LMS vs. LCMS
By Shamil Nizamov

Editor's Note: If you are interested in purchasing a system to manage your company training and learning, or actually designing and delivering it, you need to know the difference between an LMS (Learning Management System) and a Learning Content Management System (LCMS). It gets confusing because software has become so much more sophisticated that it often does both functions. However, they ARE different.

As businesses grow, many companies understand that new hires need to be trained to better suit the company’s environment and business processes, and existing employees have to be trained and evaluated to keep on their career path. "Ok, we need a learning system" could say a manager of a newly created Training Department. But the reality is not so simple. There are hundreds of learning systems vendors out there and none of them can fully satisfy your requirements. So what can you do?

First of all, you have to be aware of the terminology existing in the learning market. What you are looking for is probably called as Learning Management System or LMS. This may confuse many evaluators and purchasers of learning systems by the wide variety of solutions offered as LMS. What is usually called an LMS includes classroom and E-Learning management, content authoring and publishing, communication and collaboration, assessment and evaluation, competency and performance management, reporting, analytics and integration with HRIS/financial systems. Whereas the basic set of LMS features are: administration, learning management, reporting and measurement, security, HR-related features, content management, content integration, and e-commerce. Analytics is an advanced feature and not all vendors include it into a basic LMS package. Analytics includes: effectiveness, efficiency, and compliance measures. As well as a performance management that is a new trend in the LMS market.

Second, LMS vendors identify three types of market: mid-size that is comprised of companies with 1,000-10,000 learners that may be small and medium size companies, enterprises that have more than 10,000 learners, and global enterprise with a world-wide location of offices. So identify your niche and narrow the list of the vendors.

Third, there is one important criteria to think about – your company has to have a Human Resource system already installed and implemented which keeps records of all employees in your company’s head office and branches in one place. LMS is only an extension for such systems and feeds from HRIS (and sometimes from financial systems). The data goes back and forth but should be kept in one place for consistency.

However, a typical LMS product does not address the critical need to create, manage and maintain learning system content. If the answer to your question about how to import your existing courses from different media is "You cannot unless they are SCORM compliant!", and you have no idea what that it means, then you probably have to create all your courses from scratch. Packages like MS PowerPoint and MS Word, i.e. all those that training departments are usually using to create learning materials do not support any existing learning standard. So you need a course creation tool. This new class of learning products is called Learning Content Management System and it is purchased in conjunction with LMS. LMS and LCMS are not the same. Let me explain. Learners enter a Web-portal for example. That portal links the learner to pages generated by LMS where learners can select a course. That course is created by LCMS but delivered by LMS. So, if you have no LCMS you either have to buy courses from vendors or … or you have no courses. That is why you have to be sure that LCMS is really a part of your purchasing LMS and not a separate product. Content management that was mentioned as a part of basic LMS is not the same as LCMS because the latter deals with creating, storing and delivering personalized learning content. Content management in contrast deals with storing and indexing the content for search.

As a conclusion, the evaluator is well-advised to keep up understanding of LMS/LCMS products.

Shamil Nizamov is a freelance writer based in Vancouver, BC. The area of interests includes photography, Web-development and e-commerce. You can find more information on http://www.arthelpdesk.com - a site created for freelance writers.

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