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What is a LMS?

LMS stands for Learning Management System and it's a global term for a computer system specifically developed for managing online courses, distributing course materials and allowing collaboration between students and teachers. A LMS will allow you to manage every aspect of a course, from the registration of students to the storing of test results, as well as allowing you to accept assignments digitally and keep in touch with your students.

LMSs are built on various platforms, commonly PHP, .Net or Java and they will hook up to a database such as PostgreSQL, MySQL or SQL Server. There are many LMSs out there, both commercial and open source.

In a corporate environment such a system can be used to monitor staff, and keep records of appraisals and training. Whether your course is run for a few learners over a long period of time, or for many over a shorter period, a Learning Management System makes your life easier and helps your course run smoothly. A good LMS will also have a reporting system so you can access information that would be tricky to gather yourself.

LMSs do vary in the features they offer, but most systems are likely to have some or all of the following features:

Easy GUI

GUI stands for Graphical User Interface. Most LMSs offer customization options for the interface to allow the user to give a unique flavor to his learning platform. Although the GUI is there to make the environment more aesthetically pleasing, it’s also meant to be functional.


Aside from the GUI an LMS will oftentimes offer several different options for customization to tailor the system to your needs. Language options, notification settings and other important features can be changed to suit the way you want your LMS to work for you. This is great because one LMS can be used by many different types of users, each with unique preferences.


The system may allow students to enroll online and keep track of their details, course progress and test results for you. It may also allow students to pay their course fees online via credit card, debit card or PayPal.

Virtual Classroom

Your LMS may integrate with whiteboard systems for virtual classroom sessions and help you to schedule sessions too. It may offer you the ability to send out invites or reminders for classroom sessions and integrate with an online calendar system or with Outlook.

Social Networking

An LMS may be able to integrate with social media so you can share your content or news items via Twitter or Facebook etc. at the click of a button.


Your LMS system should also have built in functionality for communicating with your students, such as sending out a bulk email to everyone on a particular course, to individual students or to students studying a particular pathway. You should also be able to schedule automatic emails which can be very useful for notifying students of an upcoming test or virtual classroom session. A LMS may provide you with a chat room or a forum that you and your students can use.

Course pathways

With your LMS you should also be able to specify the details of a course with a flexible work flow to set students on certain ‘learning pathways’.


Any good LMS will have a reporting system you can tap into, generating reports that you can export into Excel, and also offering you graphical representation of your data for ease of understanding.

Help with content creation

Being user-friendly is more than just a phrase. It’s an action. When entering into your LMS for the first time it’s good to have at least a sample of a course to get you going. An example of how to upload, manage, and distribute content within the system can go a long way with a new user. Templates are also good at getting new users going.


Tests are an important part of many online courses and most LMSs will have plenty of functionality related to this. You'll want a robust test environment with various types of tests available to you and some built-in templates to use as a starting point. It's likely that you'll have the ability to randomize test questions and set a time limit for tests. With the test environment being within your LMS, you should also be able to rely on the security of your system. Test results will be stored and available to you within the reporting area of your LMS. You should also be able to set up a multiple choice test to be self-grading and choose to have the results delivered just to you, or perhaps also displayed instantly on-screen for your students.

If you want to learn more on what a Learning Management System is, you can check our thorough guide that explains everything in detail!