What is a Learning Management System?

Delaney Caulfield

What is a learning management system?

If you've ever tried to cram a topic into your brain overnight in the hopes of retaining just enough information to get by in a quiz, test, or exam, you'll know it's not a particularly effective method of learning. In fact, it doesn't work at all. Even traditional learning methods don't work for everyone. But fret not, there does exist a more effective way to deliver information - and for the learner to absorb and retain it. 

A learning management system (LMS) is software that organizes learning content to best suit the learner. Organizations of all sizes use an LMS every day for things like onboarding new hires, ongoing health and safety training, and other forms of specialized training. An LMS helps the learner develop and reach certain competency levels at their own pace all while being tested on what they know. In this way, an LMS is best suited for use in a competency-based learning program.

An LMS can be especially helpful with knowledge transfer in your workplace - the degree to which a learned behaviour will be repeated. Let's say a member of your senior management team is retiring and you want them to imbue their critical expertise to the remaining executives before they go, an LMS can help do exactly that. It also enables:

  • Mobile learning: The ability to access or review training anywhere at any time
  • Varied learning methodologies: Traditional and non-traditional learning content, or both for blended learning
  • Online communities: Online forums that encourage learner participation
  • Gamification: Game-like designs that make learning more engaging and motivating
  • Microlearning: It's easier to remember small chunks of information

Why is a learning management system necessary?

An LMS can be useful in a multitude of ways because its multifunctional. Not only does it allow for interactive training, compliance assurance, and disseminating, organizing and storing information, but an LMS also tracks the learner's progress. You'll have access to data analytics that tell you exactly how well learners are taking in the course information and where they encounter stumbling blocks---who doesn't love a good data point?

There are 12 additional benefits to a standard LMS:

  1. User management
  2. Learning paths
  3. Course management
  4. Progress tracking
  5. Learner assessment
  6. Mobile learning
  7. Social learning
  8. Interoperability
  9. Customization features
  10. Gamification
  11. Certification
  12. User interface

All of these features help ensure that the learner has access to the information and resources they need to achieve their performance expectations. You'll know if you were successful in delivering the required knowledge when the learner demonstrates mastery of the material through an assessment.

Who needs a learning management system?

Everyone from government offices, large multinational companies and public education institutions to private firms and independently run programs utilize a learning management system. Whether you need to conduct specialized product training, motivate and engage workers across the globe, or just reduce the time and resources you're currently spending on standardized training, an LMS can serve that role.

The next time you have a training manual or set of procedures you need to teach a group of individuals, give some thought about how you want the material presented. Think about how the learner will best absorb and remember all the information. The right LMS will be able to deliver what you need.

This is the first article in a three-part series covering Chapter 22 of our Skilling Up textbook. To access other articles in this series, please navigate below.

Article 2 - How to Implement a Learning Management System in Your Organization

Article 3 - Not yet available.


Delaney Caulfield

Delaney graduated from McMaster University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Cultural Studies. After working in an assortment of industries, she spent nearly a decade sharpening her writing and editing skills in the fast-paced field of journalism. Now she works as an Instructional Designer with BaseCorp where she enjoys flexing her passion for learning and creativity.