Learning Content Management Systems Guide: LCMS vs. LMS

One of the least understood learning technologies is Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS). We’re here to give you the lowdown – and explain the differences between LCMS vs LMS. The learning technologies market is fast-growing and full of innovative products. With so many options and acronyms (LCMS, LMS, CMS …), it can be tricky to work out exactly what you need and which products can deliver it. This blog will help. 

learning content management system (LCMS) vs learning management system (LMS)

What is a Learning Content Management System (LCMS)?

First thing’s first: an LCMS stands for Learning Content Management System. It’s a platform that allows you to create, manage, host and track digital learning content. You can think of it like a one-stop-shop for elearning, from creation to delivery. Some technologies that you think of primarily as authoring tools may actually tick all the LCMS boxes; Elucidat is a good example of this.

What’s the difference between an LCMS and LMS?

There is a bit of crossover between Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS’s) and Learning Management Systems (LMS’s), and it doesn’t help that their names are similar too. Both allow you to host and deliver digital learning, and both are SCORM compatible. But there are important differences between the two. The main difference between LCMS vs LMS is where they specialize…

Type of learning

As we’ve seen, Learning Content Management Systems specialize in digital learning content, whereas an LMS’s are platforms that allows you to manage a wider range of learning experiences. Elearning is one of them, but an LMS also manages more traditional forms of learning and training such as scheduling face-to-face workshops, facilitating learner conversations through social forums and sharing resources.

LMSs, like Docebo, Cornerstone or Administrate, would enable you to combine these different learning experiences into a blended learning path, such as:

lms blended learning pathway

Other LMSs go broader still, adding HR management into the mix – though this isn’t a universal feature of LMSs.

Content creation

Though LMSs allow you to manage more learning experiences, they don’t allow you to actually create those learning experiences. You would use a separate authoring tool to build your elearning, download it as a SCORM file, then upload that file to the LMS to manage and deliver the elearning. An LCMS specializes in facilitating creation and delivery in the same place.

This focus on content creation might make you wonder how elearning authoring tools fit into the picture – are authoring tools and LCMSs one and the same? The lines are certainly becoming blurred; Elucidat, for example, started life as an authoring tool, but over time has developed a much broader set of features to enable collaboration, hosting and delivery, which now puts it firmly in the LCMS camp.

The general rule is that all LCMSs allow you to author content, but not all authoring tools are LCMSs.

In addition, because LCMSs focus on digital learning, they can track those learning experiences in much more detail than the pass/fail or complete/incomplete that an LMS provides for all of its learning experiences. With an LCMS, you can expect detailed analytics that take into account things like how long a learner spent in a module, which device they were using, which pages they visited most and how they answered specific questions.

elucidat analytics dashboard

A snapshot of part of Elucidat’s Analytics dashboard.

Is an LCMS right for me?

As always, the right technology depends on your specific needs. Here are three sets of requirements that would be best suited to different technologies:

LCMS only

  • The majority of learning is digital
  • You create your digital learning in-house
  • You don’t want to pay for two separate tools to create and deliver your elearning
  • You want efficient workflows to decrease the amount of time spent authoring elearning
  • You want detailed analytics on how learners interact with your modules
  • You would like the option to track using xAPI rather than SCORM
  • A secure log-in is enough

LMS only

  • You deliver a lot of traditional, offline learning
  • You create blended learning pathways that need to be tracked
  • You already have a separate authoring tool for your elearning, or you outsource elearning creation to agencies
  • Basic SCORM tracking is enough
  • You need learners to have their own central profiles to access their learning

Integrated LMS  and LCMS

  • You have a real mix of learning interventions
  • You want a central place for learners to have a profile and access all their learning…
  • …but you don’t want to compromise on data and analytics.
  • You’re using an out-of-date or inefficient authoring tool and are ready to make a change
  • You would like the option to track using xAPI rather than SCORM

5 features the best LCMSs have

If you’ve decided that an LCMS is the right fit for your requirements, which features should you look for in your new tool? The best LCMSs will offer these features to help you create, manage and deliver your digital elearning content efficiently and scalably:

1. Modern, responsive design

With the ever-increasing take up of mobile learning, your LCMS must allow you to create content for all devices. The best LCMSs will do the hard work for you, automatically optimizing your content for different screen sizes then letting you make additional, device-specific tweaks if you choose.

on the job mobile learning

2. Efficient workflows

The joy of cloud-based LCMSs is the ability to store and reuse pages, snippets or even whole modules, allowing you to work quickly and consistently. Look out for these other workflows to help you work efficiently:

  • Visual themes or styles that can be swapped easily to rebrand
  • Asset libraries to store images and videos and enable swift replacement
  • Master and child course management
  • Collaboration and review features that allow team members to work on projects together

comment and review in elucidat

3. Translation workflows

If you are designing learning for a global audience, you’ll know how painful translation and localization can be. But it doesn’t need to be. The best LCMSs offer workflows that simplify translation and allow you to create multi-sco modules that wrap all your language variations up in one. For example, Elucidat has a simple export/import solution, which means you can go from a master module in one language to a multi-sco package in many languages – in just a few clicks.

4. Published files and learner logins

All LCMSs will enable you to publish your courses as a SCORM file, but some go further and offer URL links, xAPI integrations, password or domain protected log-ins or offline releases. Consider your user journey and technology stack, and make sure your LCMS will integrate how it needs to.

5. Analytics

Data is the key to continuously refining and improving your digital learning. I know this, you know this – make sure your LCMS knows this too and can deliver the goods! With a great LCMS data dashboard, you’ll be able to see so much more than who passed or failed.

elucidat analytics question responses

Reviewing LCMSs

An LCMS can be an integral part of your learning technologies stack, or can step up to the plate and be your single system for content creation and delivery. With LMSs still prioritizing traditional methods of content delivery and many struggling to keep up with the cloud-based, data-driven expectations of today, an LCMS is a convincing alternative. Which fits your digital learning strategy best?

We’d always advocate getting a demo and, if possible, a free trial so you can review the LCMSs available.

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