The best learning management systems, or LMS, for K-12 and higher ed can be the difference between a seamless learning experience and more hard work. These platforms can also help to make teaching from home far easier. The main goal of these online wonder tools is to streamline learning in schools so both students and teachers spend less energy on administrative tasks and more time focused on learning.
- What is Google Classroom? (opens in new tab)
- Top 15 tools for self-paced learning (opens in new tab)
- How to use a document camera for remote learning (opens in new tab)
A learning management system is a software platform for educators to manage courses online, which allows them to provide students a single location for all course content. This is essentially comprised of a document management component and a communication part.
An LMS allows a teacher to upload assignments, calendars, gradebooks, learning resources, videos and more. The educator can also create chat rooms and forums to communicate with students or allow them to add to a thread.
Some LMS platforms also offer online assessments such as tests and quizzes that can also be graded online. Many also allow teachers and students to integrate video and images.
A fast-growing platform is Google G Suite for Education in the form of Google Classroom (opens in new tab) , which features 100 million users. Thanks to how easy it is to uptake, it's an ideal LMS for K-12, in which there may be less digital infrastructure in place than, say, a university. It's also free, which fits into every K-12 budget. Check out our full review of Google Classroom (opens in new tab) .
Here are the best learning management systems for K-12 right now, in alphabetical order.
Best LMS 2020
Supplanting traditional student information and learning management systems with a modern platform, Alma (opens in new tab) unites student and learning data into an integrated, intuitive experience that empowers educators with increased visibility for data-driven decisions. The platform positions schools for progressive education strategies and models, while simultaneously recovering lost time and expense spread across multiple, disparate systems. Alma provides a flexible, scalable solution that can work for any school and any budget.
Alma combines a student information system (SIS) and learning management solution (LMS) into one streamlined, holistic platform, providing a cost-effective solution for schools and districts and access to timely, meaningful information for all stakeholders. Alma’s intuitive, modern design enables administrators, educators, parents, and students to quickly and easily understand their data and take action. Alma offers schools and districts a flexible technology infrastructure that seamlessly integrates with any system, such as other LMS and data analytics providers, for a custom-made solution.
Blackboard Classroom Unite
Blackboard Classroom (opens in new tab) is a comprehensive digital learning environment, with Unite specifically designed for K-12 schools and districts to increase student engagement, differentiate instruction, and boost teacher productivity and student achievement. This modern LMS incorporates both synchronous and asynchronous learning and collaboration tools to promote digital literacy and college and career readiness. It includes deep integration with productivity tools such as Google and Microsoft, as well as two-way SIS integration.
Responsive design and offline interactive access to support digital inclusion enable teaching and learning anytime, anywhere. The solution includes two-way integration with the district’s SIS to drive adoption. Real-time data analytics and visualization provide the district, schools, teachers, students, and parents with the information they need to improve student achievement.
D2L’s Brightspace (opens in new tab), a next-generation learning platform, helps schools and districts deliver personalized learning in a classroom or online. Created for the digital learner, Brightspace is cloud-based, runs on mobile devices, and offers rich multimedia to increase engagement, productivity, and knowledge retention. Brightspace makes it easy to design courses, create content, and grade assignments. Analytics reports track and deliver insights into the performance levels of departments, classes, or individual students.
D2L’s Brightspace makes it easy for teachers to reach every learner with an engaging and modern experience. Its broad video capabilities and support for game-based learning creates even more compelling ways to keep teachers and students connected and engaged.
Canvas (opens in new tab) is an LMS which is specifically designed for all levels to help teachers use learning tools to enhance the education of students. Thanks to scaled curriculum and instruction tools it makes district level views of school performances clear and easy to see. While Canvas offers specific assessment tools to help get a clear picture of a child or class' progress, it also works to meet the social and emotional needs of the child.
The Canvas Parent App is a sub structure of this platform that allows parents or designated guardians to monitor their children’s education and progress at a glance. As part of that service the Canvas Parent app is available to all iOS and Android users to help parents of K–12 students stay informed on their children’s overall schooling. Canvas enhances the potential for parents to engage in their children’s education and empowers parents to take a greater role in their children’s academic work.
