What’s the difference between a TMS and a LMS?

Find out in this go-to TMS vs. LMS Guide!

When you search “training management” or “training management system” online, the number of results can be overwhelming or even a little confusing. While there may be several different definitions of training management out there today, one training management system (TMS) can vary widely from the next. In addition, there are other learning technology systems, like the learning management system (LMS), that may seem very similar.

While it’s okay for the casual viewer to confuse the two, the mix-up can be pretty unforgiving for your business if you end up purchasing one, while mistaking it for the other.

So, what is training management? And, what’s the difference between a Training Management System and a Learning Management System?

In this article, we’ll review everything you need to know about a training management system and learning management system, creating your go-to guide for navigating your way around these two key learning technologies, so you can better manage all your learning programs, including your classroom and virtual classroom training (ILT / vILT) scheduling and operations!

TMS vs LMS: What’s the Main Difference?

A training management system (TMS) specializes in planning and organizing the administrative side of instructor-led training operations. A learning management system (LMS) allows the deployment of ready-to-serve eLearning content for users. Both the TMS and LMS are used simultaneously within a learning program to provide training that is both efficient and effective to both learners and the L&D team. 

However, there’s so much more to it. So, let’s drill into the details! This detailed article includes:

What is Training Management?

Definition: Training management is the practice of directing and organizing all of the back-end instructor-led training (ILT) and virtual instructor-led training (vILT) activities for your organization, including scheduling, logistics, resource management, instructor engagement, team collaboration, cost tracking, budgeting, sales, and reporting.

Before we drill down into further detail, let’s clarify a couple more definitions.

What is a Training Management System (TMS)?

Definition: A Training Management System streamlines and optimizes the back-office training processes for ILT and vILT. Essentially, training management software provides a more efficient way for training organizations to manage, track, and sell training.

What is a Learning Management System (LMS)?

Definition: A Learning Management System is software that helps manage eLearning, by enabling content management, course delivery, and progress tracking.

Are the differences between a training management system vs a learning management system clearer? Hopefully a little bit. Keep reading and we’ll get into the detailed differences step by step.

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Instructor-Led Training vs eLearning: What’s the Difference?

In today’s learning environment, the effectiveness of instructor-led training vs. eLearning is frequently discussed, but the two are often used together as part of a blended learning approach. Instructor-led training is more traditional, classroom training that takes place face-to-face with your learners. This can also include virtual training, led by an instructor, also known as vILT.  Whereas, eLearning is web-based and courses can be taken online at any time. Since the two are distinct, there are different ways of managing each.

A Training Resource Management System helps you with in-person classroom training and virtual instructor-led training management. Building complex schedules? Assigning trainers and resources to classes? Tracking costs per session, region, or business unit? These are the sorts of things that you can expect your training management software to do for you. Other terms often used interchangeably with a training management software system are course management system, seminar management system, and the like.

A learning management system, on the other hand, is software dedicated to managing eLearning and your learners. It allows content managers to organize, deliver, and monitor online courses through an end-user interface. 

Of course, the training management system and learning management system can complement each other. Therefore, this is why organizations that incorporate both classroom and virtual training might choose to invest in both types of software. Whether you’re using ILT / vILT learning experiences and eLearning separately, or together in blended learning scenarios, you’ll want training software that can interface with each other to give you a solution tailored to your needs.

Back-office (TMS) vs. Front-office (LMS)

There’s only a one-word difference between these two expressions, but it’s an important one. A training management software system is focused on organizing training sessions and is built for training administrators. At its core, is its training back-office features and capabilities, and it is centered on your organization’s processes. The core training management system features you should look for in a TMS include those focused on scheduling and resource management, operations and logistics, instructor management, financial planning, performance, reporting, and sales cycle management. Most TMSs today incorporate some end-user portals as well.

Who uses a training management system on a day-to-day basis?

Those who use a training management system daily include key stakeholders who manage ILT / vILT training including:

  • Training professionals who train their employees
  • Training professionals who train their extended enterprise / external audiences such as customers, partners, distributors, etc.)
  • HR professionals
  • Training companies that do public and private training
  • Corporate university directors
  • Associations that train their members
  • And more!

A Learning Management System, however, is focused on registration and delivery processes and is built for the learners. It is centered on this interaction with the learners, so the number and diversity of day-to-day users are much larger. Of course, training managers will still oversee the training administered through the LMS, as well as track course completion and learner progress. As such, the end-user experience is at the center of the software, and much of its value lies in the fluidity and intuitiveness of its front-end user interface.

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Training Administration (TMS) vs. Content Delivery (LMS)

You might have guessed from the previous point that a Training Management System is not the tool you want if you need something to manage content. It’s the tool you want to ensure that all the processes that happen before and after the class are as streamlined as possible. This is why it’s sometimes called a Training Administration Software System or Course Management System.

On the contrary, the LMS is a tool for content delivery. If you’re trying to find a way to optimally manage and deliver eLearning content to your trainees, you’re in the right place. If you want to improve your operational processes, your sales cycle, or your budget monitoring, you’d be better served by training management software.

What Processes Are Handled by a Training Management System vs. a Learning Management System?

