Definition

A "Learning Management System" (LMS) is a software package that enables the management and delivery of learning content and resources to students.  Most LMSs are web-based to facilitate "anytime, anywhere" access to learning content and administration.

An LMS usually enables student registration, the delivery and tracking of e-learning courses and content, and testing, and may also allow the management of instructor-led training classes.  In the most comprehensive LMSs, one may find tools such as competency management, skills-gap analysis, succession planning, certifications, virtual live classes, and resource allocation (venues, rooms, textbooks, instructors, etc.).  Most systems allow for learner self-service, facilitating self-enrollment, and access to courses.

Some do not distinguish between LMS and LCMS, referring to both as "LMS," but there is a difference.  An LCMS, which stands for "Learning Content Management System," facilitates the organization of content from authoring tools, and the presentation of this content to students via the LMS.

LMSs are based on a variety of development platforms, and usually employ the use of a robust database back-end.  They make it possible for a course designer to present to students, through a single, consistent, and intuitive interface, all the components required for a course of education or training.  A comprehensive LMS will implement all of the following elements:

  • The syllabus for the course.
  • Administrative information including the location of sessions, details of pre-requisites and co-requisites, credit information, and how to get help.
  • A notice board for up-to-date course information.
  • Student registration and tracking facilities, if necessary with payment options.
  • Basic teaching materials.  These may be the complete content of the course, if the VLE is being used in a distance learning context, or copies of visual aids used in lectures or other classes where it is being used to support a campus-based course.
  • Additional resources, including reading materials, and links to outside resources in libraries and on the Internet.
  • Self-assessment quizzes which can be scored automatically.
  • Formal assessment procedures.
  • Electronic communication support including e-mail, threaded discussions and a chat room, with or without a moderator.
  • Differential access rights for instructors and students.

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