Choosing the Right LMS for External Education

Is your Learning Management System (LMS) optimized for customer and partner training?

According to Talented Learning, more than 800 LMS vendors compete in today’s learning platforms marketplace. But, of course, not all LMSs are created equal. Before investing in a learning platform, it’s important to understand which type of tool would be a good fit for your use case.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the key components of an external training LMS, how to select an LMS, and why they’re essential for a well-designed customer training program. Specifically, you’ll learn about: relevant integrations, content discovery, eCommerce functionalities, and more. Let’s get started!


Internal & External Training Defined

What is Internal Training?

There are three main reasons companies choose to implement an internal training program:

  1. Compliance training: An example of this would be courses on sexual harassment in the workplace, which all employees are required to take.
  2. Skill-based training: Also known as performance management, this is usually “off the shelf” content, which relates to a particular job function, like customer service, information technology (IT) or management. These courses may even be built into compensation structures.
  3. Company-specific training: The use case here is typically onboarding new employees, getting them up to speed on your product, company values, and policies within the office.

Most often, these goals align with an organization’s Human Resources (HR) team.

What is External Training?

External training, on the other hand, is designed for customers and partners. It is often run by a training team within the organization. Types of external training and their typical goals are:

  1. Improve product and customer onboarding and time-to-value;
  2. Increase product engagement and retention;
  3. Scale the Customer Success team; and
  4. Decrease support tickets.

Unlike internal training, this type of training is not mandatory, which means it’s essential for courses to be engaging and well-designed.


Internal vs. External Training Features

There are clearly different goals for internal and external training. So, it’s time to reassess the “one-size-fits-all” approach for both internal and external education. An LMS designed for employee education is simply not the best fit for customer training. That being said, an LMS that specializes in external training can meet the needs of some internal product training initiatives. Consider the following key features of an external training LMS:

1. Branding

One reason to use an external LMS, rather than an internal one, is if you value having the option to change the look and feel of your training site. Specifically, many companies with customer-facing portals want to ensure their system can be custom branded. This allows you to align with any of your brand guidelines. In addition, you can increase conversions when users transition seamlessly from the company’s website to their desired courses. To the student, there’s no difference between the company’s website and the training portal or the LMS.


2. Integrations

When selecting an LMS, many companies keep a list of “must-have” integrations in mind. For internal training, this may be integrations with their performance management system or Human Resources Information System (HRIS). For external training, this includes integrations with their marketing automation system, live training software, and a CRM like Salesforce.

The main benefit of integrating with marketing automation and live training software is providing a streamlined student experience. Students can sign up for webinars, add them to their calendars, and launch – all from one central location. They may also receive automated reminders, or recommendations for similar training events via email. With a CRM integration in place, training teams have the ability to understand the true value of their program. Insights include:

  • How training affects customer health scores, churn, renewals, and expansions
  • The impact of training on product adoption
  • Reach and response to promotional training activities

They can then surface these results to relevant stakeholder teams – without switching between disparate systems.


3. Built or Bought Content

Internal training often consists of “off the shelf” content. Courses may cover a variety of topics, such as:

  • OSHA safety
  • First aid basics
  • Overcoming unconscious bias
  • Diversity in the workplace
  • Project & time management
  • Conflict resolution
  • Customer service training
  • Closing the sale

This type of training is not specific to one organization, so it can be purchased straight from vendors that specialize in certain subjects. For external training, however, flexible content hosting is crucial.

Your team will likely need to create different types of content to engage students with different learning styles. For example, some of your audience may prefer video over audio or text-based formats. And some skills or information may be better taught using one of these mediums over the other. In addition, your product is not static. It shouldn’t be hard to swap out individual assets when it’s time for an update.


4. Content Discovery

Content discovery is important for customer training teams, as their user base varies—not only by job function or skill level, but also from company to company. It simply doesn’t make sense to serve the same content to different people with different needs. To give one example, maybe someone has a question about how to set up an A/B test for an upcoming email campaign. Rather than taking an entire course on marketing best practices, they could skip ahead to the lesson on email marketing, and search specifically for “A/B test,” saving them hours of frustration.

Let students find courses that interest them. This can be accomplished through advanced search functionality, filters, and tagging. As a result, you can maintain higher registration and completion rates.

While there are lots of learning management systems, I think of Skilljar as a platform that supports the customer journey and lets you guide your customers to specific content based on their tenure, our product, and our understanding of their needs.

Shelly Berkowitz, Global Head of Success Enablement & Education, Pendo

5. Accessibility

On a similar note, customer training teams often ask about making courses accessible to select groups. This could be done through:

  • Single-sign-on (SSO): Provide a seamless experience for students who already have a login to the product itself. This way, they aren’t required to create a new username and password for product training.
  • Self-registration: With this method, students first visit the course detail page. Once they click the register button, a registration page will display, where they can sign up with their own login credentials. This allows customers and partners to find your LMS training and register for it without intervention from you or your training team.
  • Access codes: Limit access to your course catalog. Content will only be visible after users sign up using the code you give them.

These features provide teams with the flexibility to offer multiple ways for end users to login. For instance, a company using training for lead generation may want to open registration up to anyone who demonstrates interest. Other companies may prefer to restrict content to certain users, customers, or parts of the customer lifecycle.

To learn more about reducing friction in your Customer Training program, check out our blog post on the topic here.

6. e-Commerce Capabilities

The final feature worth calling out here: e-commerce capabilities. Your LMS should provide flexible pricing and packaging, as well as promo codes to accommodate a variety of pricing structures.

Some teams may offer free courses, as is common with internal training. Others may opt to monetize coursework through:

  • Subscription sales: Customers pay a flat fee for a year of full access to training resources.
  • Ala carte sales: In this model, you charge per course, and customers purchase training as needed.
  • Blended training: Some training is for a fee and other training is free (i.e. basic vs. advanced training). Cost may be based on the customer tier or support package.


Skilljar: The LMS for Customer Education

Unlike other LMS’s, Skilljar’s customer education platform is designed specifically for customer and partner training. Skilljar enables you to successfully onboard, engage, and retain your customers. It supports multimedia content formats, built-in quizzing, self-paced and live training, and is fully mobile responsive, and brandable with extended enterprise features and more detailed reporting and integrations than any LMS on the market today.

Skilljar's intuitive functionality enables you to create courses, integrate your tech stack, and certify learners at scale. See the best external LMS in action!

We hope this guide has given you insight into the core differences between internal and external training programs.

For a downloadable guide to selecting the right LMS for your company, check out our eBook: Choosing the Right Technology for External Training.

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See the best external education software in action. These short videos walk through a few of Skilljar customers' favorite features.

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To learn more about Skilljar's available integrations, visit our Integrations page.

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To learn more about creating flexible content, download our eBook: 3 Reasons to Prioritize On-Demand Customer Training

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Learn more about monetizing your Customer Education program in our ebook: How to Price and Package Customer Training.

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