LMS and LCMS Demystified

Posted by Miro | 3:27 AM | | 0 comments »

Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS) and Learning Management Systems (LMS) represent two distinct but complementary product categories. Each has unique strengths and value propositions, and one does not replace the other. At the same time, a tightly integrated LCMS and LMS solution mayoffer unique benefits that surpass the value offered by each system separately. This paper analyzes the relationship between the two systems and discusses the advatage of a tightly integrated LCMS and LMS solution, ideally from the same vendor.

What Is an LMS?
An LMS essentially helps manage an organization’s learning activities and competencies. The activities managed by the LMS could vary from instructor-led classroom training to educational seminars to Web-based online training. From an end-user point of view, an LMS provides an effective way to keep track of individual skills and competencies, and provides a means of easily locating and registering for relevant learning activities to further improve the learner’s skill levels.

An LMS also provides access to online courses for which the user registers. Administratively, an LMS makes it easy to enter, track, manage, and report on learning activities and competencies in an organization. In essence, an LMS primarily focuses on competencies, learning activities, and the logistics of delivering learning activities. An LMS does not focus on creation, reusability, management, or improvement of content itself.

What Is an LCMS?
In contrast, an LCMS helps create, reuse, locate, deliver, manage, and improve learning content. Content is typically maintained in a centralized content repository in the form of small, self-describing, uniquely identifiable objects, or learning objects, each of which satisfies one or more well-defined learning objectives. Each learning object may have been created from scratch or by re-purposing existing knowledge documents in other formats. An LCMS may locate and deliver a learning object to the end-user as an individual unit to satisfy a job-specific need or deliver the learning object as part of a larger course, curriculum, or learning activity defined in an LMS.

An advanced LCMS tracks the user’s interactions with each learning object and uses this detailed information to deliver highly personalized learning experiences while providing authors with rich reports for analyzing the clarity, relevance, and effectiveness of content, so it can be improved on an ongoing basis.

Some leading-edge LCMS products go even further to enable powerful collaboration and knowledge-exchange paradigms in the context of learning objects, and empower users to collaborate with each other as well as with subject-matter experts on specific learning objects. These knowledge exchanges are also captured, archived, and made easily available to future users to expand and supplement the knowledge encapsulated by that learning object.

An LCMS essentially focuses on creating, reusing, locating, delivering, managing, and improving content. In certain cases, the focus also extends to fostering knowledge communities and capturing the unstructured knowledge around the learning object in a tangible form. But an LCMS does not deal with competency management, the extensive administrative functionalities of managing learning activities, or the logistics of these activities.

Where Do LMS and LCMS Meet?
Though Learning Management Systems and Learning Content Management Systems fundamentally differ in focus, they address complementary aspects of the same high-level goal: to accelerate knowledge transfer. In achieving this goal, they share common ground in three key areas:

Content is a key ingredient handled by both LMS and LCMS. The LMS manages, prescribes, delivers, and tracks online courses, which are typically composed of learning objects that were created and defined in the LCMS. The LMS and LCMS both monitor the delivery of content but at different levels of granularity. An LMS concentrates on course-level tracking, particularly completion status and rolled-up scores. In contrast, an LCMS employs detailed tracking at the learning-object level not only to trace user performance and interactions at a finer granularity, but also to provide the metrics that help authors analyze the learning object’s clarity, relevance, and effectiveness.

Users play a central role in both LMS and LCMS. Independent of whether the resource is a learning object, an online course, an expert, or some other form of learning activity, an important common goal of products in both categories is delivering the learning resource to the user in the most effective way possible. A typical LMS maintains a rich profile of each user, including organizational affiliations, job role, preferences, competencies, skill levels, participation in past learning activities, and so forth. Users typically go to the LMS to manage their current competency status, analyze their skill gaps, and register for learning activities that will help them reduce their skill gaps against an aspired career path. An LCMS focuses on delivering a personalized experience to the user that provides just enough content to address the person’s individual needs, just when he or she needs it. An LCMS may also enhance this experience by customizing the content based on a user’s profile or by offering rich collaborative and knowledge exchange capabilities around the content. The key difference is that the LCMS takes advantage of all the information available about the user to offer a personalized experience when delivering a learning object, while an LMS typically maintains the user profile information and makes it available to the LCMS to deliver the personalized experience.

An LMS and LCMS share varying degrees of administrative interests in content as well as users. An LMS typically offers detailed user administration including user profiles, competencies, roles, and organizational properties, but only high-level content administration and tracking. In contrast, an LCMS offers extensive content administration and tracking at fine levels of granularity. However, the LCMS pays more attention to the interactions between user and content than the actual administration of users themselves. Irrespective of the administration’s sophistication and focus, products from both categories have built-in administrative features to manage users and content. Customers have the substantial practical challenge of sharing these administrative interests across an LMS and LCMS, and ensuring the administrative process flows consistently and smoothly between the two systems.