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What is a Learning Management System (LMS)?

by | eLearning

While NorthMac Services serves a variety of customers, our “bread and butter” are those with eLearning websites.

Technically speaking, an eLearning website is often referred to as a Learning Management System.

Learning Management Systems (LMS) add special functionality to your website that allow students to work through your courses or learning materials online.

How Learning Management Systems Work

How your LMS works will be largely determined by whether you go with a standalone system or a plugin.

Standalone platforms like Teachable allow you to pay a monthly fee (plus a % of sales) to use their system.

As I’ve discussed elsewhere, though, this comes with some important limitations to consider. Privacy, security, and flexibility all get called into question when it comes to using a standalone platform.

This is one of the primary reasons we use WordPress to build all Learning Management Systems for clients.

In the WordPress ecosystem, LMS plugins like TutorLMS and Learndash provide a great alternative to these standalone sites.

It allows you to keep your learning platform private, secure, and free from the control of a company that might decide to remove your content if it does not like it.

Once we add the LMS plugin to your website, we will have to configure some basic details and style the website accordingly.

Then, it’s a short distance from finishing the initial setup to adding your content. Of course, this depends upon your promptly delivering course materials to our team.

We always recommend that clients allow us to complete the initial setup of adding the course contents, that way things are done quickly and efficiently.

But from there, we’ll create training for you that would teach you to keep your courses up to date by yourself (if you choose).

Which Learning Management System Plugin is the Best?

This is a huge question—but also an important one.

We have used quite a few of these in the past, including TutorLMS, Learndash, and AccessAlly. An entire post could be written on the pros and cons of each, but here is a concise summary of each based on our experience:

  1. TutorLMS is a great “plug and play” platform that works great right out of box. Its built-in options for design customization are quite limited, though, meaning some requests cannot be accomplished at all and others require a bit of advanced custom coding.
  2. Learndash is the “Oldie Goldie” of LMS plugins. It’s been around a long time, and though their management has changed hands recently, they still make a great product. That said, it is a lot more difficult to get going out of the box, and it can require a lot of expensive add-ons to perform tasks that other systems can do out of the box.
  3. AccessAlly is by far the most flexible of the options. It is great when you need to be able to sell access to the same information in a variety of different ways, including giving team access to course materials. It is a complicated system with a huge learning curve, but it’s extremely powerful.

So at this point you’re probably wondering which system we use most often. The answer is: TutorLMS.

The built-in integrations and options for notifications, certifications, and multi-instructor setups (among others) are difficult to ignore.

And although its lack of design flexibility can be a con, there’s another way to look at it.

Companies like this spend a lot of time researching how students use learning platforms. For that reason, you will find that the options—while limited—are designed to cater to the student right out of the box.

For me, this is a huge deal, because it aligns with our entire philosophy of business. We always want to make sure we’re going the right thing for our clients and their clients, customers, or students…even when it violates personal preferences.

Should My Learning Management System Be On My Main Website?

Another question that comes up from time-to-time is whether your online course should be housed on the same website as the rest of your marketing materials.

It’s a great question! And the answer is…it depends.

SteveSchramm.co, the home of my personal brand, has TutorLMS built right in so that all of the courses, account management, and content live on the same exact domain.

This is usually our preferred way of handling it, however, there are exceptions.

Some clients appreciate the flexibility to be able to edit their marketing site without fear of messing up something in their course platform.

We totally understand that, and we definitely have clients with that setup. We manage both sites and treat them independently. It works! If you decide to want to move forward with an LMS website, we can discuss your options and make a good decision together.

Conclusion

Building a new eLearning website, or LMS, does not have to be scary or difficult. We’ve built many of these for clients, and frankly, we love it so much that we dedicated most of our business to working on these websites!

If you have a message you’d love to share with the world via an online course, I’d love for you to consider working with us to make it come to life.

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