Regardless of industry, learning management systems (LMSs) remain the staple for managing traditional course delivery, reporting, compliance, and onboarding. Many organizations report that they will use their LMS in the future to track, measure, and report on informal learning using the next generation of the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) and the Experience API (xAPI), as well as to complement traditional course delivery with learning through the use of social media.

In this article, I summarize results from our recent corporate LMS research study, as reported in Corporate Learning Management Systems 2016 – 2018. In this major report, we presented results from our recent LMS research study, cosponsored by Adobe Systems. Invitations to participate in the study were sent to members of both The eLearning Guild and Adobe Systems global user communities. We received a total of 1,299 responses from more than 35 countries worldwide. The largest number of responses came from the United States (888 responses), Canada (89 responses), Australia (40 responses), and the United Kingdom (26 responses). 

The goal of this research study was to focus on corporate LMS usage and characteristics; LMS satisfaction and customer loyalty; and perhaps most importantly, the LMS features and functionality that our study participants say matter most to their organizations. We also provide insights from comparison data gathered from our 2013 LMS survey. Here is a summary of several key insights from this report. 

More than one-half (57%) of organizations now use a SaaS, or cloud-based, LMS.

Compare this with the 50% of 2013 LMS survey respondents who said they used a software-as-a-service (SaaS) LMS. As shown in Figure 1, one-third (31%) of organizations still locate their LMS on premises, maintained by their own IT staff. This confirms the continued dominance of cloud-based LMSs over on-premises LMSs for the last three to five years..(Editor’s Note: Percentages shown in the figures in this article may not all total to 100%, due to non-response by some survey participants.)

Figure 1: LMS deployment options

Overall levels of LMS satisfaction remain mediocre, at best.

Nearly one-half (46%) of survey respondents were only “somewhat satisfied” with their LMS (Figure 2). This mediocre satisfaction level is similar to what has been noted across other LMS industry studies. We found that the same number of 2013 respondents (46%) were equally “satisfied” with their LMS, while 21% of those organizations were “very satisfied,” and 32% were “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied.” 

LMS implementation experiences substantially affect overall levels of satisfaction, in particular, the elapsed time between LMS software installation and setup and the critical point at which organizations can begin actual enrollment of learners. Nearly one-half (43%) of organizations said it took more than three months after initial installation to begin enrolling their learners.


Figure 2: Overall level of satisfaction with current LMS

Nearly three-quarters (70%) of organizations used an LMS (or upgraded LMS) that was more than three years old.

Age is an important factor because even an LMS that is one to two years old may be substantially lacking in current features, enhancements, and capabilities (Figure 3). Consider the multiplicity of mLearning, gamification, social learning, or other learning innovations that LMS providers have only begun to offer in the last two years.

Age of the LMS is also important because, among other things, it may significantly—and unfairly—impact satisfaction levels. Recent studies of satisfaction and spending found that many of the complaints that organizations have can possibly be traced back to the age of their current system.


Figure 3: Implementation/upgrade time frame for current LMS

Despite pervasive media “buzz,” it is not clear that requirements for mobile LMS functionality or advanced gamification features strongly influence current LMS buying decisions.

Nearly one-half (46%) of organizations said smartphone support was an “extremely important” LMS feature, and more than one-half (55%) identified tablet support as “extremely important” for mLearning (Figure 4). In comparison, 34% of our 2013 LMS respondents said smartphone support was “extremely important,” while 41% said tablet support was “extremely important.”


Figure 4: Important LMS mLearning features

When asked if gamification definitely improved learning experience and enhanced knowledge retention, slightly more than one-half (56%) of organizations said they “somewhat agree,” while only 31% “totally agree” with that statement (Figure 5). Many organizations did not seem totally convinced about the value of gamification and nearly one-half believed that gamification is “nice to have, but not required” in a future LMS. One might concluded that the jury is still out on the essential need for future LMS gamification features, at least in the view of our survey participants.


Figure 5: Important LMS gamification features

Looking to the near future—2016 to 2018—we believe that corporate LMSs will survive.

We conclude our research report by emphasizing our belief that LMSs will not only survive but continue to transform themselves in ways that better support continuous learning. They will increasingly leverage learner-centered insights from their academic LMS brethren and better accommodate new approaches, such as social and informal learning, video learning, mLearning, and gamification.

As we saw from these study results, LMS customers should reevaluate their aging learning platforms and carefully investigate leading-edge technologies. They need to clearly identify their learning management needs and proceed in a direction that enables them to deliver the best-possible digital learning experience. The need for clarity of purpose and preparation is more relevant now than ever, particularly in an LMS marketplace that changes somewhat every day, and more significantly, every year.

Additional LMS resources from The eLearning Guild

There are two companion resources to the corporate LMS research report: An infographic that explores the eight areas of LMS reporting and analytics, and an assessment toolkit that helps you identify your readiness for maximizing your LMS’s reporting and analytics capabilities. Both of them can be downloaded here.


  • Infographic: This infographic examines the eight building blocks required for effective LMS reporting and analytics, from the soundness of your initial strategy and approach to the readiness of your infrastructure.
  • Assessment Tool: This assessment toolkit helps interpret your LMS reporting and analytics readiness score and provides practical ideas and recommendations for your specific readiness level.