LMS vs Online Test Platform: 10 Questions To Help You Decide

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Assessments play a critical role in evaluating learners’ knowledge and skills. As educational institutions and awarding bodies seek to enhance their assessment capabilities, the question arises: should you rely on your existing Learning Management System (LMS) or consider adopting dedicated online exam software? Selecting the right platform is not just about functionality; it’s about optimising the learning experience, ensuring accurate results, and aligning with the institution’s long-term educational goals and vision.

A Learning Management System (LMS) is a comprehensive platform that manages, delivers, and tracks course content. The disadvantage of an LMS is that it is a Jack of all trades: It offers a wide range of functionalities, including basic assessments, but may not excel in the specific nuances of advanced assessment techniques the way specialised platforms do. Online test platforms, on the other hand, focus solely on creating, administering, and grading online tests and provide educators with in-depth analytics, customisation options, and enhanced security features tailored for comprehensive evaluation processes.

Are you missing out on superior assessment tools? This blog post considers 10 pivotal questions to help you evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of a learning management system vs a dedicated online test platform. Discover which solution aligns best with your objectives and make the most informed choice!


LMS vs Online Test Platform

What is your priority?

LMS

Online Test Platform

Basic security measures

Proctoring, plagiarism prevention, etc.

Fundamental grading and feedback 

Sophisticated marking & feedback tools

General course management support

Support specialised in assessment

Not optimised for large-scale assessments

Designed for high data & user concurrency

Limited possibilities due to basic analytics

In-depth learner insights & integrations

Focused on general course management

Focused on maximising assessment efficiency

Questions with minimal complexity & immersion

Questions that mirror real-world scenarios

Analytics on course completions & grades

Detailed analytics to enhance testing

Basic shared access to courses and exams

Comprehensive collaboration workflows

Lower initial cost

Higher upfront, but long-term savings


Question 1

Is Test Integrity a Major Consideration?

In today’s digital world, the security of high-stakes exams is crucial. While Learning Management Systems (LMSs) do provide security measures, they may not be sufficient for more sensitive assessment needs. This is where a dedicated online exam portal can come to the fore, offering comprehensive security features.

Advanced Security with Online Test Platforms

Dedicated online test platforms come equipped with robust security features, designed to maintain the highest integrity for your assessments. Features such as secure browser lockdowns deter learners from navigating away from the test environment to search for answers. Remote proctoring solutions monitor learner behaviour during the test to prevent cheating.

Further, data encryption ensures that test information is securely transmitted and stored, reducing the risk of data breaches. Linear On the Fly Testing (LOFT) can also be utilised, offering each test-taker a unique set of questions drawn from a large pool. This randomness adds an additional layer of security as it makes it practically impossible for learners to share exact test questions.

If your assessments have high stakes – for instance, certifying exams, professional qualifications, or entrance exams where the results have significant implications – then the robust security offered by a dedicated e-assessment platform may be invaluable. This is particularly the case if your test takers are geographically dispersed or if you’re administering the test remotely. In such cases, the peace of mind and credibility that a secure e-assessment platform provides can outweigh the cost and effort of implementation.

Addressing Plagiarism with Online Test Platforms

Another major aspect of test integrity is the issue of plagiarism. Plagiarism is a serious academic offence and can undermine the validity of the assessment process. Online test platforms often include plagiarism detection tools, such as Turnitin, which can automatically check student submissions against a vast database of academic papers, web content, and other student submissions. These tools use advanced algorithms to detect potential instances of plagiarism, offering detailed reports that indicate the percentage of the text that is similar to other sources. They are an invaluable aid in maintaining the academic integrity of assessments, particularly when dealing with essay-based tests or other written assignments.

LMS and Test Security

Learning Management Systems (LMSs) typically include basic security measures such as user authentication and access controls, which ensure only registered users can access the course content and assessments. Some LMSs also offer basic anti-plagiarism measures and secure browsing, to an extent. However, these are generally less advanced and less customisable compared to the features offered by specialised e-assessment software. 

When to Choose an Online Test Platform

In conclusion, while LMSs have their own merits, if test integrity is a major concern, investing in online exam software could be a wise decision. By integrating features such as secure browsing, remote proctoring, Linear On the Fly Testing, and plagiarism detection, you can ensure that your testing process is as secure, fair, and valid as possible.

