A learning management system is an area to host content and use as the virtual college or academy. It provides a means of structuring learning programs, hosting content and the managing of students, lecturers and programme administrators a like. It usually has the functionality to log learner activity , capture student assignments and track marking. It is a very efficient way of assessing and tracking learners particularly when the numbers get substantial. These systems often allow learner interaction through live chats blogs and forums the richness of functionality of course varies from one system to another.
The are a variety of paid for system from well know brands like Adobe or Blackboard that host the environment as a service for a monthly fee. There are also open source alternatives (free) such as Moodle, which is in almost ubiquitous use in UK colleges, that are not cloud based offerings but are hosted within ones one hosting area. This can be done either on the institutional web servers or by purchasing a hosting package from companies that sell hosting facilities.
Everyone has there own views on what is best for them and decisions around the issues of: cost, maintenance, security, business continuity and look and feel are a selection of the aspects that need to be addressed when making a decision on which route to adopt.
One of the key points to remember is that your content i.e. your learning materials are, or should be, independent of the LMS . Content developing is a major investment and you don’t want all that time locked into a proprietary format that doesn’t allow you to move elsewhere should you so wish.
Content authoring and the effectiveness of content as a learning medium is another subject.