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Class of 2017: The Top Post-Secondary Academic LMS Solutions

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In the hallowed halls of universities across the world students are being put to the test – and so are their LMSs.

The average university in the U.S. has 6,000 undergraduate students – if each of those students takes 5 courses a semester, and if there are about 30 students per class, that means the average university has 1,000 courses they need to manage.

All courses are created equal and deserve proper planning, whether they cover macroeconomics or underwater basket weaving. Learning Management Software helps academic institutions manage class schedules, assists professors with lesson planning, and allows students to seamlessly collaborate with one another online.

However, LMSs come in a variety of flavors, geared around two separate industries: corporate training and academic learning. Capterra wanted to help your post-secondary institution find a reputable, easy-to-use learning management system that caters to academics.

Capterra’s Software Lab team researched and conducted usability testing on learning management systems to determine which were the easiest to use in our Top 20 Most User-Friendly LMS Software report. To dive deeper and better understand our research process during the creation of the original report, check out our methodology. Since this report was designed to look at LMS software as a whole, we now want to concentrate on the best LMS systems for post-secondary academic organizations.

The data we collected from our Top 20 Most User-Friendly report was used in this comparison, but we focused on the components specific to academic institutions. The list of solutions was narrowed down to those which offer an academic LMS platform, and we factored in how colleges and universities might use the LMS functionality differently than corporations. Then we ranked the highest scoring post-secondary systems based on ease of use, customer service, and customer reviews.

Ease of use encompasses the average amount of time and the number of clicks it took to complete the below tasks, as well as a “System Usability Score” (SUS). SUS is generated through a short survey our team completed after testing each solution, which captures perceived ease of use.   

Tasks tested:

  1. Create a course
  2. Create a test/assessment
  3. Create a learner profile
  4. Schedule a class
  5. Generate a report

We also compared the levels of customer service by tracking implementation, training, and support resources made available to customers by the software company (listed below).

Implementation resources

  1. Permissions configuration
  2. Custom alerts
  3. Custom branding
  4. Mobile learning/optimization
    1. iOS Compatibility
    2. Android Compatibility
  5. Open API

Training resources

  1. Videos
  2. Articles or training documents
  3. Free demos
  4. Webinars
  5. On-site training
  6. Free trials

Support resources

  1. Via email or a help desk
  2. Through links to an FAQ page or a knowledge base
  3. Over the phone
  4. Through live chat

We also took into account customer reviews when ranking systems, focusing on how real customers rated each solution’s “ease of use” and “customer service”. We combined these star ratings with the total number of reviews each system had on Capterra.

This report is a high-level overview of the industry, and is not inclusive of all available software options or intended to replace your independent research. For a full list, check out our LMS Software Directory.

Vendor Breakdown (listed alphabetically)

*featured in our Top 20 Most User-Friendly LMS Software report, which includes both corporate and academic learning management systems.

Absorb LMS*

Absorb LMS earned the second highest score for ease of use among all of the post-secondary solutions we tested. Our testers liked how buttons were consistent and easy to locate, and how the interface was clean and streamlined. On average, our team was able to complete tasks in 1 minute 5 seconds, which was the 4th fastest out of all post-secondary systems.
As an added bonus, Absorb’s customers speak very highly of them. One customer said Absorb was “the easiest and most attractive LMS I have used in the last ten years!”. They are also featured in our Top 20 Most Affordable LMS Software report, meaning it’s a great bang for your buck.

Aktiv Mind LMS*

Aktiv Mind’s customers awarded them a perfect review rating, averaging 5 stars in both “customer service” and “ease of use”. One customer specifically calls out their support team’s willingness to go “above and beyond”, while another states “we trust our school with Aktiv Mind”.

CANVAS*

What makes Canvas and TOPYX stand out is all of the resources they offer to new customers. When making a purchase decision, academic institutions that prioritize the level of customer service will be pleased to know Canvas offers all 17 resources tracked in our evaluation. They also average a customer review rating above 4 stars, specific to customer service.

Configio

With the third highest total number of reviews (79), Configio’s customers think highly of the level of customer service provided and the overall ease of use. One impressive review states “Don’t go anywhere else. Configio has everything you need including stellar customer service I am certain you will not find anywhere else.”

Configio is also featured in our Top 20 Most Affordable LMS Software report, meaning it’s very cost-effective.

Edvance360

Edvance360 earned the 3rd highest customer service score, as well as being ranked in the top 10 on our Top 20 Most Affordable LMS Software. With an average customer service review rating of 4.7 stars, their customers must support the high quality work by the customer service team.

Paradiso LMS*

Paradiso earned the third highest ease of use score. Their customers gave them perfect 5 star reviews across the board specifically in ease of use. On average, our testers were able to perform all tasks in about 15 clicks, which is well below the average compared to the other post-secondary systems we tested. Paradiso is also easy on the wallet, as they were ranked in Capterra’s Top 20 Most Affordable LMS Software.

SkyPrep*

SkyPrep topped the list with the highest ease of use score. They had the fastest average task completion time and the second lowest average number of clicks, which allowed them to stand out from the pack. Our testers also awarded SkyPrep an average System Usability Score of 95 out of 100, based on perceived ease of use at the conclusion of testing.

When compared to corporate learning management systems regarding user-friendliness, SkyPrep ranked #1 in our Top 20 Most User-Friendly LMS Software report, meaning they are well-rounded and can adapt to a variety of needs.

TOPYX*

Similar to CANVAS, TOPYX received a perfect score pertaining to the implementation, training, and support resources offered to their customers. In line with this score, their customers specifically called out their customer service team in nearly half of the reviews – raving about their responsiveness.  

What LMS do you use at your university or college? What do you love about it? Let us know in the comments, or leave a review for your system!

Looking for Learning Management System software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Learning Management System software solutions.

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About the Author

James Rew

James is a product research associate for Capterra’s Software Lab, where he evaluates a wide variety of software solutions. When he’s not in the “lab” testing software, he enjoys music, playing tennis, watching The Weather Channel (hoping for snow), and auditioning for The Voice.

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