A learning management system (LMS) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, automation, and delivery of educational courses, training programs, materials or learning and development programs. The learning management system concept emerged directly from e-Learning. Learning management systems make up the largest segment of the learning system market. The first introduction of the LMS was in the late 1990s. Learning management systems have faced a massive growth in usage due to the emphasis on remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Learning management systems were designed to identify training and learning gaps, using analytical data and reporting. LMSs are focused on online learning delivery but support a range of uses, acting as a platform for online content, including courses, both asynchronous based and synchronous based. In the higher education space, an LMS may offer classroom management for instructor-led training or a flipped classroom. Modern LMSs include intelligent algorithms to make automated recommendations for courses based on a user’s skill profile as well as extract metadata from learning materials to make such recommendations even more accurate.
An LMS delivers and manages all types of content, including video, courses, workshops and documents. In the education and higher education markets, an LMS will include a variety of functionality that is similar to corporate but will have features such as rubrics, teacher and instructor-facilitated learning, a discussion board, and often the use of a syllabus. A syllabus is rarely a feature in the corporate LMS, although courses may start with heading-level index to give learners an overview of topics covered.
An LMS can be either hosted locally or by a vendor. A vendor-hosted cloud system tends to follow a SaaS (software as a service) model. All data in a vendor-hosted system is housed by the supplier and accessed by users through the internet, on a computer or mobile device. Vendor-hosted systems are typically easier to use and require less technical expertise. An LMS that is locally hosted sees all data pertaining to the LMS hosted internally on the users′ internal servers. Locally hosted LMS software will often be open-source, meaning users will acquire (either through payment or free of charge) the LMS software and its code. With this, the user is able to modify and maintain the software through an internal team. Individuals and smaller organizations tend to stick with cloud-based systems due to the cost of internal hosting and maintenance.
There are a variety of integration strategies for embedding content into LMSs, including AICC, xAPI (also called ‘Tin Can’), SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) and LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability).
Through an LMS, teachers may create and integrate course materials, articulate learning goals, align content and assessments, track studying progress, and create customized tests for students. An LMS allows the communication of learning objectives, and organize learning timelines. An LMS perk is that it delivers learning content and tools straight to learners, and assessment can be automated. It can also reach marginalized groups through special settings. Such systems have built-in customizable features including assessment and tracking. Thus, learners can see in real time their progress and instructors can monitor and communicate the effectiveness of learning. One of the most important features of LMS is trying to create a streamline communication between learners and instructors. Such systems, besides facilitating online learning, tracking learning progress, providing digital learning tools, managing communication, and maybe selling content, may be used to provide different communication features.
Managing courses, users and roles
Learning management systems may be used to create professionally structured course content. The teacher can add, text, images, videos, pdfs, tables, links and text formatting, interactive tests, slideshows etc. Moreover, they can create different types of users, such as teachers, students, parents, visitors and editors (hierarchies). It helps control which content a student can access, track studying progress and engage student with contact tools. Teachers can manage courses and modules, enroll students or set up self-enrollment.
An LMS can enable instructors to create automated assessments and assignments for learners, which are accessible and submitted online. Most platforms allow a variety of different question types such as: one/multi-line answer; multiple choice answer; ordering; free text; matching; essay; true or false/yes or no; fill in the gaps; agreement scale and offline tasks.
Students’ exchange of feedback both with teachers and their peers is possible through LMS. Teachers may create discussion groups to allow students feedback, share their knowledge on topics and increase the interaction in course. Students’ feedback is an instrument which helps teachers to improve their work, helps identify what to add or remove from a course, and ensures students feel comfortable and included.
Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning
Students can either learn asynchronously (on demand, self-paced) through course content such as pre-recorded videos, PDF, SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) or they can undertake synchronous learning through mediums such as Webinars.
Learning management systems will often incorporate dashboards to track student or user progress. They can then report on key items such as completion rates, attendance data and success likelihood. Utilising these metrics can help facilitators better understand gaps in user knowledge.
Benefits of an LMS
The most obvious benefit of an LMS is that it supports the development of knowledge among students or employees. Let’s dig a little deeper into why an LMS is so useful. First, an LMS gives an organization somewhere to centrally house its training and development content. It can be stored, managed, edited and deleted from within the same software. Multiple people can work on the content, and courses can be updated over time to keep the content current.
An LMS also saves money, since traditional forms of training, such as seminars or training days, directly impact the company’s bottom line. With an LMS, users can access their learning environment from anywhere. Learning can take place at any time, at the learner’s own pace and without draining company resources or incurring travel expenses. The use case of an LMS becomes particularly strong for large companies that regularly recruit short-term staff and need to deliver training regularly. An LMS can improve efficiency for such businesses.
Components of an LMS
With hundreds of learning management systems on the market, it would be hard to find two with identical feature sets. However, there are some fundamental features that no LMS should be without:
eLearning Standards Compliance: The ability to exchange data with other eLearning software through compliance with eLearning standards, such as SCORM and Tin-Can.
Multichannel Access: Learners should be able to access their account and their course material through desktops, tablets or smartphones. Ideally, the LMS would be browser-based, rather than requiring an app.
Course Management, Creation or Importing: Administrators should be able to build courses using a built-in course builder or import course material from other platforms. Administrators should also be able to convert existing slides or text documents into courseware-ready material.
Document Management: The ability for students and course managers to upload and manage documents. Those documents could be supplemental course material, coursework or anything else relevant to the curriculum.
Course Calendars: Features that support the creation and publication of course schedules, deadlines and test dates. These calendars help learners track their progress through the course.
Social Features: Notifications, messaging and discussion forums to promote collaboration among students and encourage knowledge sharing. Well-designed social features can increase learner engagement and improve course completion rates.
Tracking and Reporting: Detailed reports should be available, so both administrators and learners can view records of test scores. Administrators should be able to generate detailed reports about overall learner performance. Users can view their own progress and see how close they are to their goal of completing the course.
Assessment and Certification: Pre-course assessments (or diagnostic assessments) to assess employee knowledge levels to assign suitable content to them. Digital or physical certification should also be supported.