Considering An Open Source LMS? 5 Questions To Determine If Your IT Team Is Up To The Task

Open-Source Software 5 Questions To Ask Yourself
Summary: Open-source LMS is considered a viable choice when you have a limited software budget. But (lack of) cash aside, how can you tell it’s the right fit for your organization? In this guide, I highlight 5 questions to determine if your IT team is up to the task.

5 Questions To Ask Before Investing In An Open-Source Software

Lots of factors go into your LMS choice, and budget is high on the list. It doesn’t matter how many fancy features your target software has – if it’s too pricy, you can’t afford it. Financial constraints leave many companies exploring open-source LMS. Aside from price-point, they have a lot more advantages. But none of this means anything if you don’t have the right personnel. After all, open-source software needs far deeper coding than canned software. How can you be sure your IT crowd is up to it? Start by asking the right questions before you install that open-source LMS for your organization.

1. Which LMS Platforms Have They Used In The Past?

Every open-source system has a different set of available LMS features and configuration requirements. Talk to your team and find out which LMS they’ve interacted with in the past, both open-source and cloud-hosted. Don’t go in blind though, or they could mix in actual gibberish amid their jargon, and you might know the difference. So, any IT questions you ask must be supervised (and formulated) by an IT expert you trust. They can spot techie "embellishment" better than you can and help you gauge the level of in-house experience.

2. What Are Their Skills And Tech Expertise?

The first question tells you whether your team is familiar with the open-source LMS you have in mind. Based on how they respond, you may opt for a more obscure LMS they’ve used in the past. They can tell you its benefits or recommend something better. Outside of specific LMS exposure, you can ask about coding languages, app expertise, and course creation capacity. This tells you how well they can cope with your chosen LMS, regardless of prior experience. For example, even if they’ve worked with one platform in the past, they may be desktop-driven. So, they might not be skilled enough to design fully-fledged mobile apps from the in-built templates.

3. Do They Have Time To Field Employee Questions?

Unless you plan to hire a dedicated coder for your learning management system, you’ll have to source talent from your existing IT department. In which case, your questions should take on a more practical leaning. Talk to HR (and your IT managers) about the person you have in mind for the position. What’s their current job description? How busy are their days? Do they have time to attend to LMS questions from their colleagues? Can they accommodate the extra responsibilities? Are you in a position to up their salary and job title to cover the extra work? If not, are they willing to do this new work at their current job grade? Can they do it without neglecting other duties? Keep in mind that this individual (or team) won’t just be setting up the system. They also have to help co-workers master the new platform and use it to access training resources.

4. Can They Deal With Ongoing LMS Maintenance?

Canned software doesn’t require much maintenance, except maybe for backing up files. When you’re using open-source, there are no upgrade notifications or automated security fixes. Most of the time, there isn’t even a central software body. They operate on the basis of forums populated by super-users. These forums can be very helpful, or completely chaotic. Your IT people would have to be members of the right user groups. And they’d have to constantly monitor cyberspace for vulnerabilities and solutions. Plus, daily/weekly back-ups. Not counting emergency calls for glitches or routine redundancy validation. Does your I-team have that many hours in their day? And does their tech-savvy extend into open-source troubleshooting?

5. Are They Capable Of Creating Courses From Scratch?

We’ve touched on this already. Some programs have Android app templates you can tweak. But many of the others require you to code courses from the ground up. Yes, you can use scripts and import your content. But you still need certain programming skills to make sense of your LMS. Beyond the back-end, your IT people need the capacity to work with subject experts and graphic designers. They need the LMS to be visually appealing and fully functional. They need to translate their open-source tech-speak into a WYSIWYG front-facing fascia, for their non-IT colleagues. Do they have this level of comprehensible techie-to-non-techie communication? Of course, your IT staff will be part of a larger team. So, they won’t have to take on the role of SME or LMS Admin. However, they do have to remedy glitches, handle login errors, and upkeep the system.

Required Skills For Open-Source Software Support

When you’re trying to save money, you’ll be advised to buy open-source LMS. But unless your IT people are equipped to utilize this software, it could end up getting really expensive. You’d have to hire consultants or take on new IT staff. You have to craft your questions in a way that gets usable answers so that you can find the right talent. Ask about platforms they’ve used in the past, both open-source and canned. Get them to list their techie experience, and have that list translated (down to your level) by a verified IT expert. Talk to their line managers about task lists and scheduling. You want to see if anyone actually has the time to take on new corporate responsibilities. Finally, confirm their abilities regarding basic maintenance, and whether they can craft courses from scratch using open-source tools.

Find open-source software that aligns with your team’s talents and stretches your L&D budget. Use our free online directory to narrow down your options and choose the best open source LMS for your use case. You can also read online reviews to see how they perform in the real world.