LCMS, LMS, CMS… What’s the Difference?
A Learning Content Management System (LCMS) is a platform that integrates authoring, delivery, publishing and analysis of content in a multi-user environment. In our LCMS definition, it provides content professionals a way to manage their content and collaborate in one centralized location.
While the primary function of a Learning Management System (LMS) is to administer, assign, track and access formal learning content, it is not designed to create or manage content assets. Content lives solely inside of an LMS and any content updates or changes are managed outside of the system. The primary focus of an LMS is delivering training and managing courses.
Although a Content Management System (CMS) has similar features, only the ‘L’ in LCMS provides the learning mechanism possible for content professionals and subject matter experts to create learning activities, collaborate, and reuse learning assets more efficiently. A CMS does not handle SCORM compliant courses, reusability or accommodate learning interactions.
Only an LCMS can manage the full content lifecycle, from authoring and publishing to delivery and analysis.
A next-gen LCMS can manage
the entire content lifecycle
Key Features of an LCMS
A single-source centralized content repository eliminates content silos and maintenance headaches. Unlike other tools, an LCMS platform provides authors the ability to create, store and search libraries of content all in one location. From searching a keyword in a course, to jumping to a specific page — searching across the content landscape doesn't require logging into an LMS or hunting around in multiple systems. Centralization and searchability allows for specific information to be found quickly and at the point of need. Authors can search libraries for existing chunks of knowledge of any size, from a module to a table in a paragraph. Built-in reporting allows authors to see exactly where each piece of content has been used (and reused). Powerful metadata tagging also allows authors to track their content lifecycle. With the ability to tag properties at the element level (paragraph, image, question table, etc.), data is provided on the most granular level, from who authored a particular piece of content, to when it was last modified, expired dates and more.
Single-source content creation
Searchable media and document libraries
Microlearning object repository
An LMCS uses standard XML language that makes content rich and dynamic. Publishing themes give content creators the flexibility to publish content from one source and output it in many ways — Microsoft Word, PDF, SCORM eLearning, HTML5, Microsoft PowerPoint and more. Content authors can develop once, and avoid spending a lot of time recreating the same content for different outputs. This ensures that each derivative is consistent and accurate.
Create once, publish to many outputs
Supports printed content
With the use of dynamic publishing themes, an LCMS can decouple content from its presentation. This means authors can stop fussing with formatting and layout options and focus on the richness of the content itself. Using publishing themes and standard templates gives authors the confidence that their content is always properly formatted — bullets are lined up, headers and footers are consistent, and branding is intact — without constantly having to reformat layouts.
Consistent content layouts
Because an LMCS has a centralized, single-source content library, it allows authors to create and assemble bite-size pieces of content into a variety of courses, lessons, and more. This allows for rapid assembly of content, and the ability to re-purpose content for a variety of different outputs, without starting from scratch. Content then becomes a single-source of truth. Instead of copying and pasting, authors can link to individual content assets and always have the latest and most up-to-date information. If a change occurs to a product version, copyright statement or policy, authors can simply change the original piece of content and avoid wasting time changing that same content in multiple places.
Create small learning assets
Curate existing content for assembly and reuse
Maintain existing content in one place to ensure it is always up to date
With an LCMS, delivering a personalized user experience starts with filtering. Filtering allows authors to adapt content for specific audiences across different languages, regions, role and any number of other parameters. An LCMS provides the flexibility to offer a shortened version of content for experts, while delivering a longer version of content for a novice. Providing personalization with the push of a button allows organizations to scale their content without starting from scratch.
- Filter by role, product, region, and more
- Support print and web outputs
- Personalize the assembly while using the same content for multiple audiences
A robust LCMS comes with a built-in library of the most common interaction types, including bin drop, drag and drop, fill in the blank, image maps, interactive tabs, matching, multiple choice, sequencing, and more. This allows authors to create single learning interactions, assessments and quizzes as content assets and access and modify them in the same place.
- Built-in common learning interactions
- Multiple assessment and quiz options
An LCMS gives authors a collaborative environment to develop and store all of their structured content. Collaborative authoring allows teams to work together in a more agile way. With the check-in and check-out features, one designer can be working on an interaction while another author, is adding in the surrounding content for the same topic. All of this can happen without slowing down the delivery time. A modern web-based review tool is built into the platform, allowing anyone inside or outside of an organization to review and provide iterative feedback on content, while eliminating emails going back and forth. As a result, collaborators and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) can see each other's edits and have an accurate, real-time view of the editorial process.
- Built-in web based review tool
- Granular permissions to control access for reviews
- Streamlined feedback process with consolidated review notes
A flexible LCMS will allow integration of external content, while still supporting complete content management. For more advanced interactions (such as branching simulations), external content can be seamlessly embedded from other popular authoring tools. Videos, HTML5 content and more can be developed in an author's favorite tool and easily integrated into the LCMS. This also simplifies the workflow and review sessions, while maximizing control of the content.
- Embed interactions, HTML5 content and videos
- Import question data
Supporting localization and translation workflows in an LCMS helps organizations scale. The ability to generate XLIFF (XML Localization Interchange File Format) files — a standard format used by translation vendors — authors can quickly export content to send out for translation and easily import it back in. Learning Content Management Systems also support side-by-side translation, so that native speakers familiar with certain industries can compare translations to the base version for review and refinement. Another benefit of utilizing an LCMS is that it has the ability to separate text strings from images and screenshots, making it easier for teams and translation vendors to manage. Some of the world's largest organizations have switched to this technology automation and enablement for translation and localization, which has resulted in a tremendous time and cost savings.
- Export options – XLIFF, XML
- Separation of text strings for translatable images and interactions
Next generation LCMSs can track exactly how users interact with learning content. Going beyond simple course completion reports like those available in an LMS, the incorporation of a Learning Records Store provides analytics dashboards that provide an accurate and objective picture of an organization's content engagement and performance. From segmenting data by region or location, to granular page-view data, learner analytics from a Learning Records Store can help organizations identify trends so they can continue to refine and improve content over the long term.
- Page-view data
- Location, department, region analytics
- Assessment question response data
- Course activity tracking
Modern organizations use a variety of technology tools to help tackle their content management problems. Content Management Systems (CMSs) act as a content warehouse, while Learning Management Systems (LMSs) provide a vehicle to deliver learning content to multiple audiences.
But only Learning Content Management Systems (LCMSs) bring the entire learning content management lifecycle together, streamlining content authoring, publishing, delivery and analysis to provide a comprehensive tool for modern learning organizations. Dive deeper into the differences between an LMS vs. LCMS.