Why Organizations Choose an Open Source Learning Management System

Kineo recently distributed a survey to organizations that have implemented an Open Source Learning Management System (LMS) which reveals the reasons behind their decision.  Here’s a closer look at their responses.

Have it Your Way

‘Have it your way’ isn’t only a slogan from a well-known burger chain in the 1970’s.  40% of respondents identify flexibility as their primary reason for going with an open source solution. Specifically, the flexibility they value is the ability to tailor the look and feel of their system and the freedom to add new features.

  • User experience and user interface design (UX/UI) are part of our everyday lexicon. For a site that employees will access as part of their daily routine, creating a design that is easy to use and positively projects your brand is important. With access to the code, open source products give you the ability to create a user experience as unique as your organization.
  • By its very design, the open source movement has put control back into the hands of the individual companies using the software. Open source code is a starting point; not an end point. If organizations have functionality they want to add, the option is there to add to the code base and create the functionality they need.  And even better, there is a broader choice available in terms of who to work with in order to do this without being locked into one vendor.

Redefining Investment

60% of respondents cited cost as their number one reason for choosing an open source LMS.  Open source isn’t free, but it does mean that you gain a different level of control in how LMS dollars are allocated.  As one open source user put it:

With open source not requiring licensing, we knew we could invest in the implementation side of things and also cover the risk of costs going over budget.

Tip:  Consider Total Cost of Ownership

Only considering the licensing fees over simplifies the analysis. We suggest using a 3-5 year timeline to calculate TCO.  Here’s what a simple analysis might include:

  • Implementation Services
    Typically this includes consulting, site configuration, data migration, integration with HRIS and other systems.
  • Training
    Sometimes the training of staff to actually use and administer a system isn’t included in an implementation package, so make sure it’s added to the overall costs.
  • Software Licensing / Subscription
    Commercial products have a licensing fee.  Many open source solutions on the other hand require payment of a subscription to access code updates, a community network and support.
  • Hosting
    Hosting packages are typically specified by total number of users, but what really matters is that a robust solution is in place for peak times or concurrent usage.
  • Maintenance
    Maintenance fees cover the application of patches and updates in some cases.
  • Support
    Make sure to understand what support is included and what’s extra.  If first line support of end users is required, this is an additional cost that will have to be factored in.
  • Minor Upgrade Fees
    Minor upgrades are upgrades that occur within a major release, e.g. from 2.3 to 2.4
  • Major Upgrades
    Upgrades from release to the next e.g. 2.9 to 3.1.

Safety in Numbers
Isn’t open source software vulnerable to hackers and bugs?  Surprisingly not, as poll respondents shared.  Open source solutions often benefit from a large user base.  Naturally with such a large user base a variety of different people are able to edit and fix problems and errors that have occurred. As one open source user notes:

“Open source is not as buggy and issues were resolved quickly.”  “We were confident in the capabilities of the open source solution since it is used so broadly.”

Parting Words
Open source solutions have grown in popularity across enterprise software and offer a safe, economical solution.  If your organization has a strong point of view on learning and are looking for a flexible solution that captures your brand and culture while providing a great user experience, it may be time to take a look at open source.

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