TMS and a LMS, or Training Management System and Learning Management System. If you have no idea what the difference between these two things is, well… no one can really blame you. After all, they do sound awfully similar.
And while it’s ok for the casual viewer to confuse the two, the mix-up can be pretty unforgiving if you end up purchasing one mistaking it for the other. So, what is training management?
Training Management System definition
Before we drill down on the details, let’s get the definition out of the way:
- A Training Management System is a software that helps training organizations streamline and optimize the back-office training processes for Instructor-Led-Training
- A Learning Management System is a software that helps manage eLearning, by enabling content management, course delivery, and progress tracking
Clearer? Hopefully a little bit. If not, read on and we’ll take it step by step.
ILT vs eLearning
A TMS helps you with Instructor-Led Training Management. Building complex schedules? Assigning trainers and resources to classes? Tracking costs per session, region or business unit? These are the sort of things that you can expect your TMS to do for you. A LMS on the other hand is a software dedicated to managing your eLearning: it allows content managers to organize, deliver, and monitor online courses through an end-user interface.
Back-office vs Front-office
There’s only a one-word difference between these two expressions, but it’s an important one. A Training Management System is focused on the training sessions’ organization and is built for training administrators. Its core is its back-office capabilities, and it is centered on your organization’s processes. While most TMS today incorporate some end-user portals as well, the people who use a TMS on a day-to-day basis are key stakeholders such as training managers, HR professionals, corporate university directors, etc.
A Learning Management System, however, is focused on the 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 is much larger (of course, training managers will still oversee the training done 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.
Training Administration vs Content Delivery
You might have guessed from the previous point that a TMS 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: which is why it’s sometimes called a Training Administration System or Course Management Software. 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 a TMS.
A TMS typically takes care of all your back office processes:
- Organizing logistics and resources
- Scheduling courses
- Handling Instructor-Led Training administration (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 LMS 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
To summarize, here is a visual that illustrates the differences between the TMS and LMS in terms of purpose, features and audience:
I wish I could tell you that things are always this clear-cut, but the reality is that lines do tend to get blurry: some LMS might have elements to handle ILT, while some TMS might incorporate a form of eLearning management.
This is where you need to decipher marketing from actual purpose and capabilities, and closely assess your needs:
- What is your share of ILT vs eLearning?
- Does your difficulty lie more in content management and course delivery, or in logistics, cost tracking, and administrative processes?
- 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 type of questions will help you determine what kind of software really fits your needs. To learn more about Training Management Systems, check our 5 minutes guide on TRMS and get the key facts and figures.