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How to Build a Learning Management System: Apriorit’s Guide

Finding an off-the-shelf learning management system (LMS) that will meet your clients’ complex needs is almost impossible. Often, such solutions are too expensive and lack the flexibility and personalization required to create a culture of continuous learning that boosts skills, drives innovation, and helps your business grow. Thus, custom learning management system development can be the best course of action for your business.

By building your custom LMS platform, you can include all features necessary to meet your standards. Such a platform can match your business goals and users’ individual learning paths. A custom LMS platform should also work seamlessly with your current technology, adapt as your needs change, and give you detailed insights through advanced analytics and reports.

In this article, you will learn about the basics of LMS and how to develop a learning management system that fits your needs. This article will be useful for businesses, educational institutions, and IT companies who are looking for an efficient way to share knowledge with and track the progress of their learners.

Introduction to LMSs and their types

A web-based learning management system automates the learning process for employees, students, and other users. The learning management system market has experienced significant growth over the last decade, and this trend is expected to continue. Schools, universities, and other organizations are increasingly adopting LMS platforms to manage and deliver online training and education. 

According to MarketsandMarkets, the global LMS market is expected to grow from $18.7 billion in 2022 to $43.6 billion by 2027 at a CAGR of 18.4%. This growth can be attributed to the increasing demand for personalized learning experiences and the growing adoption of eLearning in various industries. The COVID-19 pandemic boosted the LMS market as organizations and educational institutions rapidly shifted to online learning.

With a learning management system, you can gather all your educational materials in one place and make them available to all users in just one click. Here are some other tasks you can do with an LMS: 

  • Create different groups of learners according to their specialties, functions, or job positions 
  • Assign learners a single course, a test, or a whole series of materials (a learning path) 
  • Track each learner’s progress to adjust the learning plan if needed

The right LMS helps you save time, set unified learning standards, and regularly assess and develop users’ knowledge. A wide range of organizations, from high schools to corporations, can benefit from using a learning management system to reduce expenses for things like:

  • Classroom rentals
  • Educators’ salaries
  • Printouts of learning materials

However, it’s not easy to find an LMS that aligns with your business needs. Sometimes, no off-the-shelf product can fulfill all of your expectations, so it’s better to build an LMS from scratch. 

Before deciding to build a custom LMS, you need to know about the types of LMSs and their deployment options.  

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Types of learning management systems

There are many different types of learning management systems, distinguished by application type and deployment options. Let’s take a look at the most popular applications of LMSs.

types of LMS

Corporate LMS. An internal corporate learning management system is deployed and managed by the organization itself. This gives the organization complete control over the system and its data. Internal corporate LMSs are typically used to train employees on new products and services, company policies and procedures, and various job-related skills.

Academic LMS. Schools and universities also need effective learning management systems for their students. For some small schools and colleges or government institutions, the cost of building a custom learning management system can be too high. However, times are changing. During COVID-19 quarantines, servers of SaaS learning management systems like Google Classroom were heavily loaded. As a result, some institutions considered investing in developing their own customizable LMS.

Another common factor for distinguishing types of learning management platforms is the availability of their source code.

Open-source LMSs are free to download and use. This makes them a good option for organizations that want to add something to existing code. However, an open-source LMS can be more difficult to set up and use than a commercial LMS. 

Commercial or closed-code LMSs are developed and sold by third-party vendors. They offer a wide range of features and functionality, but they are not as flexible as open-source LMSs. 

Finally, you can choose among deployment options for your LMS:

deployment options for learning management systems
  • A cloud-based LMS, or SaaS LMS, is hosted in the cloud, usually by a third-party provider. This makes it relatively easy to set up and use, but a cloud-based LMS can also be more expensive in the long run. Cloud-based LMSs are highly scalable, so they can easily grow with your business.
  • An on-premises LMS is installed on your own servers. This gives you more control over the system, but it also requires more technical expertise to set up and maintain. On-premises LMSs typically offer better performance and data security than cloud-based counterparts, especially for businesses with a large number of users or complex training programs, but are more expensive to set up and maintain.
  • A hybrid model offers the best of both worlds: the flexibility and scalability of a cloud-based LMS, along with the security and control of an on-premises LMS. A business may host its core LMS platform in the cloud but store sensitive data, such as employees’ personally identifiable information (PII), on-premises.

Depending on your business needs, you can choose an off-the-shelf solution and try to customize it, or you can opt to create an LMS from scratch. 

While the development of a custom learning management platform may take time and require thorough planning, in the end, you’ll get a solution that fully meets your unique needs. Not to mention that you can change and adjust the feature set of a custom LMS without having to pay for functionality you don’t really need.

So where should you start when you want to build a custom learning management platform? In the next section, we discuss how to create an LMS and some key steps to develop your own system. 

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How to build a learning management system

Whether you want to come up with your unique idea for a new platform or customize an existing one, we can offer you a few tips based on Apriorit’s practice:

  • Understand your target audience and their needs
  • Conduct market and user research
  • Consider market trends
  • Test your product idea in real market conditions
  • Make changes based on experimentation and user feedback

Now, let’s look at the actual process of creating a learning management system.

