A learning management system (LMS) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, automation and delivery of educational courses, training programs, or learning and development programs. The learning management system concept emerged directly from e-Learning. Although the first LMS appeared in the higher education sector, the majority of the LMSs today focus on the corporate market. 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 were designed to identify training and learning gaps, utilizing 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. An LMS may offer classroom management for instructor-led training or a flipped classroom, used in higher education, but not in the corporate space. Modern LMSs include intelligent algorithms to make automated recommendations for courses based on a user’s skill profile as well as extract meta-data from learning materials in order to make such recommendations even more accurate.
An LMS delivers and manages all types of content, including video, courses, 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.
There are several historical phases of distance education that preceded the development of the LMS:
The first known document of correspondence teaching dates back to 1723, through the advertisement in the Boston Gazette of Caleb Phillips, professor of shorthand, offering teaching materials and tutorials. The first testimony of a bi-directional communication organized correspondence course comes from England, in 1840, when Isaac Pitman initiated a shorthand course, wherein he sent a passage of the Bible to students, who would send it back in full transcription. The success of the course resulted in the foundation of the phonographic correspondence society in 1843. The pioneering milestone in distance language teaching was in 1856 by Charles Toussaint and Gustav Langenscheidt, who began the first European institution of distance learning. This is the first known instance of the use of materials for independent language study.
Multimedia teaching: The emergence and development of the distance learning idea
The concept of e-learning began developing in the early 20th century, marked by the appearance of audio-video communication systems used for remote teaching. In 1909, E.M. Forster published his story ‘The Machine Stops’ and explained the benefits of using audio communication to deliver lectures to remote audiences.
In 1920, Sidney L. Pressey developed the first teaching machine which offered multiple types of practical exercises and question formats. Nine years later, University of Alberta’s Professor M.E. Zerte transformed this machine into a problem cylinder able to compare problems and solutions.
This, in a sense was “multimedia”, because it made use of several media to reach students and provide instruction. Later printed materials would be joined by telephone, radio and TV broadcasts, audio and videotapes.
The earliest networked learning system was the Plato Learning Management system (PLM) developed in the 1970s by Control Data Corporation.
In the 1980s the modern telecommunications start to be used in education, with computers more present in the daily use of higher education institutions. Computer aided teaching aims to integrate technical and educational means and instruments to student learning. The trend then shifted to video communication, as a result of which Houston University decided to hold telecast classes to their students for approximately 13–15 hours a week. The classes took place in 1953, while in 1956, Robin McKinnon Wood and Gordon Pask released the first adaptive teaching system for corporate environments SAKI. The idea of automating teaching operations also inspired the University of Illinois experts to develop their Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations (PLATO) which enabled users to exchange content regardless of their location. In the period between 1970 and 1980, educational venues were rapidly considering the idea of computerizing courses, including the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute from California that introduced the first accredited online-taught degree.
Teaching through the internet: The appearance of the first LMS
The history of the application of computers to education is filled with broadly descriptive terms such as computer-managed instruction (CMI), and integrated learning systems (ILS), computer-based instruction (CBI), computer-assisted instruction (CAI), and computer-assisted learning (CAL). These terms describe drill-and-practice programs, more sophisticated tutorials, and more individualized instruction, respectively. The term is currently used to describe a number of different educational computer applications. FirstClass by SoftArc, used by the United Kingdom’s Open University in the 1990s and 2000s to deliver online learning across Europe, was one of the earliest internet-based LMSs.
The first fully-featured Learning Management System (LMS) was called EKKO, developed and released by Norway’s NKI Distance Education Network in 1991. Three years later, New Brunswick’s NB Learning Network presented a similar system designed for DOS-based teaching, and devoted exclusively to business learners.
Most modern LMSs are web-based. 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). LMSs were originally designed to be locally hosted on-premise, where the organization purchases a license to a version of the software, and installs it on their own servers and network. Many LMSs are now offered as SaaS (software as a service), with hosting provided by the vendors.
Through LMS, teachers may create and integrate course materials, articulate learning goals, align content and assessments, track studying progress, and create customized tests for students. LMS allows the communication of learning objectives, and organize learning timelines. LMS leverage is that it delivers learning content and tools straight to learners, and 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, manage communication, and maybe selling content, may be used to provide different communication features.
Managing courses, users and roles
The LMS may be used to create professional structured course content. The teacher can add, text, images, tables, links and text formatting, interactive tests, slideshows etc. Moreover, you 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, see reports on students and import students to their online classes.
With much of the integration of new resources being controlled by technical guidelines outlined by SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model), the process of integrating new features within multiple LMSs has become more efficient.
Online assessment and tracking students’ attendance
LMS can enable teachers to create customized tests for students, accessible and submitted online. Platforms allow different multiple question types such as: one/multi-line answer; multiple choice answer; drag-and-drop order; essay; true or false/yes or no; fill in the gaps; agreement scale and offline tasks. Some LMSs also allow for attendance management and integration with classroom training wherein administrators can view attendance and records of whether a learner attended, arrived late, or missed classes and events.
Students’ exchange of feedback both with teachers and their peers is possible through LMS. Teachers may create discussion groups to allow students feedback and increase the interaction in course. Students’ feedback is an instrument which help teachers to improve their work, identify what to add or remove from their courses, where students feel more comfortable, what makes them be more included.
What is an LMS, and What Can LMS Do for Your Business?