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Question 2

Are You Looking to Streamline the Marking Process?

Grading and feedback are integral parts of the assessment process. They not only help educators gauge learner understanding but also provide learners with a sense of their progress. The efficiency and effectiveness of these mechanisms are, therefore, critical. Let’s consider how both a Learning Management System (LMS) and a dedicated online test platform fare in these areas.

Enhanced Grading and Feedback with Online Test Platforms

Dedicated online exam portals offer robust features for grading and feedback. Most top platforms provide automated marking for certain types of questions, such as multiple-choice or fill-in-the-blanks, thereby reducing the workload for educators. For complex questions that require manual grading, these platforms offer tools for efficient and consistent scoring, including rubric-based marking. Furthermore, these platforms often support instant feedback mechanisms, giving learners immediate insights into their performance. This immediacy can enhance the learning experience, reinforcing correct understanding and addressing misconceptions quickly. 

A dedicated online test platform also typically provides sophisticated tools for collaborative marking and feedback. Platforms like Cirrus support shared marking schemes, where multiple educators can access, mark, and provide feedback on the same set of assessments. This can lead to a more efficient and balanced workload, and promotes consistency in marking and feedback. Additionally, blind marking features can help reduce bias, and moderation tools help resolve discrepancies in scores assigned by different educators.

Marking and Feedback in LMS

On the other hand, one of the disadvantages of LMS is that it typically offers basic grading and feedback mechanisms. While it may support automatic grading for simple question types and provide some level of feedback, it might not offer the depth, customisation, and immediate response that a dedicated online exam platform can. Typically, an LMS allows multiple educators to access and grade assignments, but it may not offer the features to streamline the process or maintain consistency.

When to Choose an Online Test Platform

In conclusion, if your programme involves multiple stakeholders sharing marking and feedback responsibilities, especially for large-scale or high-stakes assessments, a dedicated online test platform could provide the tools to make this process more efficient and consistent. However, if your assessments are relatively simple, infrequent, or if they involve a small group of learners, your current LMS might be sufficient. The LMS could be quite adequate for grading quizzes, short assignments, and providing basic feedback.

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Question 3

Does Your Organisation Require Support Tailored to the Assessment Process?

The process of creating, administering, and evaluating assessments can be complex and multifaceted. While a Learning Management System (LMS) offers support for a broad range of course management activities, a dedicated online exam platform often provides targeted, specialised support for the assessment process. Let’s delve into the advantages of this.

Specialised Support with Online Test Platforms

E-assessment platforms generally have a dedicated support team that understands the ins and outs of the assessment process. They can offer valuable advice on creating better assessments, implementing assessment policies, and using the platform’s features most effectively. This expertise can help you design assessments that are valid, reliable, and fair.

The support teams of online exam portal are typically well-versed in solving problems specific to assessments. Whether it’s technical issues during a high-stakes exam or queries on interpreting analytics, specialised support can ensure quick resolution of these problems.

Furthermore, e-assessment partners like Cirrus also offer customer success services. These services are designed to help you get the maximum benefit from the platform. This can include assistance with onboarding, training for your staff, regular check-ins, and proactive advice on using the platform to improve your assessment process.

LMS Support and Assessments

In contrast, an LMS offers a broader type of support, catering to various aspects of course management. While this support is valuable, the disadvantage of LMS is that it may lack the specific expertise required to deal with issues unique to the assessment process.

When to Choose an Online Test Platform

If your organisation frequently conducts complex or high-stakes assessments, and would benefit from specialised support, a dedicated online exam portal might be the right choice. The tailored support and customer success services offered can significantly enhance your assessment process and outcomes.

However, if your assessments are relatively straightforward, or if you already have a high level of expertise in creating and administering assessments, the general support offered by an LMS might be sufficient.

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Question 4

Are You Planning to Scale Up Your Assessments?

Scaling up assessments, whether in terms of frequency, complexity, or number of participants, presents various challenges. Both a Learning Management System (LMS) and a dedicated online test platform have their strengths in this regard, and the choice between them should depend on your specific scaling objectives.

