Best LMS for Schools in 2021: Key Features of the Top Learning Management Systems

in Research   Posted on May 13, 2021  Author: Imed Bouchrika,

Every school wants to improve the learning experience of its students. However, this mission could be a struggle if there are difficulties in handling various assignments, assessments, and lesson development. This is what a learning management system (LMS) is for—to aid teachers, administrators, and directors in solving these problems (Software Advice, n.d.).

According to Digital Learning Compass’ latest Distance Education Enrollment report on students enrolled in online courses, 30% of United States college and university students took at least one online program and almost half of them enrolled full-time in online degrees. At the same time, Faculty Attitudes on Technology’s Inside Higher Ed Survey of faculties teaching online courses reports that 42% of faculty participants had experienced teaching a full-time online program for credit (Fenton, 2018).

We have gathered the best LMS for schools, alongside their features, in this article to guide teachers and schools in choosing the most suitable platform for them and their students.

top lms

Best LMS for Schools Table of Contents

  1. Blackboard Learn: The LMS for Assessment and Content Reporting/Analytics
  2. Canvas: The LMS for Easy Learning and Productivity
  3. Moodle: The LMS for Open-Source Learning and Flexibility
  4. D2L Brightspace: The LMS for Game-Based Learning and Video Assignments
  5. Mindflash: The LMS for Introducing Initial Courses, Blended and Worldwide Training, and More
  6. Google Classroom: The LMS for Course Creation
  7. Edmodo: The LMS for Collaboration
  8. Quizlet: The LMS for Language Learning
  9. Schoology: The LMS for K-12 and Third-Party Integration
  10. NEO LMS: The Award-Winning LMS

Criteria for Choosing the Top LMS for Education

Certain criteria matter when determining the effectiveness and reliability of an LMS (Aston, 2019). The first considerations to come to mind are its strengths and weaknesses. Choose the top LMS for education by taking note of the following:

  1. User interface (UI) – A UI must be neat and visually appealing. Course creators and students must be able to adjust to an LMS interface quickly. Grades, lists, and analytics must also be easy to locate and interpret on an LMS.
  2. Usability – An LMS must be easy to set up, have good customer service, and provides tutorials and training. It must also ensure that it works on all devices, as well as offer instant programs.
  3. Integrations – An LMS must be easy to integrate with other platforms for media development, teleconferencing, content management system (CMS), and other necessary online learning content development tools.
  4. Value for money – An LMS must be worth its cost, which means that it must offer a huge selection of online training materials and include pre-made programs and the necessary tools for content creation.

The values, culture, and resources of a school also carry the same weight of importance when choosing an LMS. Schools must consider:

  • Their scope and limitations, as switching tools need maintenance and support for existing programs
  • The student population that may encounter unique challenges and might not have enough experiences with online learning
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Most Common LMS Functions for Higher Ed Users in the US

Most Common LMS Functions for Higher Ed Users in the US
Teaching students online: 73

Teaching students online

%
Most Common LMS Functions for Higher Ed Users in the US
Creating assignments: 70

Creating assignments

%
Most Common LMS Functions for Higher Ed Users in the US
Creating quizzes or tests: 58

Creating quizzes or tests

%
Most Common LMS Functions for Higher Ed Users in the US
Creating online programs: 67

Creating online programs

%
Most Common LMS Functions for Higher Ed Users in the US
Sharing learning tools: 54

Sharing learning tools

%
Most Common LMS Functions for Higher Ed Users in the US
Facilitating class discussions: 44

Facilitating class discussions

%
Most Common LMS Functions for Higher Ed Users in the US
Recording grades: 56

Recording grades

%
Most Common LMS Functions for Higher Ed Users in the US
Assessing or reporting student performance: 33

Assessing or reporting student performance

%
Most Common LMS Functions for Higher Ed Users in the US
Working one-on-one with students: 25

Working one-on-one with students

%
Most Common LMS Functions for Higher Ed Users in the US
Selling online programs: 18

Selling online programs

%

Capterra Education LMS User Research Survey, 2020

Designed by

Top LMS for Schools

1. Blackboard Learn: The LMS for Assessment and Content Reporting/Analytics

blackboard dashboard

Blackboard Learn is the LMS for assessment and content reporting/analytics. It suits K-12 schools, higher education institutes, government and military projects, and businesses. It is available in managed hosting, self-hosting, or SaaS implementations. It is also compatible with mobile devices.

