Corporate vs. Academic Learning Management Systems (LMS)

January 22nd, 2020 8 min read

The market for Learning Management Systems (LMS) is overflowing with different products. Ranging from monthly subscriptions to individual downloads, the sheer amount of options is staggering. 

LMS software provides a central location for instructors to manage and deliver educational materials, including videos, courses, and training documents. LMS software can be used in any training or development environment, from schools to businesses. Many LMS platforms provide performance tracking and analysis.

There are two main types of LMS: Corporate LMS and Academic LMS. The first type of LMS used was Academic LMS in K-12 environments and higher education. Academic LMS is for teaching students and providing teachers with professional development. 

Beyond academia, most LMS in use today are Corporate LMS. Corporate LMS is used internally to train and develop employees and externally to teach customers how to use products. 

Some companies, such as Brightspace, make both an academic version of their LMS and a corporate version. 

Types of LMS Users

The academic LMS end-user base is largely comprised of students and faculty. Some products focus on primary and secondary education students, while others focus on higher education. 

In contrast, corporate LMS users can include virtually anyone in the workplace can use a computer or smartphone. There are usually separate portals for administrators, managers, and users, making management convenient for instructors.

Goals of Each Type of LMS

Academic LMS goals vary in emphasis between higher and lower education. Primary and Secondary Education-focused LMS emphasize their learning’s alignment with state and federal education standards, such as Common Core, so that students may meet these metrics for success. LMS for higher education focuses more on teachers’ administrative capabilities and less on delivering actual learning content to students.

Corporate LMS uses three primary means to manage employees’ learning. The first way is by training employees on skills that are valuable to the business and their professional development. The second way is by providing training to maintain regulatory and internal policy compliance. Finally, LMS may be used to train customers on a businesses’ products or processes. 

Important Features

Corporate LMS and Academic LMS emphasize different types of features and as such tend to be sold in different ways. Corporate LMS and Academic LMS can be sold as standalone products, but Corporate LMS are also found in larger HR management software suites

Academic LMS

Supports a Variety of Lesson Formats

A good LMS should support many different types of instructional media. You should be able to post video lectures, audio, upload notes, prepare online quizzes, host a message board and more.

Discussion Forums

An academic LMS must have the ability to facilitate peer-based learning. From social media integration to discussion forums, students benefit from being able to discuss the material with fellow students while earning credit.

Grade Book

It is critical to be able to post students’ grades where they can check them. You’ll also want the ability to upload a syllabus as well as project descriptions and rubrics. Some LMS grade books offer the ability to leave feedback for students or track their attendance.

Quiz and Test Creator

The ability to write quizzes and exams to assess students’ learning is another important feature to look out for. An LMS should be able to track students’ progress and improvements over time. Some LMS platforms allow instructors to import tests from other e-Learning tools.


Primary Education-focused academic LMS relies heavily on gamification to deliver content to younger students. In contrast, higher-ed academic LMS may have more in common with corporate LMS. Both higher-ed and corporate LMS tend to deliver content more formally via video and have a greater emphasis on administrative management of end-users’ learning.

Corporate LMS

Certification management

In highly-regulated industries, it is critical to be able to track each employee’s credentials and qualifications. Easily maintain government compliance by making certifications available for export. 

Performance reporting

Keep track of how each learner is doing in the course with a performance report. Use this feature to determine trends in assessment scores and completion times.

Employee performance timelines

Performance timelines are a necessary tool for helping learners pace themselves in a course and complete modules on time. They can assist in determining who is on track and how long it takes to complete a course.


Manage your coursework while away from the office. A mobile-friendly LMS enables trainees to make progress in their courses from anywhere with an internet connection. Course administrators can also upload content and make announcements from their smartphones.

E-commerce integration or online storefront

It can be beneficial to integrate an LMS with an online store. Gating learning content makes it possible to earn money from the training courses and modules you create. You can accept one-time completion payments or make the entire course subscription-based.

Reports and Analytics

Most LMS software provides the opportunity to view custom reports and analytics. These allow instructors to determine if there are learning and performance trends to watch out for. With these tools available, teachers can determine where students are struggling.

Which type of LMS is right for your organization?

Academic LMS is probably right for your organization if you are teaching students and want to focus on grades and training exclusively. An academic LMS makes it easy for teachers to manage grades and assessments. It also gives students a central place to view their course material if they are taking several courses. 

If you want to manage certifications, employees, and improve work performance, Corporate LMS probably makes the most sense. A corporate LMS is also a great choice if you want to provide product training to customers and professionals and earn money doing so.

Once you know which category is the right fit for you, start diving into reviews of those products to find users similar to you to see which product will best suit your needs. If you want to include corporate LMS in your workplace, learn more about how corporate LMS intersects with other HR software

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