Ever since the internet came and took over our lives and our work, programmers have been creating online management systems. Customer relationship management, content management, learning management, and so on.
Each management system did something unique that made it specialized for its purpose. But the number of systems that became available diluted the meaning and made it hard for users and organizations to determine what’s best for them. Let’s take a quick look at Learning Management Systems (LMS) and what makes them specialized for learning apart from other management systems such as Content Management Systems (CMS).
The always connected nature of the internet made it perfect for centralizing important data for storage and collaboration. Data could mean anything from text articles, multimedia, inventory, personal information, and more. For all this data, or content, there had to be a way to get it into and out of the system and the amount of content could grow to be massive. Manually coding your static website to publish all this content became impossible so content management systems were created.
Today, 38.4% of all websites are run on WordPress, you might have heard of it. Shoppify, Joomla and Drupal make up 2.9%, 2.3%, and 1.5% of sites respectively. For many companies, Microsoft Sharepoint is the go to content management system internally. It turns out that all this content on the internet needs to be managed somehow!
What LMSs Bring to the Table
Learning management evolved into a different specialization from content management. This is where systems like Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard, Absorb, and Fabric stepped up. What did these programs add to the mixture that made them especially suited for learning?
LMS developers realized that learning content simply is not structured like a website or blog. Your math textbook was not organized into categories with articles sorted by most likes. No, it was structured into chapters and lessons and started with foundational concepts that increased in complexity. Learning management systems needed to provide ways to structure content to improve learning, not encourage casual reading.
The management part of learning means that there must be some record keeping on who has learned what. In schools this is done through certificates, diplomas, and degrees—you get a physical piece of paper that signifies that you have successfully learned a specific set of skills and knowledge. This proof is necessary to show other people what you are able to do (e.g. get hired). An LMS needs to do the same thing if it’s going to be useful.
Assessment and Marking
The other part of managing learning is assessing how the content was learned through assessment. We remember these from school as exams and report cards and, whether we liked it or not, they were an important part of our learning experience. It gave both students and teachers a tool to identify areas where the student needed help or where they could be challenged more. These functions are as useful in the workplace as they are in an academic setting.
Conclusion: The Right Tool for the Job
Training departments that try to build their training programs on Sharepoint or WordPress will quickly run into problems when it comes to structuring their content in an optimal way for learning, providing proof that the training program has been completed, and recording how well the learners internalized the knowledge. The results from these attempts are often kludgy and inefficient.
Learning management systems provide critical features that are specialized for learning in the areas of content structure, progress tracking, and assessment. They saw that content management systems were not equipped to handle learning and added features based on best practices in education and academia that everyone is familiar with like certificates, report cards, and text books.
That said, many technologies evolve and content management systems that allow other developers to build extensions like WordPress and Joomla are able to have LMS features added on to the base CMS. Regardless, it is the fundamental features and the design of the product that make it a fit for your learning purposes.
Have you tried using a content management tool as a learning management system in your organization before? How did it go?