Learning Management Systems
Definition: A learning management system (LMS) is a database system that records all the details of any education that a person (a staff member or student, for example) has taken or will take.
The format of the learning should be independent of the LMS, meaning that the LMS can control classroom training sessions, distance learning units, videos, computer-based training (CBT) or almost any other form of education. Records of tests and qualifications taken and passed, with grades, can also be stored.
Although learning management systems (LMS) are not directly related to
computer-based training the expansion of CBT and online training in particular has hastened the demand for systems that companies and education establishments can use to track and control learning.
Accountability in Training and Qualifications
Keeping track of training becomes more problematic with the delivery of online training and distance learning. With pure classroom training the tutor or lecturer is in close contact with the students and can take records. When a group of people who need to take a refresher course in a certain subject are spread all over the world, keeping records is a logistical problem.
The second driver for these systems is the need to keep accurate records of training delivered specifically for accountability. This is particular the case in heavily regulated environments such as finance, food production and pharmaceuticals. It is not enough for companies to put staff through all the training that they need to perform a particular function, they must also be able to provide records to show regulated bodies that staff have received that training.
Management of Training Facilities and Assets
Many LMS suites also provide tools to manage the delivery of training. This can include managing bookings of rooms or other learning facilities, assignment of lecturers or trainers to their classes and even the financial details: who has paid for their course and who hasn't. By hooking an LMS into a communication platform the system can also be used to send out details of training events to the participants and facilitators by email, SMS or other communication methods.
LMS Versus LCMS
Some LMS products also manage the educational content, as long as it is in a form that can be stored digitally such as CBT,
video or audio. There is some overlap here with specialised learning content management systems (LCMS) which exist purely to mange the content.
With an LCMS educational content can be created or uploaded to a central system, tagged and formatted in such as way as to be later used when building the curriculum for a course. Within the LCMS existing items of content (usually known as 'assets') can be brought together to create a new course.
In as LMS this is less likely to be the case. A pure LMS can direct a student to the material, and deliver it if it is online content, but cannot build a new training course using that content.
What Can an LMS Deliver for a Business?
The needs of an educational establishment, managing perhaps tens of thousands of students past and present taking mostly lessons and lectures, will be very different to, say, the needs of a 1500-strong company with teams in regional offices, all learning at a distance. So although many LMS products are sold as generic products, able to be tailored to any learning environment, it would be wise to look at products that specialise in particular areas for a business with particular needs.
Cost Savings from an LMS Implementation
Companies implementing an LMS should see cost savings from two main areas. The first is as a defensive expenditure. It might cost a lot of money to train people and manage that raining but it pales into significance compared to the cost of having a chemical plant shut down for a week by an inspector who spots a regulatory infringement.
The second element is the cost savings that can be gained from analysing training patterns. As well as making training more efficient, so that trained staff become productive earlier on, training resources can be more effectively managed.
For example if three identical class sessions are being held on one day an LMS can demonstrate that average attendance levels would justify cutting one session. Or the usage profile of online courses can be compared against a supplier's pricing tariff to see if a change in buying patterns can lower unit costs.
Finally it is worth pointing out that there is an emerging standard for online learning products and looking for compatibility with this standard will make an LMS more cost-efficient. Called the "shareable content object reference model" (SCORM) the standard defines the format of a computerised training unit, not the format of the content.
>From a business point of view looking for SCORM compliant content and management systems will allow a company to easily integrate training material from different providers, picking the best content for price and relevance rather than sticking to the content available form one provider.