Michael got a new achievement called “The Ambassador.” Now, he’s number fifteen in the overall ratings. But what’s even more important, he’s one rank higher than his colleague George from Miami (they’ve been competing for a while). No, they aren’t playing World of Warcraft. In fact, Michael is a manager at a supermarket which is a part of a well-known retail chain. He got the achievement for completing the e-course “The Standards of Service.”
You can launch your own online learning resource and implement the same gaming principles using a learning management system, or LMS. In this article, we’re going to tell you what it is and how it can help you.
What’s an LMS?
An LMS is a platform for digital learning. Its key features can be found in the abbreviation.
L — Learning. With an LMS, you can create a single source of online courses and training materials. This will become a unique source of knowledge in your area, so that you can keep and increase the in-house expertise of your company.
M — Management. You can manage courses and learners, and even improve your own efficiency.
Unlike file sharing services, an LMS is not just a heap of files; on the contrary, it’s a well-organized system where you manage the training process. To start training, simply add employees and assign courses.
Have you recently hired some new employees? Send them invitations to the onboarding training course. Experiencing low sales? Ask your salespeople to practice with virtual clients.
Thanks to features like a calendar, you’ll be able to assign and manage not only online training, but also in-class sessions. In this way, an LMS can be a sort of a to-do app designed specially for eLearners.
S — System. Computer system, to be exact. An LMS automates the most boring and tedious work such as grading, processing statistics, and preparing reports. Plus, you can train your employees without leaving the office, managing all the processes right from your work computer.
In other words, an LMS is like your own online university. The system allows you to store and create eLearning courses, provides learners access to the content, and helps you evaluate the results.
Watch the video to see how an LMS works and how it can help your business grow.
What Type of LMS Should I Choose?
Now that you know what an LMS is, it’s time to figure out which learning platforms exist and how they differ. Here’s a description of different types of LMSs:
Corporate vs. Academic LMS
Both corporate and academic LMSs give access to learning materials online and automate different aspects of training processes, but they have some differences.
Academic learning is aimed at producing good students that have deep knowledge of the subjects and strive to learn more. Here, theoretical knowledge is the end goal. Corporate training focuses on learning related to practical applications, and one of its main objectives is ROI.
For workforce training, time limits are shorter, so a corporate LMS must be flexible to fit all time frames and business needs. Semesters, trimesters and quarters — these are the time frames for educational institutions. For them, the LMS should offer such scheduling units as holidays, exam times, and periods.
Certifications vs. grades
A corporate learning platform usually offers the capability of tracking and completion in the form of certifications. An academic LMS typically tracks learners’ progress through its grading system. It provides gradebooks for monitoring attendance and assignment results, as well as keeping other information for each student in the roster.
Tools for social learning
Other functionalities that an academic learning platform usually provides are capabilities for creating student groups for class projects and breakout sessions, discussion boards, and a built-in web-conferencing tool.
The content students require is based on the sciences and humanities; that’s why an educational LMS doesn’t need to update it regularly. Since market needs change quite rapidly, a corporate LMS should have the ability to quickly and easily update courses.
Free vs. Commercial
This is usually one of the first challenges companies face when choosing an LMS: deciding between a free, open-source system, or a commercial platform. In fact, there’s a major misconception that all open-source LMSs are free. There may be no license fee, but that doesn’t mean there are no costs. You are likely to spend more on your open-source platform than a commercial LMS, as you may need to set up a server and a hosting architecture, customize LMS features that come standard, fine-tune the site branding, and regularly upgrade your system. Plus, if you don’t have technical talent in your team who can make it highly customizable for your company, your eLearning project is likely to fail.
The ideal solution for users without an IT background is commercial software. It’s typically much easier to deploy and use, offers tech support services, and doesn’t require additional costs.
SaaS / Cloud LMS vsLocally hosted LMS
You can choose a SaaS (Software as a Service) LMS or store the data on your company’s own servers. If you decide to host the system yourself, you’re fully responsible for all server specs, uptime and security.
If you select a SaaS system, it will be your LMS vendor who takes care of server load, backups, and all the other things concerning storing your training data. This is the best match if you don’t have IT staff in place that can manage the system and handle support, customization and scalability concerns. Instead of spending time on managing the LMS, you can focus on creating learning content.
Some companies avoid cloud-based LMSs because of data security concerns. They believe that their information that is stored on a remote server may be compromised. However, there are different ways to safeguard your data. For instance, ensure that the LMS vendor has effective encryption protocols and will back up your information.
Course-creating (LCMS) vs. Non-course-creating (LMS)
To be more precise, an LMS (learning management system) is a tool that allows you to simply distribute ready-made content. And a system that, beyond this, has functionality for creating courses, is called an LCMS (learning content management system).
There’s a tricky balance between these systems. An LCMS has greater capabilities for building and managing eLearning content, while an LMS focuses on user management and provides a wider range of learning experiences. For example, it lets you manage more traditional forms of learning, such as scheduling face-to-face training.
If you’re going to build courses in-house, you can choose between two alternatives: either buy an LCMS, or purchase an LMS and an authoring tool separately.
However, here you can face two problems:
Built-in course editors usually have serious functional limitations, so you will be able to create only simple courses or tests.
Not all LMSs and authoring tools are fully compatible. For instance, there may be difficulties with uploading courses to the system or tracking learners’ progress.
If you want to avoid compatibility problems and create beautiful interactive courses, choose an LMS with a bundled authoring tool. For example, iSpring Learn LMS is fully integrated with iSpring Suite. This integration allows you to create professional-looking e-courses, easily upload them to the platform, and enjoy advanced reporting capabilities.