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What's the best LMS for you in 2020?

Ben Long

January 8th, 2020

Written by

Ben Long
Ben Long

Category

Trends & Inspiration

Tagged

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 in 2020? 

At this point, you’ve already established your LMS business case. The next step before you invest is to know your options. That means comparing some of the top LMS platforms available on the market and knowing what features and integrations you should look for.

And let’s be realistic here… 

Choosing LMS software can take some time

You should take your time when comparing LMS platforms. It’s not a decision you should rush. 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 invested 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 way beyond that!).

How do you maximize your chances of making the right choice?

Bearded man in brown coat looks quizzically at his laptop.

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? 

Comparing LMS options is best done in 3 phases: research, plan, and test.

Phase 1: Research

Make sure you understand your users (both teachers and students) and what their needs are. 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, research your LMS options! Read reviews, compare LMS feature lists, and start narrowing down your options.

Phase 2: Plan

Plan out the kind of learning experiences you want to create. List out all the ways you currently do onboarding, training, assessments, and other relevant tasks, tools, and integrations. Start to think about how you’d want to structure the information and navigation with everything all in one place. 

Phase 3: Test

Most LMS platforms offer demos - whether 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 out the support by emailing, calling, and/or sending a chat request. 

So let’s kick off that research phase...

Features and integrations to look for in your LMS

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

Two people sit opposite one another and discuss an issue by gesturing and writing notes.

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.

7 LMS platforms we love

Now that 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. 

Let’s explore some of the best LMS platforms on the market so you can start comparing LMSs and narrowing down your options. 

Here are a few we think you should know about (and their key features and use cases at a glance)...

Side note: we may be a little biased since all of 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 that are worth checking out as part of your wider research.

Blackboard

Used by:

  • K-12
  • Higher education
  • Governments 
  • Corporates

Key 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

Used by:

  • K-12
  • Higher education

Key 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

Moodle

Used by:

  • K-12
  • Higher education
  • Corporates

Key features, integrations, and options:

  • Open source
  • Modern interface
  • Desktop and mobile friendly
  • Customizable themes
  • Custom design options
  • Mass enrolment
  • Bulk course creation
  • Personalized dashboard
  • Task list with due dates
  • Forums
  • Wikis
  • Glossaries
  • Database activities
  • 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
  • Word counter
  • Checklists
  • Attendance tracking
  • Progress tracker for educators and students
  • Secure authentication options
  • Easy back up 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

Used by:

  • K-12
  • Higher education
  • Nonprofits
  • Corporates
  • Foundations

Key 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
  • 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
  • Cloud-hosted

McGraw-Hill Connect

Used by:

  • K-12

Key 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

Used by:

  • K-12

Key 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

Used by:

  • K-12
  • Higher education
  • Corporates

Key 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?

A lightbulb resting on a blackboard inside a thought bubble drawn in white chalk.

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 research and explore, too. We’re just partial to this list because we know they have a great built-in WYSIWYG HTML editor (yep, TinyMCE!).

Over to you now…

If you’d like to do a bit more research before you choose your LMS, check out our previous posts:

DesignLMS
Ben Long
byBen Long

Developer Advocate at Tiny. Computer scientist turned storyteller. Reminisces about programming on the MicroBee. Writes picture books for kids. Also the wearer of rad shoes. “Science isn’t finished until you share the story.”

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