Whether you choose a proprietary or open-source learning management system depends on the needs of your business. Both options provide the ability to train your employees and build a stronger business. However, five key benefits of an open-source LMS will boost your educational system and give you the best bang for your buck.
What’s the Difference between Open Source Learning Management Systems and Proprietary Systems?
Open-source learning management systems are often synonymous with “free” LMSs, but this is not always the case (and not just because you “never get anything for free”). An open-source learning management system denotes a platform where you can freely modify the code, training, and branding. So, it’s not necessarily “free of cost,” but freely modifiable.
In opposition is the proprietary LMS. This is software that a company purchases and uses but it cannot be modified. The content, the branding, the interface, and all the other elements remain exactly as they are because you have no control over the underlying code. It can be web-based, but often a proprietary system deals with hardware or downloadable software installed on your own machines.
You can compare it to buying a piece of art. A proprietary LMS is like purchasing a painting – it gives you what you need but it’s static. An open-source learning management system is like purchasing the frame – anyone who wants to use that frame can customize what goes inside to be most relevant or current.
The 5 Key Benefits of Open Source Learning Management Systems
From the brief discussion above, you have an idea of some of the benefits open-source learning management systems offer. However, others may not be all that clear. Below, we’ll walk you through five vital benefits and advantages you can only find with an open-source LMS.
An open-source LMS platform provides the freedom to change the eLearning template to meet your business’s needs. You can use your own logo and then create and deliver courses on the platform within minutes. Customization demonstrates to employees that your company cares about their education and development.
Customized content also allows you to achieve other critical goals, including the following:
- Tie content directly to your company culture
- Support company ethics through customized training
- Explore company values and help employees map those to their personal values
- Ensure that all training reinforces your brand in your employees’ minds
- Upskill your employees to help them develop professionally
- Close skills gaps that exist in your team
Unanchored and Scalable
Along with the freedom of customization comes the freedom of the market. With an open-source LMS, you aren’t stuck with one platform, because you are web-based and “open”. You do not want to get locked to one content vendor, since your LMS needs may be different down the road. With an open-source system, you can use content developed by a broad range of authors and even create (and sell) your own branded content if you prefer.
As you grow, your platform should grow with you. Open-source learning management systems are completely scalable. You can increase access to resources or decrease your bandwidth to fit the needs of the moment, but with the assurance that comes from knowing the system will fit your requirements today and in the future.
In this same vein, open-source learning management systems are constantly undergoing development, which means you should have the best system at any given time. A web-based system will automatically upgrade to the newest version without your IT staff having to do a single thing. That saves you time and money while ensuring your tech team can focus on mission-critical considerations instead of upgrading software.
All software requires updates over time. These could be security patches, or they could be new features and functionality. You might need to add new content or take advantage of new technological capabilities, like games and gamified system elements, such as leaderboards.
With open-source software, you’ll be responsible for handling all the updates on your own. That is unless you work with the right development team. Some open-source software offers you all the customization benefits we discussed previously, but also gives you the peace of mind and time savings that come from having a web-based system you’re not responsible for updating.
You are also less likely to get hacked because you have a large community of online developers behind you. Open-source platforms benefit from a large support system and network of other users, which means that you not only get answers and help from the software developers—but from other clients like you!
Not All Open Source Learning Management Systems Are the Same
While we’ve covered the five most important advantages of open-source LMS platforms, it’s important that you understand not all such options are created equal. You need to choose your platform with care. Consider the following:
- Speed of Getting Started: What’s the development and implementation curve like? Do you have to start with a barebones system and then develop your own overlay to customize everything or can you hit the ground running and get started in just a few minutes?
- Support and Training: Does the developer offer any type of support and training? Some open-source platforms give you the software, but that’s it. You’re responsible for training your people, which can add time, cost, and complexity.
- Existing Content: Custom content is great, but what if you need to get started quickly? Does the developer offer a robust library of existing content? Is that content high quality and worth using?
Open-source learning management systems leave you free to customize, upgrade, and choose how you want to run your education and development program. However, they’re not all the same, so you’ll need to carefully compare the options to find a solution that fits your needs perfectly. Take back your company’s learning and make your LMS yours!