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Types Of Learning Management Systems Compared

Learning Management Systems, Cloud-Based LMS, Hosted LMS, Publishing and managing training content, custom-built LMS

Learning management systems (LMS), in the simplest words, are platforms designed to manage, deliver, and track eLearning initiatives. Hence, an LMS is perhaps the most crucial tool in any eLearning machine.

Not understanding the platform before making a purchase can turn out to be an expensive mistake. From the incurred cost of buying the wrong LMS to the man-hours wasted in fixing such a mistake, the implications of choosing the wrong LMS are far-reaching.

With this article, I hope to clear some air around learning management systems by talking about the different types and their applications. 

While LMS can be categorized on the basis of a number of features and use-case scenarios, comparing them to the deployment model they use is the most commonly accepted practice.

Some learning management systems have also carved out a special niche for themselves, and are only designed to be applied to specific forms of training or industries. Examples include LMS meant for medical organizations or sales training.

With that out of the way, let’s understand the different types of learning management systems, based on their deployment approach:

Cloud-Based LMS/Hosted LMS

The most popularly used type of LMS, cloud-based LMS offers a number of advantages. For starters, these require no installation, no updates, and can work on most devices that can access the internet. Loaded with training content management and progress tracking capabilities, these LMS bridge the geographical gaps between instructors and learners. The simplest example of a cloud-based LMS is a WordPress LMS that can be integrated into an existing website.

Moreover, cloud-based LMS is also extremely easy to scale as the number of learners, instructors, and instructional designers grow. Some cloud-based LMS designed for compliance training even keep track of the changing compliance guidelines and notify the learning administrators of any developments they need to be aware of.

Installed LMS

As the name implies, the installed LMS is a software that an organization or instructors need to purchase and install on their computers. These usually come with a license that allows the instructor to enroll a specific number of students in their course.

Publishing and managing training content, along with installation and updates of the LMS is all done manually. The biggest advantage of an installed LMS, however, is that it is not dependent on an internet connection to function.

In fact, modern installed LMS is designed to automatically download updates and new course material from the cloud whenever there is an internet connection, and then function seamlessly when there is no internet connectivity.

Open Source LMS

Open-source LMS is, in most cases, created by one user for their own use. Then, it is made available to anyone and everyone, for free. With an open-source LMS, you usually have the freedom to design and add features that you may find relevant, provided you have the required skill set to do so.

Open-source LMS is usually only successful when they are able to generate a lot of interest and garner a community supporting them. The reason behind this is that for users with relatively lower technical aptitude, there is no official support for an open-source LMS (it’s free software, after all). 

However, when there is a strong community using the same open-source LMS as you, you can expect at least some level of expert guidance from them.

Custom-Built LMS

Just as the name suggests, custom-built LMS are designed to suit the unique training needs of an organization. Such solutions are relatively pricey but offer unmatched advantages. 

Apart from having the exact features and tracking capabilities that are relevant to your organization and its training goals, such solutions are also supported by a team of expert developers that work round the clock to ensure your training initiatives never run into any problems.


There you have it, learning management systems categorized on the basis of their deployment approach. In each of these categories, there are hundreds of options available, each offering its own set of unique features. 

Once you have selected the ideal category for your needs, make a list of features you require, to narrow down your choices. Finally, make sure you take a free trial of the final few options on your list, before making an informed decision.

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