eLearning Basics: LMSs, Authoring Tools, and SCORM

New to eLearning? If so, there are some things it helps to learn sooner instead of later.

But don’t worry, they’re not hard to pick up.

So let us get you up to speed on a few 100-level, eLearning basics in this article:

  • Learning management systems (LMSs)
  • Authoring tools

Get a handle on these three and you’ve pushed yourself ahead from complete novice/deer in the headlights to someone who’s not lost in conversations with eLearning developers, trainers, and instructional designers. Nice!

eLearning Basics: Three Biggies–the Learning Management System (LMS), Authoring Tools, and SCORM

Here are three good things to know before you walk into a conference room with a bunch of eLearning developers and they eat you alive for not knowing the tools of their trade.

Learning Management System (LMS): For Managing Your eLearning and Other Training

A learning management system (LMS) is a software system you can use to administer a training program.

The LMS will let you do all this and more:

  • Import your own training materials (or materials created by others)
  • Create training materials (online quizzes, field-based skills assessments, etc.)
  • Assign training to workers or parts of your organization (teams, departments, sites, etc.)
  • Let workers see a list of training assigned to them, including due dates and current completion status
  • Let workers launch and complete some of that training
  • Automatically create completion records when employees finish some of that training
  • Allow administrators to manually create completion records when employees finish other parts of that training
  • Store completion records
  • Generate and print completion certificates
  • Notify employees at key training moments, such as when new training is assigned, training that had once been completed must be completed again, or when a due date is approaching
  • Generate reports on training data
  • Automatically schedule and email reports

Although an LMS CAN be and often IS used with eLearning, it’s a very common misconception that an LMS can ONLY be used with eLearning. But that’s not the case–you can use an LMS to administer instructor-led training, task-based skill demonstrations and evaluations, and more. Read more about how an LMS can be used with instructor-led training here, for example.

If you’re still curious, click to read more about learning management systems, or watch our 2-minute Enterprise LMS Overview video.

Authoring Tools for Developing eLearning Courses

You may think that only big, fancy eLearning providers can make eLearning courses, and you’re only option is to buy eLearning from them. But again, not true. Au contraire, mon frere!

Authoring tools are software applications that let you create your own eLearning courses. Many allow you to start with a simple PowerPoint presentation and add multimedia, interactivity, and quizzes that you create to that “starter” PowerPoint.

You can include your own site-specific information, create your own assessments, set you own passing scores, and then import your own self-created eLearning course into an LMS to assign it to your workers.

For more about that, click to read more about authoring tools.

Or watch our 60-minute recorded, on-demand webinar that shows how to use an eLearning authoring tool to make your own eLearning course.

SCORM, A “Format” For Publishing eLearning Courses

In ancient days, when sailors, travelers, and wanderers wanted to communicate with others around the globe, they’d often learn the lingua franca: the language spoken by many throughout a region or the world. For example, today English is a lingua franca, and one imagines Chinese will be one too if it’s not one already.

eLearning has something like a lingua franca too. This “eLearning lingua franca” allows eLearning courses to communicate with learning management systems. In technical terms, your friends in IT would refer to these eLearning lingua francas as “collections of standards and specifications for web-based electronic educational technology (also called eLearning). “

I copped that definition from Wikipedia in case you’re interested.

There are a few of these eLearning standards out there, but SCORM is the most common. The basic idea is that if you have a SCORM-compliant eLearning course, and a SCORM-compliant learning management system (LMS), the two will “play nicely together.”

Or, to put that another way, SCORM-complaint eLearning courses and LMSs are “plug and play” and ready to go.

Amongst other things, that means you can buy a SCORM-complaint LMS from one company, and SCORM-compliant eLearning courses from another company, and they’ll work together. Or, you can buy a SCORM-compliant LMS from one company, get SCORM-complaint eLearning courses from another company, and then use an authoring tool to make your own SCORM-complaint eLearning courses, and they’ll all work together. As you’d imagine, this is very handy.

If you’re still curious, click to read more about SCORM.

Additional Articles About eLearning Basics Such as LMSs, eLearning Authoring Tools, and/or SCORM

If you’re still curious, we’ve got some additional articles for you below.

Learning Management Systems (LMSs)

Here are some articles about LMSs and how you can use them at work:

Also: Learn more about the learning management systems (LMSs) by Convergence Training.

eLearning Authoring Tools

Here’s some stuff about eLearning authoring tools:


Here are some articles about SCORM:

Actually, the only SCORM article we’ve got for ya is that one we linked you to earlier. Here it is again: click to read more about SCORM.

The article linked immediately above covers what you need to know about SCORM, but we’ll look into creating some additional articles on things like AICC and Tin Can. Bear with us, please 🙂

eLearning 101: The eLearning Basics with SCORM, Authoring Tools, and LMSs

That’s all we’ve got for you today.

If you’ve got other questions, or if you’d like to add more information, please drop a line in the comments section below.

Until them, consider downloading our free LMS buyer’s guide, below. We mentioned it’s free, right?

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Learning Management System (LMS) Buyer’s Guide

Learn what you need to know BEFORE you begin your search and get a free checklist to guide you, too.

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Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. Jeff has worked in education/training for more than twenty years and in safety training for more than ten. You can follow Jeff at LinkedIn as well.

2 thoughts on “eLearning Basics: LMSs, Authoring Tools, and SCORM

  1. Great write-up, I’m sure a lot of people will find it handy. Even despite being a professional in that field I sometimes feel as if new terms were being invented on a daily basis, I can only imagine how tangled it must feel for some people. But it’s a world definetely worth entering – a day might come when half of the people in the subway will be learning something on their mobiles!

    1. Thanks, John.

      Yeah, I’m the same as you. I sometimes get confused/need a refresher even in the areas of my “expertise.” And it’s all a bewildering alphabet soup to anyone new to the field. We try to write the occasional 101-level article like this one for those very reasons. I very definitely remember having no idea what an LMS was (even though I had used one in the past) and having no idea what SCORM was (again, even though e-learning courses I created were ultimately formatted in SCORM without my knowing).

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