Scaling Up with Online Test Platforms

Online exam portals are specifically designed to handle large-scale, complex assessments efficiently. They come with robust infrastructure to handle high volumes of data and simultaneous users without compromising on speed or stability.

Notably, many e-assessment platforms provide scalability features, such as cloud-based technology and distributed architecture, which allow them to smoothly accommodate growing numbers of users and larger data sets. This ensures your system will continue to perform optimally even as your assessments scale.

Moreover, these platforms usually offer comprehensive features for managing complex assessments, including advanced question types, robust marking workflows, and detailed analytics. This can streamline the assessment process, making it easier to handle larger numbers of assessments or more complex assessments.

LMS and Scaling Assessments

On the other hand, an LMS, while being able to handle a variety of course management tasks, might not be as well-equipped to handle large-scale assessments. As the number or complexity of your assessments increases, you might find that one of the disadvantages of LMS is that it lacks the necessary tools or robustness.

When to Choose an Online Test Platform

If your organisation plans to significantly scale up assessments, a dedicated online test platform could be the ideal choice. It can provide the robust infrastructure, advanced tools, and scalability features needed to manage growth effectively. However, if your assessment scale is stable, or the increase is minor and gradual, an LMS could suffice. Especially if you’re comfortable with your current LMS and its features meet your needs, moving to a dedicated online exam platform may not be necessary.

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Question 5

Keen on Leveraging Big Data through System Integration?

The use of big data analytics is increasingly becoming a game-changer in the education sector. Integrating your assessment platform with other systems can provide a holistic view of learner progress, enabling data-driven decision-making. Here’s a look at how a dedicated online test platform and a Learning Management System (LMS) can support this endeavour.

Big Data Analytics with Online Test Platforms

A dedicated online exam portal is an invaluable asset in this context. Not only does it allow for meticulous tracking of learner progress, knowledge gaps, and performance trends, but its adaptability is what truly sets it apart. Beyond the seamless integration with proctoring modules and systems such as Student Information Systems (SIS) or Learning Record Stores (LRS), these platforms can also mesh with communication tools for feedback, third-party content libraries for diverse learning materials, and even CRM systems to manage learner relationships more efficiently. This vast network of integration options amplifies the breadth and depth of data available.

The benefits of such comprehensive integration are manifold:

  • Enhanced Personalisation: With richer data at your fingertips, tailoring learning experiences becomes more precise. This ensures each learner’s unique needs and preferences are catered to.
  • Efficient Resource Allocation: Recognising patterns in data can highlight where educational resources are most needed, ensuring optimal distribution and utilisation.
  • Feedback Loops: Real-time integration with communication tools can expedite feedback, facilitating a more agile and responsive educational approach.
  • Comprehensive Learner Profiles: By pulling data from multiple sources, educators get a 360-degree view of each learner, from their performance and engagement metrics to feedback and personal preferences.

This integrated data can be instrumental in uncovering hidden patterns, correlations, or trends, leading to more informed decision-making. For instance, you can use this data to adjust teaching strategies, personalise learning, predict learner performance, or even shape educational policies.

Big Data Analytics with an LMS

The disadvantage of Learning Management Systems is that while they generally offers data analytics capabilities, they are often more basic and focused on course management. An LMS may provide data on course completion rates, time spent on tasks, and basic test results. However, it may lack the more advanced analytics features of a dedicated e-assessment platform, which can limit the insights you can gain.

When to Choose an Online Test Platform

If you’re keen to harness big data analytics to enhance teaching and learning, a dedicated online exam platform could be a good choice. The advanced analytics features and the possibility of system integration can provide a wealth of data to inform your decision-making. However, if your data analysis needs are simpler, or if you prefer an all-in-one solution that combines course management with basic assessment analytics, an LMS might suffice.

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Question 6

Do you need a more streamlined assessment experience for both educators and candidates?

A seamless, efficient, and focused assessment experience can make a significant difference for both educators and candidates. While a Learning Management System (LMS) has many features designed for course management, a dedicated online test platform is purpose-built to streamline the assessment process and make life a lot easier. Let’s look into this in more detail.

Streamlined Experience with Online Test Platforms

E-assessment platforms are designed with the singular focus of making the assessment process as efficient and focused as possible. They typically offer a user-friendly interface, intuitive tools for designing, delivering, and grading assessments, and robust features for analysis and reporting. This can make the assessment process quicker, less prone to errors, and more enjoyable for educators. For candidates, a streamlined experience can mean a clear, distraction-free interface, intuitive navigation, and timely and personalised feedback. 

