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A Cloud LMS By Any Other Name

Cloud LMS

“It is nor Social , nor Mobile 

Nor NextGen, nor Gamified,

Nor any other LMS Belonging to the Cloud.

O, be some other name! What’s in a name?  

That which we call a Cloud LMS 

By any other name would be so sweet? “

That’s some good poetry.  I’ve always been amazed that Shakespeare blogged about learning management systems way back when.  He’s the reason I got in the LMS blogging business.  If he were around today, I’d imagine he’d be blogging about how ridiculous it  is to have 5 names and endless awards for the same thing — a cloud LMS.  It’s really difficult to keep it all straight but let me show you this math equation I’ve been working on:

Cloud LMS = Mobile LMS = NextGen LMS = Gamified LMS = Social LMS

That should simplify things for you as you research options for your next LMS.  I think Shakespeare would be proud, though mystified by my succinctness.


What is a Cloud LMS?

There is no formal definition, so here is mine.  Cloud, NextGen, Social, Mobile and Gamified LMSs are learning platforms born in the last five years.  They are the modern LMSs built using all the modern tools and techniques.  The solutions are available in the cloud, and are “leased” in both multi-tenant and private deployment models.

Cloud LMSs are the most exciting group in the LMS industry.  Because cloud LMSs are newer, this group is not as technically and functionally advanced as standalone LMSs and HR/talent suite LMSs, however, they have their foot on the accelerator and are making progress at a faster clip than the rest of the industry.

Cloud LMSs go by these self-imposed marketing names as a way to differentiate themselves while they are growing.  Regardless of how the new cloud LMS vendors brand themselves, they all have a “nextgen, mobile, social, gamified, ecommerce, extended enterprise” vision of LMS life.  They also lead the industry in those feature sets.  Because cloud LMSs are easy to access and easier to use, they are a natural fit for voluntary learning users in extended enterprise environments.  All cloud LMSs share the following product traits:

  • Cloud LMSs are fully mobile responsive meaning that the LMS scales, reorganizes menus and the user interface to work on any mobile device or browser globally without squinting and scrolling.  (Resize the browser you are reading this blog post in and you will see what fully responsive is.)
  • Social learning is integrated into the main workflow for a user vs. going to a separate place in the LMS for collaboration which is common with the pre-cloud LMS providers.
  • Gamification is a core feature set that assigns points for the completion of content or social interaction.  Accumulated points lead to badges or awards that represent experience on a user’s profile.
  • They use out-of-the-box API “connectors” to integrate with anything in the cloud like CRM, HR, Talent, Virtual Classroom, Social and eCommerce applications.  This allows them to extend their applications without the overhead of R&D.
  • The user interface is designed to look and feel more like Facebook and Amazon than traditional LMS solutions making it more engaging and familiar.
  • They all use the term “next gen” (next generation) to describe the above feature set.  What they really mean is that they are not a traditional, clunky, legacy LMS.  LMSs in every type of LMS category self proclaim their “next gen-ishness.”


Who are the Best Cloud LMS Providers?

No, this is not a list arbitrarily ranking unlike vendors in a made up category. Here are the most popular cloud LMS vendors I’ve identified doing my 2014 review of dozens of LMS providers:   Docebo, Litmos, Mindflash, LearningCart, DigitalIgnite, InteractYX, Expertus, Saba, DigitalChalk, Cornerstone and Growth Engineering.

Each has its strengths and weaknesses from a technical, product, business, professional service or support standpoint.  The “best” cloud LMS for you is the one that meets your requirements in those five categories.


The Cloud LMS Business Model

Building an ever growing reoccurring stream of “license subscription or leasing” revenue by adding and then keeping clients is the core cloud LMS business model.  All cloud LMS providers have the following business commonalities:

  • Cloud LMS vendors want their prospects to self-educate themselves so they will learn all the information, all the product features, unique value propositions, try the LMS out and then subscribe to the LMS at the end of their trial – hopefully with minimal live sales support.  To support the self-education, their sites are loaded with content.  The more self-education the better, sales people are expensive.
  • They are all experts at “inbound marketing” meaning they constantly publish thought leadership articles and content and consequently attract qualified leads from around the world.
  • It is extremely easy, inexpensive and fast to get started.  Shoppers are encouraged to take a free trial, upload content and users and then start paying for the service in a few weeks.  This is really opposite of the Talent LMS and Stand-Alone LMS providers who always want to “demo first” and hold the “sandbox” experience as a last step for fear of scaring away prospects with their complexity.
  • They charge a reasonable monthly or annual all-inclusive fee for use to their platform.  This fee could be based on user records in the database, active users, course completions, course launches or registrations.
  • Cloud organizations follow an “Agile” rapid design and deploy model of growing their multi-tenant solutions and as a result the level of complexity supported literally grows weekly.    They apply these changes to all customers, at the same time, as part of their subscription fee.



Every organization that wants to educate its extended enterprise or internal employees needs to have a LMS.  If you are shopping for a LMS,  don’t get caught up in all the marketing noise about the labels of best “Gamification” LMS or the best “Social” LMS.  The first step is for you to build the business case on why you need an LMS, and clarify the business metrics you are trying to impact with technology-supported learning.  The second step is to analyze your anticipated user audiences and define how you want them to use the LMS as indicated in your requirements.  If your requirements include social, mobile, ecommerce, gamification, and a cloud-based content delivery and licensing model that’s great.  But rarely, if ever, do those feature sets alone drive a strategic LMS purchase.

Thanks for reading!


Now Available:  LMS Almanac:  Corporate Edition

It’s here folks and it is good.  The LMS Almanac:  Corporate Edition 2016 will help LMS buyers cut through all the fluff in the industry and get a true view of what is going on.   Deep detail and statistics about the corporate LMS market trends, 75 vendor profiles, 100+ comparison graphics and charts, , learning, tech dictionary and more.   If you are looking for an LMS for your employees, channel partners or customers, this report is vital to helping you quickly qualify vendors and find the best for you.

John Leh
About John Leh (131 Articles)
John Leh is CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning, LLC. Named one of the Top 20 Global Elearning Movers and Shakers of 2017, John is a fiercely independent LMS selection consultant and blogger who helps organizations develop and implement technology strategies – primarily for the extended enterprise. John's advice is based on 20 years of industry experience, having served as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to more than 100 learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $65 million. He helps organizations define their business case, identify requirements, short-list vendors, write and manage RFPs and negotiate a great deal. You can connect with John on Twitter at @JohnLeh or on LinkedIn.

2 Comments on A Cloud LMS By Any Other Name

  1. Thank you a lot for sharing this with all folks you really understand what you
    are talking about! Bookmarked. Kindly additionally seek advice from my web
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  2. Thank you for the informative article!
    It would be great to have an upated version of the best cloud LMS providers!
    I think Coursepath would be a nice addition to the list, since it is an intuitive and flexible SaaS platform.

    Kind regards

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