Top 8 Features To Look For In An Open Source LMS

Top 8 Features To Look For In An Open Source LMS
Summary: Are you considering a free and flexible Learning Management System for your next eLearning course? In this article, I'll highlight the top 8 features to look for in an open source LMS.

What To Look For In An Open Source LMS

An open source LMS offers you the ability to incorporate your branding and personalize every aspect of your eLearning course design. The catch is that you typically need programming know-how in order to make the most of it. It also doesn't hurt to have IT troubleshooting experience, as well. But even if you are a tech-savvy eLearning pro, you still have to find the right LMS. Here are the top 8 features to consider for your next open source LMS.

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1. Supportive Online Community

Does the open source LMS have an online community of fellow eLearning professionals, programmers, and developers? In some cases, online support resources can fill the gaps if you have limited tech experience. With online training tutorials, for example, to show you how to use the user interface or troubleshoot common issues. An active online community also benefits more experienced eLearning professionals, as you have the opportunity to explore the platform's advanced features and functions. Ideally, the open source LMS should have a forum, Q&A, or guides that focus on essential aspects of the LMS platform, such as how to incorporate your branding or customize the layout.

2. Suitable Selection Of Add-Ons And Upgrades

Add-ons make open source LMSs more versatile and robust. For example, apps that allow you to monitor learner attendance or incorporate downloadable certificates into your existing eLearning course. The LMS platform should already have these add-ons listed on their site. At the very least, they should be compatible with third-party plug-ins that are offered by external developers. Make a list of must-have features you're looking for, then compare it to your top LMS contenders. If the base platform doesn't meet your requirements, check to see if their suite of apps bridges the gaps.

3. Intuitive User Interface

This is one of the major drawbacks of open source LMSs. Most of them aren't known for being user-friendly, as they are usually intended for eLearning professionals with programming knowledge. Sure, open source LMS platforms are free, but that may come at the cost of a steep learning curve. For this reason, you should carefully consider the LMS' user interface before making your final decision. Give it a test drive to ensure that it's a good match for your skills and experience, as well as the rest of your eLearning development team. Thus, you may want to invite your collaborators to try out the user interface and offer their feedback.

4. LMS Reports & Analytics

An effective open source LMS should offer you the ability to track learner performance, progress, and completion rates. This usually comes in the form of LMS metrics and reports that monitor various aspects of your eLearning strategy. In some instances, they may even transform your raw data into visualizations, such as charts or graphs that allow you to identify patterns. It's also important to verify the data delivery method. For example, does your LMS automatically send reports to your inbox? Are you able to customize the LMS reports and view them directly in your dashboard?

5. eCommerce Integration

If you plan on selling your eLearning course, the open source LMS must have eCommerce features or add-ons that allow you to integrate shopping carts and payment processing. Some LMSs even offer eLearning course catalog support so that online learners can quickly enroll and pay their tuition. For example, you can link your PayPal account to the eLearning course marketplace in order to receive and track eLearning revenues.

6. Mobile-Friendly

Modern learners expect to be able to access the eLearning course whenever it suits their schedules, even if they are on their way to work or waiting for a client meeting. Thus, the open source LMS must be able to deploy mobile-friendly eLearning content that is easily digestible. Prefer a responsive design tool that automatically displays the correct version of the eLearning course based on the user's device. Upload your eLearning content and then test it out on a variety of screen sizes and resolutions, from smartphones and tablets to laptops and PCs. You want to ensure that every member of your audience gets the same user experience.

7. Compatible With Third-Party Tools

Even if the open source LMS meets all of the aforementioned requirements, there is one common hurdle you still need to overcome. That's the issue of compatibility. Will you be able to use your current eLearning authoring tools in combination with the LMS? Or do you need to invest in a new suite of software to develop eLearning content for the open source LMS? If so, that may defeat the entire purpose of using a free LMS to begin with. Another factor to consider is data migration. If the new LMS isn't compatible with your existing eLearning content, you may not be able to integrate user data or online training material.

8. Personalized Support

That brings us to the final feature on our list, which ties into effective eLearning experiences. Truly meaningful eLearning courses are personal and relatable. Online learners are able to access resources that improve their daily lives and help them resolve common problems. For instance, real-world eLearning activities that allow them to build work-related skills so that they can hit their monthly sales targets. Your open source LMS must be able to support personalized learning, such as clickable eLearning course maps, course catalogs, and non-linear eLearning navigation. In addition, you should have the opportunity to provide your online learners with just-in-time online training libraries to meet their individual needs. For example, integrate microlearning libraries to help them improve task performance or focus on areas of improvement.

Do your top choices check all of these boxes? Or do you need to keep looking for a tool that makes the cut? Use this article to find the ideal open source LMS for your eLearning needs, even if you are working with a limited budget and programming experience.

Are you still on the hunt for a top-notch LMS? Read the article The 20 Best Learning Management Systems (2017 Update) to discover the 20 best Learning Management Systems for all needs and budgets.