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Learning Management Systems – Open Source Vs Vendor Supplied

Posted on the 19 January 2012 by Combi31 @combi31

Selecting a Learning Management System (LMS) for an organization is a difficult decision that can lead to costly mistakes along the way. This article is the first in a series which examine the steps to finding the best LMS for your organization.Open Source LMSOpen Source software is software that is available free on the Internet for you to download, usually under the Creative Commons or GNU license. You can not only install and use the software for free (and that includes no annual license fee or per leaner user fees) but you also can modify the software; create new modules, connections to other databases etc, provided you follow the license rules. The rules usually ask that you upload any modifications so that others can use them.Open Source Learning Management systems include Moodle, ATutor, OLAT, ELMS, SAKAI, – and many others. Just do a search on open source LMS and you’ll find the lot. Which open source system you choose will be based on your specific needs and how much modification you want to take on in your LMS project.Currently, Moodle seems to be the most popular with 51675 registered users and who knows how many unregistered users of the system. Schools, colleges and universities are using Moodle, as well as business organizations.Vendor LMSThere are a myriad of Vendor LM ‘s. They all provide the basics, each in a different interface and slightly different way, and many then provide additional modules that their competitors may or may not have. Blackboard is an education LMS used by many universities and colleges. Corporate LMS’s include SABA, SumTotal, Outstart, Syberworks etc. Do a search you’ll come up with many, many systems.Vendor systems cost dollars and price ranges from the small to the ridiculous. You’ll have to do your homework on the various costing options. Don’t forget that if you are already using another system of the vendors , for example PeopleSoft, they may be willing to give you a cost discount to have you continue with their branding rather than bringing in another vendor’s system. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.Vendor systems may also have the option of using their system rather than installing your own, a cost saving option. This allows you to develop, upload and track your education in a private section of their system, without having the hassle of installation, configuration and maintenance of your own networked system. If your materials are of a confidential nature (government based for example) this option may not be available to you.Why would you choose to use an open source system over a vendor system? Obviously money is a major factor; you just can’t beat free versus the purchase and ongoing licensing costs of a vendor system. You just need to pay for the hardware, all the other software – databases, web server, LMS are free to install and use.The ability to modify the system to meet your needs without consulting with the software vendor is also a plus. With the right programmer you can create modules that meet your specific needs.Why wouldn’t you use an open source system? Most open source systems have not been created for the corporate environment and lack useful (and sometimes necessary) components that vendor systems have built in. Items like tracking of required courses, keeping an education record and built in connectors to Human Resource systems are not readily available in open source systems. Those modules that are available are fairly new and not well-tested in the corporate environment. Language usage in the system is another problem – most of the systems started as university systems and use language that is consistent with the academic world not the corporate environment.Many vendor systems have built in extras such as the ability to conduct annual performance reviews. You can of course modify the open source systems to provide you with some of the corporate necessities – some more cheaply than others. Creating a connection to PeopleSoft for instance, won’t cost a lot and is not complicated programming. However deciding to add in an entire module like Performance evaluations will be costly and time consuming. So costly, that in the longer term, you might very well be better off with a vendor supplied system that has an available built-in module.If you modify your open source system too extensively you may find it difficult to upgrade to new versions without incurring major costs. You have no guarantee that your modifications will work with the new upgrade – in fact, you are practically guaranteed that there will be some work involved to get your modifications working within the upgraded version.And finally, check with your Information Technology department. You may find that they have a policy about using open source software on your network – either for or against. Some IT departments have agreements with other software vendor , where they get cheaper software prices if they stick to that vendor’s software rather than using a mix on the network. Or they may be okay with open source LMS but want to ensure you use a Microsoft SQL Server database rather than Apache (or vice versus).Author: Teri Lynn ReidArticle Source: EzineArticles.comProvided by: Digital Camera News

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