Course Management System: How It Differs From Learning Management System

mobile device with a man with education in his brainA Learning Management System (LMS) is usually associated with other computer applications – none more common than a CMS or Course Management System. Not to be confused with content management system, this is also used in both online and blended learning. It primarily supports the course materials that are used in learning over the Internet.

Like LMS, the course management system does the following functions:

  • Help students become associated with online courses.
  • Manages the registration of student in every course.
  • Tracks the performance of each student.
  • Stores data relevant to the course.
  • Serves as the mediator in communicating between students and instructor.

The similarities in both functions result in the confusion between the two. However, the CMS is more focused on the course itself. LMS has a broader coverage in the learning process. It encompasses the planning, preparation, testing, delivery, monitoring, record keeping and continuous development of the whole educational system. To simplify it, CMS is a part of the LMS.

Knowing the distinction between the two will allow organizations to determine which will be used in their blended or online learning processes. It also has to be noted that both can be used simultaneously if the learning goals require it.

If you wish to have a focused application for courses, you may want to use a content management system. That way, you have an application that will concentrate on the management and delivery of both instructor-led and e-learning programs. It is the secure place where the courses are stored and launched to a specific set of users.

The learning management system on the other hand will allow you to have a lot more data that will help in the development of the whole educational system. Not only that, it also helps in the development of the education outside the computing environment – or at least the Internet. The CMS offers a less dynamic application but it has the ability to offer a more secure database.

Determining what is better for your institution or organization requires you to look into your learning goals. If your intention is to have an encompassing learning strategy, then your best bet is to go for an LMS. But if your goal is smaller then you can scale it down and use a CMS instead.

Or you can begin with a CMS before you go all out with an LMS investment. During the development of the system, you can start with the CMS – at least until you have done the course. As you start implementing it, you can slowly inject the LMS into the whole program.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles for