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With the huge development in educational technologies, most educational organizations and institutes have implemented at least one of several e-learning platforms to enhance teaching, learning, and management activities. Popular e-learning platforms include Learning Management Systems (LMS), Course Management System (CMS), and Learning Content Management System (LCMS). Even though these e-learning platforms have been widely implemented among educational organizations, the terminologies used to refer to these e-learning platforms are often misunderstood and misused in the literature, leading to confusion. This review paper aims to clarify this confusion between these platforms technologies by looking to their origins, definitions and basic functions. A comparison of all these platforms has been presented and discussed in detail based on the literature review. This paper also discusses some critical issues that should be considered prior to implementing any of these e-learning platforms along with the advantages and the barriers associated with them. The results of this study provide institutions with the information they need about these e-learning platforms to meet specific aims and objectives.
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LMS, CMS AND LCMS: THE CONFUSION AMONG THEM.
Sultan Hammad Alshammari1, Mohamad Bilal Ali2, Mohd Shafie Rosli3
1,2,3 Department of Educational Sciences, Mathematics and Creative Multimedia,
Faculty of Education, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia,
81310, Skudai, Johor, Malaysia.
For correspondence; Tel. +966555598256, E-mail: sultan9573@hotmail.com
ABSTRACT:
With the huge development in educational technologies, most educational organizations and institutes have
implemented at least one of several e-learning platforms to enhance teaching, learning, and management activities. Popular e-
learning platforms include Learning Management Systems (LMS), Course Management System (CMS), and Learning Content
Management System (LCMS). Even though these e-learning platforms have been widely implemented among educational
organizations, the terminologies used to refer to these e-learning platforms are often misunderstood and misused in the
literature, leading to confusion. This review paper aims to clarify this confusion between these platforms technologies by
looking to their origins, definitions and basic functions. A comparison of all these platforms has been presented and discussed
in detail based on the literature review. This paper also discusses some critical issues that should be considered prior to
implementing any of these e-learning platforms along with the advantages and the barriers associated with them. The results of
this study provide institutions with the information they need about these e-learning platforms to meet specific aims and
objectives.
Keywords: Learning Management System, Course Management System, Learning Content Management System, LMS, CMS, LCMS, e-
learning platforms.
1. INTRODUCTION
Globalization, innovation and the quick expansion of
technology are current trends that have led to the
implementation of the latest technologies in most sectors, and
especially in the educational sector [1]. This is due to the
need for ICT technologies to shape Educational
organization/institutes in keeping with the innovations of
technologies and learning in the twenty-first century. While
technology in education is developing, new tools of online
learning in classes have been introduced by many ICT
specialists, which results in changing the learning
environment [2]. E-learning platforms technologies influence
teacher performance and student learning as the use of some
software applications link students and their teachers, among
students themselves, and also between learners and the
learning tools that they deal with.
Nowadays, most educational organization and institutes have
implemented some software applications in which a web-
based education is delivered to their students. Some of these
software systems include Learning Management System
(LMS), Course Management System (CMS) and Learning
Content Management System (LCMS). Each of these
software applications provides a specific type of support and
functions for the educational organization/institutes who
implemented them. However, even though these software
applications are known and have been widely adopted and
implemented, the names of these applications, such as LMS,
CMS and LCMS, have been often misused in the literature
and caused confusion [3-4]. The main cause of this confusion
is due to the similarities in their terms and functions among
them.
These review paper intents to clarify the confusion between
these applications; LMS,CMS and LCMS. It will begin by
looking to the definition and some functions of each platform.
Then, a comparison between these applications has been
discussed in detail. Some issues that should be considered
when implementing these e-learning platforms, as well as
some advantages and barriers that are associated with them,
have been presented and discussed deeply.
2. Methodology
This research study was carried out by applying a critical
review, which is a framework used for critically reviewing
the existing literature on LMS, CMS and LCMS, and their
different roles and functions in academic activities. The
objective of reviewing the existing literature is to summarize
and present a critical analysis of the existing literature that is
being investigated in relation to a particular issue [5]. The
main aim is to assist the reader to be aware of the latest
existing literature regarding a particular topic and to build the
basis for meeting another objective, such as the justification
and need for carrying out more researches in that particular
field. The ideal review of the literature should involve
gathering the information regarding a particular issue from
several different resources. Furthermore, the review of the
literature should also be well written, correctly structured and
planned using a clear research selection strategy [6].
