisfy your eLearning needs.

Customer Support

Customer support is also one of the differences between open-source and proprietary LMS systems. Since you pay a specific price for proprietary systems, it will be strange to include good user support. For example, Docebo LMS has its own help center, which contains all the information and various guides to help solve issues related to the platform. In addition, Docebo offers to contact a consultant if a user has not found answers to their questions in the database.

Docebo Support Page

Open-source also has good user support, but it is styled in a slightly different format. On the official website of an LMS, the maximum help you will receive will be the FAQs or detailed documentation for an LMS system. Moodle LMS is an excellent example of this approach. In addition, assistance in resolving issues can be found in various forums, where users can create discussions and help each other. For example, Open edX has an official website form for users, broken down into multiple topics.

Open EdX Forum


System customization is a pretty helpful feature of any LMS system, as it allows the system to adapt to the changing needs of online learning. And ease of customization is often at the forefront. Most of the proprietary systems are very limited in customization and manufacturers do not provide more than the built-in capabilities for the customization of the system. For example, in TalentLMS, a vendor offers limited customization by modifying themes and some interface elements, using CSS and JavaScript.

Meanwhile, open-source LMS systems are incredibly flexible solutions that can be altered and modified as long as the system's architecture allows. For example, Open edX can add custom features, such as additional gamification methods, third-party integrations (Google Analytics, eCommerce integrations, and much more) and make any customization of the interface to suit your needs.

Wrapping Up

So, this article sums up all the necessary steps you should take to choose a suitable LMS for yourself. In addition, it provides a comparison of the two most popular types of LMS for various criteria. If you want to dive deeper into this topic, you should investigate multiple proprietary (Litmos, LearnUpon, TalentLMS) and open-source (Sakai, Open edX, Moodle) LMS systems in more detail.