LMS Hosting

LMS vs. CMS: What's the Difference?

Online learning companies tend to use both systems, so let's discuss how they work together and where they differ.

LMS vs. CMS: What’s the Difference?

Within the world of online learning, you’ve maybe heard of a learning management system (LMS), but there’s a very similar acronym that you might also stumble upon: CMS.

Both acronyms represent online systems that manage content, but they refer to different types of content and have different uses.

  •  LMS stands for Learning Management System
  •  CMS stands for Content Management System
  • Yes, online courses are technically content, but, as you can imagine, training courses are more appropriately categorized under “learning” than just “content.”

    LMS vs. CMS e-learning

    So what type of content does a CMS organize?

    A CMS is largely used to manage website and blog content. WordPress, for example, is a content management system. If you’ve used WordPress to publish a blog post for your company or manage e-commerce product pages, then you know that all those pages of content are housed within one central WordPress CMS platform.

    CMS systems typically come equipped with themes that were created by a developer. In other words, you can quickly implement a design and structure that another person painstakingly coded him or herself. This saves you from having to be the one to write all the code from scratch. That said, themes usually include a variety of options and permissions so that you can build from the theme’s foundation and personalize the look and feel of your website.

    How LMS and CMS work together

    Let’s say that you work for an online training company. Your typical customer journey will involve visiting your website, purchasing a course, logging in to view that course, and participating in the required activities. That journey involves touching the CMS and the LMS.

    You might think of the CMS as the “front end” and the LMS as the “back end.” The front end is publicly accessible to anyone who encounters it. The back end is locked down to only users with appropriate credentials and permissions (ie, paying customers).

    So, to retrace the customer journey:

  • Prospective customer visits your website = CMS
  • User purchases your course = shopping cart (can be integrated into the CMS)
  • Client logs in to view the course = LMS
  • Client participates in the required activities = LMS
  • As you can see, the conversation doesn’t have to be LMS vs CMS because the two systems work together.

    Examples of CMS systems include WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and Magento.

    Examples of LMS systems include Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard, and Brightspace.

    Any organization with a website needs a CMS, but not every organization needs an LMS. You only need an LMS if you will be offering some kind of online training – either to paying customers or to internal employees/stakeholders.

    We specialize in online course delivery and instructional design. For more information about packaging content in CMS and LMS systems, give us a call at (800) 460-2575.

    About Lesley Cowie

    Lesley has been passionately advocating for and working with green building and renewable energy since 2009. She has experience with LEED certification, home energy auditing, blower door testing, solar energy, and more. She holds many certifications, including LEED Green Associate and NABCEP Certification. Her work has won numerous awards over the past decade.