Thus, all of these aspects have been considered while doing
this current review. The main aim of this study is to wipe the
confusion that exists in the terminology used in LMS, CMS
and LCMS in the literature. Therefore, this study has
reviewed the recent related articles that have focused on
LMS, CMS and LCMS roles and functions in supporting the
academic activities, in order to understand the differences
that exist amongst them. The critical review on LMS, CMS
and LCMS and their integration in the academic world has
been perfumed, which covers all of these aspects; the role and
different functions of them, the issues that should be
considered before implementing them, the advantages and the
limitations that are associated with their integration in the
academic world.
Through the analysis of all of these aspects, it becomes easier
to understand the differences between these e-learning
platforms despite that they look similar and are often
misused. It also eliminates the confusion that exists among
them in the literature. Further, it would assist the organization
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in choosing the suitable e-learning platform based on the
function and the role that particular platform can provide as a
modern method for enhancing the teaching and learning
activities. This study provides the body of the knowledge for
the overall concept of e-learning platforms, namely LMS,
CMS and LCMS, and clearly distinguish them from each
other Additionally, the methodology caters a new
perspective for decision makers who have an interest in e-
learning platforms and the differences that exist between
them in terms of their function and roles, Thus, selecting the
most convenient platform that meets the organizations'
objective.
3. Learning Management System (LMS):
Learning Management System (LMS) has its another own
original term, Integrated Learning System or ILS, which
refers to certain functionalities with the instructional contents
such as tracking and management, integration with the
system, and personalized instruction [7]. The term ILS was
originally coined by Jostens, while LMS originally was used
for describing the management system functions of PLATO
learning system k-12 [8]. However, the term LMS is used
currently for describing several educational platforms which
are often described incorrectly, causing confusion. The
following sections from this review will discuss and
differentiate LMS from other similar terms, namely CMS and
LCMS, which cause confusion. However, prior discussing
that, it is worthy to understand what LMS is by looking into
its definition, functions and some examples of it.
Starting with its definition, LMS is a web-based technology
assisting in planning, disrupting, and assessing any learning
process. It is an environment software application designed
for managing the learners’ interactions as well as delivering
learning resources to the users/learners [9]. Goh et al. [10]
added that LMS is a type of course application which
manages and provides users with 24/7 access to the materials
of the course and facilitate the report and monitor activities of
the users. It is a platform used for assessing, communicating,
sharing the knowledge and monitoring the users’ progress
[10]. LMS focuses on managing learners, monitoring the
track of their performance and progress with the activities. It
focuses on administrative tasks such as reports to
teachers/instructors and providing human resources but is not
used for creating the contents of the materials. In simple
words, the main key to differentiate LMS from other
educational platforms is to understand the nature of LMS.
LMS is a platform application which focuses on all aspects
related to the learning process.
LMS has the unique characteristics that differentiate it from
other similar educational platforms. According to Ninomiya
et al. [4], LMS has these functions:
- Automating and centralizing the administration.
- Use self-guided services.
- Delivering rapidly the learning materials.
- Consolidating the initiatives of training on the
scalable web-based application.
- Supporting the standards and the portability.
- Enabling the reuse of knowledge and personalizing
materials.
On the other hand, Bailey [11] shows the main general
characteristics of LMS in education as follows:
Lesson objectives are linked with each individual lesson.
Lessons should be incorporated in the standardized
curriculum Courseware provides different grade stages with a
consistent manner. The system management registers the
students’ performance results. Lessons are equipped based on
the progress of students’ learning.
There are numerous examples of LMS, but the most popular
example is Moodle. Moodle is an open source application
which was developed in 2002 by Dougiamas [12]. The term
refers to the Modular Object-oriented Dynamic Learning
Environment. It was developed based on the terms of the
GNU which refers to General Public License GBL, meaning
that any change can be made to the source code as long as the
license of the original source is not changed (Embi, [13]).
4. Course Management System (CMS):
A review of the literature shows that the term Course
Management Systems (CMS) is often used inappropriately as
being LMS. These Course Management Systems are
implemented mainly for blended or online learning,
supporting placement course materials in the online
environment, associating the learners with the materials,
tracking the performance of students, storing the submissions
of students, and mediating the communication that exists
between students and their instructors [3]. As we can see,
some of these functions are similar to the functions that LMS
provide learners with. Therefore, it is understandable why
misuse and misunderstandings between the two terms LMS
and CMS exist. However, the LMS nature of such systems
does not limit its functions to the functions of CMS.
