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What's the best LMS for you?

Published January 9th, 2020

Planning to invest in a learning management system (LMS) for the first time? Or want to upgrade to something more powerful to help take your LMS to the next level?

You’ve likely already established your LMS business case, so the next step before you invest in anything specific, is to know your LMS options. That means comparing some of the top LMS platforms available on the market and knowing what features and integrations you should be looking for and marking as ‘essential’.

Ben Long

Author at Tiny


LMS selection process

Take your time when comparing LMS platforms – it’s not a decision to rush. And definitely don’t just sign up for the first tool you come across.

Implementing an LMS can be time-consuming and costly to set up, not to mention the time and funds you’ll be investing in onboarding your users. That’s why it’s important to make the right choice and invest in a platform that’ll work for your organization for at least 3-5 years (and hopefully beyond).

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Steps to choosing a Learning Management System

There are hundreds of products on the market with different use cases and features to choose from. So, how do you know which one’s right for you? By comparing your LMS options, in 3 steps: research, plan, and test.


Step 1: Research

Make sure you understand the needs of your users (teachers and students).

It’s also a good idea to talk to people who know a lot about LMSs – whether they’ve compared LMS platforms for their own organization, implemented them, or experienced them as teachers or students. And, of course, do your own research on LMSs – read reviews, compare LMS feature lists, and start narrowing down your options.

Step 2: Plan

Plan the kind of learning experiences you want to create.

List all the ways you currently do onboarding, training, assessments, and other relevant tasks, tools, and integrations. Start to think about how you want to structure the information and navigation – with everything all in one place.

Step 3: Test

Most LMS platforms offer demos – whether that’s live, recorded, or via a free trial. Test out as many platforms from your shortlist as possible, to see what features and software are a good fit for your organization. Also, test the support by emailing, calling, and/or sending a chat request.


LMS features and integrations that are of most importance

So let’s kick off that research phase. Here are some features and integrations to look for when comparing learning management systems:

Content management

Look for platforms that include rich text editing (like the TinyMCE rich text editor) and multiple media formats


Testing and assessment

Built-in assessments can help you evaluate learning outcomes and ensure each student gets the help they need


Certification

Give your students something to show for their hard work


Gamification

Motivate your students to complete modules and absorb more information


Custom branding

Tailor the look and feel of your LMS to your organization’s brand colors, fonts, and logo


Reporting and progress
tracking

Access analytics to determine how subjects, classrooms, teachers, and individuals are performing


Collaboration and
interaction

Use message boards, forums, and comments to help your students stay engaged and learn more together


Learning paths

Customize the learning experience for students based on what they do or don’t know, or what they’re interested in


Dashboard

Give students and educators a home base for key information about their courses, discussions, and/or performance


Flexible platform

Online, offline, cloud, self-hosted, mobile, desktop, app, browser… or a little bit of everything


Data import and export

Make it easier to back up data and move it from one LMS or platform to another


Support

Get help with implementing your LMS, answering questions, troubleshooting, and onboarding your users


Security

Ensure your data is backed up, safe, and encrypted so you can stay compliant

Not all LMS software will automatically come with the above features. Not to mention, every organization and school will have different requirements, so it’s important to know what’s most essential for how you want to use your LMS.

Top 7 LMS platforms (we love)

Now you know some of the most popular LMS features and have an idea of what you’ll need, it’s time to investigate the LMS platforms that support them.

Here’s some of the best LMS platforms on the market, so you can start comparing LMSs and narrowing down your options – we’ve listed their key features and use cases.

We may be a little biased since all these platforms come with the TinyMCE WYSIWYG editor built-in. But they’re a great mix of BIG and niche LMS platforms, with many features worth checking as part of your wider research.

Blackboard

Blackboard is a leading global educational technology solution for Higher Ed, K-12, business, and government. The software features course management, customizable open architecture, and scalable design that allows integration with student information systems and authentication protocols.