During the late 1990s, many academic institutes started using Blackboard Learn. A report claims that it is being used by 28% of institutes and 37% of enrollments (Fenton, 2018), making it one of the most widely used LMS solutions.

Key Features

  • Known for its content creation, better content management, student engagement, and online classroom capabilities
  • Has certification administration, customizable courses, widened enterprise, and social learning features
  • Portfolios and improved cloud profiles for students
  • A pop-up for students to preview, safe-assign, and schedule meetings or discussions
  • A string integration scheme and data management, group management, grading improvement strategies, Blackboard drive, and content editor
  • Retention center, program enrollments, progressive content, and active collaboration
  • A built-in calendar
  • An activity stream that organizes items in terms of required attention
  • Gamification functions that are available alongside an ecommerce feature

Price

  • $2,500 a year for schools
  • Free trial for new customers

2. Canvas: The LMS for Easy Learning and Productivity

canvas dashboard

Canvas is the LMS for easy learning and productivity. It is one of the best LMS for schools as it was specially created for K-5 to higher education institutes. It can be used by schools of all types and sizes, from small classrooms to huge universities with a blended or entirely online learning setup (Software Advice, n.d.).

Canvas is the cloud-based educational innovation of the tech company Instructure. It is the product of listening to the needs and wants of users, making it a usable, flexible, adaptable, and dependable learning platform (G2, n.d.). It also offers the open-source and corporate version Bridge. This LMS accounts for 21% of institutes and 27% of enrollments.

Key Features

  • Course content creation
  • Standards-based gradebooks
  • Personalized learner assessments
  • Allows students to record and upload video messages and share materials
  • Can customize user profiles depending on requirements and analytics through a content editor
  • Offers mobile communication and mobile-ready instruction tools that can add more features to it
  • Comprehensive integrations with other platforms
  • Supports Facebook, Google, and Canvas mobile app (Android or iOS) integration
  • Native cloud hosting
  • It can be used with an already existing Student Information Systems (SIS) and other instructional materials
  • Enables integrated learning results, copy-paste HTTPS browser links, Learning Tool Inoperability (LTI) integration, and Really Simple Syndication (RSS) support

Price

  • Canvas has a free plan that only provides users with 500MB of storage per program. This plan provides access to Canvas Commons Resources, where users can bring in premade resources from other users into their own content. It also supports third-party user authentication, SMS or email notification, and basic student analytics. Its helpdesk is limited, helping only with the deletion of accounts, restoration of deleted programs, password resetting, and publicizing programs (Westfall, 2021).
  • The price of its paid subscriptions is $22.50 annually.

3. Moodle: The LMS for Open-Source Learning and Flexibility

moodle dashboard

Moodle is the best learning management system for schools when it comes to open-source learning and flexibility. It is also an affordable and modular LMS option for most secondary education students. It has powerful, safe, and secure tools that can create customizable training programs. This feature-enhanced and developer-operated LMS serves both the academic and business sectors.

Moodle users need to possess technical skills as it is not that user-friendly and does not have a 24/7 helpdesk available. On the other hand, tech-savvy users may find the tool entirely customizable and easily controllable (Dorwart, 2020). This LMS is used by 25% of institutes and 12% of enrollments.

Key Features

  • A streamlined and customizable dashboard that monitors program completion and students’ progress through predictive analytics
  • Simultaneous course development, fast data backup and management, contact management, activity monitoring, and a built-in calendar
  • Enables online classes, administration of online quizzes and exams, interaction and collaboration through forums and wikis, and efficient handling of grades
  • Collaborative resources and plans, comprehensive reporting and logs, and fast notification and alerts with consistent security updates
  • A flexible design and layout, can embed external materials, and the ability to manage user’s responsibilities and permission
  • It comes with multilingual functionalities, multimedia integration, progress monitoring features, and results and criteria
  • Enables the use of a messaging feature to answer questions and speed up the overall communication within a community
  • Options for self- and peer-assessment, a safe authentication procedure, and mass enrollments
  • Has Android and iOS mobile applications
  • It can be integrated with Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365, NextCloud, and more
  • Can be hosted on an external or the owner’s server
  • Plugins for various kinds of content and collaborative tasks
  • Support for multiple tasks, a range of progress monitoring and reporting options, and excellent language support
  • Offers optional hosting via MoodleCloud

Price

  • Has a free version
  • $80 – $500 annually
  • Has a personalized version by quote

4. D2L Brightspace: The LMS for Game-Based Learning and Video Assignments

d2l brightspace dashboard

D2L Brightspace is the LMS for game-based learning and video assignments. It merges the dynamic platforms, solutions, and support users need to gain the best learning experience. It also has top-notch accessibility features and handy technologies (G2, n.d.). This LMS is now being used by 13% of institutes and 15% of enrollments.

