Learning Management System (LMS) Product Review

iSpring Learn - A Complimentary Review

Founded in 2001, iSpring has customers on all 7 continents. The company's two main products are iSpring Suite, an eLearning authoring toolkit, and an LMS called iSpring Learn. Since the LMS won gold for Learning Management Technology for small and medium-sized businesses in last year’s Brandon Hall Group’s Excellence Awards in Technology, iSpring has continued to enhance the product. Recently, I had a chance to check out the latest release of iSpring Learn. If you happen to be considering an LMS for your organization, I hope you'll find this product review helpful. iSpring Learn is a web application running in the cloud, so you don't need your own server hardware. Licensing is based on the total number of active users. An active user is one who logs in to the system at least once during the payment period, which is typically monthly.

User Experience

The pages are attractive and clean with plenty of white space. You can place your organization’s logo at the top of the page and configure the color scheme to match your organization’s website. The LMS is available in 15 languages out of the box. You can change the text that appears on labels, tabs, and controls, and even translate the interface to a new language if needed. The LMS is not Section 508 or WCAG compliant, but courses developed using iSpring Suite can be designed for accessibility. The LMS has a learner portal and an administrator portal. Each portal has a set of tabs.

Learner Portal

Learner portal tabs are: To Do, Completed, Events, Achievements, Catalog, and Messages. The Catalog, To Do, and Completed tabs focus on asynchronous online learning. Learners can search and browse available courses in the Catalog, launch active courses in To Do, and view their transcript or review completed courses in the Completed tab. For synchronous learning, the Events tab lists upcoming webinars and classes they’ve been assigned. iSpring Learn offers gamification and social features. Learners can earn points and badges for coursework and view them in the Achievements tab and dialog with administrators and course experts in the Messages tab. More on these features later.

Administrator Portal

The system is preconfigured with standard administrator roles. You can configure your own custom roles and permissions as well. The set of tabs an administrator sees depends on the role and permissions they’ve been assigned and may include: Dashboard, Courses, Reports, Events, Users, Settings, and Messages. Administrators can explore LMS data in Dashboard and Reports; administer asynchronous programs in the Courses tab; schedule classes and webinars in the Events tab; manage user accounts, organizations, jobs, and profiles in the Users tab; dialog with users and other administrators in Messages; and configure the LMS system parameters in the Settings tab.

Learning Delivery Modes

iSpring Learn supports all the course delivery methods one would expect: self-paced online programs, scheduled learning events, assessments and surveys, blended learning programs, and curricula. Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail.

Self-paced Online Programs

A key strength of iSpring Learn is its wide array of features for developing and delivering self-paced online learning programs. The product’s built-in content development tools, seamless integration with iSpring Suite, and SCORM support combine to provide a powerful set of features for eLearning. And unlike some cloud-based LMS products, iSpring Learn offers unlimited storage space for your content. Built-in tools allow you to upload instructional videos. And Learn’s native long-read feature allows you to create basic lessons right in the LMS with text, images, videos, interactive assignments, and practice questions. If you need more authoring power you can use iSpring Suite, which is bundled with the LMS. iSpring Suite is an authoring toolkit that runs within your PowerPoint software. It supports screen capture, simulations, assessments, video, branching, xAPI statements, and many other features. If you’re into xAPI you should know that, while Learn supports a set of predefined xAPI statements generated by iSpring Suite, it cannot be used as an LRS for custom xAPI statements or as an endpoint for other xAPI activity providers.

iSpring Learn supports AICC, SCORM 1.2, and all four versions of SCORM 2004, so you can deliver courses developed with most eLearning authoring tools.

Scheduled Learning Events

While older versions of the product had a built-in web conferencing feature, iSpring Learn is now integrated with Zoom, a popular cloud-based platform for video conferencing. Online event creation is synchronized between iSpring Learn and Zoom so you only have to create the event in one place. When a student registers for the webinar in Learn, they automatically receive a Zoom event invitation. A record of their attendance in Zoom is automatically transferred back to the LMS. If your organization does a lot of classroom training, this LMS may not be for you as it is missing the typical instructor-led features such as a calendar view, instructor and location management, self-registration for events, and waitlists. However, iSpring Learn does allow an administrator to schedule classes and register students; so the product may work well for organizations that conduct classroom events on a smaller scale.

Assessments and Surveys

iSpring Suite authoring toolkit is bundled with iSpring Learn. You can use Suite to develop assessments and surveys and then deploy and track them in Learn. You can generate a pool of questions, randomly generate tests from the question pool, randomize the order of the questions and multiple-choice distractors, and make use of Suite’s other assessment options.

