Learning Management Systems versus Professional Development Management: 

Professional Learning

Why native K-12 knowledge is necessary


Though many organizations have heard the term “learning management system” (LMS), only those in the educational space have heard the term "professional development management system" (PDMS), and for good reason: the two do not perform the same functions or meet the same objectives. That matters to any educational organization considering which type of system they need.

Let's take a look at the differences.

Who are learning management systems built for?

Learning management systems were developed for corporate needs — initially to train internal employees in compliance, as well as in job skills and to further professional growth later on.

LMS platforms provide high-level content management capabilities, organizational capabilities (like groupings and sub-groupings) and at times, even some simplified content authoring capabilities. They track who does what and provide reporting on that transcript data. 

What about professional development management systems?

Professional development management systems were developed by and for educational needs (primarily K-12), to support the growth of educators and to make it easy to track their progress toward meeting continuing education requirements.

This is no small task given that requirements for continuing education differ in every state, and "progress and growth"-related activities can include:

  • Live in-service days and workshops provided by the district, local education agencies and industry conferences
  • Professional learning community activities
  • Coaching and mentoring activities
  • Online learning activities

There are tightly defined requirements around lengths, formats, quality, instructors and assessments of these activities in order for them to "count" toward teacher continuing education and re-licensure.

In other words, professional development management systems must track thousands of employees doing hundreds of different things, and all of that data has to generate a clear record that ties to state requirements around teacher quality and growth.

Which is right for my district? LMS or PDMS?

Each district is different, but generally, teacher evaluation needs to go far beyond corporate “performance management.” Corporate performance is not state-required or constrained, and there are fewer legal requirements — if any at all, depending on the industry — around how companies evaluate their employees.

Teacher evaluation, on the other hand, is driven by specific state guidelines and must be tracked and reported on by every learning organization in the state. It's not just a matter of dotting i's and crossing t’s, as it often is in the business world.

Even a comprehensive LMS is not built to tie directly to a sophisticated and customizable teacher evaluation system. The right system needs to guarantee that teacher professional development can and will be delivered in a targeted, personalized manner that will ensure educators receive the learning support they need to improve and positively impact students. 

Can a good LMS still help us meet our PD goals?

Yes, learning management capabilities are important to successfully meet your PD management goals, but learning management is actually one small component in the overall picture.

All of these other pieces of the complete learning cycle matter:

  • Identification of teacher needs (observation and evaluation)
  • Selection and deployment of a wide range of PD learning opportunities (learning targeting and access)
  • Tracking of progress and completion of those activities
  • Participation in and tracking of PLCs (peer support) and instructional coaching/reflection (mentor support)
  • Subsequent identification of further teacher progress

Unless your provider or internal systems can give you the ability to identify, deploy, track and report on all those aspects of teacher evaluation and professional development management, the offering is going to fall short of your desired outcomes.

A system built with native K-12 knowledge is necessary.

About Rachel Fisher

Rachel Fisher brings fifteen years of expertise in eLearning and online content development as well as over a decade of experience working exclusively with K12 including online and live curriculum development. In addition, she served in the classroom teaching 6th and 7th grade science.