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What is a Learning Management System?

By J.M. Densing
Updated May 17, 2024
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A learning management system, also referred to as LMS, is a software application that manages and automates many aspects of computer based learning. Although the specific details differ depending on the user, most have the ability to receive and organize the information or content to be learned, deliver the content, track learner progress, and report results.

A learning management system can be used in many settings for a variety of purposes such as employee training in the business world or online coursework for college. Education and training are needed throughout a person's life and computer based learning, also known as e-learning, is an efficient method that is growing in popularity.

Within traditional education settings such as K-12 schooling and college, a learning management system can be used in many ways ranging from providing a single online course to an entire college degree program. They are used from elementary school all the way through graduate school, and many traditional schools now provide e-learning opportunities. In addition, entire virtual schools that operate completely over the internet are becoming increasingly common. Learning management systems can also be used in many industries and professions for employee training and continuing education, to help people keep their knowledge current, or to learn new information in order to advance or change careers.

One of the features a learning management system often has is a way to input content and design learning experiences. Courses can be designed using a multimedia approach that includes a combination of text, sound and video. Content from courses can often be segmented into smaller pieces called learning chunks that can be re-used in other courses, or utilized for targeted learning or review. Many also offer the course designer or instructor a way to personalize the learning experience for specific learners.

Once the course is in use, the learning management system delivers the content with a way for each learner to access, view, and interact with the content. Learners can log in and read content, view videos, ask and answer questions, take built in quizzes and more. On many systems it's possible to have a virtual classroom where the instructor and the students all log in at the same time. .

Another common feature of many types of learning management system is a mechanism for reporting results to whoever is in charge of the course's administration. This person might be a manager or human resources personnel in a business environment, or a teacher or student advisor in an educational setting. Results being reported could include performance indicators, test scores, a final grade, or simply a record of completion. Many learning management systems also offer a wide variety of other features customized for the specific needs of the user.

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