LCMS vs. LMS – What’s the Difference?


Shopping around for a solution to your organizational learning and training needs can be very confusing. Not only are there a wealth of different platforms and systems available, but they often fill slightly different roles – determining what fits your company’s specific requirements can take a lot of time and effort. Putting that time in up-front is required if you want to ensure you end up with a solution that really works for your organization. One common point of confusion among Learning and Development (L&D) professionals is a misunderstanding of the difference between a Learning Management System (LMS) and a Learning Content Management System (LCMS). At first glance, these two solutions do look and sound very similar, but they actually provide very different (though complementary) functions at different stages of your learning content’s journey.

The core difference between an LMS and an LCMS is the target user. LMS platforms are designed with the learners in mind, whereas LCMS users are learning content creators and instructional designers. But that’s not the only difference. Let’s start with some definitions.


LMS – Learning Management System

The LMS is perhaps better thought of as the learning delivery platform; this is the interface which the end-user or learner uses to read and interact with learning materials, courses and assessments.

Most LMS solutions also combine some form of metrics or user analytics, allowing instructors to gather data on how well the learner is doing and what content is proving to be most beneficial. Some may also allow you to analyze what learning users are searching for, but not locating, giving L&D professionals insight into what new materials they ought to be creating.

Some of the most well-known and widely-used LMS platforms in the workplace are Absorb, Articulate, BizLibrary, Captivate Prime, Docebo, and Litmos to name a few, though many organizations have their own in-house solution.


LCMS – Learning Content Management System

The LCMS is the interface which content authors use to collaborate, create and assemble the learning content – which is then pushed out, or published, to the LMS platform (or to wherever else you might want it to go: a PDF, print course, mobile app or website) for consumption.

At its core, the LCMS is a more specialized variety of a Content Management System (CMS) – it gives you the storage space and the tools to manage and control your content at a granular level, allowing you to maximize the value of each learning object.

A standard LCMS typically includes a content repository, authoring tool, workflow and task assignment, and multi-channel publishing capabilities.

Depending on the platform, an LCMS may also include features like collaborative authoring, media annotation, asset management, workflow and task assignment, rich media capabilities, rights management, granular search/discovery across all learning objects and materials, and semantic enrichment and metadata tools.

For example, a sophisticated LCMS can be used to semantically link and associate learning objects with each other in a way which supports auto-assembly of objects into a learning pathway that is specifically tailored to the individual learner, and responds to their progress by adapting to their needs. This is a key step in making personalized, adaptive learning a reality.


10 Things to Consider When Evaluation an LCMS