CMS: An Alternative to a LMS for those who seek Portals or Communities

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While the race is on for people to get LMSs and LCMSs, there are some people who either do not want or need a LMS/LCMS, but want to create a learning community or more often, some type of  portal – intranet or internet.

They may call it a  “learning portal” or “training or knowledge portal” or whatever. While you can create an amazing learning portal with social learning and a LMS as a hub, with APIs, you may not want all the doo-dads that come with a LMS system, nor do you want to buy a LCMS, when you might only be seeking specific features that can exist without the “LMS”component.

So, what do you do?

Get a CMS – Content Management System

CMSs were initially created and are often used for organizing and  managing websites and web content, including documents, files, media, etc.  Today, CMSs are appearing with the above, but may include workflows, collaboration tools, web site search, document repositories, records management, digital asset management, compliance and social media.

Thus the key is to find one that truly meets the content management system – learning approach, rather than just a web site content approach. Thus, you need the mixture of the two.  With the costs of a LCMS or even some CMSs, you might want to seek out the open source – FREE way.

Okay, I’m intrigued, but can I launch courses from a CMS? What about analytical data or reports that are often found in a LMS?  What about the breakouts of people into curriculum x or y?

Yes and No.  This is a content management system, not a learning management system or a learning content management system. Unless you plan to add some APIs (since they are open source, you could) to create reports on some data or do robust data collection, it is not going to happen.  As for the course authoring tool – to create courses within a CMS and then launch them?  Uh, no.

To create a course(s) in some type of rapid e-learning authoring tool or Dreamweaver..then yes, but you will need to make some minor tweaks. Specifically, when you are ready to output your course from one of the rapid e-learning authoring tools. Your output will need to be “web or online” and not a LMS/LCMS, depending on their verbiage.  You can still create it as SCORM, SCORM 1.2/2004, but as a “web” it won’t be tracked from the SCORM perspective, unless you locate a plugin or API that enables your CMS to be SCORM compliant – and well, good luck on that.

When I say “web”, this means the course sits on your server or if you are using a 3rd party and they are hosting a server for you – it is there.  The course sits in the “server” will all its files, etc. Thus, the server would be the same server that you house your CMS, and then you can launch from within the CMS for people to access.  Lots of cool ways to do this.. design wise from the front end, so your end user is “WOWed”.

If you want the course component, another option is to look at SCORM Cloud which I recently reported on this blog. It would enable you to upload your courses and then launch them from within the “cloud”, anywhere – thus you wouldn’t need to have the courses on your server and yes, SCORM Cloud provides some reporting capabilities.  And yes, it would be fully SCORM 2004 compliant (as long as you uploaded your courses as SCORM 2004).

ECMS – Enterprise Content Management System

ECMS provides the methods, tools used to manage, store, capture, preserve and deliver documents/content tied to a company and its processes.  ECMSs will often include strategies and technologies as part of their components.  It is listed under a CMS  umbrella, just as  document management systems, document repositories or information repositories are starting to be listed.

So what now?

Well, the list I will provide below includes some components (in some cases, not all the products) of a ECMS, but still have the core functionality as the CMS. Some of the products/sites are just “CMS” nothing more, others are more robust.

My Top List of Open Source – FREE – Content Management Systems

The list includes CMSs that include a document management system within their structure.  These are fully functioning systems and free. They are in no particular order.

  • iPoint Full Content Management Capabilities, social media features including wikis, RSS, blogs, forums, rich media support inc. audio/video, full text search, WebDAV support to drag and drop files for sharing, document sharing, notification and messaging support including email, SMS and portal
  • XincoWeb-Service based Information and Document Management System (DMS) for files, text, URLs and contacts, featuring ACLs, version control, full text search and an FTP-like client
  • MMbase –  Web Content Management System, has DMS too with strong multi-media features and advanced portal functionality. Not that well known.
  • Apache Lenya –  Document management, collaboration, compliance, records management, business process management, business rules management, retention management, indexing, search and file transfer
  • Drupal – One of the king kongs of CMS systems.  Well liked by many.
  • Hippo – Used by USC, BNA, Randstand and HP.  Excellent features.  Offers a portal download component, too.
  • Nuexo – Document management, collaboration, business process management, compliance, records management – another slick product
  • DspaceDeveloped by MIT Libraries and initially HP
  • DotCms – Used by the city of Quebec, Colorado State University, Honda, Toyota to name a few
  • Impresscms –  Very slick, lots of capabilities
  • Joomla –   A good friend of mine, Chris Bond, CEO of Bluewater Learning, who is also very knowledgeable on CMSs, loves it

Lastly, very very cool..but definitely not for everyone:

  • Get Mediacore – video & podcast CMS, but you can also include any type of files, incl. video,  Flash (.flv), HTML5, docs, pdf, etc.

Other Open Source CMSs

From my “Pages” section on this blog –  Please be aware that this is not an all encompassing list, as there are dozens and dozens of CMS solutions or similar like solutions available on the net.

    Next week: Marketing Ur LMS to UR Employees

    E-Learning 24/7


    1. Good post!

      What you call a “learning portal”, I call an “Informal Learning Environment” or ILE (, and I think it’s an excellent idea to manage it via a CMS.

      It would be fine to leave it at that for an open learning community or CoP, but employers need to record competence too. That’s what the LMS does well.

      So, a company needs both an ILE and an LMS: the former to support learning, the latter to manage assessment.

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