We need to just invent a verb: to acronym. We as educators do it all the time. In this particular case we also have two entities that are different by only the first letter. Trying to research what these entities are is nothing if not confusing. Just when I think I can put a comparison into words, I read one more thing and become more baffled. Well, it is baffling because the cyber universe moves at a speed approaching that of sound. When I read a couple of statements that were written in 2007, they were already badly outdated. My personal opinion is that the CMS and the LMS are like a planet and its moon…kept at a distance by a certain force, yet held close by attraction. I believe the attraction may fade and our planet and moon may collide and become one new entity. Stranger things have happened.
The CMS gets to be the planet. It came first. It was the platform on which our burgeoning virtual learning began. It has a somewhat narrow scope. It provided a place for educators to deposit course materials, including copies of content and PowerPoints. Word and Excel could be used, and the mastery of HTML was not an issue. Everyone liked the ease of this process. They could also have discussions, make announcements, and give and grade quizzes. The format of their actual lessons was dictated by the platform and the platform dictated the format of the assessments, but they coped. They could track who used the site and when. They could not certify that their actual students submitted assignments or completed assessments. This was a drawback, but they coped. The CMS was created for the world of academia, and it was intended for long-term learning.
The LMS, our moon, was designed for corporate purposes. It could register learners, track participation, have a course catalog, process tuition payments and transfer information to other systems such as the corporation’s human resources system. Some of the drawbacks to the CMS, like not being able to use Flash technology, are not issues here. The LMS was designed for a different purpose. It was designed to build knowledge that was to be applied immediately.
Because there is no such thing as a static environment in the cyber universe, the CMS and the LMS have been evolving to the point where their distinct differences are blurring. There is one constant I found in all of my reading about CMS’s and LMS’s. On the list of drawbacks for each is cost. As we ask for more and more personalization of a system for our unique entity, as those changes are made the cost escalates.