Corporate Dilemma: Open Source or Proprietary LMS?

Whenever a company wishes to go for Learning Management System for their proposed Online Learning infrastructure, it’s quite a usual internal debate within the L&D management whether they should go for Open Source LMS like Moodle or choose from one of many readily available proprietary LMS offered by local and international vendors to choose from. While a lot has been said and written about this topic, this blog post is to make new prospect companies aware of a few important facts while making the right choice from their organizational needs and capacities point of view. Also, it’s decision which will also be governed by parameters like size of the organization, number of training modules planned to be offered, number of users, extent of scalability needed in future, etc.

As a business owner, you may better study all your options for whatever functionality you plan to acquire. In many cases, a proprietary application will be the best solution and you may prefer out-of-the-box applications.  If you wish to have more flexibility and are prepared to dedicate IT team for more development, features’ customization, future system maintenance, and system up-gradation at a much higher additional cost, then open source may be your choice; though you may not have to pay for license fees due to use of Open Source Software. This fact is often overlooked by most companies initially, that saving of license fees is offset to a great extent by additional costs incurred and the open source LMS may not be all ‘Free’ event as it may be perceived.

Selecting and installing an LMS may be the first step, but ownership and maintenance is the next big step which has recurring costs involved. If you install your own LMS system (like Moodle) then you will need people on your staff who can manage servers, high level administrators who can configure, test and change things as required. These types of people are on fairly higher salary bands. You may use a hosting provider but you will still need those high level administrators. Also, there will be attrition issues in future to be dealt with and I have heard of many cases where LMS admin folks have left the organization suddenly without a proper handover within the team creating a major vacuum that resulted in the system coming to a grinding halt for some time. So, system ownership and succession will be key issues you may have to deal with after choosing an open source LMS.

In summary, if you choose Moodle like system to be developed, configured, customized and maintained in future, you must have right IT team members to support it; your existing process must align with the capabilities of the system; you must be able to manage the security implications; you may need to bear with internal delays to fix issues, bugs in the system.

While you may analyze after your ROI (Return on Investment) exercise for both open source as well as proprietary LMS options, apart from just plain commercials, a few facts covered above need to be considered before arriving at the right decision for your organization.

– by Anand Thakar

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