What is an LMS? Learning management systems explained

January 31, 2022 By Moodle

Are you confused by the terminology LMS, learning management system, learning management platform, LMS software? Firstly, it is important to understand that these terms all refer to the same thing. They are used interchangeably to describe “a software ​​application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, automation, and delivery of educational courses, training programs, or learning and development programs.”

To translate that to simple language, an LMS is software that helps you create, manage, organize, and deliver online learning materials to learners. Learners can be school students, vocational training students, college students, university students or employees within any type of organization. That is, anyone interested in lifelong learning and accessing learning materials on a device, predominantly across the internet.

What is the history of learning management systems?

The concept of online learning or eLearning began in the early 20th century through the use of audio-video communication for remote or distance learning. This was developed further in the 1980s when the use of computers began prominently in delivering learning materials and in some form of assessments. The appearance of teaching through the internet was first seen in the 1990s and allowed for more sophisticated lesson delivery, drill and practice programs, and more individualized instruction.

As an example, Moodle LMS, one of the world’s leading learning management systems, is used by hundreds of millions of learners worldwide. Its origins can be traced back to Moodle’s Founder and CEO, Martin Dougiamas and his experience of attending school via distance education in the Western Australian desert. His positive experience with remote learning sowed the seeds of his vision in the late 1990s to use the characteristics of the Internet to take education beyond physical classrooms that had barely changed in hundreds of years. The first official Moodle 1.0 release occurred in 2002 and over the last 20 years, Moodle has evolved through a commitment to pedagogy, open source philosophy and a collaborative global community of like-minded educators and technologists.

Growth of LMS platforms

By 2026, the global online learning market is forecasted to reach over $370 billion dollars. This is not surprising as according to a June 2021 report by TrustRadius, 99% of educational institutions provide LMS and educational technology support for their students. Also, LinkedIn Learning’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report indicates that 73% of L&D pros expect to spend less on ILT (instructor-led training) and 79% expect to spend more on online learning.

What is the best LMS?

Moodle LMS is one of the top learning management systems. It provides teachers and trainers with a toolbox to build customized learning platforms. It is an open source, secure, feature-rich software platform that runs on any computer server and all common devices to create a web-based online learning space containing “courses”.

These course spaces are where teachers, educators or trainers create and arrange a wide array of resources and activities into a rich learning experience; where enrolled students and learners interact and work with each other to achieve the learning goals of the course.

At Moodle, we believe that the best learning management systems must support good pedagogical practices, be feature-rich, open source, accessible for all, secure and integrate seamlessly with other platforms.

Open source

Moodle LMS is, and will always remain, open source which means that its source code is licensed in a way that allows anyone to download the entire software for free and to change how it works by writing new code to add features to it.


Moodle LMS is WCAG 2.1 AA compliant. Our integrated content accessibility checkers also help you build courses that accommodate all learners.


Moodle’s development practices include security by design, and as an open source LMS, Moodle LMS enables you to have complete control over your data to meet your local legislation requirements, including GDPR compliance. It also allows organizations or institutions to own their infrastructure.

Flexible and feature-rich

Moodle goes beyond the basic content features of most learning platforms and is rich with activities that support good pedagogical practice and require students to actively engage with the learning content and each other in a range of modalities. Plus, Moodle has over 300 plugins (software add ons)  in the base distribution and nearly 2000 more plugins created by the Moodle community.


Moodle LMS connects seamlessly with third-party platforms and services; from plagiarism detection to content repositories.

Hundreds of thousands of organizations, in every education sector, in every country on the globe, in nearly every language use Moodle to manage their online learning.

About Moodle

Moodle is the world’s most customizable and trusted online learning solution. The heart of our ecosystem is Moodle LMS, the open source learning management system used by hundreds of millions of learners worldwide.

Developed in conjunction with our community, Moodle LMS is complemented by Moodle WorkplaceMoodle AppsMoodleCloud and a network of Certified Service Providers delivering expertise in hosting, customizations, support and training.

We educate our community to create effective online learning experiences through Moodle Academy, the learning hub for the global Moodle community, and MoodleNet, our network to share and curate open educational resources. Collectively, we empower educators to improve our world.