A learning management system (LMS) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, and delivery of educational courses, training programs, or learning and development programs. The learning management system concept emerged directly from e-Learning. Although the first LMS appeared in the higher education sector, the majority of the LMSs today focus on the corporate market. Learning Management Systems make up the largest segment of the learning system market. The first introduction of the LMS was in the late 1990s.
Learning management systems were designed to identify training and learning gaps, utilizing analytical data and reporting. LMSs are focused on online learning delivery but support a range of uses, acting as a platform for online content, including courses, both asynchronous based and synchronous based. An LMS may offer classroom management for instructor-led training or a flipped classroom, used in higher education, but not in the corporate space.
An LMS delivers and manages all types of content, including video, courses, and documents. In the education and higher education markets, an LMS will include a variety of functionality that is similar to corporate but will have features such as rubrics, teacher and instructor-facilitated learning, a discussion board, and often the use of a syllabus. A syllabus is rarely a feature in the corporate LMS, although courses may start with heading-level index to give learners an overview of topics covered.
There are several historical phases of distance education that preceded the development of the LMS:
The first known document of correspondence teaching dates back to 1723, through the advertisement in the Boston Gazette of Caleb Phillips, professor of shorthand, offering teaching materials and tutorials. The first testimony of a bi-directional communication organized correspondence course comes from England, in 1840, when Isaac Pitman initiated a shorthand course, wherein he sent a passage of the Bible to students, who would send it back in full transcription. The success of the course resulted in the foundation of the phonographic correspondence society in 1843. The pioneering milestone in distance language teaching was in 1856 by Charles Toussaint and Gustav Langenscheidt, who began the first European institution of distance learning. This is the first known instance of the use of materials for independent language study. Correspondence institutions in the United States and across Europe were encouraged and fostered by the development in 1680 of the penny post service, which allowed the delivery of letters and parcels for a penny.
Multimedia teaching: The emergence and development of the distance learning idea
The concept of eLearning began developing in the early 20th century, marked by the appearance of audio-video communication systems used for remote teaching. In 1909, E.M. Forster published his story 'The Machine Stops' and explained the benefits of using audio communication to deliver lectures to remote audiences.
In 1920, Sidney L. Pressey developed the first teaching machine which offered multiple types of practical exercises and question formats. Nine years later, University of Alberta's Professor M.E. Zerte transformed this machine into a problem cylinder able to compare problems and solutions.
This, in a sense was "multimedia", because it made use of several media to reach students and provide instruction. Later printed materials would be joined by telephone, radio and TV broadcasts, audio and videotapes.
The earliest networked learning system was the Plato Learning Management system (PLM) developed in the 1970s by Control Data Corporation.