The Importance of Open-Source Learning Systems

Cheryl Patsavos - Head Customer Success Open LMS
Cheryl Patsavos
11/03/21
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Learn about the benefits of open-source learning management systems and why a trusted service provider is so important when it comes to e-learning.

The Learning Management System (LMS) has become an integral part of the educational process for businesses, learning institutions, professional groups and self-learners. The ability to deliver educational materials on a customized, branded platform is highly appealing to companies looking to teach or train students, employees, volunteers, or customers. 

While closed-source LMS are widely used due to their convenience and out-of-the-box functionality, they aren’t necessarily the optimal choice for every organization. Open-source learning systems can offer more flexibility, transparency, and cost efficiency while delivering top-notch learning opportunities.

Today, open-source solutions are quickly gaining popularity for a wide range of uses across a variety of industries. Let’s take a closer look at the importance of an open-source LMS for the corporate space and academia.  

Closed-Source vs Open-Source LMS

An open-source LMS gives users the opportunity to redistribute and adjust the software code to meet their needs. Open-source learning platforms allow you to customize, update, and expand the learning platform to create a scalable, best-of-breed learning solution that addresses the particular needs of your organization.

A closed-source LMS is a proprietary system created by software developers who don’t provide access to the code. You can purchase this software but are unable to modify it. Meaning, you’ll have to settle for certain functionality and user experiences. This presents limitations when it comes to connectivity with existing systems as well as the content and tools you’re able to incorporate into your learning ecosystem.

Aside from customization opportunities, open-source learning systems have many other benefits for companies and educational institutions, including the following:

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1. High-Quality LMS Service  

With a closed-source LMS, the only vendor capable of servicing that platform is the one who releases the code. While this sounds convenient and logical at first, this also means that you have no other options for support if these services are lacking. As a result, closed-source LMS users can become “vendor-locked”  and experience slower or insufficient ticket responses if that vendor does not prioritize high-quality support.

On the other hand, virtually anyone can host or support an open-source platform; meaning organizations have options when it comes to open-source LMS support. With many different vendors in the market providing a variety of services for open-source platforms, these open-source service providers are incentivized to provide exceptional service or their customers can easily move elsewhere… That’s why open-source LMS providers always aim for user satisfaction, keeping their main focus on client retention, thoroughly resolved support tickets, and world-class service around the clock.

Additionally, the competition amongst providers in the open-source LMS sector encourages each industry player to be highly aware of the clients’ needs. Their focus on helping clients reach and exceed specific learning and business goals proves much more valuable than what proprietary software providers can offer.

That said, with a closed-source LMS system, you may not always get the highest level of support possible while also paying higher fees for licensing and maintaining the proprietary software.

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2. The Driving Force of Community

What we love the most about open-source learning systems like Moodle or Totara is the impressive power of community. A global community of developers, users, and providers like eThink is at the core of any open-source LMS. They are always ready to fix bugs, create updates and modify the software as needed, allowing glitches to be identified and resolved faster and for more rapid product innovations to be identified by experts who use the product on a daily basis.

The eLearning environment is changing quickly. Sometimes, too quickly for a single company to follow. When you choose an open-source LMS, you get access to the collective knowledge and expertise of hundreds of developers. You don’t have to waste any time reinventing the wheel. If you need a custom solution, chances are that it has already been developed by another user, which is shared openly with the community. From there, all you need to do is tweak it to suit your needs. Regular peer reviews allow the quality and security of the system to be regularly maintained and updated. In this way, community improvements, plugins, and features are often tested and implemented into the core product much more quickly than typically seen with proprietary LMS solutions. 

3. Lower Costs and Unexpected Opportunities  

The low cost of an open-source LMS allows companies and institutions of virtually any size to utilize them. Even a small company can have thousands of platform users. With a proprietary LMS, this could mean exponential price growth.

With the ability to scale an incredibly low-cost solution, you’re able to allocate your budget towards the service and maintenance of your product, ensuring a best-of-breed solution.

The eLearning environment is changing quickly. Sometimes, too quickly for a single company to follow. When you choose an open-source LMS, you get access to the collective knowledge and expertise of hundreds of developers.

4. The Power of Seamless Integrations

Today, the majority of organizations need to integrate a variety of tools and existing systems with their LMS in order to effectively streamline and organize the data and content within your learning ecosystem. Open-source LMS make it easier to integrate with other tools than closed-source systems.

The challenge is that when companies choose a learning system, they don’t have a full understanding of their integration needs. More often than not, those who opt for closed-source LMS find out about integration issues several months into using the system. The extra expenses that come with integrating these tools are always an unpleasant surprise.

When this happens, clients start thinking about switching systems but feel intimidated by the process and cemented by the money and time they’ve already invested in the proprietary solution.

While migrating to an open-source LMS is always a choice, it’s always easier to use it from the beginning.

The flexibility provided by an open-source LMS takes care of integration problems, helping companies avoid unexpected costs down the road. This also means that companies have more freedom to integrate other tools, solutions, and content in the future.

5. Full Control of Your Data & Learning Content

When you work with a learning system, you invest a lot of time in creating and integrating valuable content for your users. That said, it’s important to take the extent of your data ownership into consideration when evaluating learning platforms.

With closed-source systems, you depend on the limitations of the software provider on what types of content you can utilize in the first place. Additionally, a proprietary platform can suddenly remove one of your favorite features, discontinue the product, or even charge you for access to your data if you decide you want to move to another system in the future. 

With an open-source LMS, you always have full ownership of your data. In case you aren’t satisfied with the LMS provider, you can always switch to another solution or hosting provider without losing any part of your valuable data.

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6. Impressive Branding Opportunities

Both corporate and academic organizations spend time and money on their branding efforts in order to provide a high-quality user experience for learners. With an open-source LMS, there are endless options for how organizations can brand their LMS to reflect their business, including using company logos, brand colors, etc. Proprietary software can present limitations even for changing fonts and colors. With an open-source LMS, it’s possible to adjust all aspects of the system, helping you create an all-encompassing experience that supports your individual brand.

The Takeaway

An open-source LMS offers its users a wide array of impressive advantages, from high-quality services and support to pricing savings; more control of your data, content, and branding; and more reliable security.

While a closed-source LMS can be a suitable solution for some, it comes with a variety of limitations that can make it tougher to create a custom, comprehensive, and integrated learning solution. The type of technology your LMS uses will determine the scalability, flexibility, and customization capabilities of your learning programs for years to come.

Learn more about the benefits of open-source solutions and why a trusted service provider is so important when it comes to e-learning.

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