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What is an LMS (Learning Management System)?

organizations use a learning management system to give development opportunities to employees
Many organizations use a learning management system (LMS) to give employees opportunities for expanding their professional development.
Credit: Goodluz

A learning management system is a powerful resource for employers focused on training and professional development, whether it’s for staffing agencies or extension schools or corporations. This powerful software combines database management with the digital framework for managing curricula, training materials and evaluation tools. The impact of an LMS is mostly felt outside of traditional educational institutions, though the same technology is slowly finding its way into even those entities.

History of LMS

The application of computers as educational resources isn’t a new concept, though the existence of comprehensive learning management systems is much younger. Terms like computer-based instruction (CBI), computer-assisted instruction (CAI) and computer-assisted learning (CAL) were used to describe earlier applications of individualized, electronic instruction. Early inceptions of computer-based learning simply entailed a computerized curriculum with little to support it from a tracking and course library standpoint. As software infrastructures advanced, the ability to effectively implement a content management system for managing and integrating courses increased the overall functionality of the LMS into what is now commonly used.

Components of an LMS

No hard-and-fast list of components exists to relegate what is and isn’t a learning management system. While a series of features is quite common, the full capabilities of the LMS will vary between organizations and intended uses. The following elements best describe an LMS:

  • The ability to create class rosters, control registration and create waiting lists
  • The ability to upload and manage documents containing curriculum content.
  • The ability to deliver course content over a Web-based interface, allowing for an entirely remote educational experience for the instructor and student.
  • The ability to create and publish course calendars.
  • The ability to interact between students via functionalities like instant messaging, email, and forums.
  • The ability to establish methods for assessment and testing, such as multiple choice quizzes.

In the corporate training environment, learning management systems offer a number of additional features that cater to the busy and professionally-driven individual:

  • Automatic enrollment and reminders for mandatory courses
  • Manager access for approving materials and participation
  • HR integration for tracking performance goals, course completions and employment eligibility

Advantages of an LMS

The purpose of a learning management system is to add another level of efficiency to an organization and the growth of its employees. An LMS effectively creates an online learning environment through which employees can select courses that interest them and management can track potential improvements in the office based on course history. The LMS allows an organization to:

  • Manage learning more effectively. Learning activities are housed in one location and thus reduce costs while also creating greater visibility for learning opportunities.
  • Improve compliance reporting. Learning management systems can track the courses employees take and the scores they receive, allowing management to better focus training and identify needs for certifications.
  • Combine social and formal learning for an increased overall value. Learning and learning retention is accelerated through the integration of an online method of study and allows employees to go at their own pace.
  • Empower administration. Management will become more informed of the learning employees participate in and what topics need greater focus in creating more well-rounded employees.
  • Improve content delivery. Instructors can more easily prepare and present quality courses that will act as positive learning opportunities for course participants.

LMS software

Several learning management systems exist, offering access to their own vast libraries of training or giving organizations a clean slate to fill with their own content. Solutions like Blackboard Learn, Desire 2 Learn, Moodle, and Sakai prove to be among the most popular learning management systems out there. They offer a comprehensive interface for managing and setting up curriculum, as well as tracking employee progress and course history. These applications are available for both in-house installation as well as web-based monthly subscription.

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