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Learning management systems (LMSs) deliver and administer online courses to employees or students, while tracking their progress along the way. But in order to put those online courses together, teachers, trainers and managers need content. That’s where learning content management systems (LCMSs) come in.

The benefits of a LCMS are twofold. First, content authors have a space where they can create and modify learning objects, which can include text, video, assessments and more. Second, LCMSs offer a secure repository for these learning objects, so they can be reused and repurposed for future needs. Not only does this allow for ultimate flexibility in learning content creation, but it also rids organizations of costly duplicate development efforts.

Due to their similarities, people often think LMSs and LCMSs are the same thing. In fact, the term “LMS” has evolved to describe products that have both LMS and LCMS functionality, which can be incredibly confusing for first-time buyers. But there are differences you can look out for to help you choose the type of platform that’s best for your organization.

The biggest difference you should be aware of: A LCMS is used to create course content, while a LMS is used to deliver that content to learners. Whether you have separate systems for your LCMS and LMS, or use one LMS suite that includes both (which is common), they work in tandem to manage the entire e-learning process.

For example, say a developer needs to create e-learning content about updated managerial techniques. They can use a LCMS to collaborate on and author this content, combining pre-existing assets such as videos, audio and images with content that can be created in-system, such as text and assessments. The LCMS can then help them arrange all this material into a logically sequenced, comprehensive course on the subject.

Like LMS software, learning content management systems are often priced on a per-user basis. You pay a monthly or annual fee based on how many users are in the system. Small organizations may pay as much as $5/user while large companies may pay less than $1/user, depending on the vendor.

This isn’t the only pricing model though. In some instances you may just pay a flat subscription fee to use the system, regardless of how many users are in the system. Some vendors will even charge you based on how many courses you create or use.

Education buyers. These buyers typically work in schools and universities, and use LCMSs to manage student e-learning content. Some features to look for in these systems include social learning forums, where users can interact and discuss course content, and course homework and assessment grading.

Corporate buyers. Instead of students, the learners in these systems can be employees, customers or channel partners. Features to look for here include extended enterprise functionality to implement company branding into courses and certification tracking to ensure that workers pass necessary compliance courses.

• Responsive design. More and more learners are consuming e-learning content on tablets and smartphones—devices that don’t always lend themselves well to elegant, immersive e-learning design. In response, many LCMSs are expanding their responsive design options to ensure that any course you create looks and works well on mobile devices.

• Automated course authoring. Templates and themes have been a mainstay of LCMSs for a while, but platforms are getting even better about automating aspects of course creation to lower costs and development time. Look for systems that can automatically code course assessments based on the course content and develop individualized learner paths based on past behavior.

• Gamification. Using the addictive qualities found in video games, many LMSs and LCMSs are including functionality like points systems, badges and leaderboards to entice learners into consuming more e-learning content. Look for these features to better engage the learners in your organization.