School is In for LMSs, LCMSs, and LXPs


Apps & Tools
Professional learning
Emerging technology

How do we navigate the differences among the multitude of learning systems and platforms, and understand and apply what’s best for unique learner needs?

The capabilities of Learning Management Systems (LMSs) have been expanding over the last decade, which means—as with most emerging technologies—a corresponding proliferation of acronyms. Even if you have heard of LMS, LXP, LRS, and LCMS, you may only have a vague idea of what they are and how they interrelate. Most importantly, you may not know if or where these services have value for your own professional learning platform needs. This post provides a first step toward that understanding.

Let's start with an analogy that’s not far-removed from the subject. A school facility is specifically built for administering learning, but learning doesn't happen until the school is populated with educators, curriculum, and classes. Traditionally, that learning is prescribed, sequenced, and limited in scope to what's covered in the textbooks, lesson plans, and the educators' areas of expertise. Assignments and assessments allow an educator insight into students' grasp of a subject, which is reflected in feedback and grades.

An LMS fulfills similar functions in the digital realm. It provides an online platform for hosting and delivering learning, which usually takes the form of a discrete set of courses, made up of a series of sequenced content (learning activities). The student's progress and comprehension can be tracked, scored, and reported back to their educator. Popular examples of LMSs include Canvas, Blackboard Learn, Schoology, Google Classroom, and open-source options such as Moodle and Open edX.

Learning Content Management Systems

In a school, physical instructional content is created, stored, and organized in books, binders, files, handouts, and storage bins. In an LMS, that's the role of the Learning Content Management System (LCMS). An LCMS provides the tools for learning experience designers and subject matter experts to author and publish digital content. It allows organizations to standardize on one tool and workflow for developing online learning content. A robust LCMS enables templated design, repurposed course content, interactive elements, and output to multiple formats, such as PDFs, videos, or slides. Courses created and offered by publishers and other third-party providers are often built in LCMS’s; whereas an LMS’s on-board tools are usually satisfactory for educator-created content.

As an aside, you’re likely familiar with the term, Content Management System (CMS). The difference here is that CMS applies to general content authoring, publishing, and delivery, while LMS and LCMSs provide an environment and tools specialized for learning.

Learning Experience Platforms