• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!


A brief overview of LMSs

Page history last edited by Xuan Nguyen 11 years, 6 months ago


This introductory section will discuss Learning Management System with respects to its definition, related terms, different types of LMSs, a brief history of LMS evolvement and development, and its future.




Learning Management System (LMS) is a software application for facilitating and managing administrative, instructional, and learning activities in face-to-face and online courses and in supplementation for face-to-face classes (Ellis, 2009;Jones, 2009; JISC, 2012).


An LMS can be characterized as being able to:

centralize and automate administration 

use self-service and self-guided services 

assemble and deliver learning content rapidly 

consolidate training initiatives on a scalable web-based platform 

support portability and standards

personalize content and enable knowledge reuse.

(Ellis, 2009, p. 1)



Noticeably, among many different alternative terms, Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and Course Management System (CMS) are the most common interchangeably used for LMS. Despite being slightly different, these concepts are basically used to refer to organizational systems for administrators and teachers structure their course content, organize, assess, and track learning activities throughout the course by employing certain e-learning tools provided by or integrated with the platform (Chase, 2012). In this portfolio, LMS is preferably used for its generic meaning (Left, 2011). More related concepts are thoroughly distinguished in Wikipedia.


One point to note is the differences between LMS and PLE (Personal Learning Environment), which are sometimes confused and misused. These are clarified in the following chart and videos:


     LMS vs. PLE by Chatti (2010)


    LMS vs. PLE by Downes (2012)


Another useful explanation in plain English:


PLE vs. LMS by Skill, Houton, and Carhart (2011)


In essence, the most outstanding distinction lies in the degree of openness, formality, and personalization of which PLE tends to offer more to students as they are allowed and encouraged to set up their own learning networks.




Joomla (2012) provides a very comprehensive classification of LMSs on various criteria, which can be briefly summarized in the table below:




Although each LMS has its own distinct features, most of the platforms share the following features:


First, as described above (in definition and terminology parts), LMSs are designed as a tool to control and support both hybrid and in-person learning at any time, place, and pace. 


Second, the majority of LMSs are web-based using a certain platform developing technologies, for example Java/J2EEMicrosoft .NET or PHP. Such database as MySQLMicrosoft SQL Server or Oracle are also needed as back-end.


Third, an LMS often consists of a range of tools bundled together into a package. It might also be linked to and/or incorporated with other authoring tools and e-learning tools for such functions as online tests. Employment of these tools varies across circumstances with different needs (JISC, 2012). Among many functions, tools for for synchronous and asynchronous communication, content storage and delivery, online quiz and survey tools, grade-books, whiteboards, digital drop-boxes, and email communications lies at heart of an LMS (Harrington, Gordon, & Schibik. 2004).


Fourth, an LMS is often used as an intranet within an institution, inter-connected with to other information systems such as library, student self-service, and emails (JISC, 2012).


A part from those common characteristics, a set of the most valuable features identified by a 2009 Learning Circuits survey on LMSs includes:


  • Reporting, 52.8%
  • Compliance tracking, 46.5%
  • Assessment and testing, 42.5%
  • Learner-centered, 39.4%
  • Content management, 29.9%
  • Course Catalogue, 28.3%
  • Authoring, 19.7%
  • Manager approval, 19.7%
  • Certification, 18.9%
  • Standards, 18.1%
  • Analytics, 17.3%
  • Collaboration tool integration, 15%
  • Security, 14.2%
  • ERP/CRM integration, 8.7%


(Ellis, 2009) 



A brief review of LMS history reveals two phases of developments. The first one began in the nineties when LMSs mainly established within higher education institutions. One of the early predominant commercial LMS, WebCT evolved from the University of British Columbia (Goldberg, Salari, & Swoboda, 1996). Budget limitations and other difficulties resulted in a shift to adoption of ready-made commercial, proprietary LMSs such as Blackboard and WebCT in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Another dramatic change was the expansion of scope from local inventive division to a whole institutional strategy (Katz, 2003).


This movement has lead to an innovation in the birth of second generation LMSs that are open-source. By 2006 the market was divided into two major sectors of commercial and free LMS platforms (Browne, Jekins, & Walker, 2006). Up to now, there have been numerous LMSs of various types, designs, and functions. Apparently, the growing number of LMS products indicates the emerging and immature nature of LMS since the focus has been more on its technological infrastructure service rather than its innovative and effective educational application (OECD, 2005).




Efforts in outlining the future of LMSs have resulted in a number of common trends in the development of LMSs, as reports when outlining the future role of LMSs, includes:


  • LMSs will still play an important role in education for which instructional, administrative, and technical reasons are among many accounts
  • There will be more competitive LMS market offering a huge number of platforms with an enormous spectrum of options
  • Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 will support LMSs rather than replacing them 
  • LMSs will aim at and have to achieve the target of analytics and data reporting
  • There should be more focus on teaching in the technology-related decisions since LMSs are primarily tools for instructors and administrators to control the teaching and learning
  • There will be significant challenges for institutions in coping with constantly changing technologies
  • VLE and PLE will be more focused than LMSs

(Hill, 2011; Contact North, 2012; Bates, 2012; Gautam, 2012)


These possible movements are illustrated as follows:

     LMS predictions (Hill, 2011)


In similar light, Mott (2010) proposes “Open Learning Network” (OLN) in his envision of the post-LMS era, which shares considerable characteristics of LMS 3.0 described by Pugliese (2012).


     A Full-Featured OLN (Mott, 2010)


Clearly, recent advancements in today technologies have been causing major innovations in the LMS industry towards more open learning environments incorporating new Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 advances, catering for a wide range of teaching and learning needs (Leslie, 2006; Ellis, 2009; Hill, 2011; Contact North, 2012). As a result, apparently, "the stand-alone LMS will probably be dead (Pontefract, 2009).


In short, like other technologies, it is not an easy task to predict the future. Yet, from what recent years have been experienced, we can be positive and hopeful about it, as there has been a trend to enhance the quality of LMS service, especially open-source LMS provision, in response to the growing demand both in quantity and in quality of it in education.


N.B: For more discussion over trends and predictions for LMS future, please refer to: Leslie’s (2006), Bates (2012), Gautam (2012), (Pontefract, 2009)Pugliese (2012).

--> Examples of LMSs


Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.