In March and April of 2009, Learning Circuits and E-Learning News ran a quick survey on how readers were using their learning management systems (LMSs). We asked such questions as: Do you build or buy? What system do you use? What are the must-have features? Here are the results. (Results are based 184 responses compiled March 2009 through April 2009.)

Current systems

First, nearly 91 percent of respondents are using LMSs in their organizations, with more than half (55 percent) purchasing rather than building (11.7 percent) their systems, and one-fifth of respondents (21.3 percent) opting to go with a hosted platform. And whether built or bought, the majority of respondents are satisfied with their current LMS, with 22.2 percent very satisfied, 31.1 percent satisfied, and 25.6 percent somewhat satisfied. Still, some 13.3 said they were unsatisfied, and 8.8 said they were very unsatisfied.

Usage and features

Currently, more than half of respondents (53.8 percent) are choosing to go with a strict LMS or rather than a strict learning content management system (LCMS), with only 2.2 percent responding positively. Nearly a third (31.2 percent), however, are using an LMS/LCMS combo. Interestingly, as a result of larger ERP systems becoming more talent-management minded a growing number of organizations seem to be deploying an LMS that is part of its larger ERP system.

Given this data, it's no surprise that the number 1 reason respondents are implementing an LMS is centralize the management of learning activities (66.7 percent). All other reasons for implementing fall a far second, with measuring training usage only reporting in at 29.9 percent and tracking regulatory compliance at 28.7 percent. (See complete list below.)

When asked to rank the most valuable features, assessment and testing topped the chart at 59.3 percent, followed by content management at 48.4 percent and reporting at 37.4 percent. Surprisingly, analytics was one of the lowest ranked features, coming in at only 14.3. (See complete list below.)

Challenges

Most large system implementations face problems around customizing features and tools for a particular installation. LMSs are no different in this respect, with respondents ranking customization requirements their biggest challenge (46.6 percent). Interestingly, a variety of factors fall to second place: content integration (37.5 percent), employee buy-in (35.2 percent), and system administration (33 percent). Perhaps because large IT installations are becoming more common place, IT buy-in ranked fairly low, with only 9.1 of respondents finding it a major issue. (See complete list below.)

The future

Whether a reaction to the economic downturn, a result of high satisfaction rankings, or a combination of factors, it appears that most organizations are planning to keep their current system (44 percent), and less than one-quarter are planning to upgrade their current system (24.2 percent). A rather low percentage of respondents have plans to purchase (13.2 percent) or build (8.8 percent) a new LMS in 2009. More importantly, a mere 3.3 percent have plans to outsource the learning management function in the coming year.