LMSs have many features, and we have already looked at the features you should look for when choosing a LMS. We have also looked at how you should choose a LMS. However, now we need to know what parts usually make up a good LMS. It doesn’t do any good to jump into the market blind, with no idea as to what you’re looking for. With that in mind, we are now going to look at what the main components of a LMS are -or should be-.
There is no set rule as to what components should form a LMS, but there are a few that, if they were not present, would render the LMS useless. In the same vein of thought, these components -or lack thereof- might make an argument as to whether the system was a LMS or not.
Before we look at the components however, we should take note that we always need to keep in mind the target audience. In other words, we need to know who the target is for the LMS, before buying or judging it. We mention this because it may affect which components are required, and will definitely affect which features should be present. For example, if the LMS is designed for primary school children, there should be a larger emphasis on visual things -but not too many of them-, and less on text because children have a lesser ability to think abstractly than adults. Your audience determines the complexity of your components.
A LMS is all about managing content so that it is easy to access and use. A crucial component is therefore the ability to upload your content. Part of this is also the ability to upload multimedia forms. It is not a must-have to be able to embed media from external sources, but it would be nice to have. What is a must-have though, is being able to add any media, and to organize all the material on the platform.
Before creating your content (either through the LMS or through a LCMS), and uploading it, you need to ensure that your students can access it. A good learning management system (LMS) has the ability to deliver your content to any device, anywhere (through the Web). After all, LMSs manage e-learning content, and e-learning is for anyone, anywhere. So a primary component of a LMS is access through the Web. The only exception to this remote access principle is for systems that are installed on specific devices (such as used for IT projects in schools). With these systems, learners access the platform through the school’s computers and complete assignments/tasks at these computers. Generally though, LMSs are remotely-based.
LMSs are designed to be interactive. By this, I mean two things, first: the student should be involved on the system. They should be checking their progress, testing themselves and downloading and uploading content. The second is this: students and instructors should be communicating with each other.
Let’s look at the first one: students access the platform, download their assignments, watch videos, and upload work for marking. They need to be able to see how they are progressing. This means that LMSs need to have tools for showing a student how far they have come, and what is still left on their course. Not all LMSs have features for testing yourself. However, this is great if your LMS does have it. Students can do little quizzes to see if they grasp the concepts. Students should be able to see their grades. This is part of tracking their progress, and a core component of all LMSs. They need to be able to access their grades.
The second: LMSs have different methods of communication. Some have chats, wikis and forums. Others have email systems, live chats (Skype), or social networks. Whatever the communication method, it is a part of all LMSs.
A notification/alert system is a main component of LMSs. Students and instructors receive notifications for messages, assignments and new content.
Kamy Anderson is an eLearning advocate who has a passion for writing on innovative and emerging technologies in the areas of corporate training and education. He has years of experience working with eLearning authoring tools and learning management systems; Kamy is an ed-tech enthusiast who likes nothing better than to explore and write on technology and learning trends.