eLearning can help SMEs upskill their workforce and provide courses to customers and partners. But what technology do they need to make this step? In this article we take a look at the advantages of a learning management system (LMS).
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Thanks to modern technology, it has never been easier to access educational and training material. The web has a huge variety of free resources —from YouTube videos to blogs— and many specialist eLearning providers offer courses, modules, and even entire university degrees that are delivered entirely online.
Delivering these services doesn’t necessarily require extensive technical knowledge, but small to midsize enterprises (SMEs) that want to explore eLearning should understand the key tools —the major one being a learning management system (LMS).
Although eLearning was available before the COVID-19 pandemic, it experienced a surge in interest in 2020. Learners turned to online courses because the social distancing regulations at the time meant that in-person learning was impossible in many cases. Now, online learning is so commonplace that some are asking whether physical classrooms are still relevant.
In this article, we look at the advantages of a learning management system for SMEs that want to provide eLearning for employees, students, or as a product they can sell to customers.
What is a learning management system?
A learning management system (LMS) is an application that SMEs can use to create, manage, and deliver learning content via the web. They are at the heart of any online learning programme and are one of the major ways that teachers, students, and administrators interact with each other and the course content. Most learning management systems allow content to be created and delivered via a web browser or mobile application, so they are both user-friendly and accessible.
Course creators can use learning management systems to structure their programmes. They can upload text, images, video, and audio material for learners and split it into modules or lessons depending on their needs. The LMS tracks a user’s progress as they work through the material and provides mechanisms for learners to test their knowledge via quizzes or assignments. Usually, the LMS can mark quizzes automatically. Then for more complex coursework, the student submits this via the LMS and the teacher assesses it and returns it all within the same system, so everyone has a record of what’s going on.
What are the benefits of a learning management system?
Without a learning management system, organisations that want to deliver eLearning courses would have to reinvent the wheel. They would need to find a way to host, manage, and deliver their content, track students’ progress, and assess them online. It’s possible to do all this manually using separate systems, but an all-in-one solution that’s specifically designed for the purpose offers several advantages:
1. Boost your employees’ skills
According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), 78% of firms that tried to recruit in the 12 months to August 2022 experienced difficulties in doing so, and 82% of those said that this was due to a lack of applicants with relevant qualifications, skills, and experience. The FSB also noted that ‘education and training can no longer be just for the first 20 or so years of life.’
Small businesses can look to improve both hard and soft skills in their workforce by offering an on-the-job training programme for employees. This can be sourced from external training providers or made specific to roles within your company and delivered through a learning management system.
2. Reach new customers
Online courses can help SMEs develop new business models or attract new customers to existing offerings. For example, if your business sells gardening equipment online, you could provide gardening courses as a paid-for product or as free content to expose your brand to potential future customers. The idea is that once people have taken a free gardening course on your platform and seen the value in your brand, they will be more likely to buy the equipment they need from your online store. You could even combine the two types of courses into a freemium model, offering basic learning material for free and then charging for more advanced modules.
3. Track your success
Learning management systems can hold interesting data about learner numbers, how they interact with the course content, how successful they are at completing the courses, and how satisfied they are with the outcomes. SMEs can use this data to refine their eLearning offering and analyse where students might be struggling with certain areas to improve the overall experience.
4. Improve access to education
If your business operates across multiple sites, or if you have people working remotely, it can be hard to deliver training at a time and place that suits everyone. eLearning courses delivered through a learning management system can be accessed via a web browser or mobile anytime, so you’re not constrained by location, time zones, or shift patterns. Your people can learn when and where it’s most convenient for them.
5. Make learning more interactive
Learning management systems provide new ways for learners to engage with subject matter. Unlike traditional corporate learning programmes based on an employee handbook, online courses can include a variety of media and offer frequent opportunities for learners to test their knowledge. Many LMSs also include social learning features, where students can comment on the material and discuss their work with their teacher and other learners.
How can organisations manage employee training with an LMS?
If you are interested in delivering employee training via a learning management system, there are several things to consider.
Begin by evaluating your existing training programs and determining how they can be transformed into an eLearning format For instance, if the training is in video or text form, it can be readily uploaded onto an LMS. However, asking people to read through lots of text online may not be the most engaging way to learn, so you could consider adding quizzes along the way, or transform some of the material into different formats.
If you have practical training that requires learners to be there on site (for special equipment, or to deal with customers, for example), you could ask them to complete some theory elements online. This way, the on-site session is purely focused on the in-person elements of the job. You’ll also need to establish how learners will be assessed and how they can demonstrate that they have mastered the skills they need.
Once you know what material you could deliver online, you’ll need to consider which LMS is right for you. All LMS software offers certain functionalities as standard, including course creation and management, progress tracking, assessment tools, mobile learning, analytics, and more. But some products have more advanced features, incorporating virtual or augmented reality for complex simulations. Some include gamification, where students get points or rewards as they learn new skills and can measure their progress against others on a leaderboard— a popular feature with younger learners.
Grow your SME with an LMS
SMEs that want to deliver eLearning content to their employees, partners, or customers may want to consider a learning management system. These provide a common solution for course creators and learners to manage, consume, and complete eLearning courses.
As well as helping SMEs to upskill their employees, a learning management system may help them deliver courses as a product or marketing tool, attracting new business in the process.