Edtech for Edleaders: Learning Management Systems Defined

Today’s classroom is (or should be) a supplemented by web-based resources. Information and interaction (including feedback from teachers) can be facilitated through web sites and services. These are available form many sources, including vendors (who charge fees or use advertising to support freemium versions) and open source sources. Collectively, many apply the label “web 2.0” to these sites that allow content sharing and interaction.

Content management systems (CMS) are web content creation publishing platforms that incorporate many web 2.0 tools into a single site; users with accounts on the CMS can add, edit, and manage information and media on those parts of the site they have permission to edit. Some content management systems have been designed specifically for managing content and interaction for educational purposes, and these are typically referred to as learning management systems (LMS). Open source LMS platforms have matured to the point where they are easily and inexpensively available and can be installed by school IT managers with modest skills and modest budgets. These tools can be used to support many aspects of teaching and learning in schools (Ackerman, 2018).

By providing and supporting an LMS, IT managers in schools enable teachers to offer online sections of courses and they enable blended or hybrid courses in which online activities supplement face-to-face lessons. With an LMS installed, teachers can engage students with a wide range of digital tools from one site. A full service LMS will provide:

  • File sharing, so teachers can make templates, word processing files, PDF copies of articles, presentation files, and other files available to students who can access the materials independently;
  • Html editors, which support embedded media, so teachers and other course creators can build content pages that incorporate both the content they compose and media from other providers;
  • Tests and quizzes that include items (such a multiple choice questions) that can be graded by the system and those that must be graded by the instructor;
  • Assignment drop boxes, so students can submit digital files that are time stamped and grading rubrics, mark-up tools, and other options for providing students with feedback;
  • Gradebooks that display both assignments and tests that are part of the LMS as well as columns for off-line work;
  • Discussion boards, blogs, journals, wikis and chat rooms that facilitate both asynchronous and synchronous interaction and collaboration.


Ackerman, G. (in press). Open source online learning in rural communities. In I. Bouchrika, N. Harrati, and P. Vu. (Eds.). Learner experience and usability in online education. Hershey, PA: IGI-Global.