What are Learning Management Systems (LMS)?

A learning management system—or an “LMS” for short—is a software resource or application that provides communication tools, academic course management, and a user interface for students, educators, and administrators in K–12 schools and higher education institutions.

What an LMS is and how an LMS is implemented will look unique to each management system, but every LMS is designed to provide endless benefits and ROI when well incorporated into educational organizations.

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The Importance of an LMS

A learning management system allows educators to design and share resources and critical content while simultaneously considering participation and performance. An LMS is a valuable tool within many K–12 schools and higher education institutions because it simplifies educating a group of individuals at any level of instruction. An LMS facilitates education for both the teacher and student through a single platform for communication, assignments, grading, coursework, and on-demand access to learning modules.

Six LMS Benefits

An LMS is a critical tool for many education institutions because it simplifies the process of creating, sharing, and analyzing educational content. Driving educational outcomes is paramount to preparing students for success. An LMS helps learners and educators alike through many attractive features. While there are many factors to consider when choosing an LMS, their main benefits include:

1. Saves Time

An LMS empowers learners with valuable educational tools while centralizing all their coursework and resources. No matter how many classes they are taking, everything is available and accessible anywhere through one secure login.

With single sign-on (SSO) integration, learners have seamless access, eliminating the hassle of remembering multiple passwords or navigating through different sign-in portals.

At the same time, educators save valuable time through the automation of time-consuming tasks, such as building courses, issuing exams, grading coursework, and reporting performance. Automation gives educators more time to focus on pedagogy and interacting with their students.

2. Saves Money

Educating others isn’t only time-consuming, but expensive. By connecting SIS and LMS on one Blackbaud platform, a school can create a single source of truth for student data and information. With a unified system, the school can have a holistic view of all departments to support data-driven decisions for the entire school and allocate its financial resources where they are needed most.

3. Repurposes Existing Resources

Educators can upload pre-existing teaching resources to expedite the process. Many LMS are designed to allow simple integration with pre existing systems, allowing teachers to build courses rapidly for no additional cost and with virtually no technical demand. Repurposing these resources while identifying various new learning modules and assessments helps schools create a robust archive of educational resources customized to the organization’s needs.

4. Gathers Accurate Learner Snapshots

Tracking learner progress is the only way to guarantee students are engaged and properly utilizing an LMS. One of the biggest advantages of an LMS is its ability to simplify the student’s progress reporting by easily providing status updates on every individual within a course or program. Educators can access each stage of a student’s journey and identify areas where additional help or tutoring may be needed.

5. Identifies Impact

Data is power, and having continual access to learner progress and accurate reporting is invaluable when scaling any organization. One of the biggest advantages of utilizing an LMS is the unlimited access to historical exam results, course completion statuses, and student grades. These features are all designed to help identify how learners are benefiting from the coursework and help admins see the impact of the LMS. By gauging student engagement and progress, administrators can instantly demonstrate the system’s return on investment for these learning strategies.

6. Streamlines Compliance

An LMS can provide the compliance needed to satisfy any and all regulatory prerequisites. It can provide reports and dashboards and relieve administrative burdens by eliminating data entry across platforms. Streamlined compliance ensures learners have garnered the correct skills, their information is secure, and school operations are in accordance with all guidelines. With an LMS, much of the compliance process becomes automated, eliminating any concerns about human error.

LMS Features

So what is an LMS used for exactly? An LMS is a centralized online system where educators can store and organize educational resources, and where each student has a unique login to access the content most relevant to them. Here are the key features of a successful learning management system: 

  • Responsive User Experience: Learners should be able to access an LMS from a variety of devices, such as a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer. LMS navigation should be tailored for students to reduce distractions and foster an educational environment.
  • Automation: As mentioned above, LMS can be huge time savers by automating routine tasks so instructors can spend more time on class engagement and less on administrative tasks.
  • Reporting: Generating student  progress reports and analyzing learner data is key  to identifying and optimizing the LMS’s effectiveness on the students. An LMS makes reporting, accessing data, and storing invaluable information easy and accessible.
  • Content Management: Administrators and teachers should be able to catalog and customize learning experiences for their students. Likewise, students should be able to easily access a robust catalog of educational content through a well-organized and intuitive interface.
  • Integration: Blackbaud’s LMS, for instance, is fully integrated with their SIS and Enrollment Management System, providing a 360 degree view of the student’s  records, such as attendance, courses registered, extracurricular activities, homework completion, grades, health records, and more.
  • Communication: LMS platforms should have robust communication tools to connect students and families with their educators at any time. Blackbaud’s LMS also empowers educators to innovate with interactive assignments that engage students and encourage peer collaboration. 
  • Compliance: An LMS should be OneRoster and LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) compliant, use multi-factor authentication, and have extensive data security protocols that meet or exceed all federal and industry standards.

Challenges of an LMS

The biggest challenge of utilizing a learning management system is setting up the system and configuring for the institution’s existing workflows, infrastructure, and data sets. Implementing an LMS may demand some time to get everything running on the IT side and from the educators who may be still learning how to use online learning modules. It is crucial to find the right software vendor to provide not only a top-tier LMS, but also ongoing training and support. By knowing the challenges of implementing an LMS, organizations can properly anticipate and combat the time-consuming process of embracing a learning management system. 

How an LMS is Implemented

Many education institutions develop an SIS/LMS transition plan in partnership with their LMS provider, such as Blackbaud, to ensure the integration process runs smoothly. The rollout and training schedules should be based on the organization’s goals and needs, and the LMS provider will then test the LMS courses within a small group of users. This allows a trial period to ensure everything is running smoothly. 

Create an Implementation Team

Select a small committee of school administrators and teachers who will work with your LMS vendor on the overall implementation process and day-to-day task setup. Having knowledgeable, go-to people at the school involved in the implementation process will help instill confidence internally and create buy-in among other faculty and staff.

Plan for Three Stages of LMS Adoption

Implementing a new LMS takes time, and gaining widespread adoption among your faculty, staff, students, and families is a process. By categorizing your school’s progress into stages—organization, replacement, and innovation—you are setting realistic expectations and recognizing that various stakeholders will adapt at different rates. For more details, download Blackbaud’s white paper on SIS and LMS adoption for K–12 schools.

How Blackbaud’s LMS Can Help 

At Blackbaud, we understand that fostering a strong relationship between students and schools is crucial for student success. Our innovative platform starts with an industry-leading SIS/LMS in one system that empowers schools to streamline communication, facilitate collaboration, and engage learners in their education. Through user-friendly interfaces, comprehensive data analysis, and personalized insights, our SIS/LMS software revolutionizes how students interact with schools, ensuring a seamless and enriching educational journey. Simplify LMS implementation and elevate your organization’s academic program by requesting a demo with Blackbaud today.