Teacher Tech blog with Alice Keeler

Paperless Is Not a Pedagogy

Alice Keeler

Google Classroom: LMS or NOT?

Google Classroom: LMS or NOT?

Google Classroom is not an LMS

I hear Google Classroom frequently referred to as an LMS. The question is…. “Is Google Classroom an LMS?” and “Can I use Google Classroom if I have an LMS?”


LMS stands for Learning Management System. Technically what most people refer to as an LMS is actually a CMS (Course Management System). An LMS is a platform for delivering e-content, it is not necessarily a course with a gradebook and all of the features that are needed for teaching students. The LMS automates training events: user registration, tracking course offerings, recording learner data and reports. Typically, rather than creating content within the LMS, the course designer plugs content into the system.

A Course Management System (CMS) manages student enrollment, tracks student performance, create content withing the CMS, and distributes course content. Examples of CMS’s are Blackboard, Moodle, Schoology, Edmodo, etc…. Basically, a CMS is designed for teaching classes. A CMS is going to have things like discussion boards,


Even though most systems we call an LMS are really a CMS it is so pervasive this misunderstanding will probably perpetuate.

The Other CMS

CMS also stands for Content Management System. A content management system organizes content. Drupal is an example of a CMS. You can use a CMS like Drupal to act as a dynamic website that displays content based on the user who is signed in. For example, Drupal can allow for event registration. Depending on who the registrant is, they will have different options for what content they see, what sessions they can sign up for and what prices they are charged.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom is Google Drive management. For the teacher, Classroom allows for setting up a blended environment to assign work and collect digital work. Since it is from Google, it integrates with Google Drive in amazing ways. Rather than sharing documents straight from Google Drive, the teacher can attach documents to an assignment or announcement in the easy to locate stream. Google documents can be shared with view only access, editing access or each student receives a copy.

Google Classroom does not handle course enrollments like you would find in an LMS or CMS.

Google Classroom does not have a gradebook.

Google Classroom does not track student participation. While students can comment in Google Classroom, there are not discussion boards.

Google Classroom does not integrate quizzing features. Teachers can link to Google Forms, Socrative, Kahoot or other quiz tools. However, these are not native to Google Classroom.

Google Classroom does not allow teachers to create content within the system. Instead, teachers link to content they build in other places such as Google Docs.

Google Classroom assignments can not be organized into modules or units.

Digital Toolbelt

One of my favorite people is Catlin Tucker, the author of Blended Learning in Grades 4-12. Her philosophy is to have a digital tool belt rather than an LMS. A CMS/LMS tries to be a self-contained environment. The gradebook, discussion features, assignment options, etc… of the CMS/LMS might not be the best way to manifest those features. Other products, that specialize, possibly do those features better.

Google Classroom allows the teacher to create the digital toolbox. Teachers can use any products in conjunction with Google Classroom. This allows them to make more purposeful decisions about what is best for their students.

Using Classroom with Your LMS

If a teacher is already using a CMS/LMS, this is not exclusive of Google Classroom. If a teacher is using Google Documents then Google Classroom makes a lot of sense. The teacher can build their content in their CMS/LMS. Directions, embedded videos, instructional elements can be in the CMS/LMS like they always have. Unlike Google Classroom, the CMS/LMS is designed to create content within the system. Where Google Classroom enhances this experience is the ease of distributing documents and collecting documents (particularly Google Docs.)

In the directions of their CMS/LMS module, teachers indicate to go to Google Classroom to find resources. Hyperlinking to Google Classroom where the link opens in a new tab aids in students easily accessing Google Classroom.

Sharing Google Docs through Google Classroom rather than the CMS/LMS ensures that the sharing rights are correct. Frequently documents are accidentally shared as private and students can not access the document, causing frustration. Google Docs attached in Classroom are automatically shared with the students, eliminating this frustration. The same is true for students submitting work. The teacher is automatically shared on any documents the student submits.

Grading Bliss

Grading content in a CMS/LMS can be challenging. Downloading each student’s’ files to the teachers computer is less than ideal. This creates multiple versions of the file and it can be difficult to find where the files downloaded to.

Google Classroom saves all student work in a folder in Google Drive. Neatly organized by assignment title. This makes it easy for the teacher to review each student’s work and provide feedback. Using the preview feature in Google Drive can make reviewing student work a snap.

Google Classroom has a mobile app that allows the student to submit digital work directly to Google Classroom. The teacher is also able to post assignments and announcements from the app. Best is that the app allows the teacher to grade and provide feedback anywhere anytime.

The trick to using Google Classroom as part of the CMS/LMS is side by side windows. Scores and comments can be placed in the CMS/LMS while viewing the content in Google Classroom.

More Google Classroom

Interested in learning more about Google Classroom? You can see my blog posts about Google Classroom at https://alicekeeler.com/classroom. You can also find the book “50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom” located on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle.

3 thoughts on “Google Classroom: LMS or NOT?

  1. Google Classroom was never meant to be an LMS. I was designed to make the process of sharing documents and organizing assignments between student and teacher Drives easier for classroom teachers who found doing so without classroom somewhat difficult. I was part of an early cohort of “test drivers” who provided lots of feedback and were subsequently invited to participate in a Google Hangout with the Classroom developer team back in October I believe. The LMS question question was raised by another participant. I commented that I believed the developers did not and do not intend for Classroom to be an LMS and they quickly agreed. For my part, I am torn about the use of Classroom in my situation. I teach computer skills. So, I want my students to learn how to organize and share things in their Drive. I don’t want Classroom to do it for them. However, for the typical classroom teacher it can be a great timesaving tool. But, it won’t be an LMS. And, since most school districts already provide online grade books, it does not have to be. The side-by-side method you mention in your post is just the ticket. The secret or not so secret key to Google product wishes it to use the feedback. They indeed read and respond to it. I know that first-hand. We just saw a great example of that in some of the recent updates to Classroom. The co-teacher feature is a prime example. Next, get that cross-domain capability working! Rock On, Charlie

    1. I agree and I am super happy it is NOT an LMS. An LMS comes with a pedagogy. In particular a gradebook comes with a pedagogy. I hope they NEVER have a gradebook in Google Classroom. I agree about teaching computer skills, I do not rely solely on Google Classroom to have students make documents and collaborate. Outside of class they will use Google Docs and need to know how to get into Drive and work from there. I intentionally have them do tasks using Google Drive.

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