Do I really need an LMS for e-learning?

Illustratie artikel LMS

No. The answer to this question is: no. You simply just don’t need an LMS (Learning Management System), or an LRS (Learning Record Store) if you’re into Tin Can API already. You can easily use other ways for distributing your e-learning courses, so you don’t have to buy an LMS if you want to make use of e-learning courses for your learners, contrary to what some vendors might tell you.

In this short article, I will explain why you should want have an LMS (or not) and what your options are if you don’t have or want to have an LMS but still want to use e-learning courses.

Why should you want to have an LMS? Or not…

Well, you should want to have such a facility if you would like to know more about what your learners are actually doing. An LMS – as the abbreviation says – is a management system for learning. So, with an LMS you’re able to manage (including distributing courses to specific groups or learners, monitoring results and assessments) the learning activities from your learning community to a high degree, although not everything because not all learning activities are registered in an LMS. The LRS – which communicates with all sorts of devices via Tin Can API – may be the  missing link in regard to this  information gap.

An LMS is useful to manage your learning community by it’s output, and is important to have if you work within an organization which uses things like Key Performance Indicators or has to meet government or branche specific regulations. In both cases you will have to be able to show what your learners have done, by using reports from your LMS.

But you don’t have to use an LMS if you want to begin with e-learning courses for your learners. At least, if you don’t missing out on the advantages this brings you. You can easily make use of e-learning courses for your training activities without ever thinking about investing in an LMS.

What are your options if you don’t want to use an LMS?

If you don’t want or just can’t (afford to) use an LMS in your organization, but do want to make use of the power of e-learning in your learning activities, there are a few options to consider or in any case keep in mind.

The first thing that you should really know about using e-learning courses without an LMS, is that the most popular authoring tools offer you the option to publish your courses without uploading it to an LMS. As an example, I’ve added a screenshot of this option in Articulate Storyline 2 here:

Example options elearning without LMS

Apart from the options ‘LMS’ and ‘Articulate Online’, there are two options you can consider when you want to make use of e-learning without an LMS: ‘Web’ and ‘CD’. Or, to put it in more generic term: publish an e-learning course for a normal website or to a restricted environment like a CD or a USB stick (or a central server for that matter, but that’s a whole other story to tell). Both options give you, at least, an independent, fully working e-learning course that you can give to your learners to use.

The only thing you have to do when publishing to a CD or USB, is that you provide your learners with clear cut instructions on how to open the e-learning course. In this situation, the learner will have to do some effort to find the right file to click on, to start the course correctly. And, besides the lack of information you would normally receive from an LMS, giving learners all of the files of your course could be a bit risky, especcially when your audience likes to snoop around your instructional designers candy store.  And not everyone likes that idea…

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