What is an LMS?

January 8, 2021

What does LMS stand for?

Today, there are so many acronyms that we need to remember, and terms around higher education are no exception. If you have been looking into online colleges or universities for any given time, you have probably heard or have come across the term LMS. LMS stands for Learning Management System. 


LMS is formally defined as “a software application or web-based technology used to plan, implement, and assess a specific learning process,” according to TechTarget


But here’s the practical definition: it’s your virtual classroom.


There are a few leading LMS’s that schools use:


If you’re still having trouble figuring out what an LMS is, think of its name: learning management system. LMS’s exist to help you manage your learning. They keep it organized and systematic, so you can focus on the content of your coursework instead of searching for your lost math homework. (It’s under your bed, by the way.



Potentially one of the most critical aspects of an LMS is how you access your class. Does it have to be on just Chrome? Or can you access it on any computer with internet access or any device that you can download an app? In the case of Canvas, it is the latter. Canvas works on a phone, iPad, Mac, PC, Raspberry Pi, Chromebook… You get the picture. This adds to the flexibility of the course. You can literally type a paper and submit it through Canvas all on your phone. Visiting family and forgot your computer? If they have internet access, you can check your class schedule, download readings, and submit assignments wherever you are. This makes learning available to you anytime, anywhere.



Understanding the typical rhythm of your school schedule is essential for being successful. By understanding that your reading always needs to be completed by Thursday afternoon, you can build a regular schedule of reading 30-45 minutes Monday-Thursday. This keeps you from being surprised and can help maintain sanity when life gets hectic. 


By breaking down classes, assignments, papers, readings, and the like into smaller bite-sized pieces, it becomes much easier to schedule and complete the larger tasks. It can take a while to understand the typical rhythm of a class, so this should be an important priority at the beginning of any class. Paying attention to the syllabus and dissecting it will pay off later. 


For Crown Online, a typical rhythm for a course will be readings and discussion posts are due Thursday by 11:59 pm. Replies to the discussion posts and papers or larger assignments are typically due Sunday by 11:59 pm. This isn’t always the case — which is why looking through the syllabus is so vital — but this does set up a great template to understand when you need to work towards the deadlines throughout the week.



The most important document of any class you take is the syllabus. This is the contract between the professor and each student on how the class will go. This can tell you what to expect both in policy and assignments. Pay attention to this document because it will help you plan ahead on your assignments. For example, you may realize that a large project is due on Week 5, which is also the week you have a large project at work due. Planning ahead will help keep you on track to succeed in the course. 


Further, understanding your professor’s policies is key, especially when the unexpected comes up. It could be that your professor docks 10% each day an assignment is late. So on the off chance that you miss a deadline, you can understand exactly how that will impact your grade. 


Most professors understand that emergencies come up and will work with you in an unexpected event. However, there are probably ways that the professor wants to be contacted, which could include a specific procedure. There is also a good chance that they have a preference for when they wish to be contacted. In some ways, a professor is like a boss that you work for. Understanding how the professor works and what they expect from you is half the work. 



One of the first things that you will see in the LMS is how the professor communicates updates with the entire class. Everything from clarifying an assignment to reminders about due dates, to even just a message about the professor praying for you, these are important mass messages that help you stay up to date with your professor.



A key to making an LMS work for you is honing the notifications. Often you can receive a notification for just about anything that happens on the LMS; however, that can quickly become noise. Instead, taking the time to choose the notifications that are meaningful to you and determining how you want to receive those notifications can make a world of difference.


An LMS like Canvas offers grouped notifications as well as individual notifications that can all be chosen in settings, allowing you to customize how the LMS talks to you. Being notified about important changes, updates, announcements, etc., can make sure nothing falls through the cracks.




A key function of helping students keep up with all of their assignments is a calendar layout so that students can be prepared for upcoming assignments. A calendar view is a super helpful way to look ahead at the week or the rest of the course and discover what is specifically needed. 


Imagine that you were just told to start on a large project at work that will be due next Friday. If your school has an excellent LMS, you can quickly login to see that there is a large paper due on Sunday, two days after the work project is due. It is going to be a busy week next week, but you now know to jump-start that paper so that you have two weeks to complete the paper instead of waiting to start that week. Quickly figuring out how to schedule everything is what makes online education so flexible and is a key advantage especially for those who already have a full schedule.



Online courses traditionally have fewer hour-long lectures. Instead, much of your learning will come from processing through readings. Whether you are thinking through the author’s arguments or discussing the ideas with other students, the purpose remains discovery. You will find reading assignments in each week’s module so that you can keep up with the readings.


With a typical online rhythm, you cannot wait until the day assignments are due to complete your readings. Instead, break down your readings into smaller chunks. For instance, if you have three chapters to read before Thursday, just read a chapter a day Monday-Wednesday. 


