For some, the idea to pit Moodle, an LMS, versus a CMS the likes of WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla, is akin to comparing apples to oranges. In reality, many organizations must find practical ways to support both a learning platform and an outbound communications platform. Sometimes it could make sense to think of one system to rule it all, but sometimes making a tool provide functionality it was not meant to do can be more trouble than it’s worth.
Does ‘CMS v LMS’ make sense?
Content Management Systems are the platforms that handle everything related to content generation and publishing, both digitally and in print. If you didn’t know, MoodleNews runs on the WordPress CMS, which is the most popular one. As CMS are not designed with the learning experience in mind, they don’t offer Courses, Lessons, or Assessments. However, the most popular CMS (the aforementioned WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla) are all Open Source and therefore enjoy a community of plugin developers who can add missing functionality to varying extents.
Created in the mid-2000s, these three CMS have evolved for over a decade along with the internet. Over time, they have polished features such as Mobile Responsiveness, Social Media integration, and SEO. Their support for themes has kept them relevant in a world tirelessly pursuing simple, yet robust interfaces. While WordPress is the market dominant, the debate about the best CMS is endless.
As for the question of what can a CMS do that an LMS cannot, or vice versa, the answer is: Technically nothing. It might take a lot of work, but at least in theory, a Drupal can be customized to accommodate all the LMS features that a learning organization needs.
50 Moodle-sized CMS, or 1 CMS-sized Moodle?
As for the next reasonable question: Is it easier to deploy Moodle as a CMS than a CMS as an LMS? The answer is mostly unanimous: Yes. Attributes more often associated with a CMS can be implemented for Moodle with relative simplicity, from a regularly updated website to an online store. Organizations that already have an LMS in place would find it desirable to just extend their current platform than to build an entirely new one altogether.
However, the best case scenario would be a setup with related, yet independent systems for specific purposes. After all, each is the reflection of years of perfection towards their one goal. With the increased compatibility for communications between systems, such as LTI, xAPI or even SCORM, it is easier than ever to share content between LMS and CMS. Some Moodle plugins also allow for a speedier bridge. Many service providers, including a number of Moodle Partners, provide integration support with WordPress or Drupal.
In summary, if you need a joint LMS-CMS solution, here are your choices, in order of general recommendation:
- Have both an LMS and CMS with some level of content and functionality integration.
- Have Moodle provide “good enough” CMS functionality. This works particularly well when the LMS is already set up and the publishing demands are not especially demanding.
- Have a CMS offer some LMS functionality. However, this works better in reverse, as discussed above, where the CMS is in place and advanced learning functionality is not necessary.