One of the things I have learned over the last 30 plus years working in a corporation is that semantics are important. What means one thing to one person does not mean the same thing to another person.
This is especially true in the online education space. We use words interchangeably: on-demand, webinar, webcast, replay, broadcast, simulcast, and so on. Only later to discover that when I said webcast, the listener thought I meant webinar. I’ve learned self-paced does not equal self-study and a learning management system (LMS) and a continuing education management system (CEMS) are two different things.
The LMS market space is a broad umbrella that allows for many different types of learning paradigms. By their very nature, they are designed to deliver broad sets of functionality in order to serve a very large market. LMS systems can have many features and functionalities, but at the core they all possess one fundamental thing: they are systems intended to deliver an online learning experience. Many of them also include some ability to author online content.
A CEMS has this same basic core as an LMS, but it includes functions unique to continuing professional education and the rules applicable to CE. A CEMS enables:
- Participants to shop for courses via an online catalog using a sophisticated search capability– similar to a familiar online shopping experience, and
- Checkout with a functionality that allows for hundreds of possible pricing scenarios
- Automatic time tracking to ensure attendance compliance
- Testing that allows for multiple testing scenarios (pre, post, interval, retention, etc.)
- Certification against completed requirements
- Robust reporting, to ensure compliance and help CE providers manage their education programs
Additionally, a true CEMS must incorporate multiple media types to be wholly inclusive of continuing education offerings, .i.e. its functionality needs to be integrated with live-event programming that may or may not be delivered online (such as the annual conference), or content that was originally delivered as a live event and then formatted for online delivery, testing, and certification.
So, can an LMS designed to deliver education and training to corporations or universities with thousands of employees or students be used for continuing education? Sure. But the optimal solution for delivering CE to professionals who are required to complete course requirements for licensure is the CEMS.