What is a Learning Management System? Overview of LMS and its features
Last Updated: January 25th, 20248 min read
Learning Management Systems are software applications used for the creation, distribution, and managing the delivery of educational content and training or learning programs. The most basic of the LMS software contains a core platform that allows the administrator to upload learning content, deliver the lessons, give announcements, and share useful data with users.
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The concept of a learning management system emerged from eLearning in the late 1990s. Even though LMS first appeared in the higher education system, today it is most commonly used by corporates. LMS can be used to identify learning and training gaps or utilizing the collected analytical data. LMS courses are usually set up online. Students and instructors can easily access the courses anywhere, anytime after a secure sign-in process. This also allows leaders and administrators to monitor the performance of students.
History of LMS
Learning management systems evolved from distance education systems. In 1723 Caleb Phillipps, a professor of shorthand put up an advertisement in the Boston Gazette offering tutorials and learning materials. This was the first instance of a long-distance education system. The first instance of bi-directional communication was recorded in England in 1840. Isaac Pitman created a shorthand course in which he would send passages from the Bible to students and they would transcribe it and send it back.
The success of that course culminated in the formation of the Phonographic Correspondence Society in 1843. In 1856, Charles Toussaint and Gustav Langenscheidt started the first European institution of distance learning. The development of the penny post service fostered the growth of Correspondence Institutions by allowing the delivery of letters and parcels for a penny.
eLearning became a viable option by the early 20th century due to the further developments of audio-video communication systems. They were being used more and more frequently for learning purposes. This was highlighted in E.M Forster’s “The Machine Stops” which was published in 1909. It explained the benefits of using audio communications to deliver lectures to remote audiences.
The very first teaching machine was developed by Sidney L Pressey. It offered various practical exercises and different question formats. Professor M.E Zerte transformed that machine into a problem cylinder after nine years. It was used to compare problems and solutions.
The very first networked learning system was the Plato Learning Management system (PLM) which was developed in the 1970s by Control Data Corporation.
In the 1980s computers became more widely used in educational institutions. Using computer-aided teaching, technical and educational means, and instruments to students learning are integrated. Slowly video communication started gaining popularity. In 1953, Houston University telecasted classes to their students for approximately 13-15 hours a week.
The first adaptive teaching system for corporate environments was released in 1956 by Robin McKinnon Wood and Gordon Pask. It was christened SAKI. The University of Illinois developed its Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations (PLATO) which enabled users to exchange content regardless of their location. During this time, Western Behavioural Sciences Institute from California introduces the first accredited online-taught degree.
One of the earliest internet based LMS was FirstClass which was developed by SoftArc. It was used by the Open University in the United Kingdom. The first proper LMS was EKKO which was developed by NKI Distance Education Network from Norway in 1991. 3 years later; NB Learning Network presented their similar system for DOS-based teaching exclusively made for business learners.
Features of Learning Management Systems
Learning management systems provide trainers with a system that is flexible. The trainers can easily add content, text, images, tables, links, tests, slideshows, etc. It also provides the ability to create hierarchies for different types of users like teachers, students, visitors, and editors.
It provides complete control over what content the student is able to access. The trainers can also monitor their learning progress and engage with students using the platform. Trainers will also be able to manage the courses and modules and enroll students in the course.
SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) controls the integration of new resources by providing the necessary technical guidelines. This makes the process of integrating new features with multiple LMS much more efficient.
LMS also provides the necessary features which give trainers the ability to create customized tests for students. The questions can be in any format like MCQs, essays, true or false, etc. Most of the LMS also allows management of attendance which is integrated with classroom training where the teacher or administrator can view the attendance records of the learners.
Students can provide their feedback about classes or ask doubts through LMS. Trainers can create discussion groups to increase their interaction with students. Their feedback is important in improving the performance and finding out whether to add or remove content from their courses. It also helps the students feel more comfortable and also helps in making them included.
Since most of the LMS available have AI built into it, it can provide a learning experience tailor-made for the learner’s needs.
Most LMS also support gamification of the content which in turn can increase learner engagement. Game mechanics can provide increased incentives to the learners to complete the courses in the form of badges, points, and leader boards.
Nowadays most LMS also has integrated social media tools that help them to connect with their peers and exchange their learning experiences.
Since multilingual support is crucial for global organizations, most LMSs have geolocation features that display the appropriate version of the training course.
These are just some of the basic features of LMSs. You should remember that there are no one-size-fits-all when it comes to LMS. The training needs and the budgets differ from organization to organization. You should be careful to choose an LMS which is best suited to your needs so that it benefits both the learners and the organization in the long run.
Advantages of LMS
Makes learning easier
A training platform can be used by multiple teachers simultaneously, like how standard classes operate. A teacher is also free to experiment with different training techniques like storytelling, blended learning, social learning, etc. This makes the learning process much more engaging.
Provides easy access to eLearning materials
When your eLearning material is transferred to and published in the LMS, it becomes completely available anywhere, anytime. Even people using mobile devices can access the materials on the go. They won’t have to wait for their next class to peruse their studies. This plays an important role in making LMS accessible anywhere around the globe.
Consolidate all training information
You can learn all the necessary information at a glance. The status of the classes, student records, course completion rates, everything is available at your fingertips. This makes much more sense than rifling through countless files to find out a piece of information.
Reduces Learning cost
LMS can exponentially reduce the time, money, and efforts traditionally used for training courses. You can save on the price of the materials, the price of the physical space, and the time of the trainer and learners. The only prerequisite for accessing classes using LMS is an internet connection. The classes can be scheduled on their own time. Trainees are also provided a one-point access using which they can contact the trainer, use the course materials or videos, and take tests. All they need to do is log in.
Integrates social learning experiences
Since LMS provides social media integration, a user can incorporate links to their social media sites and to online forums. This serves two purposes: Firstly, it can provide increased publicity for the organization. Secondly, users can share their experiences and questions with their peers online.
Helps in saving time
The data collection features of an LMS can help the trainers in a big way. LMS systems can provide trainers with info about which learners are finding it harder to get a grasp of a particular subject or topic and why they are having difficulty in the first place. This allows the trainer to quickly and efficiently help the learners individually. An LMS can also track the participation of learners in the class. This allows the trainer to concentrate on the content and the quality of participation.
Disadvantages of LMS
A massive drawback of LMS is that everything cannot be taught online. There are many roles that might need a physical ability that cannot be effectively taught or tested online. There are many jobs that require face to face interaction or interpersonal communication. The trainers who have traditionally taught that course using live interactions might not be able to do that through online sessions.
Another drawback is that trainees may not consider the training opportunities they have outside of the LMS. They forget that they can learn a lot more about their jobs interacting with people who have had prior experience doing it. Informal training using networking and mentoring cannot be easily done through LMS. I hope you remember the 70:20:10 principle.
Implementing LMS requires a solid technology infrastructure. The trainers also must adapt to the change of curricula from face to face lectures to online lectures.
Management of LMS
In this time and age, an LMS is necessary for you to get the most out of your online courses. But managing an LMS is no easy task. This is where Learning Everest comes in. Learning Everest specializes in the deployment and management of the Learning Management System, be it open source LMS or paid LMS. If you want us to look at your training needs and suggest an LMS that suits your organizational needs, then we would recommend you try our Learning Consulting services. But, if you have zeroed in on an LMS or already have one, we can help you set-up the LMS or maintain it and ensure that your LMS is up and running all the time. Even if you don’t have a huge budget for purchasing an LMS and you are looking for a low-cost solution, we have a couple of options that we can propose and set it up for you and then if you want, even maintain it for you, so that you can focus on your business and leave the rest to the specialists.