Starting or choosing an e-learning system can be a monstrous choice between so many different options. Some people propose a full Learning Management System (LMS), tracking users, content, marks, and reports while others lean towards a simple Content Management System (CMS) that gives some security and sharing of content with the potential to customize. The challenge is identify what you really need and what gives you the best options for future growth.
Learning Management System
LMS: Learning Management System. Software that administers, tracks, reports, and delivers online training programs.
LMS software is best for e-learning to deliver full security and group access for users, so that they are in a secure environment. Organizations having an LMS don’t have to worry about the wrong people accessing their content and separates managers vs. educators vs. students. It also tracks the scores and progress of e-learning users, so you know who is benefitting from the content and who is lagging behind. It ensures that people who complete the training get a legitimate certificate of completion, which is immensely important for safety and compliance training.
Learning Management Systems upload various types of content (e-learning courses online, videos, PDFs, etc.) produced from other media. An LMS tracks different training courses delivered to different groups of employees in order to fulfill their specific training objectives. A customized learning program is available for both individual employees and external users, especially when an LMS is integrated with an online shopping cart. In addition to delivering and tracking online training courses, many LMS’s enable training managers to keep track of employees’ participation in other types of training programs, such as in-person classes. It also follows an industry-standard called SCORM, with different versions (1.2, 2004, and Tin-Can) that enable a course content to be transferred and read by another LMS.
An LMS is often delivered fully online for small-to-mid-sized organizations. Larger companies have their own internal LMS, but it needs to be managed and is a much more expensive option that many small-to-mid-sized companies who need e-learning for increased performance, can’t afford.
Content Management System
CMS: Content Management System. Software that enables multiple users to collaborate on creating, managing, and delivering basic content.
CMS software creates a base framework for creating, storing, and displaying content on a website. A modern CMS manages various content under different logins (administrator, editor, writer, etc) and includes files, images, PDFs, videos, audio, blog pages, and more. A CMS allows the website owner to decide which content is available to the public and which content is available only to users with the appropriate access. All content on the website is often tagged with metadata, which helps online users searching for the content either on the site, or with a search engine like Google (raising the rank of your site if the content is “Search Engine Optimized” or SEO).
The popular content management systems from Dreamweaver, to Drupal, to WordPress are used to create all kinds of websites. An extended form of a CMS, is a Learning Content Management System (LCMS) which is customized for administrators/creators. A LCMS is specialized for the creation and management of learning content. Some companies take each system a bit further and add customization to make it easier to access content for users (students). But that actually makes it harder to maintain, as they have to rely on customization again to upgrade anything, without buying a whole new system.
Choosing the Best System for You
When you’re ready to make a choice on the best e-learning system to implement, you need to look at the following factors to determine which software will work better for your organizational needs:
|Easy set up||Yes||Yes|
|Store Content||Yes||Yes, depends on website hosting|
|Secure Access||Yes, by account||Yes, by login|
|Use Content||Yes, full access||No, only by site visitors|
|Track Users||Yes, by individuals & groups||No, only by person who writes content|
|Transfer Content||Yes, when uploaded only||Yes, when changed online|
|Easy update content||No, only if using LCMS*||Yes, simple website changes only|
|Testing Options||Yes, integrated tests||No, only a custom solution possible|
|Certificate Options||Yes, integrated certificates||No, only a custom solution possible|
|Maintenance||Yes, provided by LMS||Yes, when charged by developer|