Learning management systems (LMS) have traditionally been used in educational settings to organize curricula, deliver content to students and track progress. But they\u2019ve found new life in enterprise IT departments, as organizations seek to upskill workers to meet ever-evolving workplace needs.\n\u201cThe definition of LMS has expanded, going well beyond course management,\u201d says Bryna Dash, vice president of government sales at Blackboard. \u201cYes, course management \u2014 the creation and delivery of dynamic courses, course registrations, enterprise content management, the ability to record and analyze learner progress \u2014 remains a pillar of an LMS, but today\u2019s best LMS provide a more holistic approach, offering solutions that cover a broad spectrum of learning requirements.\u201d\nThat spectrum can include technical certifications, continuing professional education, badges and credentials from bootcamps, online courses and even free MOOCs. Continuing IT education can add or supplement critical technical skills within your organization, preserve institutional knowledge and increase employee engagement and retention. But finding the time for staff to attend classes can be challenging.\n\u201cIn our IT department, our staff pursues professional education, certifications, skills badging \u2014 maybe they\u2019re trying to add these new skills, or learning a new technology, or even trying to get a credential to get a raise or a promotion,\u201d says Bill Thirsk, vice president of IT and CIO at Marist College. \u201cBut if I\u2019ve got a network engineer \u2014 it\u2019s hard to spare a staff member for a week to go somewhere to take courses or a test or do training in person. So, LMS is really critical, because they can be online, maybe for a couple hours a day, taking that same certification course, or going to a discussion forum, virtually attending a conference, and then receive that credential.\u201d\nAn LMS also enables managers and executives to track progress and identify areas of strength and weakness at multiple touchpoints, instead of the traditional pass\/fail approach, says John McGuthry, CIO at Cal Poly Pomona.\n\u201cThink about it like a jet engine \u2014 there are multiple sensors measuring various aspects of power and performance so you can take all that information, distill it into one centralized view, and then you\u2019ll be able to see quickly how it\u2019s going to operate and better predict when it will fail,\u201d McGuthry says. \u201cIt\u2019s the same with LMS. Back in the day, testing was very much pencil-and-paper-based; you had to wait for one single event like a midterm or a final or a certification exam to determine if someone\u2019s going to pass or fail. Now, you can track progress and measure performance, interactions, engagement and add more touchpoints so you can see where and if someone needs intervention.\u201d\nLMS comes to enterprise IT\nLMS in enterprise IT departments combines traditional learning management with collaboration and social interaction capabilities, enabling learners to use a personalized, intuitive platform that increases engagement, says Dash, adding that staff can also collaborate on team projects that tie learning to job activities and access materials and coursework on the go with mobile and offline learning capabilities. Leveraging an LMS can help managers be more effective, too, by identifying employees\u2019 working styles and habits, McGuthry says.\n\u201cWhen you\u2019re figuring out how to engage your students or your employees along the way, you can use LMS to see, for instance, certain habits and tendencies, and then tailor engagement and motivational strategies for different personalities and people,\u201d he says. \u201cSay you have an assignment that\u2019s due a week out \u2014 by 8:00 AM on a Friday. It can be something as easy as, \u2018Log in and click this button to acknowledge that you got the assignment,\u2019 but within groups you\u2019re always going to have the people who do it right away; the people who put it off until 7:55 AM on the day it\u2019s due \u2014 and there are different ways to engage with those people, and now you have smaller measures to help you figure that out and gauge progress.\u201d\nIn addition to using an LMS internally, Thirsk says Marist College also hosts LMS capabilities for third-party clients. Within Marist\u2019s LMS are general classroom management features \u2014 syllabus, forums, assignments, calendars and grading \u2014 but the solution also includes gamification aspects to improve engagement, Thirsk says. Marist\u2019s solution includes third-party plug-ins and open APIs to connect with video and conferencing tools like WebEx and to integrate with microservices, he says.\u00a0\n\u201cOne example: We do plagiarism checking. That\u2019s not a feature that lives in the LMS, but the API connects to an outside service to allow us to do that,\u201d he says. For third-party clients, like Westchester Medical and the Archdiocese of New York, Marist\u2019s LMS allows them to offer and deliver certification, training and continuing education courses to staff as well as perform credential checks, he says.\n\u201cWestchester Medical, for example, needed a way to train both current staff and do onboarding for new hires quickly, as well as prove credentials,\u201d Thirsk says. \u201cThat\u2019s not their core competency, so we designed and developed a compelling, professional course where people can log in, absorb the material, take quizzes and tests and then they\u2019re provided a credential at the end of the course. For the Archdiocese, anyone who works with children must take a course and do training to make sure they\u2019re up to speed on the latest regulations and the certified teaching methods, too,\u201d he says.\nSince these types of credentials must be transferrable, Marist\u2019s hosted solution is open source so they can be accessible across organizations. But not every organization has the skills and capabilities to build and host their own LMS, he says. Sometimes it makes more sense to purchase an off-the-shelf solution.\n\u201cIn the communities we work within, we had everyone come together to suggest features and capabilities, and then we built those in so they\u2019re shared across the community,\u201d he says. But that requires an experienced educational content designer, development and engineering talent, a good trainer and experienced educators who can take students through the basics all the way up to advanced levels, Thirsk says. \u201cIf you don\u2019t have that in-house, then you\u2019ll want to go find an LMS that gives you all the capabilities you need,\u201d he says.\nWhat to look for in an LMS\nWhat else should you look for in an LMS? It should be flexible, accessible and robust; many LMS solutions can be somewhat fragile and tough to integrate with existing legacy enterprise systems, says McGuthry, but those that are cloud-based and delivered via a SaaS model tend to be stronger.\nA seamless, integrated learning environment that includes mobile apps, online conferencing and virtual classroom is essential, says Dash, as well as feature-rich analytics capabilities to better measure learning outcomes and align those goals with those of the business.\n\u201cThese desired outcomes should be measurable at the learner, education program and institution level,\u201d Dash says.\u00a0\u201cAn LMS that includes robust analytics will provide the actionable data needed to ensure your programs and outcomes improve over time, and across all dimensions.\u00a0This includes leveraging learning outcomes as a subset or driving force for the overall business or mission outcomes of your organization,\u201d Dash says.\nLook for a comprehensive solution that includes a core LMS, and [that] can integrate with third-party LMS products to help you build the learning environment that\u2019s right for your employees, Thirsk says.\nThirsk adds that a proven track record with other organizations in your industry is also key. \u201cYou want to see others in your field who\u2019ve used the solution and gone on to be successful,\u201d he says.\nAt the end of the day, the purpose of your LMS is to make learning more desirable, accessible, and meaningful for all learners, and to improve outcomes for them as well as business outcomes, says Dash.