As with other areas in business, learning and development has its own raft of specialist words and phrases. These, of course, help people working in the field to convey ideas clearly and precisely, but they can be confusing for those who don’t have expertise in the area and end up being wrongly used.
Two phrases that are often used interchangeably, despite meaning different things, are “e-learning” and “learning management system (LMS)”. The reason for this is that there is some overlap of what they are and both have become more widely used with the rise of the internet.
A simple way to understand the difference between the two phrases is that an LMS deals with the administration of learning, while e-learning deals with its actual delivery. More detailed definitions are as follows:
An LMS is one aspect of e-learning, but is no use on its own. In short, it needs some learning to actually manage. This is where your e-learning content comes in. Although an LMS can be used to manage programmes of any type of learning, such as classroom-based learning, they are particularly suited to e-learning content programmes.
Due to the typically structured, digital nature of e-learning content, an individual’s performance can be automatically tracked and results are often presented in dashboards for them to see. This data can be fed into a learning management system – either directly or indirectly – helping to deliver exactly the sort of tracking and monitoring insights that an LMS system is designed for.
Similar data for approaches like classroom-based learning, meanwhile, is typically less accessible and, as a result, such approaches are less easy to track effectively. Needless to say, the more effectively you can track the performance of your learners and the content they are learning, the more effectively you can refine your learning and development approach. Ultimately, this makes for more knowledgeable and productive employees.