LMS and Assessment Experience

An LMS, while offering a broad range of features for course management, may not provide the same level of focus and efficiency when it comes to assessments. Another disadvantage of LMS is that it handles many different aspects of course management, it may not offer the same level of streamlined, focused assessment experience for educators and candidates.

When to Choose an Online Test Platform

If your priority is to streamline the assessment process and provide a focused, efficient experience for both educators and candidates, a dedicated online exam portal could be the ideal choice. The specific features designed for this purpose can save time, reduce stress, and enhance the overall assessment experience. However, if your assessment needs are simpler, or if you prefer an all-in-one solution that combines course management with assessments, an LMS could suffice.

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Question 7

Do You Aim to Create Assessments that Reflect Practical, Real-World Situations?

Incorporating real-world scenarios into assessments can greatly enhance their relevance and effectiveness. These authentic assessments can better prepare learners for real-world tasks and challenges. A Learning Management System (LMS) and a dedicated online test platform offer different capabilities for creating such assessments.

Advanced Question Types of Online Test Platforms

A dedicated online exam platform often provides advanced tools for creating questions that mirror real-world scenarios. These platforms support a wide variety of question types, such as simulation-based tasks, drag and drop, hotspot questions, and case studies, enabling a more authentic and engaging assessment experience.

For instance, the Cirrus Office 365 integration allows candidates to use the Microsoft Office Suite for intricate calculations, providing a realistic testing scenario. Similarly, the VPL execution server provides a secure, sandboxed environment where candidates can demonstrate their knowledge of multiple programming languages, mirroring actual coding scenarios.

LMS question types

Additionally, these platforms may allow for multimedia integration, such as video, audio, and images, which can be used to make scenarios more realistic and immersive. They also typically support advanced scoring methods, allowing for more nuanced evaluation of responses to complex, real-world tasks.

In contrast, while an LMS might support a range of basic question types, it may not offer the same level of complexity and immersion. The question types in an LMS might be more limited and less adaptable to creating real-world scenario-based tasks.

When to Choose an Online Test Platform

If your learning strategy involves authentic assessments with real-world scenarios, a dedicated online test platform could be the ideal choice. The advanced features it offers can enable you to create engaging, realistic assessments that can enhance learners’ preparation for real-world tasks. However, if your assessments primarily involve straightforward tasks and traditional question types, an LMS might be more than adequate.

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Question 8

Do you need detailed analytics to improve candidate performance and assessments? 

The use of analytics in education has grown exponentially, providing a wealth of insights that can enhance teaching, learning, and assessment. A Learning Management System (LMS) offers a certain level of analytic capabilities, but a dedicated online test platform often goes a step further. Let’s explore this in more detail.

Advanced Analytics with Online Test Platforms

A dedicated online test platform provides sophisticated analytical tools designed to evaluate and enhance both candidate performance and the quality of assessment items. For candidate performance, such a platform offers deep dives into individual and group performances, identifying areas of strength and areas requiring further study. This enables personalised feedback and customised learning paths. For example, the Cirrus Score Report offers a granular view of candidate performance, helping educators understand learner outcomes in depth. It presents a detailed breakdown of scores by question or by section, offering insights into specific areas where the candidate excelled or struggled. 

In terms of assessment items, online exam portals can provide item analysis statistics, such as discrimination index and difficulty level, to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of each question. This can guide improvements in assessment design and ensure that your questions are fair, valid, and reliable. Top platforms also offer psychometric analysis, where statistical models are used to measure learning outcomes, understand test reliability, and enhance the validity of assessments.

Analytics in LMS

On the contrary, an LMS provides basic analytics, primarily focusing on course completion rates, time spent on tasks, and overall grades. Although these can offer a general understanding of learner progress, they may not provide the depth or the granularity offered by an e-assessment platform.

When to Choose an Online Test Platform

If your learning strategy relies heavily on data-driven insights to improve learner outcomes, or if you want to ensure the utmost quality and fairness of your assessments, a dedicated online exam portal could be the right choice. The detailed analytics it provides can offer invaluable insights that can help shape effective learning and assessment strategies.

