MET:Learning Management System

From UBC Wiki

This page originally authored by Derek Millard (2007).
This page revised by Michael Haworth (2008).

A Learning Management System (LMS) is web portal software designed to facilitate online education. The LMS offers a teacher-managed, centralized website (Carliner 2005) that learners can use to access learning objects and related resources by either synchronous or asynchronous modes (Petherbridge 2007). In addition to curriculum content, learning management systems often afford the capabilities of testing, communication, registration, and learner tracking. With a connection to the Internet, LMSs can afford learners with, “training and education available anytime and anywhere.” (Hultin n.d.)

Confusion over the precise definition of Learning Management System (LMS) has developed due to similarities to the definition for Course Management Systems (CMS). In their original purposes, the LMS and CMS served different requirements. The LMS platform was designed for business purposes "workplace learning environments" (Carliner 2005) while the CMS was designed for academic purposes. LMS based platforms while similar to CMS platforms, focused more on registration type roles (Carliner 2005). This differentiation has been blurred considerably with the progression of time since these systems were first developed. (Petherbridge 2007)

In addition to the terms LMS and CMS, the terms Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) (Toedt 2006) or Virtual Environment for Learning may also be used either to describe, or in concert with LMS and CMS. ("Virtual Learning Environment" 2008) ("Virtual Learning Environment" n.d.)

Implementations of an LMS

An LMS may be used with several different levels of learners to meet the specific needs of each learner group. These learner groups can be divided into the following general categories. (Watson and Watson, n.d.)

Key features of a Learning Management System (LMS)

There are several key features that constitute the makeup of a LMS. Due to the wide variety of LMSs available, each individual LMS may or may not include all of the features in this list.

  • Offer LMS users ability to view catalog of available online courses. (Toedt 2006)
  • Ability for system administrators, teachers, and students to register in an online course. (Hultin n.d.)
  • Automated confirmation by the LMS of completion of any required prerequisite courses. (Carliner 2005)
  • Automated communication by LMS with learners regarding online courses. (Carliner 2005)
  • Management of financial information for students, courses, and departments. (Carliner 2005)
  • Ability for course administration staff to modify an entire online course and/or learning objects of an online course. (Hultin n.d.)
  • Provide support for hybrid curriculum, “that combines classroom learning and virtual courses easily.” (Hultin n.d.)
  • Tools to track and report student registration, participation, and progress in the online course(s). (Hultin n.d.) (Carliner 2005)
  • A web portal interface that allows learners to access all of their current online courses. (Hultin n.d.)
  • Online LMS-based test and quiz delivery, evaluation, and reporting. (Hultin n.d.)
  • Ability for the LMS to interoperate with computer software systems such as Student Information Systems (SIS). (Hultin n.d.)
  • Refine learning process by allowing “organisations (sic) to measure training needs and identify improvement areas based on the individual’s competencies” (Hultin n.d.)
  • Compliance with e-learning standards and specifications such as SCORM to provide learning object interoperability with other LMSs. (Hultin n.d.)
  • Synchronous and asynchronous communication tools such as e-mail, threaded discussion, audio / video conferencing, and online chat. (Toedt 2006)
  • Tutoring (Toedt 2006)

Other desirable features of an LMS

Besides these key features of an LMS, there are other additional desirable features that provide additional functionality to the LMS. These synchronous and asynchronous features in turn offer learners additional ways to interact with the LMS.

Additional desirable synchronous LMS features

  • Collaborative workspaces for learners such as web-based whiteboards. (Hultin n.d.)
  • Shared software application support to provide learners collaborative opportunities to work within software applications on each other’s computers. (Hultin n.d.)
  • Ability for LMS users to see who else currently online using the system. (Hultin n.d.)

Additional desirable asynchronous LMS features

  • Ability to attach document files to threaded discussion group messages. (Hultin n.d.)
  • Shared online archive where document files created by students and teachers can be made available to all members of an online course. (Hultin n.d.)
  • “What’s New” feature to provide users of LMS with latest information and important reminders. (Hultin n.d.)

Blurring of distinctions between Learning Management System (LMS) and Course Management Systems (CMS)

The terms “Learning Management System” (LMS) and “Course Management System” (CMS) may be seen being used interchangeably. This has led to confusion over the definition of, and the differences between these two terms, “a consistent literature definition for an LMS is elusive, possibly because the LMS in use may have been developed for the nuances of a specific organization, purchased from a vendor, or is some conglomerate of both. Additionally, the issue is confusing because of similar systems appearing on the market that manage learning objects, offer publishing functions, and provide space for virtual learning communities.” (Petherbridge 2007)

LMS software options

Several Learning Management System software packages are available for installation on Macintosh, Windows, Linux, and UNIX operating systems. LMS software packages may also be either commercial software that must be purchased or free open-source software. Below is a list of commercial and open-source LMS software packages. This list should be considered an overview of LMS software packages and not a complete list of every available LMS. There's also a section on choosing the right LMS to meet your needs.

Commercial LMS software options include:

Open source LMS software options include:

Choosing the Right LMS software for the job:

See also:


  1. Also described in other literature as a Content Management System (CMS).
  2. Also described at the Atutor website as a Learning Content Management System (LCMS).


External links