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Major Differences: LMS, LCMS, and CMS - What are they?

An LMS stands for a Learning Management System, which is a software platform used to deliver and track training courses. LCMS is a Learning Content Management System, and this describes software used to author and manage learning content. A CMS is an abbreviation for a Content Management System - which refers to software that is used to organize content that makes up a website.

Learning Management System

An LMS is typically used for continued education training, higher education, and corporate training. These software platforms store and deliver training content and then track participation and scores of their users to ensure training has been properly received. Most LMSs to date allow the training managers to author their own content, or upload content from a third party site as long as it is compliant with the standards outlined by SCORM (If you are unsure what SCORM is, it is a set of standards that dictate if content is compatible with a system. As an example of how it works: All CD’s have the same standards so that they can be played in a CD player. With SCORM, all content meets the same set of requirements and standards so that it is compatible with different systems). An LMS usually allows companies to create different tracks for training courses that employees need to fulfill for their specific training objectives. Many LMSs also allow a training manager to track other actions that employees and students take such as their involvement in mentoring, or classroom training.

Learning Content Management System

LCMSs are used primarily to create and store elearning content. A benefit to utilizing a LCMS is that rather than creating courses for wide distribution, single courses can be modified for individual users. These systems typically allow multiple content creators to work together during the content creation process and then duplicate content in many different formats to be used within an LMS or another platform for distribution. The largest difference between and LMS and LCMS is that an LMS is created for the user, and an LCMS is created for the course creators. When in the course creation process - learning and development personnel should look for an LCMS provider as opposed to an LMS because it is designed specifically to aid in the process of developing, managing, and publishing training content.

Content Management System

Content Management Systems create framework for how and what content is to be displayed on a website. Some features of a CMS are to manage various content forms - like files, images, electronic documents, audio files, etc. CMSs allow distributors to decide what content is displayed and when it is to be shown, as well as who it is to be shown to. Typically within these systems, content is able to be tagged with metadata that allows the content to be crawled by search engines and within your own search bar. Tagging also creates the possibility for using content quickly and efficiently within a system. CMSs, as they stand, are not typically used for content that is specifically created for learning and education - however, it is easily confused with an LCMS which is designed specifically for that purpose.

As you can see, that one letter really can make a large difference in the product that you may be searching for - whether you are looking for a place to create and store content, or looking for a platform to host content that has already been created can determine what software is best going to suit your needs.


An image of filing cabinets to signify all the content that needs a better way to be managed.


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