Solution Series: Learning Content Management Systems – What exactly is an LCMS?

Solution Series: Learning Content Management Systems – What exactly is an LCMS?

“One of the things I hear all the time is: ‘I was working on this course, and I passed over the files to someone else to work on, and a week later, we discovered we were working on the wrong version.’” This anecdote, from Paul Schneider, PhD at dominKnow, is an unfortunate but not uncommon tale.

Had the users employed an LCMS, or learning content management system, there would have been no question about working on the most up-to-date course documents – because an LCMS is a central repository, where updates can be made in real time and stored in a cloud-based system.

Schneider says that although there’s a common misconception that this type of software is only for enterprise or large business, an LCMS can be incredibly useful for companies who have, say 3 or 5 authors of content as well. Any size team can benefit from this ability to share and collaborate.

Some confusion surrounding LCMS vs LMS

Though similar, the popular learning solution “LMS” is different in that it is focused on the delivery of training and often every variation and aspect of it. An LCMS focuses primarily on content development, collaboration and sharing content. While they often work hand in hand with or are integrated with an existing LMS, some can also function as a standalone system.

An LCMS should allow you to:

  • Develop course content for online learning
  • Allow multiple users to develop and collaborate content through the course life cycle
  • Track usage, history and control permission and access
  • Store content for future use
  • Allow the sharing of content among multiple users
  • Repurpose and reuse content for a different audience
  • Possibly include a delivery option
  • And ideally, it should integrate with, or “talk to,” your LMS

If effective, an LCMS can reduce development time, encourage collaboration from all involved key players, and streamline an otherwise complicated process. Instead of developing entire courses and adapting them to multiple audiences, an LCMS can provide the ability for a single course to be modified and republished for another audience, while maintaining previous versions. The items stored can be accessible by course developers throughout an organization for potential reuse and repurposing. This can eliminate duplicate development efforts and allows for the quick assembly of customized content.

Though it can be an extremely useful tool, just under 20% of organizations surveyed in the Learning Technology Solutions Forecast (available here) said their organization owns an LCMS, with another 23% reporting that they didn’t know whether their organization owned one.

It can also be confusing to distinguish the differences between an LCMS and authoring solutions and content solutions (such as off-the-shelf or custom-developed content). When asked to name the brand of their LCMS, some organizations named a product that actually belongs to another category, such as off-the-shelf content.

About 9.3% of organizations reported that they internally developed their own LCMS, possibly indicating that commercially-available LCMS solutions may not be meeting their needs, and therefore not meeting the needs of a number of organizations.

The confusion surrounding learning content management solutions may be indicative of a need for the user community to become more educated on the available solutions and the value they bring to an organization – and for vendors to clearly represent their solutions in a manner that helps to educate end users about the value of an LCMS.

Does your organization use an LCMS? Have you found it to be effective? Comment below about your experience with an LCMS solution, or submit a review today.

This blog series focuses on the most popular types of learning and training solutions for those in the elearning and HR industries. The information presented here is an analysis of the data found in the annual report, Learning Technology Solutions Forecast: 2014 Edition (available here) compiled by Cox eLearning Consultants.


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