What is a Learning Management System?

Learning Management System Overview

A Learning Management System, or LMS, is a software product that makes available to people training programs and examinations. An LMS can be as simple as delivering course information or as complex as managing the entire learning process.

A complete learning management system will do the following:

  • automate all administrative tasks such as registration, tracking attendance and recording exam results
  • give the user the ability to manage their own information and reporting
  • include a structured way to deliver training material easily and quickly
  • allow the system to expand easily as the need for more resources increases

Who Uses a Learning Management System?

Colleges and universities use an LMS to support classroom instruction and to make the material available to a broader audience (i.e. Distance Learning).

Organizations use an LMS to provide continuing education to their members.

Corporations use an LMS to train new staff, deliver mandatory course material and to facilitate the appraisal process.

What Can a Learning Management System Do?

Learning management systems are tailored to an environment. The requirements of a college or university and of a corporation have some overlap as well as some unique characteristics.

Some of the common needs that an LMS can fulfill are:

  • user, team and role management
  • classes, instructor and facilities management
  • report generation
  • management of the course calendar
  • documentation of the learning path for individuals
  • messaging and notifications
  • administration of testing

Some unique requirements in the corporate environment are:

  • staff enrollment in courses required by their title or location
  • integration of course history with performance systems for use in appraisals
  • grouping of staff by department, location or product

Learning Content Management System (LCMS)

One aspect of an LMS is management of the content (course material). Sometimes a separate software application called a Learning Content Management System (LCMS) is used. This software will integrate with the LMS and will control how authors enter course material into the system, make changes, and present it to the student.

Common Issues when Implementing a Learning Management System

There are certain challenges associated with implementing an LMS:

  • Integration with Human Resources (HR) – More effort and duplication of information can occur if an LMS does not connect to the existing HR system of a company or registration system in a college.
  • Ease of content management – The easier it is for authors to enter and/or change course content in an LMS, the higher the quality of the course material.
  • Flexibility of Configuration – The LMS must be easily configured as the needs of an organization changes. When departments are added or consolidated, school divisions are created or deleted, or entire programs need to be divided or merged, the effort to make these changes in a LMS should be easy and intuitive.
  • Security – It is important to be able to accommodate access by participants outside of the company, non-members of an organization or students from various schools while protecting the company’s content.

The Challenges of Education with a Learning Management System

The use of an LMS facilitates learning by an individual anywhere at any time. What is most often missing is contact with the instructor and other students that would normally be available in the classroom.

Companies and organizations can mitigate this through the use of study groups, user forums and open sessions where the instructor is made available for questions.

Further reading:
Wikipedia: Learning Management System: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_management_system
“A Field Guide to LMS”, Ryann K. Ellis, Editor, Learning Circuits, 2009, American Society for Training and Development

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