What is an LMS?

This is the first of a related series of posts on Fun Tech Stuff going under the hood with XML and its uses in learning technologies: Learning Management Systems, SCORMTin CanMetadata, and XML, as well as examples of XML in SCORM and XML in eBooks.

When you take an online class, you typically go to a Web site, sign in with a login and password, and see a class or a list of classes you are scheduled to take. After going through the material, you and your organization usually receive some sort of notification of completion, and depending on the curriculum, you may be queued up to take the next class. Along with the course material, your learning experience was brought to you by an LMS.


An LMS, or Learning Management System (LMS) is a software application that provides a framework for the course material, and takes care of all the back-end administration that is necessary to make the learning experience happen. This includes a wide range of functionality, including:

  • course registration and profile management
  • course sequencing and scheduling
  • instructional content management and delivery
  • testing and assessment
  • tracking and reporting of individual progress
  • tracking and reporting of organizational progress

Colleges and universities use LMSs like Blackboard and Moodle to deliver online courses, and corporate training departments use a wide variety of LMSs to deliver online learning, finding them very handy for tracking such things as compliance training and continuing professional education.

Since the LMS provides a framework for course material, it has to be able to handle courses developed by a wide range of authoring systems. How can this happen? Through the magic of standards. If an LMS supports the relevant standard, in this case a standard called SCORM, and the authoring tool supports it, then the content produced by the authoring tool will play well with the LMS. Most LMSs on the market today are SCORM-compliant.

SCORM stands for “Sharable Content Object Reference Model,” and is the de facto industry standard for e-learning interoperability. In the next post we’ll take a closer look at SCORM.