Course Management System (CMS) FAQs

Document created by Digital Support on Jan 25, 2017Last modified by Digital Support on Nov 29, 2017
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What is a Course Management System (CMS) or Learning Management System (LMS)?

“Course Management System” and “Learning Management System” are synonymous terms. A CMS/LMS is a program licensed by institutions in which instructors can make course materials available to students, administer assessments, facilitate class communication, and manage student records. It can be used to either teach fully online courses, or to supplement in-person courses.


Why would I use a CMS?

You can use a CMS to:

  • Facilitate self-paced learning
  • Assess student understanding of course material
  • Present class resources in a central location
  • Include digital resources as a part of the course
  • Encourage and track students’ interaction with class materials, TAs, and each other
  • Easily develop one curriculum to be used by all instructors teaching a single course

How do I use a CMS?

  • Your campus may offer training through a faculty development, IT, or academic computing department.
  • CMS providers often offer courses in using their products. Their websites will provide more information.
  • Online discussion boards and communities exist for many CMSs, and can be found by internet searches.
  • There are many useful books on using particular CMSs, including Blackboard for Dummies, Navigating WebCT, and Using Moodle.

What CMSs are available, and what are the differences between them?

  • Blackboard is the most widely used, followed by D2L/Brightspace. In the for-profit sector, eCollege is mainly used. Sakai and Moodle are popular open-source, free CMSs most commonly used in K-12 and at research institutions. There are a number of other CMSs out there as well.
  • The official webpages for these CMSs provide thorough information on the products and contact info.
  • All CMSs offer the same basic tool set: a way to present content in a folder structure, assessment tools, survey tools, discussion groups, announcement boards, and gradebooks.
  • CMSs differ in user interface, features, licensing and pricing, services for course building and training, and integration with other on-campus systems such as e-mail and registration.

How do I find which CMS exists on my campus?

Usually through your IT/Academic Computing/Help Desk or Distance Learning department’s website.


Who decides which CMS to use on my campus?

Usually a committee of faculty and technology personnel chooses which CMS(s) to license campus-wide.