Learning Management Systems

learning management systems

I recently attended a project workshop where the purpose was to discuss the high level requirements for the procurement of new Learning Management Systems and to plan the project going forward. At the meeting a stakeholder asked me to explain the difference between a Learning Management System (LMS) and a Learning Content Management System (LCMS). It is true that the lines between these systems are becoming increasingly blurred as an LMCS can add LMS functionalities, and the same can be said of an LMS. In other words they can overlap in their capabilities.

The purpose of this post is to explain and highlight the features of a Learning Management System. This post is written specifically for individuals researching whether procuring an LMS is the right system for their organization or educational institution. In a follow-up post, I will provide details about a Learning Content Management system, as well as a detailed comparison between the two systems.

What is a Learning Management System?

So what is a LMS? Well, its typically a web-based software system designed to manage, track and report on training events. To expand on this definition, an LMS is a server based software system used to manage and deliver various types of learning through a web browser, particularly asynchronous e-learning. The types of learning delivered can be online, in the classroom or a blended solution. In addition, these systems are used to track and manage the different types of learner data, especially learner performance.

LMS have evolved over time and they generally have the following functions and features:

  • System – The organisation of learning related functions into a system with efficient access to these functions via layered interface navigation.
  • Security –  Including authorization for users, protection of data and administration functions.
  • Registration – Learners can find and select courses, or be assigned to a course or curriculum.
  • Delivery – Delivery of learning content. This involves the medium in which the content is delivered. For example, classroom or online. Also this refers to the method. For example, instructor-led, self-paced or blended.
  • Interaction – Learner interaction with content and communication between learners, instructors and course administrators. This also refers to communicative content.
  • Assessment – As well administering assessments, LMS collect, track, and store assessment data. Based on the results of assessment further actions could be taken and possibly in other systems. For example, HR. Many LMS include the ability to create assessments for learners, feedback and survey tools to evaluate training, etc. These tools can help developers build and refine learning programmes over time.
  • Tracking – The tracking of learner data, especially information such as learner progress and course usage.
  • Reporting and record keeping – The storage and maintenance of learner data as well as the reporting of that data.
  • Configurability and personalization – Functions to enable administrators to configure interfaces, functions and features. Learners can also have the capability to customise their user interfaces.
  • Integration and interfaces – The exchange of data with external systems. Typically, these systems include HR to facilitate enterprise-wide tracking of learner performance and transfer of user data. They can also include portals, content systems, registration, etc.
  • Skills Management – Some LMS include functionality for skills assessment and management capabilities revolve around learners assessing their competency gaps.
  • Administrative – A feature set for purpose of managing the LMS and all its functions.
  • Adherence to standards – An LMS should attempt to support standards such as SCORM or AICC.

LMS are typically used by organizations that are in regulated industries such as financial services or pharmaceutical.  These types of companies use LMS for compliance training. LMS are also used by educational institutions to enhance and support classroom teaching and offering courses to a larger population of learners.

Information on LCMS, as well as an analysis comparing the two systems will be coming soon.