Article: The story of Learning Management Systems

Learning & Development

The story of Learning Management Systems

Where did this technology, Learning Management System, originate? It's not as new as we think.
The story of Learning Management Systems

The Background

One of the fundamental functions in human resource management, since we started gathering men and women for a common purpose, has been training. The need to design and then record such training programs existed since that time, however with the advent of technology, the way we learn and record those learning is undergoing a lot of change. 

An interesting infographic on the history of LMS is found here. It’s interesting to see what we use today has its roots as far back as 1924 while some aspects such as; adaptive teaching were invented back in 1956. 

So is LMS only about creation, distribution, and recording of e-learning? Not really, today’s organizations are demanding a lot more from the LMS ecosystem. It’s not only the traditional top down – I Tell You Do – kind of training platform but also about employees taking control of their learning’s and using both internal & external sources to further the same. While a large majority of the learning will remain blended there is a clear shift also happening towards self-paced online group learning’s via MOOC’s. 

As rightly mentioned in the Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2016 – “Corporate learning departments are changing from education providers to content curators and experience facilitators, developing innovative platforms that turn employee learning & development into a self-driven pursuit”

Fostering Culture of learning employees 

Most companies Globally and in India are only going to increase their spend on employee learning & skill development in time to come – a multi-pronged and robust learning management system could thus be an important infrastructure backbone to ensure that organizational objectives are being met via the learning programs.

The EcoSystem

Just like most other HR Tech space – the space for LMS is crowded with multiple options. Typically the options companies have are large end to end talent management solution providers like Oracle and SAP or standalone learning / talent management suite providers like CornerStoneOnDemand, PeopleFluent, Halogen and Saba while there are also point solution providers like UltiPro, Moodle, Upside Learning and many others. 

There are companies who have e-learning content creation capabilities while there are others who only provide the LMS platform and users can then plug-in content from various places. Typically organizations prefer to buy off-the-shelf content for certain Statutory compliance or technical aspects like MS Office, Programming language basics kind of training programs while would prefer to have customized content built for internal policy orientation, on boarding and other purposes. 

In this series we are largely going to look at the LMS platform providers and what is changing in their offerings. For e-learning content creation mostly companies prefer a local partner/vendor or can even outsource to an organization specializing in e-learning content creation space. We would briefly talk about some innovative content creation companies that are available in India. 

One resource that you can explore to identify various types of players in this space are:

Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey 2016  Data

As per the Sierra Cedar HR Systems Survey 2016, Learning solutions are part of the Talent Management solution and close to 80% of organizations buy it today as part of the Talent Management or HRMS suite, thus indicating that most organizations would prefer to buy this solution along with something else. In the same report within talent management solutions we see that adoption of learning solutions is close to Performance Management and Compensation Management – both upstream and downstream applications. While the Talent management category has about 9 sub categories of applications, the report states that on an average an organization is likely to have 4 of these applications. Interesting, the report claims that high performing talent driven organizations will look for integration in these sub categories of talent management while other organizations are not so keen on the same.  

Learning Application Top Vendors

Learning Application Top Vendors

Note: This is not a ranking but just identifying high adoption of these solutions within the survey population in the cited report. (Source: Sierra Cedar HR Systems Survey 2016)

As you can see CornerStone OnDemand is the only vendor which seems to be leading the way here as far as adoption of Learning Applications across company sizes are concerned. 

However as stated in the Sierra-Cedar report this space is in for a major shake up as multiple HRMS solution providers have come out with their own learning platforms, major ones being WorkDay and Oracle HCM Cloud.

SumTotal and SkillSoft, now a combined organization, will be an interesting global player to watch for as they could leverage their combined strengths to move their adoption across organization sizes. 

Others which are typically local organizations with content capabilities and light LMS environments continue to be a significant force especially in the small size organizations. These are the players who are going to come under tremendous pressure from these global organizations as they look to further their customer base in this segment. 

The parallels in EducationTech and HRTech

If you look at the EdTech space and the categorization within the same, its a good picture to remind yourself of what’s happening in the corporate LMS space too and this is where the problem for HR leaders starts.

Education Technology Market

As you can see from this infographic, the space is being further divided into niches even going down subject specific solutions – which is similar to having industry and domain specific learning content & solutions. 

