What is a learning management system (LMS)?

Posted by Greten on 16 Dec 2018 under Terms, Tools

A learning management system (LMS) is a software program—or a group of programs working together—that facilitates and records the interaction between the learners and the learning content. LMS allows an instructor or facilitator to manage how the learning content is delivered, tracks the progress of the learners, and assign them quizzes or additional learning content as needed.

Many LMSs can store several different kinds of learning content: static web pages, images, videos, presentation slides, interactive HTML5 learning modules, among others.

Hosting and deployment

You can store an LMS in a standalone computer, local area network, company intranet, or the world wide web, depending on who your target learners are.

A standalone computer can be useful for initial testing before deploying to a wider audience. A local area network or an intranet infrastructure is useful for organizations operating from one location or several sites respectively. An LMS deployed over the internet is suitable for courses offered to the public or several students in different locations across the world.

Interoperability standards

One of the most important, if probably not the most important, feature of an LMS is the interoperability standard. The most widely used standards are:

  • xAPI
  • AICC

LMSs use interoperability standards to interact with learning content. For example, the LMS manages the grade of students. The instructor incorporated certain activities in the learning module as part of the grade in a way that is analogous to the recitation in traditional classrooms. In some cases, the exam is built at the end of the learning module or as a separate module instead of the quiz function of the LMS. Thus, there must be compatibility between the learning module and the LMS to transfer the data of the learner's score from the module to the LMS.

Illustration of a computer CPU representing server, and on its right are icons film strip for videos, slide for HTML5 modules, and a paper checklist for quizzes.If say, you developed a learning module using Adobe Captivate, you can use Captivate to publish the module as AICC compliant, so it can work in an LMS that uses AICC standards. Suppose your institution later replaced your LMS with another that uses SCORM standards, you can just reopen your Captivate file and publish the module as SCORM compliant.

Having widely accepted interoperability standards is better than each LMS having its own standard, and instructional designers building separate learning content from scratch just to accommodate all LMSs they will ever use. In a way, these interoperability standards are analogous to XHMTL and HTML5 standards in web development.

Some of the known LMSs

There are several LMSs available, and most of them support more than one interoperability standards. Some of the most popular LMSs and their licenses are listed below:

  • Moodle - FOSS
  • Blackboard Learn - proprietary
  • Docebo - proprietary
  • EasyLMS - proprietary
  • Forma LMS - FOSS
  • SuccessFactors - proprietary
  • Schoology - proprietary


Last updated on 03 May 2019.

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Instructional design and educational technology for effective learning