How to create an LMS

1. Define the requirements for your LMS

A successful learning management system should be based on a well-structured project plan. Requirements elicitation is the first step to creating such a plan. This process involves identifying, collecting, and documenting the needs and expectations of all stakeholders. 

Once you have gathered all of this information, you will need to analyze it and finalize the project requirements. These should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. They should also be prioritized so that you address the most important requirements first. Our research and discovery team can help you find your vision and bring your project to life.

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2. Choose LMS features

Make a list of valuable features for your learning management system. When building an LMS, you should understand what core functionality you need to implement to create an excellent user experience and increase your product’s value. 

While the final feature set will depend on your specific niche and business goals, here are some of the core features you can consider for your platform:

main features of learning management systems

Course builder. This feature is considered the core of a learning management system. It allows users to create courses for training within a company or school. A course builder has to be able to build courses around various topics and create quizzes to test learners.

Content management. Content is essential for a website or application, and it’s also quite important for a customizable learning management system. When building your own LMS, note that the content management feature is responsible for the content that will be used for training employees.

Skills assessment and testing. A learning management system should be equipped with a tool to manage and measure skills that users acquire. Assessing skills is very important, as it helps you see whether training is effective. Skill assessment can take the form of quizzes, tests, and assignments.

Progress tracking. A quality learning management system should allow educators and learners to track their progress. It should show the number of quizzes learners have taken, how long it takes them to complete those quizzes, and the number of tasks learners have completed. This feature usually includes the following:

  • Achievements. Track a learner’s progress with achievement rewards.
  • Statistics. Track a learner’s progress by analyzing statistics.
  • Surveys. Create surveys to find out what your users think about courses or about your learning management system in general.

User interactions. When building a customized learning management system, you should focus on making the learning process easy for users. You can achieve this goal by giving users a community where they can share their experiences. Consider adding a live chat or a forum where users can discuss things and get quick answers to their questions. This can make communication and information sharing easier for people within your company.

User access management. Make sure that only authorized people can create, edit, and remove learning materials. Security measures can prevent you from losing business data and exposing users’ private information as well as protect your LMS from unauthorized access and attacks. 

Calendar. A calendar lets you set deadlines for learners. This feature is quite important if a group needs to study on a set schedule. A calendar feature can even be useful for individual learning — for example, to track progress and the speed at which a user learns.

Library. A library organizes content that can be reused for different courses. It can also store supplemental content that might be helpful for students. The library in a learning management system should be able to support different kinds of content like text documents, PDFs, and audio and video files. Don’t forget to implement a filtering system for fast search.

Mobile support. Usually, learning management systems are created for web use. But consider making your LMS accessible on all kinds of devices to provide users with access to your LMS throughout the day. Lots of people prefer to use their mobile devices over computers. Mobile support also provides learners with the flexibility to take courses when it’s most convenient for them.

Notifications. A learning management system should provide real-time updates on lessons and exams. An LMS can send notifications in the form of:

  • Simple text messages
  • Images
  • Action buttons

The features listed above are only the basics for any LMS, so you can change this list depending on your business needs. You can expand the capabilities of your platform and, say, automate repetitive tasks with the help of AI, thus streamlining content management and improving the user experience. Now that you have prepared all the features, it’s time to choose the technologies to implement your vision.  

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3. Make sure to choose the right tech stack 

The tech stack can create or destroy a project. It is also a determining factor when budgeting for LMS development. The best thing about hiring an experienced development partner is the range of choices you get. You can delegate the task of choosing the right tech stack to qualified project managers

Here are some of the most common technologies that are suitable for LMS development.

technologies for LMS development

These are just a few examples of technologies you can use for your LMS. Depending on the features list and tech stack you need for your project, you will need to look for different specialists with wide expertise.

4. Build an MVP for your LMS

Instead of diving right into building a full-scale platform, start by creating a minimum viable product (MVP) version of your learning management system. By first launching an MVP and testing its technical and business performance, you’ll be able to find out what users like and don’t like in your app. Collecting feedback from users and making changes based on that feedback allows you to continuously improve your LMS to make it better meet the needs of your users. Improvements might include adding new features, fixing bugs, or enhancing the user interface.

This approach is user-centered, meaning that it focuses on your users’ needs and preferences. It helps to ensure that your LMS is robust and effective because it is tailored to your clients’ specific needs. After a successful MVP launch, you can move on with releasing a competitive full-scale version of your platform.

5. Provide ongoing maintenance and support

Launching your final product to a wider audience is not the final step in creating an LMS. You also need to provide maintenance, updates, and further support for your platform. This may involve answering questions from your clients, helping them troubleshoot problems, and providing them with training on how to use your LMS.

Also, keep gathering feedback from your users with the help of usability testing, feedback analytics, and various forms and surveys. This will help you plan your platform’s growth and improvements and pick what features to implement next to deliver an efficient, useful, and competitive product.

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Developing a custom learning management system is a long and hard process. But if done correctly, your LMS can become successful and bring a lot of value to you and your customers. 

A well-developed custom LMS can help you save time, set unified learning standards, and regularly assess and develop users’ knowledge. Apriorit experts have extensive experience with research and discovery services, along with custom development. As a result, we can help you create your own LMS, from market analysis to providing ongoing support after release.

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