Learning Management Systems Primer


This is an informational document only. It discusses the basics of Learning Management Systems (LMS) from a global perspective. It does not endorse any product or service.


eLearning modules, or packages, are the instructional content portion of an interactive system. Specialized server software is required to present the content to students. Consider the eLearning package as a music or video file. Placing the file on a server does nothing but store the file. Music playing or video playing software is required to access the file and consume the content. The display and management server software is known generically as a Learning Management System (LMS). In explanation, a LMS manages training content in the same way that Netflix manages video content.

Learning Management System (LMS)

A Learning Management System (LMS) is the engine that runs online training. Generally, it is a server application and the eLearning modules (content) are loaded into the LMS for presentation to students.

Most LMSs offer the following functions:

  • Student registration
  • User management (student, administrator, instructor, etc.)
  • Course administration
  • Examination presentation and tracking
  • Course completion tracking
  • Surveys
  • Audit trails
  • Transcripts
  • Compliance reporting
  • Notifications, alerts, and reminders

Students can often self-enroll in courses and courses can be assigned by management.

LMSs can be hosted on-site (internal network), hosted externally by a vendor, or hosted in the cloud (Software as a Service (SaaS)).

eLearning packages come in a variety of forms supported by LMSs: SCORM, AICC, xAPI, CMI5 and LTI. The most commonly supported packages are SCORM and AICC.

Each LMS may support one or more eLearning package types.

Help and Student Support

An important consideration when hosting a LMS is student support. Inevitably, students will have questions about enrollment, usage of the LMS, getting stuck on a quiz or final examination question, browser problems, connectivity problems, sounds problems, mobile device problems, and any number of other technical issues.

Help Desk Support is critical when building the LMS deployment plan.

  • What number do they call for support?
  • What hours will support be available?
  • Who will man the support line?
  • What technical training will the support agent(s) have?