Who uses Blackboard


K-12

Higher education

Governments

Corporates

Best LMS features, integrations, and options

  • Open source LMS
  • Learner registration and management
  • Mobile app
  • Course content
  • Course delivery
  • Learning modules
  • Virtual classroom
  • Announcements
  • Chat
  • Discussions
  • Media library
  • Rich content editor
  • Calendar
  • Analytics and reporting
  • Accessibility features
  • Marketing and enrollment services
  • Student services
  • IT help desk
  • Branded websites
  • Branded mobile apps
  • Mass notifications
  • Teacher-parent communication
  • Compliance and certification training
  • Assessment and accreditation
  • Assignments
  • Gradebook
  • Surveys and evaluations
  • Predict at-risk students and do early intervention
  • Originality reports and evaluations
  • Mobile-friendly design
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Flexible learning options
  • Flexible pricing model
  • Flexible hosting - cloud, self-hosting, or managed hosting options

Canvas by Instructure

Instructure's educational software includes Canvas LMS, which is used by schools and universities worldwide. Canvas easily connects instructors and students, and is used to monitor grades, manage active enrollments and assignment submissions, share course documents, facilitate message correspondence between students and instructors and contain course and institutional syllabus information for all to access.

Who uses Canvas by Instructure


K-12

Higher education

Best LMS features, integrations, and options

  • Open API
  • Student profiles
  • Dashboard
  • Activity stream
  • Course creation
  • Calendar
  • Pages
  • Modules
  • Badges
  • Groups
  • Inbox
  • Announcements
  • Discussions
  • Real-time chat
  • Conferencing
  • Assignments
  • Quizzes
  • Course updates via email, text, Twitter, or LinkedIn
  • Learning outcomes connected to goals
  • Rich content editor
  • Content creation options for students
  • Integrated audio and video recorder
  • RSS support
  • File upload and download
  • Polls
  • Grades
  • Speedgrader
  • Pages
  • Modules
  • Syllabus
  • Files
  • Group work
  • Analytics
  • Graphical insights
  • Quiz stats
  • Real-time performance tracking
  • ePortfolios
  • Customizable course navigation links
  • Browser and mobile app learning
  • Intuitive interface
  • Collaborative workspaces
  • Embed multimedia at every learning contact point
  • Send audio and video messages
  • Preview course elements in student view
  • Roles and permissions
  • Parent co-enrollment
  • Multiple language support

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Moodle

Instructure's educational software includes Canvas LMS, which is used by schools and universities worldwide. Canvas easily connects instructors and students, and is used to monitor grades, manage active enrollments and assignment submissions, share course documents, facilitate message correspondence between students and instructors and contain course and institutional syllabus information for all to access.

Who uses Moodle


K-12

Higher education

Corporates

Best LMS features, integrations, and options

  • Open source
  • Modern interface
  • Desktop and mobile friendly
  • Customizable themes
  • Custom design options
  • Mass enrolment
  • Bulk course creation
  • Calendar for deadlines, meetings, and other events
  • File management integration with OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive
  • Collaborative content creation and publishing
  • Embed external materials and assignments
  • Rich content editor
  • Media and images
  • Notifications and automatic alerts for new assignments, deadlines, and forum posts
  • Private messaging
  • Groups
  • Marking workflow management
  • In-line marking within browser
  • Peer assessment
  • Self-assessment
  • Badges
  • Outcomes, competencies, and rubrics
  • Gamified quizzes and level up checkpoints
  • Personalized dashboard
  • Task list with due dates
  • Forums
  • Wikis
  • Glossaries
  • Database activities
  • Word counter
  • Checklists
  • Attendance tracking
  • Progress tracker for educators and students
  • Secure authentication options
  • Easy backup and restore
  • Set roles and permissions
  • Integrate with external applications and content
  • Create your own plugin for custom integrations
  • Easily install and disable plugins
  • Regular security updates and patches
  • Detailed reporting on activity and participation
  • Flexible learning paths - instructor-led, self-paced, blended, or online
  • Flexible hosting - self-hosted or cloud-hosted
  • Language selection

Blackbaud LMS

Blackbaud Learning Management System gives teachers the tools to efficiently manage classroom communication. It delivers all the functionality needed – from assignments and graded discussions to rubrics and competency-based education – to power academic programs in the classroom and online.