Key Features

  • Time-saving and intuitive
  • A convenient navigation of tools for students
  • Has design and templates that instructors find easy to layout programs, make content, and assess assignments
  • Enables the use of a virtual classroom, video assignments, and a digital archive
  • Delivers effective programs, engaging content, quality assessments, simplified class administrations, and assignment grader for students
  • A mobile-first, responsive, and flexible user interface that promises an exceptional mobile experience on any device
  • A customized overall look and feel

Price

  • $1 – $1,250 monthly
  • Free one-month trial for new customers

5. Mindflash: The LMS for Introducing Initial Courses, Blended and Worldwide Training, and More

mindflash dashboard

Mindflash is the best LMS for introducing initial courses, blended and worldwide training, various content requirements, and overall solutions for huge programs. It provides an easy, intuitive learning experience to students studying anywhere in the world. This LMS can also be used by businesses implementing work-from-home arrangements (Software Testing Help, 2021).

Key Features

  • Dynamic courses
  • Provides Perfect Conversion Features that enable new course content development or importation
  • Features for quizzes, reports and dashboards, Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) and Application Programming Interface (API), and so on

Price

The price of Mindlfash starts at $3,500 annually. It has Standard, Premium, and Enterprise plans.

6. Google Classroom: The LMS for Course Creation

google classroom dashboard

Google Classroom is deemed as the LMS for course creation. Its edge is merging its powerful educational management systems with exemplary communication tools. This innovation lets educators reach out to students and parents.

Google Classroom is part of Google Apps for Education. It is the best LMS for schools immersed in the Google space (Gewirtz, 2020). However, it only suits the academic settings.

Key Features

  • Provides access from computers, tablets, and smartphones
  • Enables the use of Google Docs to work on assignments, convey YouTube videos, and upload files from Google Drive; can provide feedback through comments on files
  • Tracks and assigns online work connected with blended learning
  • Can make virtual classrooms to share instructional materials that can be downloaded or viewed
  • Can make virtual assignments to monitor student performance
  • Customizable permissions when sharing screens and locking everything down
  • Can supplement digital learning through other Google apps, like Calendar, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Drive
  • Students could also push their grades to the SIS if they sign up for a beta program and have a related system.

Price

  • Along with the rest of the G Suite for Education, Google Classroom is entirely free for schools with 100GB of storage and an unlimited number of users.
  • G Suite for Education with more features starts at $48 a year.

7. Edmodo: The LMS for Collaboration

edmodo dashboard

Being the biggest learning platform for K-12 learners, teachers, and administrators, Edmodo is hailed as the LMS for collaboration (Software Testing Help, 2021). It is committed to enhancing both the teaching and learning experience of its users. This LMS has 87 million members.

Key Features

  • A free administrator account that activates and fastens the learning courses
  • Award badges for students who get high scores
  • A community network for improved learning and communication among students, parents, and administrators
  • It can be personalized depending on the requirements of each student
  • Can assign tasks and homework, schedule tests, and monitor student progress
  • Easy to use with other in-person courses
  • Classifiable and sellable content
  • Can obtain necessary details from students and parents
  • Tracks and assigns online work connected with blended learning
  • Offers Android, Windows, and iOS apps
  • An online helpdesk for queries and concerns

Price

  • $1 – $2,500 a year
  • Free trial for first-time customers

8. Quizlet: The LMS for Language Learning

quizlet dashboard

The intuitive and easy-to-use Quizlet is the LMS for language learning. It is widely used by language tutors and students for note-taking, memorization, and studying purposes. While its scope is limited to making flashcards and quizzes, Quizlet is being used by half of all US secondary school students (Fenton, 2018).

Key Features

  • Perfect for memorizing and practicing new vocabularies
  • Can make, share, and search for study sets from other users
  • Offers a selection of study modes
  • Tracks and assigns online work connected with blended learning

Price

  • $35.88 annually
  • Quizlet Plus with more features is at $47.88 for a one-year subscription.

