Instructional management system

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About this article

This article provides a general definition of an instructional management system (IMS) and describes how the IMS used by WSU , Desire2Learn, fits into our larger portfolio of supported applications. It is intended for all members of the WSU community.


The term instructional management system (IMS) typically refers to a Web application that allows instructors to support a number of common course management activities online, such as:

  • Assessment and access to performance feedback (e.g., grades)
  • Access to course materials (e.g., handouts, readings, multimedia)
  • Communication, discussion, and group work

Several terms are used synonymously along with IMS to refer to this software category, including:

  • Learning management system (LMS)
  • Course management system (CMS)

This can cause confusion. For example, the term CMS is also used to refer to a content management system, a networked software application used for managing large Web sites. WSU uses the OpenText content management system to manage the public Web site at WSU uses the Desire2Learn instructional management system to support online instructional activities. These are two separate systems.

There are number of commercial IMS vendors, including Desire2Learn and Blackboard. There are also several free, open source options, including Moodle and Sakai.