It is worthy of looking at the definition of CMS and some
examples of it for differentiating it from LMS term. CMS
provides instructors with a framework and tools set which
allow them to create the contents of online courses and
subsequent management and teaching of these courses which
include the interactions with learners who take these courses
[14]. From this definition, it is clear that the focus of CMS is
to provide some features and tools that allow instructors to
create the content of online courses and arrange teaching and
interaction with their students. There are many examples of
CMS platforms such as Blackboard, Sakai and Angel.
Blackboard is the most commonly used among these
examples in institutes and organizations, but is mostly
mislabeled in the literature and referred to as an LMS.
The two words “Blackboard LMS” entered into Google
Scholar returned 887 articles that identify Blackboard as
being LMS, whereas the company of Blackboard its self-
identify Blackboard as a CMS. According to Blackboard
company website, "Blackboards online learning application,
the Blackboard Learning System, is the most widely-adopted
course management system among U.S. post-secondary
institutions [15]. Moreover, the functionalities of CMS do
not take in consideration organizational issues, and natures of
the courses focused on in the applications are not systematic.
Hence, even though CMS can be seen as being a part of
LMS, it is certainly not equivalent to LMS. According to
Carliner [16], the development of these technologies is
meeting other needs, even if some functionalities are
certainly shared.
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5. Learning Content Management System
(LCMS):
The term LCMS is often conflated with LMS and considered
as being a newer LMS version. However, these two
applications are different, as they complement each other and
their focuses are on different functions. The keyword that can
show the difference between these two terms can be seen in
the one word that separates them, namely content. Paulsen
[17] defines LCMS as an environment where
instructors/developers are able to create, store, manage, reuse
and deliver the contents of learning from the repository of the
central object. In general, LCMS deals with contents which
are based on the model of the learning object. On the other
hand, Oakes [18] defined LCMS as an application that is used
to create, store, assemble and deliver personalized e-learning
content in the form of learning objects (p. 73). The main
focus of LCMS is content, as it takes into consideration the
obstacles of the creation, reuse, management and delivery of
the content [18]. However, the main focus of LMS is the
organization and learners. The main concern is to manage
learners, the activities of learning, and the mapping
competency of the organization [18]. It is clear that LCMS
and LMS have different focuses even though they integrate
together; LCMS focus on creating the contents and the
delivery of the learning objects whereas LMS focus on
managing the process of learning. Connolly [19] states that
LMS provides the rules and the LCMS provides the content
(p. 58). There are several examples of LCMS but the most
popular one is SharePoint.
6. The comparison between LMS and LCMS:
In this part, a comparison between LMS and LCMS, which
are similar to each other and whose terms are used
interchangeably in literature, will be presented. The focus of
LCMS is to manage the course content rather than the
activities of learners, Mclntosh, [20]. Greenberg [21]
presented the similarities and differences in the functions of
LMS and LCMS which are shown the below Table (Table1):
Table 1: What makes LMS and LSMS similar and different,
as adapted from a study of Greenberg [21]:
As shown in the table, it is clear that LMS and LCMS are
similar in providing most functions, except in these few
functions where they are different. For example; LMS defines
curricula whereas LCMS does not. Furthermore, LCMS is
able to support the creation of content, developing the content
navigation/user interface, and creating templates, while LMS
cannot provide all of these functions. Other than that, LMS
and LCMS are similar and that makes it understandable why
their terms are used changeable in the literature, which
sometimes causes confusion.
Caniëls et al. [22] differentiate the process of LMS and
LCMS and considered LCMS as a platform that has an
authoring process, while LMS has a managing process. The
following Table (Table 2) shows the different process for
LCMS and LMS:
Table 2: Educational Processes Set and Typical Application
Solutions, adapted from Caniëls et al. [22].
Categories of
Educational
Processes
Processes
Examples of
Current Systems
1. Authoring Process
(LCMS)
Develop the content
(tasks)
Store and manage
contents
Macromedia
Author ware, Total
LCMS, Web
Publisher
2. Management
Process (LMS)
Design the courses by
packaging the contents
into courses,
Allocate learners and
instructors to courses
and provide an
evaluation of students
Lotus Learning
Space, Docent,
WebCT
Fernandez et al. [23] explain that e-learning platforms have
progressed with three evaluation stages, which can be seen in
the following stages:
First stage: A Content Management system (CMS) is the
basic platform that allows generating a dynamic website. The
purpose of such these platforms is to create and manage
online information such as texts, graphics, images, videos etc.