However, if your needs are met by basic performance tracking, an LMS could suffice. If your assessments are straightforward, or if you have a small group of learners and can track their progress individually, the advanced analytics offered by an online exam platform might be an overinvestment.

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Question 9

Do Your Assessments Involve Multiple Collaborators?

Assessments in larger educational or professional environments often involve multiple stakeholders, who all need to work in harmony to create, deliver, and evaluate assessments. Both a Learning Management System (LMS) and a dedicated online test platform offer different capabilities for multi-collaborator environments.

Collaborative Features of Online Test Platforms

A dedicated online exam portal is often equipped with features that foster effective collaboration among multiple stakeholders. These platforms can allow shared access to assessment creation, review, and marking, enabling collaborative workflows. They can also facilitate consistent grading and feedback through shared marking schemes and moderation in tools, ensuring alignment among different assessors.

Furthermore, dedicated e-assessment platforms often support role-based access control, which means that each collaborator can have access rights tailored to their role in the assessment process. This not only ensures security but also allows for a streamlined workflow, as each person can focus on their area of expertise.

LMS and Collaboration

In contrast, one of the disadvantages of LMS is that it might offer basic collaboration tools, such as shared access to courses and assessments, but these might not be as comprehensive as those offered by dedicated e-assessment platforms. While an LMS may allow for basic shared grading and feedback, it might lack advanced tools to streamline the process and maintain consistency.

When to Choose an Online Test Platform

If your assessments involve multiple collaborators and require robust, streamlined workflows, a dedicated online exam platform could be the ideal solution. Such a platform can facilitate efficient collaboration and ensure consistency in grading and feedback, which can be critical in larger-scale assessments.

However, if your assessment process is simpler, involves fewer collaborators, or if your collaborators are co-located and can coordinate easily in person, the collaboration tools offered by your LMS might be sufficient.

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Question 10

Finally: Evaluating the Cost-Benefit Ratio: Is an Online Test Platform Worth It?

Evaluating the cost-benefit analysis of a dedicated online test platform versus a Learning Management System (LMS) is crucial when considering a switch. Although costs are an important factor, the long-term benefits in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, and enhanced assessment capabilities should also be considered.

The Cost Aspect

In terms of outright cost, an online exam portal may appear more expensive than an LMS due to its specialised nature. The platform itself, along with any necessary staff training or systems integration, may entail significant initial outlay. Additionally, there might be ongoing costs associated with regular updates, support, and maintenance.

The Benefit Aspect

However, the benefits of an online test platform can be substantial. E-assessment platforms offer advanced features such as robust security options, complex question types, and detailed analytics that can significantly enhance the quality and efficiency of your assessments. These benefits can lead to improved educational outcomes. What’s more, the time saved by automating the grading process, providing efficient feedback, and reducing administrative tasks can significantly lower indirect costs. And if you are scaling up your assessments, a dedicated platform can prove more cost-effective in the long run by smoothly handling increased volume and complexity. 

LMS Cost-Benefit Consideration

An LMS, while typically less costly upfront, may not offer the same level of assessment capabilities. While it can effectively handle course management tasks, its assessment functions may be more basic, potentially compromising the quality or efficiency of large-scale or complex assessments. An LMS is a Jack of all trades, but master of none. An online test platform may therefore work out more cost-effective in the long run.

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Making Your Decision

In determining whether to opt for an online test platform or stick with an LMS, you should weigh both the costs and the potential benefits. Consider not only the upfront and ongoing costs but also the long-term value in terms of improved efficiency, effectiveness, and educational outcomes.

In essence, while a dedicated online test platform may entail more substantial initial costs, the potential long-term benefits in terms of enhanced assessment capabilities and improved educational outcomes could make it a worthwhile investment. Ultimately, your decision should be guided by your organisation’s specific needs, objectives, and budget.

Are you ready to take the next step towards improved efficiency, effectiveness, and educational outcomes? Reach out to our team today for a personalised consultation and let’s explore how a dedicated online test platform can revolutionise your assessment process. Together, we can identify the best solutions to meet your unique needs, objectives, and budget. Don’t hesitate, get in touch today and let’s embark on this transformative journey together.

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