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SMS, LMS and TMS - what's the difference?

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

Many RTOs decided at some point to invest in a management system that can handle everything from student enrollments to courses and finances. But what option is the best for your RTO from the many choices available? With so much SaaS software available, what's the difference between SMS, LMS & TMS? Is it a student management system that you require? Or maybe it’s training management you are after? But what if you require LMS features at some point in the future? Would that mean you have to invest in another system? Is there a system that offers everything? Whatever your particular situation, it is best to understand the different systems available and what they can offer your RTO. We will run an overview of each system and what sort of RTO we believe each would benefit.

Whilst they offer similar functionality, you will find that each particular system is unique and may or may not suit the business needs of your specific RTO.

An SMS or Student Management System

A student management system SMS can also be referred to as a school management system, student management software or a student information system, and this system takes care of all the daily operations of an RTO. Some functionality includes:

  1. Student Enquiry management

  2. Student admission processing

  3. Student enrollment

  4. Taking care of assessments and examinations and the progress of a student

  5. Storing a record of attendance

  6. Keeping track of qualifications, awards and graduations

Before 2010, small RTOs made do without an SMS, using Excel spreadsheets or the like to do the job. However, with the introduction of the AQTF national standards in 2010 requiring an SMS that was capable of providing AVETMISS-compliant data, the SMS has become essential with RTOs requiring similar functionality as mentioned above.

The LMS or Learning Management System

As our article dedicated to LMS mentioned, a learning management system is an online platform allowing students and trainers to access learning material and view grades and assignments through various features.

LMS platforms are perfect for RTOs offering e-learning with some of the features including: • Registration and administration of students • Event management, such as scheduling and tracking training • Management of curriculum and certification • Management of competencies and skills • Reporting ability • Training record management

Can also include additional features listed below from more corporate-based training:

  1. Automated enrollments and set reminders for courses that are mandatory

  2. Manager access options for assessment of course participation or approving materials

  3. HR system integration for employment tracking

  4. Access security control according to a security clearance level or geographical location

A training management system is where student data and administrative data are located. It facilitates scheduling, tracking and reporting of client licensing, training and certification. It is a valuable system for RTOs performing in-house training or where a larger number of tasks require automation and where an SMS might not be able to handle the volume.

Some TMS features include :

  1. Management of contacts – current, potential and staff

  2. Management facility for courses

  3.  Surveys – facility to create and send course and non-course surveys

  4. Portals for learner

  5. Financial management

  6. Reporting for Compliance


In summary, an SMS may be your best friend if you want a more general platform to manage an RTO's daily functions. It will handle your CRM and qualification management and assist you in staying compliant.

An LMS would be most helpful if you offer e-learning or more corporate-based training as a classroom online to take care of your training. It also helps with student administration and can integrate with an HR system.

If you require more direct assistance selecting an SMS, LMS, or TMS for your RTO, get in touch. RTO Intelligence is an RTO consultant company based in Melbourne. For over two decades, we have assisted RTOs with assessment validation, internal RTO audits, course accreditation, acquisition and setup, and business intelligence reporting.

For all LMS-related questions, call us on 1300 833 424 or connect with us via our online contact form.

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