Canvas Parent is designed to lower the barriers to parental engagement. It allows parents who want information regarding their children’s education direct access to their assignments and progress. Using the Canvas Parent app, parents can view assignment descriptions, assignment grades, course grades, and course announcements, as well as set reminders for assignments and alerts for specific grade activity.
itslearning’s (opens in new tab) K-12 LMS is a cloud-based, best-in-class solution for curriculum management and content integration. Its framework is designed in partnership with schools and districts to ensure the platform grows in functionality as it evolves with unique 21st-century elearning initiatives. itslearning connects all the instructional needs of educators, including curriculum development/planning; delivery of course and instructional activities; student assessment; and data analysis, including standards mastery reporting, via its powerful content recommendation engine that facilitates remediation and acceleration.
itslearning offers educators a full searchable content library complete with more than 1.7 million standards-aligned resources, 14,000 collections (organized sets of resources), and 35 full curriculum courses, including assessments, for grades K-12 in core subject areas, including science, mathematics, English language arts, and social studies.
Otus (opens in new tab) is more than just an LMS; it’s also an assessment platform (with 65+ question types and a 45K item bank), a data warehouse, and a collection of classroom management tools—all on one platform. As teachers, students, families, and school leaders use Otus, the platform generates and gathers data so that educators can efficiently analyze and take action with the data to best meet the needs of all learners.
Otus allows teachers and school administrators to view all student performance data (third-party tools/assessments and Otus-generated data) in one place and leverage that data to make its LMS features more powerful for learning. Most LMS platforms were designed for higher education but end up being marketed to K-12 schools. Otus was designed for K-12 teachers and students, which means faster adoption rates and better usage by everyone.
PowerSchool Learning (opens in new tab) is a learning management and classroom collaboration solution that empowers teachers with real-time student interaction inside and outside the classroom. Teachers can quickly create and deliver rich engaging lessons, electronically collect, annotate, and grade work, and easily collaborate and share with other educators. Schools can leverage the LMS to scale key initiatives, such as 1:1, BYOD, and PD, and streamline communication and collaboration throughout the community.
PowerSchool Learning is an LMS designed specifically for K-12 educators to create interactive lessons and scaffold instruction in highly visual, meaningful contexts. PowerSchool Learning gives students choice and a voice in demonstrating their learning through content creation, Web publishing, and project collaboration with peers and teachers.
Schoology (opens in new tab) puts collaboration at the heart of the learning experience with an easy-to-use LMS. It connects the people, content, and systems that fuel education. Designed with users in mind, Schoology incorporates the best of modern interfaces for easy access to relevant information on any device. Millions of students, faculty, and administrators from more than 60,000 K-12 schools and universities worldwide use Schoology to advance what is possible in education.
Schoology understands that education is complex and requires coordination among many moving parts, both in and beyond the classroom. Consequently, its LMS connects everyone in a single, easy-to-use environment, transforming how they learn, communicate, and collaborate at every level. Recently, Schoology developed the first assessment management platform built directly into an LMS, enabling standards-aligned assessments to be created at the institution level and delivered within the normal course workflow for clearer views of student performance.
Twine (opens in new tab) is a combined SIS and LMS developed specifically for K-12 private schools to connect administrators, teachers, students, and parents to the information they need. With Twine, attendance, grades, schedules, assessments, communication, and more are located in one place for easy access. Using Edsby’s rich functionality as a base, Twine is purpose-built to fit the needs of teachers and students in private schools. Twine is simple to integrate in small to mid-size schools and requires no technical staff time to implement.
Twine is centralized so teachers can work together, administrators have insight into everything on the system, and teachers don’t have to do any setup. This allows for community-wide announcements, groups for extracurricular activities and clubs, a detailed student panorama where staff can coordinate on the needs of each student, personalized schedules, and more. As a single platform with a focus on small to medium-sized independent and private schools, Twine offers reasonable monthly pricing based on the size of a school’s student population.