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As a real classroom needs a facilitator to administer courses and regulate attendance and performance, an e-Learning system requires a facility to perform the administrative functions of managing an online course. This is precisely the role of a Learning Management System or an LMS.
According to IDC, a Learning Management System is "a software application that automates the administration, tracking, and reporting of training events.”
In addition to these functions, an LMS also enables detailed analysis of the skills of a workforce. Ultimately, that's why an organization buys an LMS--to provide information that influences decision making and optimizes money spent on training. Therefore, a Learning Management System (LMS) manages learners, keeps track of their progress and performance across different training objectives.
More detailed functions of an LMS would include -
Depending on the kind of user, different LMS modules operate. The four common kinds of modules are the instructor module, the student or learner module, the course developer module and the administrator module. Although learners, administrators and instructors sign in at the same location, their functionalities will vary.
The learner module – This module gives the student access to assigned lessons, with corresponding activities and objectives of the lesson. The module also has provisions for submitting assignments and access to libraries and other reference material. It is through the learner module that the student interacts with the instructor and administrator. The module also gives the student access to assessments and general feedback.
The instructor module – This module lets the instructor access student assignments and reports. The instructor can select learning modules for different students, view and grade assignments, post notices to students or interact with students through different technologies like chat or message boards.
The administrator module – This module allows the learning administrator to co-ordinate course dates, manage and register new students, assign learners to courses, assign instructors to learners and courses. The administrator module can also manage and monitor learner performance and progress reports.
The course developer module – The course developer is primarily responsible for the course structure and course content. The developer can add or delete lessons from a course, add supporting content as research links and create questions to assess learners.
Different Learning Management Systems support different features to facilitate interaction between learners and instructors or mentors. These could be tools like online chat sessions, message bulletin boards or discussion forums. These tools offer the opportunity for more specific, as well as more immediate answers.