A hot topic in today’s 21st century districts continues to be the learning management system and how it is being used in and out of the classroom. In alignment with the current trend of districts moving to 1:1 and BYOD environments, districts are taking a look at their Course and Learning Management Systems to determine if they are meeting the necessary learning objectives for their teachers and students promoting 21st century teaching and learning. Throughout these conversations, I have noticed that most educators are using the term Learning Management Systems (LMS) when they are referring to Course Management Systems (CMS). This is an easy mistake to make that I have made myself when referring to systems like Moodle, Google Classrooms, Schoology, Canvas, Desire2Learn, etc. Are these systems really Learning Management Systems or are they indeed a Course Management System – or even do some bridge the divide between the two?
Let’s take a moment to define some particular differences between an LMS and a CMS. At first glance, I think the easiest distinction between the two is that a Course Management System is used as a repository of learning documents and files, discussion forums, assessment tasks, assignments, etc. Students log on to the teacher’s CMS in order to access their class files and submit homework and assessments. The way the CMS is set up may look differently from one teacher to another as well as the learning outcomes and expectations of student use. An LMS can do much of what a CMS can do, but also can take the e-learning even further to a more personalized approach. Instead of all students accessing the same document or files, students might pre-assess and due to their deficiencies and/or proficiencies they may receive a different learning path from one another.