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What are the differences between an SMS, LMS & TMS?

July 14, 2018

David is the director of a newly ASQA-registered RTO: Wave Training. To meet compliance requirements and automate their processes, David and his team have decided to invest in a system that handles students, courses, and finances. He has a good idea of what the company needs, but after starting the quest of finding a new system, finds himself paralysed by the sea of options.

Does he need a student management system, or would a training management system be better? Both have AVETMISS reporting capabilities, but might he need LMS features in the future?

Many RTOs find themselves in a similar position to David, bamboozled by the number of different systems, and victims of the paradox of choice. Or they may be a little more seasoned, knowing that there's a better system out there for them, but struggling to keep up with the number of options.

Whatever your circumstances, when making an informed decision about a new system, you must understand the differences between an SMS, LMS, and TMS before diving in. Many incorrectly assume they’re the same system with different labels, but while they may offer similar functionality, each system serves a unique purpose that may or may not suit the needs of your business.

Student Management System (SMS)

An SMS (sometimes referred to as a student information system, student management software, school management system, or RTO software) manages all the day-to-day operations of a training organisation. Some SMS capabilities might include:

  • Managing enquiries from prospective students
  • Processing student admissions
  • Enrolling new students and storing teaching option choices
  • Handling examinations, assessments, grades, and academic progression
  • Maintaining a record of attendance
  • Tracking awards, qualifications, and graduations

Years ago, small RTOs got by without an SMS, relying instead on time-sucking spreadsheets and Microsoft Access databases. But in 2010, the AQTF national standards were released, demanding the requirement of a student management system capable of providing AVETMISS-compliant data. Since then, the SMS has become the go-to option for organisations needing features like those listed above.

Get the full picture about student management systems, and why they're so valuable

Learning Management System (LMS)

An LMS is an online portal for classrooms, with features for trainers and students to view assignments, grades, and access learning materials. LMSs are ideal for organisations offering e-learning courses, with some even able to deliver entire courses. Key features of an LMS include:

  • Student registration and administration
  • Training event management (i.e. scheduling, tracking, and WBT delivery)
  • Curriculum and certification management
  • Skills and competencies management
  • Reporting
  • Training record management
  • Courseware authoring

When used for corporate training, an LMS might also includes these features:

  • Automatic enrolment and reminders for mandatory courses
  • Options for manager access, like approving materials or course participation
  • Integration with HR systems for tracking employment eligibility, performance goals, and similar corporate data
  • Control over access and class grouping according to a number of fields, such as geography or levels of security clearance

The LMS is a young innovation, but demand is expected to grow. Trends favour collaborative, web-based applications that are designed with the user in mind.

Training Management System (TMS)

A TMS is where student and administrative data is housed. It allows you to schedule, track and report client training, licensing, and certifications. This system is useful for businesses doing in-house training, or who need to automate a large number of tasks which an SMS might struggle with.

Standard features of a TMS include:

  •  Contact management (e.g. current clients, potential clients, and RTO staff)
  •  Course management
  •  The ability to create and deploy course and non-course-related surveys
  •  Learner portals
  •  Finance management
  •  Compliance reporting


If you’re looking for a general product to handle all the day-to-day aspects of your RTO, an SMS is the way to go. You’ll be able to handle your CRM, manage qualifications, and stay compliant.

If you offer lots of e-learning or corporate training, an LMS will act as an online classroom to handle your training. It'll also include some student admin functions, and integrate with your HR system.

If your business does a lot of in-house training, or you have a lot of automation needs, implementing a TMS will allow you to deploy all your courses, and complete reporting.

Once you’ve determined which system best suits your organisation, you can start building a list of potential products and service providers. As you move through the stages of the buying process, set aside ample time for consideration, to ensure your final decision is the right one.


Want to use the right Student Management System to grow your training organisation?

We're Australia's number 1 cloud-based SMS, and we're delighted you're here.

aXcelerate is an award-winning student management system for your RTO, Short Course program, VET in Schools program or CRICOS organisation.

Take a look at our true One System solution here, with features including compliance tools, quality management, trainer competency, finance, and automation.

We also have Learning Management System (LMS) tools for all your learning management needs. An amazing student experience starts here.

Request a demo here.

aXcelerate Student Management System SMS LMS

Want to know more?

Check out these other articles on student management systems:

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