With the abundance of online learning and development tools, navigating the options can feel overwhelming. Two terms frequently discussed are “eLearning platforms” and “learning management systems” (LMS). While both deal with online learning and training programs, understanding their key differences is important for ensuring you get the most out of your training investment. 

What are the key differences between eLearning platforms and LMSs?

LMS software and eLearning platforms serve overlapping, but distinct purposes. Here are some key differences between the two:

Feature eLearning platform LMS
Primary focus Content creation and delivery Learner and course management and tracking
Target audience Ideal for instructors, coaches, or businesses offering a few online courses Fits organizations managing learning programs for employees, partners, students, or large audiences
Features Primarily offers content hosting, delivery, and basic engagement features like quizzes, discussions, and gamification elements Offers a comprehensive suite of features, including eLearning content management, assessment and certification tools, and reporting and analytics
Customization options Rather limited customization options mainly focused on branding and basic course settings Extensive customization options like branding, theming, learning paths, and personalization
Support Support options vary from platform to platform Typically include dedicated support teams to assist with technical issues, user guidance, and platform administration
Integration capabilities Slightly limited integration capabilities Extensive integration capabilities with various apps and systems like CRM, CMS, eCommerce and payment gateways, and customer experience applications

What is an eLearning platform?

An eLearning platform is a broader term encompassing learning management systems (LMS) but also includes other features supporting various aspects of online learning. These platforms are designed to provide a virtual learning environment where users can access eLearning courses, webinars, lectures, quizzes, and other educational resources.

What is a learning management system (LMS)?

LMS software helps organizations create, deliver, and track employee training and development programs as well as customer education. It centralizes all aspects of the learning experience, making it easier for both admins and learners to manage and access learning content.

Common use cases for LMS

LMS solutions serve various purposes across different sectors. Here are some common use cases for LMS learning:

  • Customer training: LMS systems help companies onboard their customers so they can get started using their product faster and get more value from it. This can include live or virtual instructor-led training, role-based courses and learning paths, certification programs, and more. (The SKilljar LMS was purpose-built for Customer education and training.)
  • Employee training and development: Organizations frequently use LMS platforms to onboard new employees, and provide compliance training, and skill-based training to facilitate professional development.
  • Partner training: Partner training involves educating and empowering external partners, such as resellers, distributors, suppliers, or affiliates, about a company’s products, services, or processes.
  • Distance learning: LMS platforms are extensively used by educational institutions and higher education systems to offer online courses and facilitate distance learning. These systems provide a virtual classroom environment where students can access learning materials, submit assignments, and take assessments remotely.

How can I choose the right LMS for my organization?

Choosing the best LMS for your organization involves careful consideration of several factors. Here are 12 critical criteria to guide your decision:

  1. Implementation complexity: Understand the time and resources needed for setup and data migration. Can the vendor offer a smooth transition plan? How long is it expected to have the system up and running?
  2. Content management: Look beyond basic upload functions. Can you easily categorize, search, and update training content at scale? Does the system support different authoring tools, collaborative content creation, and training management?
  3. Intuitive user interface: Sure, it looks nice, but can your learners navigate the platform easily? Test ease of use with diverse user groups to see if it’s really user-friendly and identify potential bottlenecks.
  4. Engagement: Does the LMS offer personalized learning paths, community features, and microlearning opportunities to keep learners motivated? Can learners return to a course where they left off and receive gentle nudges via email to remind them to complete a course?
  5. Scale: Estimate future expansion and choose an LMS to handle anticipated growth without performance issues. Can it scale horizontally (more users) and vertically (more features)?
  6. Storage: Don’t underestimate your content library needs. Consider future growth and cloud-based storage options (and costs) as you scale..
  7. Integrations: Can you easily transfer data between the LMS and your existing systems (CRM, CMS, and customer success platforms) to tie learning outcomes to business value? Does it seamlessly integrate with your existing tech stack and BI tools?
  8. Security and data privacy: Assess the LMS’s security certifications and data encryption protocols. How do they handle user privacy? Are they in compliance with industry standards such as SOC 2?
  9. SCORM compatibility: Different SCORM versions (sharable content object reference model) and technical standards for learning content exist. Verify the LMS supports the specific versions and profiles needed for your existing course content library.
  10. Built-in quizzing tools: Can you create customizable quizzes within your courses to gauge learner performance?
  11. Tech support: Assess the quality and accessibility of the implementation team and ongoing support options for your administrators and learners.
  12. Experience: Look for providers with proven expertise in your industry or with similar types of customers. Check their customer testimonials and case studies.

While exploring your options, be mindful of these potential red flags to ensure you choose the right system for your needs:

  • Clunky interface with hidden functionalities
  • Poor user experience
  • Limited content formats supported
  • Difficulties in navigating the learning environment
  • Lack of interactive components in the course materials
  • Limited or no data export options
  • Lack of dedicated support options beyond the initial setup
  • Limited external system integrations
  • No single sign-on (SSO) capabilities 
  • Hidden costs for implementation or ongoing maintenance
  • Complicated pricing structure

Skilljar offers a comprehensive solution for Customer Education and eLearning

Skilljar is a customer training platform designed to empower companies to build and manage robust Customer Education and eLearning programs. The scalable platform caters to businesses of all sizes, allowing them to personalize the learning experience to increase product adoption and customer retention. With features like built-in analytics, multiple content types, and eCommerce and revenue generation functionality, Skilljar delivers Customer Education programs that deliver business value.

Watch the Skilljar demo to learn how it helps companies build engaging Customer Education programs.