The major challenge for an HR leader would then be to select an LMS which is able to integrate such vast variety of “sources of content” and make the same available to the end user – the employee, in an interesting and intuitive way. 

Since the employee will have limited time with this explosion of content I see a lot of companies will struggle to make their LMS investment align with larger organizational objectives and drive user adoption. 

The Problems in LMS Implementation

If we look at the 2016 LMS User Report by Software Advice, a learning management systems consultancy, we get following key benefits and challenges in LMS implementation:

Top 5 Impact of LMS on Employee Training:

  1. Ability to track learner progress
  2. Organization of Training content
  3. Ability to train more workers
  4. Training Standardization 
  5. Training Efficiency

Interestingly when we look at devices used to access LMS by both trainers and trainees – the top  3 devices are:

  1. Desktops
  2. Laptops
  3. Tabs

So this clearly indicates that while there is a lot of talk around making learning mobile the actual user adoption is still very low on the mobile learning and it would have to evolve over the next 2-3 years. The key to higher mobile adoption being access to mobile as preferred device during work hours or for work related tasks – certain roles like sales & field force are more amenable to these behaviours than mostly office based staff. The other reason would be to have mobile enabled content – most content is not just the same when viewed on mobile. 

A look at some of the problems faced with LMS one quickly notices  2 types of categories:

  1. Technical Type of Issues – Integration with other systems, Technical issues within LMS, Security Issues and difficulty with scaling
  2. Usability Type of Issues – Difficulty learning the system, Slowed User Productivity and Low User adoption

This clearly indicates that an HR leader is likely to struggle on both sides of the solution which can feed into each other. 

The India Story

Most large global player we have mentioned above are also available in India and so if you are really a mid or large size organization in India you are likely to evaluate those options for your needs. Typically in this space you are likely to encounter – Workday, CornerStone on Demand, SAP SuccessFactors, Oracle, SumTotal and Saba. While there are other global LMS solutions that one can evaluate lets now look at whats happening in India. I am particularly going to talk about Indian companies who are offering some innovative solution in this space. 


This is a classical cross over between EdTech & HRTech and hence I love this particularly. This company’s journey is very interesting starting from publishers to becoming now a solution provider for corporate, educational institutions and publishers. This is a nice combination of LMS, content creation, authoring tools and analytics. What is not clear from their website however is the ability to plug in content from various other open sources such as Coursera. 

Upside Learning 

This organization covers your LMS and content creation needs. In my opinion, it does come very close to being a comprehensive LMS solution in the Indian market. The company’s focus on SMB and enterprise customers clearly indicates the breadth of customers they can serve. A look at their Resources section gives one an impression that this company is clearly taking the position of an Learning solution expert in the market. The Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning Technology awards in 2015 and 2016 underline this focus. 


It’s a services company which has later forayed into products, thus making them unique in their value proposition. This company can not only provide you with their LMS product but also help you with custom content development needs. The Asian banker award showcased on their website goes to show their understanding of the banking domain. This in my view is another trend that we are likely to see in HR Tech especially in Talent Management solution space –Industry focused solution providers. 


If you love free stuff and love programming then this one is for you. This is an LMS freeware thats available across the globe. With functionalities like assessment, collaboration, Social and workflows amongst others – this does look like a good option for an organization to evaluate. The critical question to answer however would be how much of support your organization would need technically. While there are obvious benefits of open source software namely low cost, access to source code developed for other applications and availability of a larger open talent community, one must also be cognizant of the challenges involved. 

In Conclusion

With the advent of Social, Mobile, Cloud, and Analytics (SMAC), most HR processes have been impacted, however one can argue that way people learn & engage in groups to learn is at the forefront of the same. 

We expect to see more innovations in this space combined with consolidation of tech service providers to happen in the future. So if you are a learning leader or HR leader looking to implement an LMS solution, be extremely focused on your immediate & near future needs that will surely help you to keep a lot of clutter out of the way. 


LMS User Trends 
Education Tech Market 
LMS Challenges
LMS implementation Challenges 
Corporate learning management System
LMS Infographic
Top 10 eLearning Content Development Companies 

Read full story

Topics: Learning & Development, Learning Management Systems

Did you find this story helpful?



How do you envision AI transforming your work?

Be Heard: Share Your Feedback and Recommend Our Content!

Selected Score :