A Training Management System typically takes care of all your back-office processes:

  • Organizing logistics and resources
  • Course calendar management and scheduling: live online or virtual training, in-person sessions, workshop management, and more
  • Managing the pool of trainers and SMEs
  • Handling instructor-led training administration – virtual or classroom-based training (registration confirmations, reminder emails…)
  • Monitoring financials (tracking costs and profitability, forecasting budgets…)
  • Creating reports and business intelligence
  • Managing orders and invoices, for commercial training companies and extended enterprise

A Learning Management System typically handles the processes related to online course planning, delivery, and assessment:

  • Creating eLearning courses
  • Uploading content
  • Delivering courses online
  • Enrolling students
  • Communicating with students
  • Tracking and assessing learner performance

Where does the Training Resource Management System Fit in the Learning Technology Ecosystem?

There are many technologies in the learning ecosystem and the landscape is always changing. However, there are three complementary technologies at the core of the learning tech stack and they include the LXP, LMS, and the TMS. Where do they all fit? The LMS, managing the learners and eLearning, sits in the middle as both a learner and admin-facing technology. The TMS sits on the back end, providing a tool for managing the entire ILT + vILT training process. And, the LXP sits on top, as a learner-facing technology, delivering great user experience to the learners.

training management in learning technology stack ecosystem

Top 20 Training Management System Features

What Training Management System Features Should I Look for in a Training Management Tool?

There are many great training management system features that make it a core layer in the learning tech stack and a key complement to the LMS. These features ensure that you have the best training management software to manage your overall training activity most efficiently. We’ve broken the training management system features into 5 categories below.

Scheduling & Resource Management Features

These training management system features ease the complexity of scheduling and managing your instructors and other strategic training resources:

1. Resource scheduling and allocation management
2. Graphical course scheduling
3. Instructor engagement portal

Learn More: Scheduling & Resource Management Features

Operations & Logistics Features

Helping administrators optimize and automate the operations and logistics of training are these must-have training management features:

4. To-do list consolidation
5. Regulation and compliance monitoring
6. Global language and currency support
7. Automated administration
8. Registration management
9. Internal collaboration
10. Audience integration

Learn More: Operations & Logistics Features

Budget Optimization, Financial Planning & Performance Features

The ability to quantify the value of training and find efficiencies is the reality for today’s training administrators with these features:

11. Training budget management and optimization
12. Sales and profitability monitoring
13. Real-time cost tracking
14. Certification tracking
15. Training plan management

Learn More: Budget Optimization, Financial Planning & Performance Features

Reporting Features

These training reporting features, help training managers to create meaningful reports, and better understand the data to gain valuable insights:

16. Centralized business analytics and real-time KPIs
17. Fully customizable reports
18. Automated processes and data centralization

Learn More: Reporting Features

Sales Cycle Management Features

For those who manage and sell training as a business, these key training management system features will help to track and manage vital sales activities:

19. Sales cycle management
20. Training catalog and B2B Client Collaboration Portal

Learn More: Sales Cycle Management Features

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TMS vs LMS Summary

To summarize, here is a visual that illustrates the differences between the Training Management System and the Learning Management System in terms of purpose, features, and audience:

what is a training management system? training management system and learning management system differences: tms vs lms

I wish I could tell you that things are always this clear-cut. However, the reality is that lines do tend to get blurry. Some LMS platforms might have elements to handle classroom training and virtual Instructor-Led Training, while other TMS platforms might incorporate eLearning management.

This is where you need to decipher marketing from actual purpose and capabilities, and closely assess your needs. Ask:

  • What is your share of instructor-led training vs. eLearning?
  • Does your difficulty lie more in content management, course delivery, logistics, cost tracking, and administrative processes? Can your current software handle those items as in-depth as you’d like?
  • What is the core purpose of the software you’re looking at? Which features are central and which ones are peripheral, and will you be able to get good support on all these features?

These types of questions will help you determine what kind of software, between a Training Management System and a Learning Management System, really fits your training needs.

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What is the best TMS (Training Management System)?

The best Training Management System is one that fits your organization’s needs and goals and can integrate with the other critical technologies you’re using. Although there are many systems available in the corporate learning ecosystem today, you’ll want to find a TMS that has implemented industry best practices and is dedicated to the success of your organization.

What is the best LMS (Learning Management System)?

We often get asked what the best LMS is to complement the TMS. There are hundreds of Learning Management Systems available today. However, some are more specifically designed to fit certain learning and development needs. Ultimately, you’ll want to choose a system that can be tailored to your organization’s needs and align with your goals. Our Training Management System is designed to fit different needs and goals, and it complements and seamlessly integrates with the LMS. We have extensive experience with leading LMS providers, and we’re happy to help provide the expertise and experience that you need.

To learn more about the Training Management System, check our 5-minute guide to the TRMS and get the key facts and figures.

About Training Orchestra

For over 20 years, Training Orchestra has helped over 600 training companies, corporate L&D departments, and associations worldwide to address instructor-led training operations management challenges for their employee, customer, partner, or member training programs. We’ve crafted the perfect training management system to address the most critical needs of corporate L&D and training businesses.

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