Blended

Of course, learning programs can be created by blending asynchronous, synchronous, and assessment activities.

Curriculum

You can create a curriculum by specifying a collection of courses and, if needed, set the sequence in which they should be completed. Learn does not support electives, all courses in the curriculum are required.

User Actions

The student portal design is direct and intuitive for accessing and completing learning programs. You can start with the assigned and active courses in your To-Do list, search for a course title, or browse the catalog. Administrators can organize the catalog into categories, for example by topic or business function.

Course Registration and Assigning Courses

People can self-register for online learning in the student portal. If needed, an administrator can configure a course to require registration approval. Administrators can assign courses to specific users or user groups and set the system to automatically register the assigned users. You can create any number of user groups by selecting from filtering options, including department, job role, and country. All users with those characteristics automatically become members of the group. In this way, user group membership is self-organizing and can be driven by your organization’s human resource data.

iSpring Learn is designed primarily for small and mid-sized organizations that need to train their employees. The product does not support eCommerce.

Course Completion

Upon completing a course, students can download and print a course completion certificate. Administrators can style any number of completion certificates with your logo and custom layout. To create a certificate, start with the default PDF template, enter the text you want to appear, and select dynamic data fields from the LMS, such as student name, course name, and completion date. iSpring Learn tracks the time a user spent in an online course. While the system can award points and badges, you cannot define and issue credits through the LMS, such as continuing education credits, professional development credits, or credit hours.

Notifications

Learn automatically sends email notifications to confirm registrations and completions, notifies you when a course is assigned and, if a course completion due date has been set, reminds you when the due date is nearing or past. The system can also notify administrators when a registration approval is needed or a user has completed a course.

Messaging

Learners can message an LMS administrator or a course expert, who has been designated to handle student inquiries. Course experts are optional and can be assigned to a course by course basis. Administrators can assign one expert per course.

Reporting

An administrator dashboard provides a high-level view of what’s happening in the LMS. For more detailed information, you can view, download, and print reports. And, of course, you can assign different report permissions to each administrator role. Learn has predefined some reports that organizations typically want from their LMS, such as registrations and completions by user, user group or course, assessment scores and answer details, user status in assigned training, and more. You can also configure your own reports by selecting the appropriate report type and selecting what you want to include and what to leave out. Reports can be exported to XML, CSV, and PDF file formats. Learn does not have a scheduler to automatically generate and email reports to people, but PDF reports can be manually emailed. iSpring Learn has some very useful features for organizations that must deliver, track, and report on regulatory compliance training. For example, you can assign safety training to all employees whose job is “forklift operator” and run exception reports at any time to see who is assigned the training, who has completed it, and who still needs the training.

Mobile

iSpring Learn is responsive for optimal viewing in the browser of any device, including mobile phones, tablets, and laptop and desktop computers. For an even better mobile experience, iSpring provides free apps for Android and iOS. A key feature offered by iSpring that is typically only available with much pricier products is an offline course player. People can download eLearning courses to their mobile device and access them when in airplane mode or in a remote location where there is little or no internet connectivity. Later, when an internet connection is available, the offline player uploads the user’s course data to the LMS.

Systems Integration

iSpring Learn offers the same types of systems integration capabilities as those of pricier products. You can create a feed to transfer employee, organization structure, and job title data to the LMS from your human resource system. The system supports CSV imports and exports. If you want your users to gain immediate access to the LMS after logging in to your network, you can set up single sign-on. Learn supports leading SSO standards, including Azure, Active Directory, and SAML 2.0.

Cloud and Professional Services

Typically, a production LMS environment is provided. But, if your organization has a lot of complex systems integrations with the LMS and requires a staging environment for development and testing, you can request one. iSpring Learn is generally easy to implement without much support. Free administrator and user training are available on YouTube. Product support is included with the license. Your administrators can access phone support during designated hours for the Americas, Europe, and parts of Asia.

Conclusion

iSpring Learn is cost-effective and nicely appointed with features designed for small and mid-sized businesses that need an LMS to manage employee training and development. The system offers strong support for asynchronous (self-paced) and synchronous (video-conference) online learning. It has limited support for training in a physical classroom. The product is relatively easy to implement and use. It offers some advanced capabilities that are usually only available in pricier systems, such as a mobile app for iOS and Android, an offline player, multi-language support, and robust systems integration capabilities. Its built-in content development features, seamless integration with the iSpring Suite authoring toolkit, and SCORM support provide added value and flexibility for organizations that create and deliver eLearning content. If your small or mid-sized business is in the market for an LMS, iSpring Learn is definitely worth checking out.

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