A learning management system (LMS) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of educational courses or training programs. They help the instructor deliver material to the students, administer tests and other assignments, track student progress, and manage record-keeping. LMSes support a range of uses, from supporting classes that meet in physical classrooms to acting as a platform for fully online courses, as well as several hybrid forms, such as blended learning and flipped classrooms.
An LMS delivers and manages instructional content, and typically handles student registration, course administration, and tracking, and reporting of student work. Some LMSs help identify progress towards learning or training goals. Most LMSes are web-based, to facilitate access. LMSes are often used by regulated industries (e.g. financial services and biopharma) for compliance training. Some LMS providers include "performance management systems", which encompass employee appraisals, competency management, skills-gap analysis, succession planning, and multi-rater assessments (i.e., 360 degree reviews). Some systems support competency-based learning.
Though there are a wide variety of terms for digital aids or platforms for education, such as course management systems, virtual or managed learning platforms or systems, or computer-based learning environment, the term learning management system has become the ubiquitous term for products that help administer or deliver part or all of a course.
The history of the application of computers to education is filled with broadly descriptive terms such as computer-managed instruction (CMI), and integrated learning systems (ILS), computer-based instruction (CBI), computer-assisted instruction (CAI), and computer-assisted learning (CAL). These terms describe drill-and-practice programs, more sophisticated tutorials, and more individualized instruction, respectively. The term is currently used to describe a number of different educational computer applications.
The earliest networked learning system was the Plato Learning Management system (PLM) developed in the 1970s by Control Data Corporation. FirstClass by SoftArc was used by the United Kingdom's Open University in the 1990s and 2000s to deliver online learning across Europe, was one of the earliest internet-based LMSes.
Most LMSes are web-based. There are a variety of integration strategies for embedding content into LMSes, including SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) and LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability). LMSes were originally designed to be locally hosted on-premise, where the organization purchases a license to a version of the software, and installs it on their own servers and network. Many LMSes are also offered as SaaS (software as a service), with hosting provided by the vendors.
In the U.S. higher education market as of fall 2016, the top three LMSes by number of installations were Blackboard (33%), Moodle (19%) and Canvas (17%). The same three systems lead in terms of number of students enrolled, but in a different order: Blackboard (45%), Canvas (24%), Moodle (17%).
In the corporate market in 2015, the six largest LMS providers constitute approximately 50% of the market, with SuccessFactors Learning, Saba Software, Voniz Inc and SumTotal Systems being the four largest providers. Vendors focused on mid-sized companies (200+ employees) include Halogen Software, ADP, and Workday. Another service related to LMS comes from the standardized test preparation vendors, where companies such as Princeton Review or BenchPrep offer online test prep courses.
Many users of LMSs use an authoring tool to create content, which is then hosted on an LMS. In many cases LMSes include a primitive authoring tool for basic content manipulation. There are several standards for creating and integrating complex content into an LMS, including AICC, SCORM and Learning Tools Interoperability. All widely adopted LMSes offer one or more of these standards for importing content.
Evaluation of LMSs is a complex task and significant research supports different forms of evaluation, including iterative processes where students' experiences and approaches to learning are evaluated.
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