Learning Management System (LMS)

These systems are integrated software programs that provide the interface and controls to deliver online learning and instructional management for schools, universities, and business training programs.

Wikipedia reports that most learning managment systems contain the following features:
  • Manage users, roles, courses, instructors, and facilities and generate reports.
  • Course calendar
  • Learner messaging and notifications
  • Assessment/testing capable of handling student pre/post testing
  • Display scores and transcripts
  • Grading of coursework and roster processing, including waitlisting
  • Web-based or blended course delivery

John Hall in his 2003 article for the website "Chief Learning Officer" said "A learning management system provides the platform for the enterprise’s online learning environment by enabling the management, delivery and tracking of blended learning (i.e., online and traditional classroom) for employees, stakeholders and customers. A robust LMS should integrate with other departments, such as human resources, accounting and e-commerce, so administrative and supervisory tasks can be streamlined and automated and the overall cost and impact of education can be tracked and quantified.

Furthermore, an LMS should support a collaborative learning community, offering multiple modes of learning—from self-paced coursework (Web-based seminars and classes, downloadable, CD-ROM and video content) to scheduled classes (live instruction in classroom settings or online) to group learning (online forums and chats). In its ability to integrate, organize and standardize learning across broad organizational requirements, the LMS model has been compared favorably to enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, which convert a company’s back-office into a seamlessly functioning whole." Hall is talking about a corporate learning environment but, the ideas are applicable to K-12 and Higher Education as well. He continues to say "In today’s knowledge economy, companies must be able to distribute, manage and assess educational programs across practices and geographies in an efficient, fast and low-cost manner."

Edutools shows comparison information for several Learning Management Systems. The tool provided by Edutools allows you to see a side by side comparison of the various selling points of many different LMS systems.

The technology behind LMS's

Wikipedia notes that most LMS interfaces utilize Internet programming languages such as Java or Microsoft's .NET platform. These complex systems typically require specialized connections to university or corporate database servers. LMS programs utilize these connections to populate data fields in gradebooks, discussion boards, and other data-intensive applications. A report from the University of California at Berkeley asserted that a unique application program interface (API) is usually required in order to link a university's main database to a learning management system.

LMS Choices

According to Eric Wolfman's Directory: Learning Management System, there are many different LMSs available for individuals and schools to choose from. Here is a brief list:
  • ATutor (Open Source)
  • Blackboard
  • Claroline (Open Source)
  • DotLRN (Open Source)
  • llias (Open Source)
  • Moodle (Open Source)
  • OpenCourse
  • InteractLMS
  • Syberworks.com
  • Sakaiproject ("Community source")
  • WebCT

Trying out an LMS

OpenSourceCMS.com provides free demo implementations of the open source LMSs listed above. They are refreshed every 30 minutes. Simply navigate to their site, choose "e-Learning" on the left sidebar, and try them out!

Alternatively, maybe you'd like to try things out and not have them erased every 30 minutes. Simply install Moodle on your Windows PC! See provided video below.