It can be difficult to understand eLearning terms when they’re used interchangeably. Which is which and how do you know when to use them? For example, you’ve likely seen Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS) discussed on various websites and company pages. It sounds like they’re the same thing, right? Wrong. Are they similar? Sure. But there are differences, and those differences matter like the differences between siblings caught in a rivalry to be the favorite child. “Oh sure, the LMS will manage your learners, but will it help you create content?”
What’s an LMS?
An LMS manages people’s interactions with learning content. In other words, it allows learners to take courses and attend online events, instructors to track learners’ progress and scores, administrators to check reports, and more. It gives your association one software package that delivers, assesses, and reports on online training programs. In many cases, the learner can receive his or her LMS-generated certificate at the end of a course. In short, it’s the learning delivery platform. Sounds great, right?
How is an LCMS Different from an LMS?
An LCMS goes one step farther. An LCMS lets you create learning content (courses, lessons, modules, etc.). As a result, your association can create, store, reuse, and manage courses and training materials all in the same program. In short, with an LCMS you typically get all the features of an LMS plus the added benefits of a Content Management System (CMS). Note: some of these LCMS systems are proprietary and do not allow content created within the system to be moved to another system. The ideal solution is an LCMS that also allows you to create content using other authoring systems or tools, and also allows you transfer the created content to another system, in future, if you need to.
How Do I Choose?
“Why would I want an LMS?”
Suppose your members need training to introduce them to a new product that affects your field. Your association pays a vendor to create an interactive course that goes over the features of this new product. Now you need a way to deliver that training to your members across the country and you want to track who has taken the course, their scores, and their competency with this new product. In this case, you probably want an LMS because the content already exists and you just need to deliver and manage it. Paying more for an LCMS would get your content creation features that you may not use.
“Why would I want an LCMS if I already have an LMS?”
Now suppose the association wants to save money by making the course themselves and decides not to hire a vendor. Maybe there’s an existing PowerPoint presentation, or other resource, that can be updated and repurposed. Or maybe they want to make something completely new but don’t have the tools they need. Can they make that revised PowerPoint presentation interactive? Can they build a new course without buying an authoring tool? If they’re using an LMS, probably not. On the other hand, an LCMS could allow the association to add interactions and questions to the PowerPoint or build a course from scratch without needing to buy another program. In this instance, an LCMS is probably a better fit because the association can create its own learning content and deliver it to its members using one product.
Please note that an LCMS is not the only way to create your own learning content. You could invest in a rapid content authoring tool, build the courses in the tool, and then deliver them using an LMS. The distinction is that if you have an LCMS you can build courses inside the LCMS and you don’t need a separate tool. Every LMS and LCMS is different and every provider uses their own judgment when deciding what to call their product. Their judgment might be different from yours. So, always check with your provider, or prospective provider, and ask them about their system’s specific features to see if they fit your association’s needs.
Choosing Your Favorite: “I have the best features, pick me!”
The fact that providers often use “LMS” and “LCMS” interchangeably is what causes confusion. Remember, if a system offers content creation it’s an LCMS, even if the provider calls it an LMS. Whichever you pick, both are great ways to address an organization’s educational and training needs and can provide associations with new and exciting sources of non-dues revenue from members and non-members alike.
*PLEASE NOTE: A true LCMS is solely a content creation and management tool. You will need to check with your specific provider regarding the functions and features of their LCMS and LMS to clarify which they offer.*
For more great information, check out our resources page.
Visit our LMS page to learn more about the Knowledge Direct Learning Management System.
Ready to find out what Digitec can do for you?