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Content Management System (CMS) vs. Learning Management System (LMS)

Difference Between Content Management System and Learning Management System

CMS vs. LMS? Let's explore what a difference a single letter can make.

If you're looking into e-learning, you might start to hear the acronyms CMS and LMS thrown around a lot. They stand for "content management system" and "learning management system".

It's important to be able to distinguish between content and learning management systems if your company, organization, or institution is looking to expand and streamline their training and teaching programs. In fact, the differences between these two systems are not hard to spot. Other than the last two letters of their names, there's not a whole lot else these systems have in common.

The Similarities Between the Two Management Systems

Let's start with the similarities between CMS and LMS. Both systems have the ability to create the same end result, which is why people get them confused. They both have the ability to create a great website or online portal for students to sign up for classes, engage with content, interact with one another, etc... Both are also:

  • Kinds of applications used to organize information onto a website.
  • Accessed and edited by multiple users across multiple computers.
  • Fundamental to e-learning.

What Exactly is a Content Management System?

On the "backend", or from the teacher's perspective, is where they the two systems diverge. A CMS is more like a skeleton or a simple framework. It can be used for any purpose, as long as it supports the organization, modification, and presentation of content. Web content management systems (WCMS) are the majority of CMSs. WordPress is a great example of a WCMS. As with any CMS, WordPress users can:

  • Create and upload content, such as text, video, and images.
  • Edit and manage that content from multiple computers and accounts.
  • Create layers of access and presentation that change according to the user.
  • Choose between, and set, formatting and design templates.

A CMS can be used for teaching and learning, but it can also have many other uses.

A CMS is a step up from coding, in terms of accessibility to the average educator. You don't need to be a expert to learn your way around a CMS, but there is still a learning curve that could be challenging for someone who isn't very computer literate.

What Exactly is a Learning Management System?

Unlike a CMS, an LMS is specifically designed for learning. An LMS can actually be built with a CMS, like WordPress for example. An LMS may look the same as a CMS from the student's standpoint, but on the "backend", from the teacher's standpoint, it is typically more user-friendly. Technically, CMSs offer the following capabilities too, but LMSs are specifically designed for them:

  • Easily post educational or training content including video, images, and text.
  • Organize content by courses and classes.
  • Post, manipulate, and edit courses, classes, schedules, and grades.
  • Track the progress of each student and view their activity.

The decision between an LMS and a CMS really depends on your needs. LMSs are all about simplicity, speed, efficiency, and ease-of-use, so if those are your main concerns, there's no reason to hassle with a CMS. LMSs are also fairly customizable, so you'll have plenty of flexibility when designing, organizing, creating, and selling your course content.

About Nate Johnson

Nate Johnson is one of the co-founders of Fly Plugins, creators of the first and most widely-implemented learning management system for WordPress, WP Courseware. Since 2012, he has helped thousands of entrepreneurs, corporate training departments, and higher education institutions develop and deploy online training courses from their WordPress websites.

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