What is a Learning Management System?

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LMS What? The LMS Definition You’ve Been Looking For

LMS stands short for Learning Management System.

Learning, because you use it to deliver education courses or training programs.

Management, because it helps you organize these courses (create them, change them, assign them to students, grade them, etc).

System, last but not least, is just a fancy word that translates to “software”. An LMS is a computer program.

Just like Word helps you write documents and Gmail helps you manage your emails, an LMS is a software program that helps you create, manage and deliver eLearning courses.

An LMS is the “engine” that powers eLearning, and in the most common form it consists of two separate parts:

– A server component that performs the core functionality (creating, managing and delivering courses, authenticating users, serving data and notifications, etc.)

– A user interface that runs inside your browser as a web (like Gmail or Facebook), that is used by administrators, instructors and students

Who uses an LMS?

Anybody who’s doing eLearning is using an LMS ― and that includes a whole lot more than just educational institutions.

To give a non-exhaustive list:

– Traditional educational institutions (schools, universities, colleges).

– Businesses of all sizes, from large multinational enterprises to small and medium businesses.

– Organizations, from the United Nations to your local co-op, including Non-Government Organizations and non-profits.

– Government agencies and local governments.

– Online and eLearning based educational institutions (online schools from Khan Academy to Lynda.com).

What are they using an LMS for?

An LMS can be used for all kinds of learning activities (that’s why they put the “L” in the acronym after all). But it’s also an invaluable business tool, one that has been embraced by enterprises and organizations big and small.

Here are some of the most common use cases for an LMS platform:

Employee training

The need to train new employees or teach existing employees new skills is a constant, whether you are an insurance company, a scooter factory, a hospital or a government organization.

With a business LMS you can cut down on employee training costs and eliminate business disruptions associated with traditional learning, by letting your employees study the material online and at their own pace.

With eLearning, businesses not only spend less money and effort compared to bringing in specialized instructors to give conventional seminars, but also gain better insights on their employees’ progress with integrated monitoring and reporting tools.



Last, but not least, an LMS is a good fit for general educational offerings (duh!).

It could be a school selling online lessons, a traditional educational institution supplementing its classroom-based courses, a business educating its clients, or even a government agency or NGO helping educate the general population.

In all these forms, and many more, eLearning is here to stay, to the degree that it might be the very future of learning.

So, what does an LMS do exactly?

An LMS handles the management and delivery of eLearning courses.

Too abstract for you?

Well, an LMS lets you create eLearning content (lessons), organize it into courses, deliver the content (either internally to your business or to a wider internet audience), enroll students to said courses, and, finally, monitor and assess their performance (attendance, grades, etc.).

That, of course, is a high level description of the features that a modern LMS should offer ― useful as a general description, or if you’re ever asked that at a quiz show.

If you’re interested in a more in-depth description, read on, as we’ll go through all these capabilities in more detail.

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