Your Ultimate Guide to Understanding a Course Management System
If you’ve never heard of a course management system or course management software before, you might have guessed that it has something to do with training (you’re right!). You might have also guessed that it’s some kind of software system (right again!).
But, there are dozens of software that similarly fit this description. These include the Content Management System, Learning Management System, and Talent Management System. Which does what? And for whom? It’s getting harder and harder to decipher exactly what you’re looking at and what will fit your training needs best. So, here are some elements to help you decode the specificity and characteristics of Course Management Software in our ultimate guide below.
Our detailed guide includes:
- What is a Course Management System? (Definition and Overview)
- What is the purpose of a Course Management System?
- Course Management System vs. Learning Management System & Other Learning Technologies
- Who uses course management software?
Let’s dive in!
What is a Course Management System?
Definition: A Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Training Course Administration Software, is an enterprise software system dedicated to automating and optimizing Instructor-Led Training (ILT) and virtual Instructor-Led Training (vILT) management. Its core purpose is to help administrators at training organizations. Let’s break it down further.
- “Course”: The system focuses on the needs and processes particular to Instructor-Led Training (ILT and vILT). It is specifically designed for training organizations, whether corporate training departments or for-profit training companies.
- “Management”: It helps you organize, streamline and monitor all of your back-office training processes, such as logistics and resource management, scheduling, administration, financials, and reporting. This can also include sales for commercial training companies.
- “System”: It is an all-in-one software that unifies all sorts of processes into a single system. These processes would otherwise be handled through multiple tools, such as a mix of spreadsheets, calendars, course booking systems, or a CRM.
Let’s also clarify the naming convention. You may hear the training course management system be called by many different variations: course management software, training course administration system, and Training Management System. These are all referring to the same type of system.
What is the Purpose of a Course Management System?
The Course Management System is made to optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of your instructor-led training. There are many great course management software features that make it a core layer in the learning tech stack and a key complement to the LMS.
Training Course Management Software Features
The main features to look for when considering training course management software are those focused on course management and scheduling, resource management, operations and logistics, financial planning and performance, reporting, and sales cycle management. For example, below are some of the common features that can help you effectively and efficiently manage your ILT / vILT training activity.
- Logistics and resource management – How do I organize sessions and assign resources in the most cost-effective way?
- Course scheduling – How do I create and quickly modify the optimal training schedule to fit everyone’s agenda?
- Registration administration – How do I keep track of registration confirmations, reminder emails, and important data for thousands of trainees, avoiding mistakes or delays?
- Instructor-Led Training Financials – How do I track costs, forecast budgets, and monitor profitability details for each session?
- Reporting and business intelligence – How do I extract meaningful information to assess the success of my training activity and make the right decisions in real-time?
- Sales – (for commercial training companies and extended enterprise) – How do I streamline the whole order to invoice process to serve my clients in a timely and reliable manner?
For a more in-depth look at the key features of course management software, explore our series of articles highlighting the Top Training Management System Features you’ll need to ease the complexity and optimize core training administration processes.
While some systems might also include front-end portals, Course Management Software is at heart a back-office software.
What’s the difference between a Course Management System vs Learning Management System and other similar software?
Within the learning technologies ecosystem, training Course Management Software has to be differentiated from two related software:
- Course management system vs learning management system: The learning management system is designed to help you manage and deliver eLearning courses. This is centered on the front-end interaction with the learners. You can see how it differs from the course management system, which helps organizations streamline and optimize the back-office training activities for instructor-led training (ILT) and virtual instructor-led training (vILT).
- Course management system vs talent management system: The talent management system, as its name indicates, is a more general tool to help you strategically manage talent. This might include some light training features. However, it mostly consolidates HR features such as recruiting, onboarding, succession planning, and so on.
To summarize, the Course Management Software’s specificity regarding these two types of software is clear. Unlike the Talent Management System, it is specifically designed to manage training processes. As such, it provides deeper functionalities relevant to training organizations. And, in terms of the course management system vs learning management system, course management software is centered on the back-office processes for managing instructor-led training, unlike the LMS.
>> Learn more about the differences between a Training Management System and Learning Management System. <<
Who Uses Course Administration Software?
The ideal audience for a training course administration software are training departments and organizations of all sizes – from a few hundred to several thousand trainees per year – which manage a significant part of instructor-led or virtual instructor-led training. For example:
- Corporate training departments
- Commercial training companies
- Extended enterprises which train external audiences (clients, partners, dealers, etc.)
- Corporate universities, consolidating the training practice within a corporate group
More specifically, the people who will interact with course management software on a day-to-day basis are key stakeholders involved in the operations and management of training. These are HR directors, training managers and administrators, sales, and so on.
…So what’s next?
So we’ve seen what Course Management Software does. But the more important question is: is it really that necessary?
The most basic answer is this: instructor-led training is the most widespread type of training today. According to Brandon Hall Group, 66% of companies use the classroom to a very high extent. Far more than any other method. The number reaches 76% for high-performing companies. ILT is irreplaceable for many domains. These include technical and leadership training, where the social and hands-on aspect of learning is invaluable. Despite these known benefits, it suffers from a bad reputation in terms of cost-effectiveness. This is because the back-office processes that it entails are often not optimally managed.
This is where the Training Management System comes in. By streamlining all these back-office processes, it is the core system that enables organizations to deliver efficient instructor-led-training. It also optimizes the overall training activity.