9. Schoology: The LMS for K-12 and Third-Party Integrations

schoology dashboard

Schoology is the LMS for K-12 and third-party integration. It specializes in curriculum administration, course teaching, and materials sharing and collaboration. It makes the most extensive blended classroom solution by equipping teachers with customizable learning roles and improving the overall results for students (G2, n.d.).

Schoology is part of PowerSchool Unified Classroom™. It has been backing up all instructional mediums such as online programs and blended learning settings for almost a decade now. This LMS has 20 million users all over 50 US states

Key Features

  • Content and lessons creation, scheduling of tests and quizzes, and fast assignment creation through content development tools and a rich text editor
  • A database where course content and assignments can be uploaded
  • Progress assessment by viewing student profiles
  • A color-coded workload threshold indicating if a student is overloaded
  • The parents can see students’ performance.
  • Powerful communication and collaboration, alongside data, analytics, and customized learning
  • Interoperability and assessment administration, alongside asynchronous learning
  • Visual simplicity or complexity of lessons through HTML and CSS tools
  • Web-based and native Android, iOS, and Kindle apps that let students and teachers work together and learn anywhere they may be
  • Sophisticated features that can be used with already existing platforms
  • Third-party software integration, grading scale functionality, recording, new analytics, and reporting
  • SCORM compliance, testing, and assessments, automated grading schemes, curriculum administration, among others

Price

  • $10 monthly
  • Free one-month trial for its students and teachers

10. NEO LMS: The Award-Winning LMS

neo lms dashboard

San Francisco-based CYPHER LEARNING introduced the world-renowned NEO LMS in 2009. CYPHER’s specialty is in providing LMS solutions to organizations throughout the globe. About 20,000 organizations and millions of users use this award-winning platform.

Key Features

  • A full-presented gradebook, content creation, visually appealing lesson designs, and more
  • It can be customized with a logo, color codes, images, and portal panels
  • Can make courses and assess students through various types of assignments
  • Supports learning based on competency
  • Offers automation, gamification, and flexible learning functionalities
  • Features can be enabled or disabled to cater to the needs of the students.
  • Offers mobile apps for Android, iOS, and Windows
  • An intuitive layout that engages users, aids in effective instruction and learning, ensures a quick execution, and minimizes costs and fees

Price

  • Has a free plan with basic features
  • Has a premium plan, which starts at $0.05 per month, with more features
  • Has plans for businesses, organizations, and training providers
  • Has plans for entrepreneurs who wish to sell online programs

The Right LMS for Your Organization

Canvas and Schoology are highly recommended for small- to medium-sized institutes due to their affordable costs and great features. For large ones, Moodle would be a reasonable choice due to the availability of its enterprise version (Software Testing Help, 2021).

To some extent, the education sector has been relying on LMS for course content designing and delegation, student progress monitoring, and results evaluation since its invention. In terms of functionalities and layout, most of today’s LMS have greatly improved as they are now reactive, interoperable, and cloud-operated (Fenton, 2018).

 

References

  1. Aston, B. (2021, March 29). 10 Best Learning Management Systems For 2021: Comparison. The Digital Project Manager. https://thedigitalprojectmanager.com/best-learning-management-systems/
  2. Dorwart, L. (2020, December 2). The 8 Best Learning Management Systems of 2021. ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/best-learning-management-systems-4162827
  3. Fenton, W. (2018, January 13). The Best (LMS) Learning Management Systems. PCMag. https://sea.pcmag.com/first-looks/10984/the-best-lms-learning-management-systems
  4. G2. (n.d.). Best Learning Management Systems. Retrieved May 3, 2021, from https://www.g2.com/categories/learning-management-system-lms?
  5. Gross, A. (2014, June 9). 8 learning management system options for K-12 classrooms. K-12 Dive. https://www.k12dive.com/news/8-learning-management-system-options-for-k-12-classrooms/270653/
  6. Software Advice (n.d.). LMS for Schools. Retrieved April 30, 2021, from https://www.softwareadvice.com/lms/education-comparison/
  7. Software Testing Help. (2021, April 30). 15 Best Learning Management Systemshttps://www.softwaretestinghelp.com/learning-management-system/#11_Edmodo
  8. Westfall, B. (2021, April 23). 5 Best Free LMS Software Systems for Online Teaching. Capterra. https://blog.capterra.com/free-lms-software-online-teaching/