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Second stage: A Learning Management System (LMS),
comes after CMS and provides the environment that makes
updating Web, maintenance, and implications possible for
collaboration with multiple users.
Third stage: A Learning Content Management System
(LCMS) is a platform that integrates the functions of both
LMS and CMS, incorporating the content management for
personalizing the recourses for each learner, and where
companies can do their own editing entry, with self-
sufficiency for the content publication. In simple words, these
platforms are quick and offer efficient solving of problems
that the previous platforms have. LCMS has added the
technique of knowledge management to LMS platforms in a
designed and structured environment which makes
organizations/institutes able to implement their own process
and make the practice better with the support of creating
content, materials, and online courses.
Finally, LCMS can be integrated to LMS platforms as seen in
the following schematic diagram (Fig1)
Figure1: Schematic diagram of LMS and LCMS integration,
adapted from a study of Orueta & Pavón [24].
7. DISCUSSION
Issues should be considered prior to the adoption of e-
learning platforms:
There are several e-learning platforms available and
organizations/institutes can choose from any of these
available educational platforms. However, it is not an easy
step to just pick a platform based on only its features or price.
Many other issues should be taken in consideration before
implementation.
According to Colace et al. [25], educators who consider the
implementation of any educational technology platforms
should carefully evaluate it prior to providing it to use with
the population of students. The adoption and selection of
LMS platforms by any organization/institutes should perform
such analysis for some basic parameters which often includes
these features; technical support issues (e.g., the required
hardware infrastructure, programming language etc.), the
functions availability (e.g., integrated streaming functions,
discussion forums etc.), supported formats (e.g. PDF, HTML,
different encoding video, etc.) the standards compliance of
learning technology (e.g., SCORM) [26]. Choosing the right
e-learning platform which provides users with a usable
environment could lead to improved performance and
significant saving [27]. Regarding teaching and learning
activities, providing a usable and efficient LMS potently
reduces the time invested by teachers for managing, setting
up the course, and improving learners’ experiences. As a
result, both instructors and learners do not have to struggle
with any technologies. Instead, focus only on the contents
[26].
Holsapple & Lee Post [28] added that picking and choosing
e-learning platform relies on several aspects such as number
of users, user characteristics and their needs, the objectives
and courses types to be given, content which will be taught
and methodology that will be followed (less or more
interactive), and the method of evaluation to be used.
Focusing on these aspects leads to the most convenient and
suitable platform for an organization, and the huge benefits of
platforms can be gained by instructors and learners. Collis
[29]. presents some requirements that should be considered
when an organization plans to implement an e-learning
platform. These requirements are shown in the following
table:
Requirements when selecting an eLearning Platform, adapted
from a study of Collis (1996) [29].
1- USERS
- Numbers
- Age
- Socio-cultural characteristics
- Skills or interface use
- Educational needs
2- COURSE
- Type
- Students numbers
- Objectives
- Content
- Methodology
- Evaluation
3- TECHNICAL CHARACTERISTICS
- Software needs or server hardware
- The hardware of software needs for the users
- Number of possible online users
- Access and security control
- Technological infrastructure which needed by
platform
- Necessary technical knowledge
- Surfing by the platform
- Design strategies.
- User license contracting methods.
4- MANAGEMENT OF FORMATIVE OFFERS
- Management of course offers
- Management of student enrollment and
cancellation.
5- TEACHING/LEARNING PROGRESS
- Teacher learning method
- Teaching-learning method
- Type of content to be taught
- Index of content
- Glossary of terms
- Content searching tool
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- Content available in various formats
- Multimedia possibilities
- The possibility of consulting content OFFline
- Evaluation of teaching/learning process
- Initial evaluation
- Formative or continuous evaluation
- Student help system
- Course design tool for teachers
- Course management tools for teachers
6- COMMUNICATION TOOLS
- Must facilitate collaborative work and
communication between teachers and students.
- Asynchronous: discussion forums, electronic
mail, calendar etc.
- Synchronous: shared electronic board, audio
conference, video conference, chatting.