The beauty of reading assignments is that they can be completed whenever and wherever. A lunch break at work? Sure! In the car waiting to pick up your child from soccer practice? Of course! Anywhere you can take a book (or a digital book), you can finish your reading. With the advent of the internet and amazing resources like Watne Memorial Library, some of the reading resources will be available right inside the weekly module, such as a PDF or e-book; simplicity at it’s finest!



Assignments are a key portion of any educational experience. This often is focused on academic papers, but that isn’t always the case. Some assignments may be pre-recorded presentations, worksheets, etc. Whatever the assignment may be, you can count on it typically being due on Thursday, or more likely, Sunday evening. The assignments can be seen in the weekly module so that you can see what is coming the next week. If it is a larger multi-week project, the professor is likely to put the assignment portion or instructions in an earlier week to give a heads-up on the upcoming project. 


From the weekly module, you can jump into a specific assignment and submit the project right there. Most professors accept a copy/paste into a text box, a word document uploaded, or a PDF uploaded. Of course, if the assignment is a video or something else, they will have the appropriate format available to submit right in the assignment.




Many courses have group assignments that allow further interaction with other students in the course. Often there is a section in the course devoted to the collaboration space. This will put you into a group where you can collaborate with the students on the project and post right there.


Taking in other’s ideas and working through your own ideas are key to the learning process. By being confronted with other ideas, or even novel ideas, you can find weaknesses in your own arguments or be confirmed in your own beliefs. This is one of the greatest values of college. 



When you aren’t specifically connecting on a collaborative project, you may want to reach out privately to other students or to the professor. Though this can be done over email, such as Office 365, you may have something specific to the course and can take care of it right there. Note: always check the syllabus to make sure you know the preferred method of communication of your professor.


Students can simply go into the messages area and see their inbox with any new messages, or write a message from scratch (just like an email). This can help keep everything in one place which can ultimately help keep you organized. 



Most people want to know how they are doing in the course. One of the greatest benefits of online learning is that assignments are typically graded quickly and have feedback directly on the assignment. Once you receive your grade, you can go into the assignment and see comments the professor made on the document. This is helpful to make sure you do not repeat mistakes on the next assignment. 


You can view all assignments and whatever has been turned in will typically have a grade quickly. This means you can also see your cumulative grade quickly. An LMS like Canvas also has the added benefit of plugging in guesses on your future assignments so that you can calculate what final grade you might receive for the course. This can be helpful in understanding where to put a majority of your effort.



As with most services these days, each person is assigned a profile to which you can add an image, a short bio about yourself, and so forth. It is highly suggested that you take the time to complete this section. Other students may click to look at your profile to get to know you better. This can help connect students as a first “handshake” and could spark a friendship based on the work experience or interests of others.


User Example: Anita

It’s Monday morning, and Anita wants to plan ahead for the week. She logs onto Crown’s LMS, Canvas, and navigates to the Course section, where she selects her favorite class: Human Anatomy and Physiology. 


It’s Week 5 of her 8-week module. Anita’s professor made an announcement earlier that morning, releasing the final exam study guide in the Recent Announcements section.


She navigates to the Week 5 Overview to see her professor’s notes on upcoming assignments. This week, Anita has a research project on the endocrine system and the relationship between hormones and the glucose level of blood. To get the full assignment brief, she clicks into the assignment title, where she finds the project description, grading rubric, and submission link — all in one place.


At the same time, her lab partners have been working to examine the effects of decreased oxygen consumption on brain functionality. Canvas’ Inbox section hosts their lively discussions on new findings and outside research, allowing the group to stay on top of due dates and report submissions. Inbox is Canvas’ messenger system, allowing students to keep collaborative course conversations separate from the email black hole.


On Thursday, Anita logs onto Canvas to take her weekly Anatomy and Physiology quiz. She has until 11:59 PM to finish, and it’s open book, so she can use her notes. She aced it — 10/10!


Canvas at Crown

Crown Online has been providing quality Christian online education for over twenty years! During that time, we have learned a thing or two. One is that the right LMS is a good thing to have, but more importantly, how a school uses the LMS is key. 


We have used other LMS systems throughout the years but have most recently settled on Canvas because of the key features that it offers students. For instance, YouTube videos without ads can be directly added to a course, allowing for more diverse platforms for learning. 


There are plenty of schools that subscribe to a good LMS. At Crown, we believe that the continuing exploration of our LMS is key in helping modern students learn the best way possible. Our dedicated team is always looking for new ways to use Canvas to help students find success in each course.



Is Canvas the best LMS?

There is no way to really know which LMS is the best; each one has strengths and weaknesses. However, Crown has settled on Canvas because of its advanced integrations with other services and its simplicity to use, both for students and faculty. We do not believe that you should choose a school based on the LMS system that they are using. Instead, you should look at the history of the school and how dedicated they are to leveraging their LMS system for the sake of the students. At Crown, we want the best learning experience while offering the greatest flexibility. We believe that for now, Canvas offers the best experience for everyone.