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What is Open Source Learning Management System (LMS)?

Posted by: Arun
Category: Industry insights, LMS Solutions, Totara

The quality of your learning strategy depends in large part to the supporting technology you choose. You can’t afford to make a mistake when selecting your Learning Management System. So, do you feel informed about the different options?

If you’re looking into open source versus other types of LMS, you should understand what makes this platform a sound choice for your organisation. And you should know that there is no such thing as a “free” LMS – but that there are distinct advantages to choosing open source.

Open source LMS: a community affair

The core to any open source LMS is a vast community of developers, ready to update and modify the software to fix errors and make improvements. “Open source” means that anyone is guaranteed the right to access the source code and use, reuse and redistribute the software with no royalty costs.

The source code of the LMS application can be downloaded and modified by any software developer. Because the open source model means that any developer can contribute to the source code, companies adopting the software will be harnessing their collective knowledge and expertise.

Popular open source Learning Management Systems include Totara Learn for corporations, ATutor, OpenOLAT and ILIAS.

The real key to open source LMS is that the software evolves quickly to keep up with the changing environment of eLearning trends, processes and technology. The peer review process ensures that quality and security is constantly updated by a large number of developers.

With open source LMS, there is no initial outlay on licencing costs – but you do need to consider the cost of implementation and customisation as well as ongoing support.

Benefits of open source LMS

So, now that you know what open source LMS is all about, it’s time to look at the benefits of choosing this type of learning platform over proprietary systems.

Endlessly Customisable

Whatever themes or styles you need to suit your corporate branding, you can customise your open source LMS to match. The only limitations are with the capabilities of the designer – you are free to choose the look and feel that you require.

Intuitive Interface

Because of the collaborative way the system is designed, you’ll find open source LMS is exceptionally user friendly.


You choose which features you require, and build those as and when you need them. You can work with a third party to develop the system to your specifications if you can’t (or won’t) develop in-house. Additionally, you are not locked-in to one vendor – meaning you are free to switch when you need to.

Cost Saving

There are no licencing fees or subscription costs, and you won’t pay any upgrade charges (licences typically costs between $15-100 per user). Learn more about the pros and cons of open source versus proprietary LMS here.  New functionality is free to use.

Stable & Secure

Thousands of developers access the core so bug fixes, security releases and features upgrades happen continuously.

Real-time, Real-world.

Additional features that are developed by the open source community are available as plugins, making the system user-friendly with excellent functionality tested in the real world.

Access to Expertise

You will access a vast amount of expertise in using the open source platforms as they are used by millions all over the world. Proprietary systems are much more limited in terms of number of users.

Things to consider when adopting Open Source LMS

There are always pros and cons when you are making any choice about software, and people have varying opinions about whether proprietary or open source is best for them. There are some things to consider when you adopt open source LMS – and you want to go into any implementation with your eyes open.

  • You need to adapt to the new features. The constant stream of new elements is a bonus in terms of functionality, but you will need to work with your processes and administrators to implement them.
  • It’s free to adopt the software – but you will incur costs for hosting. You may choose that it is more cost-effective to choose to outsource the hosting element to experts.
  • Costs of customisation – you’ll need expertise in-house, or you’ll need to outsource. You’ll need developers to build, host and maintain an open source LMS.
  • There may be additional uncertain support and maintenance costs with LMS that you hadn’t considered. You may be able to agree those in advance with a proprietary provider – meaning there is an element of risk in open source (although you are unlikely to end up paying more).

Open source LMS: flexible, customisable and future-proof

If you want an LMS that can be custom-built to your specifications, but without being bound to one provider for the long-term, then open source offers a flexible solution.

You’ll need to be able to adapt to the regular updates, but if you are ready to work with the flexibility, then you’ll benefit from upgrades and new features that will constantly improve the system.

Open source Learning Management systems are used and managed by experts operating in real-time, and implementing updates to respond to the changing eLearning landscape. You, as an organisation, will benefit from a huge knowledge base, meaning you get a system that is dependable, but customisable to your exacting specifications.

Webanywhere is a global provider of Learning Management solutions. We are a Platinum Partner with Totara Learn and can provide a fully comprehensive Totara solution. We offer custom configuration as well as training and support. Visit our Contact page to talk to us about realising the benefits of open source LMS.