What is an LMS?
Learning Management Systems Allow Powerful Training Programs to be Delivered on the Go
Over the past decade or so, powerful software for managing complex databases has been combined with digital frameworks for managing curriculum, training materials, and evaluation tools. The result is a technology known as the Learning Management System (LMS). Already a nearly billion-dollar industry, LMS products and software allow any organization to develop electronic coursework, deliver it with unprecedented reach and flexibility, and manage its continued use over time.
The LMS has become a powerful tool for consulting companies that specialize in staffing and training, extension schools, and any corporation looking to get a better grasp on the continuing education of its workforce. Its impact has been felt mostly outside of traditional education institutions, though the same technological and market forces are dramatically changing today’s classroom as well.
Below is a quick review of some of the common aspects of the LMS industry, a few of its strengths and limitations, and a peek at what the future may hold.
Components of an LMS
There is no standard industry definition or published standard defining the components of an LMS, but several features are common:
- Creation of class rosters, control over registration processes, and the ability to create waiting lists.
- Upload and management of documents containing curricular content.
- Delivery of course content over web-based interfaces, most often allowing remote participation by the instructor or pupil.
- Creation and publication of course calendars.
- Interaction between and among students, such as instant messaging, email, and discussion forums.
- Methods of assessment and testing (like creating pop quizzes).
LMS systems used in corporate training environments often have additional features that satisfy goals relating to knowledge management and performance evaluation, such as:
- Automatic enrollment and reminders for mandatory courses.
- Options for manager access, such as to approve materials or participation.
- Integration with human resource systems for tracking employment eligibility, performance goals, and similar corporate priorities.
- Control over access and class groupings according to a number of metrics, such as geography, involvement in a particular project, or levels of security clearance.
Advantages of an LMS
Like many information technology innovations from the past few decades, LMS software is able to add a level of efficiency to companies’ learning systems, with a number of other benefits emerging as well, such as:
- Easily adapting and reusing materials over time.
- More choices for creators of curriculum, such as method of delivery, design of materials, and techniques for evaluation.
- Creating economies of scale that make it less costly for organizations to develop and maintain content for which they used to rely on third parties.
- Improvements in professional development and evaluation, allowing companies to get more value from human resources while empowering individuals with additional tools for self-improvement.
The Future of LMS
While still a relatively young field, LMS continues to evolve and adapt to new learning challenges and technological capabilities, including:
- New uses for e-learning content, ranging from the arts to marketing communications.
- Tighter integration into collaborative software platforms and messaging frameworks, such as Groupwise and Microsoft Outlook.
- Migration of data storage to network-based methods, commonly known as “the cloud.”
- Further integration with talent management software systems.
Current trends in technology and business are favoring the increase of collaborative, web-based applications, user-oriented design, and other features that are often grouped together under the term “Web 2.0.” By further inverting the traditional forms of interaction between instructors and pupils, and enabling a great amount of content to be created and managed more easily, the future of LMS appears to be a dynamic one.
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