Traditional vs. Modern Learning Systems

As we consider upgrading our learning systems to meet the needs of our future rock stars, training administrators, business-line managers, and Human Resources departments, it is probably best to forget the definitions of the traditional systems and focus our sights on a modern learning system, regardless of its classification or name. For seasoned learning professionals, this can be a difficult thing to do.

The Traditional Learning Systems

The system we all consider first is the LMS – the Learning Management System. It is called a Learning Management System because it has traditionally focused on course administration, classroom management, and learner enrollment. Reporting is a classical element of the LMS, but it has been limited by the standard upon which formal training content is built – SCORM and AICC. The new Tin-Can standard (xAPI) promises to enable tracking of the most common forms of learning: informal and social learning. Thus, regardless of the “buzz,” it is worthy of a serious look.
The Learning Content Management System (LCMS), the LMS’s less popular brother, is often overlooked by training organizations in lieu of desktop and rapid authoring tools for developing and managing their learning content. However, recent developments, like the drive to make learning content smaller and to take learning to the streets in the form of mobile performance support, have finally alerted learning professionals to the fact that separating content from presentation is necessary to produce learning content for any type of intervention, delivered from any system, and experienced on any device. Personalized learning paths will continue to elude us unless we can break content down into chunks that are data rich and organized by competency, job role, or subject. Content is still king, and the management and delivery systems we choose must facilitate context and conversation in order to cripple the forgetting curve.

Modern Learning Systems vs Traditional

The table below offers a guide to help learning professionals compare the traditional systems to the modern learning system. It is unlikely that the modern learning system can be found in a single neat package provided by your talent or business system provider, so consider your end goals when planning system upgrades and go from there. Learning content drives learner engagement, which in turn drives behavior change, knowledge retention, and on-the-job performance. Do not overlook the importance of integrated Content Management this time around.



Traditional LMS

Traditional LCMS

Modern Learning System

Learning Experience

Learning Interventions


Formal, Informal

Formal, Informal, and Social

Learner Engagement

Classroom, Desktop


Classroom plus on-demand learning via web or mobile: anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

End User Tools

Browse Catalog, Simple Search, Email notification


Browse Catalog, Faceted Search, Individual Development Plan, Dynamic Recommendations, Learning Paths, Learner/Manager Dashboards, Email/Text Notifications, Ratings and Reviews, Badges/Leaderboards

Learning Content

Content Authoring

Simple Course Builder, Rapid Authoring Tools

Sophisticated and structured authoring for courses, presentations, printed guides, job aids, web pages, and Flash

Granular learning content separated from presentation for rapid assembly and reuse across any output format or audience

Content Management


Versioning, workflow, and review tools

Online collaboration, versioning, workflow, and review tools

Content Publishing


Print and web output templates/formats

Print, responsive web (HTML5/CSS3), and mobile output templates/formats

Digital Content Delivery




Packaged SCORM/AICC or .PDF

Learning Object Repository (LOR) serving multiple formats for many systems and devices

Learning Administration

User and Group Administration

Manage Users and Groups


Single Sign-On (SSO), integrated with HR system

Course Administration

Course Enrollment, Completion Rules, Classroom Management


Course Enrollment, Learning Paths, Classroom Management, Competency Management, Certification Management

Reporting and Analytics

Completion Tracking, Test Scores


Centralized Learning Record Store (LRS) for reporting and analytics, Completion Tracking, Test Scores, Question Analytics, Informal Learning Activities, Social Learning Activities, Content Effectiveness


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