8. Advantages and some limitations:
For any technology, there are some advantages and
limitations that are associated with them. In this part, some of
advantages and limitation of e-learning platforms applications
will be presented and discussed. Starting with its huge
advantages, according to College Board [30], Young [31],
and Kim & Bonk [32], the advantages of implementing e-
learning platforms can be seen in the following features:
- They offer open and flexible learning with no limitation
to time or space. Hence, a rigid timetable and distance
problems can be avoided as well as offering
improvement in access to information.
- They could enable instructors to incorporate new
resources for learning, elaborating learning materials,
automating marking systems, elaborating the class
assistance resources and so on with greater quality and
ease of presentation.
- Materials can be managed and digitalized with reduced
cost and relative ease such as making them in CD-
ROMs, external USB memory and so on.
- Student to student and instructor to student
communication can be improved with the tools of
incorporated communication.
- Providing incorporating tools for students to follow-up
and make an evaluation.
- Instant updating of materials can be done by instructors
and their students.
- The interaction with any experts in any area is possible
without considering where they are located by using
some features such as a mean of a video conference.
- Collaborative work in teaching and research can be
promoted by these platforms. Group work could be
facilitated by people from different institutes, universities
or even companies who could be located in different
countries.
- They allow the results of research to be published in
worldwide which lead to a quicker circulation in
knowledge.
However, even though the e-learning platforms can provide
the huge benefits which are shown above, there are some
limitations associated with it as stated by Kim & Bonk [32],
Naidu, S. [33], Sun et al. [34], and shown below:
- Lack of the preparation of teachers when dealing
with such these platforms. Some of the teachers
have "technophobia" when using a new technology.
They are required to do some efforts to learn how to
deal with them, giving same structures in materials
cannot be transferred. Some of them may have a fear
about the expectation and possible results of
integrating these platforms with their teaching.
- More time is required (especially in the beginning)
when making a virtual material.
- Teachers are required to care about the learning
process by considering more previous details when
compared to traditional methods.
- Teachers should put more efforts with those who
have no access and assist in access them (digital
divide increases).
- Barriers that students might face and come across
should be anticipated. Resources that assist them to
overcome these obstacles must be available to them.
- “Face to Face” communication is often missing with
these technologies, which leads to a loss of personal
and social relationships between instructors and
students or even among students themselves.
- It may be difficult for instructors to keep students
motivated and engaged in each lesson and at the
same time to keep those who might drop out from
participating in the lessons.
- Students should be steady, mature and responsible
for their learning through these platforms. Some
may prefer traditional methods in which they can
play more passive roles in the learning process.
9. CONCLUSION:
Most institutes have implemented certain e-learning
platforms such as LMS, CMS and LCMS. Even though they
are widely implemented and used, their terminologies are
often misused in the literature due to the similarities between
them, leading to confusion. This paper addressed this
confusion by defining each term and discussing the unique
functions of each platform. Comparisons between all of these
platforms have been discussed based on the literature. Certain
critical issues to be considered prior to implementation have
been presented. This study has discussed the huge benefits
and the limitations of these e-learning platforms. Further
studies should focus on how to overcome these limitations to
reap the substantial benefits of e-learning platforms and
ensure successful implementation.
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... LMS is a system for managing training and education records distributed via the internet. Currently, various types of E-learning platforms are available, such as Moodle, Claroline, and Dokeos [2]. LMS learning media is prone to experiencing internet connection problems when accessing learning materials and doing activities. ...
... Teachers or educators can secure quiz questions that are created with a password, set the time for the quiz to be available, the time for each quiz, set limits on the opportunity to work on the quiz, and arrange the presentation of questions randomly or sequentially. The instructor gives quizzes through the LMS website so that students can take quizzes via a computer or smartphone [2]. ...
... Moodle [16] as a category of Content Management Systems (CMSs) specially indented for learning. Despite the different definitions and basic functions of these systems, as explained in [17], they aim to provide high-quality education to the cohorts of students in a cost-effective manner. They are widely implemented in high academic institutions, public and private organizations, either to support blended learning or to provide fully on-line education. ...
... The common feature of all these forms of educational applications is that teacher/instructional designer need not to have any programming skills to be able to successfully create learning content. According to the definition of the CMSs, which are in focus of this paper, teachers are provided with tools and features for creating the content of online courses and for moderating interaction with their students [17]. ...
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