Who uses Blackbaud LMS


K-12

Higher education

Nonprofits

Corporates

Foundations

Best LMS features, integrations, and options

  • Sports team practice/game schedules and notifications
  • Roster member updates/reminders
  • Location and transport management for teams
  • Groups (including smart groups)
  • Rich content editor
  • Community pages
  • Activity pages
  • Advisory pages
  • Internal organization news, events, and announcements
  • Forums
  • Discussions
  • Course requests
  • Teacher comments
  • Enrollment management integrations
  • Customizable inquiry and application process
  • Syncing with fundraising management software
  • Finance and billing integrations
  • Cloud-hosted
  • Marketing integrations
  • Course topic pages
  • Bulletin boards
  • Assignment center
  • Mobile uploads
  • Rubrics
  • Google Drive integration
  • Turnitin integration
  • Filterable calendars
  • Internal messaging
  • Resource board portals
  • User-friendly course search
  • Faculty profiles
  • Tuition management
  • Customizable payment plans
  • Role-based dashboards
  • In-depth tuition reports
  • Course schedule
  • Attendance history
  • Directories
  • Integrated CRM for alumni fundraising
  • Allocate, track, and report on funds

McGraw-Hill Connect

McGraw-Hill's "Connect" is an award-winning digital teaching and learning solution that empowers students to achieve better outcomes and enables instructors to improve efficiency with course management.

Who uses McGraw-Hill Connect


K-12

Best LMS features, integrations, and options

  • Custom course content
  • Rich content editor
  • Course sharing
  • Adaptive learning technology
  • Additional resource links
  • Question prompts based on study materials
  • Identifies what topics students need to practice
  • Recharge tool to increase retention
  • Calendar
  • Customized feed
  • To-do list
  • Question bank
  • Schedule and due date management
  • Policy management
  • Read Anywhere eBook app
  • Test builder
  • Automatic assignment and quiz grading
  • Outcome assessment
  • Insights and reports
  • At-risk student report
  • Student progress tracker
  • Student self-monitoring
  • Lecture capture
  • Capture synchronized audio, video, and computer screen activity
  • Free, computer-generated closed captioning
  • Seamless integration and single sign-on for multiple LMS platforms (Blackboard, Brightspace, Canvas, Moodle, and more)
  • Accessibility features

Kiddom

Kiddom is an online assignment, grading, and communication tool for teachers. Teachers assign students work from third party curriculum programs and monitor their performance, while students complete the assignments in a flipped-classroom style. It is free.

Who uses Kiddom


K-12

Best LMS features, integrations, and options

  • Import, build, and manage your curriculum in one place
  • Set scope and sequence for teachers
  • Share curriculum with teachers
  • Allow teachers to create content and personalize lessons for their class
  • See real-time student performance
  • Choose from 70,000 standards-aligned resources in the library
  • Build lessons
  • Create assessments
  • Rich content editor
  • Find students, assign to them, and provide grades
  • See class/skill mastery levels
  • Personalize learning with individual learning paths
  • Provide family access to performance data
  • See classroom trends and what’s driving outcomes
  • Mobile device access

Brightspace

Kiddom is an online assignment, grading, and communication tool for teachers. Teachers assign students work from third party curriculum programs and monitor their performance, while students complete the assignments in a flipped-classroom style. It is free.

Who uses Brightspace


K-12

Higher education

Corporates

Best LMS features, integrations, and options

  • Interactive training courses
  • Assignment evaluation
  • Intuitive interface
  • Mobile, tablet, and desktop friendly
  • Personalized learning and flexible training options
  • Built-in analytics and performance reports for departments, courses, and individuals
  • Virtual classrooms
  • Video assignments
  • Course merchant and registration storefront
  • Professional learning dashboard to support continuous training
  • App catalog for adding optional extensions and content
  • Online, onsite, and blended course delivery options
  • Self-enrolment
  • Multimedia presentations
  • Searchable video content
  • Content ratings
  • Comments
  • Rich content editor
  • Live or on-demand video
  • Web conferencing with whiteboards and slide sharing
  • Video recording and embedding

What LMS platforms are on your shortlist?

Which of the above platforms is right for you? Well, it depends on how you plan to use your LMS and how powerful it needs to be for your purposes.

There are many other top LMS platforms on the market that you should also research and explore. We’re just partial to this list because we know they have a great built-in WYSIWYG HTML editor (that’s TinyMCE!).

MORE RESEARCH

If you’d like to do a bit more research before you choose your LMS, read some of our other posts on the subject:

How a great WYSIWYG editor can take your LMS to the next level →

Establishing your LMS business case: Online learning benefits & more →

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