Open source learning management systems have become extremely popular in recent years, but what does open source mean? Open source technology is a technology in which the source code is “open”, that is, the code is available to the public and can be freely modified. Improvements can be made by the developers and can be spread or sold to the general community. So why should an organization choose an open source learning management system over a proprietary or proprietary learning management system?
- First, if a company uses a proprietary learning management system, they must rely on the vendor to maintain and repair the learning management system, as well as provide support when problems arise.
- Because the code is widely available in open source learning management systems, many developers read and review the code, resulting in bugs being identified and fixed much faster than proprietary programs.
- Open source technology is highly beneficial to schools, universities, and other educational institutions, as well as corporations.
- Open source learning management systems are fully flexible and customizable, so they can be designed according to the brand image of your school/organization.
- There are no license or hardware costs associated with open source technology, so it’s free to get started and carries minimal risk.
Open source learning management systems can also be turned into social learning platforms. You can create an online community through your learning management system. For example, your students can chat, blog, connect to social networking sites (facebook, etc.), and take surveys in your open source learning management system. This blog post details how you can combine Google+ with your learning management system.
Top 6 Open Source Learning Management Systems
With the plethora of learning management systems available today, making the decision of which platform to choose can be quite overwhelming. Below I have written brief explanations on 6 of the best systems currently available.
Moodle is an abbreviation for “Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment”, although when it was first developed the M stood for Martin’s after its developer, Martin Dougiamas. Moodle has been around for over ten years, with the first release in August 2002.
- Very very easy for first time users.
- Easy generation of PDF documents.
- Quick establishment of courses.
- All grades for assignments and quizzes, etc. it can be viewed on a sheet and downloaded as a spreadsheet.
- Teachers/instructors can add multiple files very easily by drag and drop.
.LRN (dot learn) was originally developed at MIT and is used by nearly 500,000 people in educational institutions, corporations, and governments in more than 18 countries.
- Task mailbox.
- Screen Scorm
- Student tracking data can be exported
- Different roles are supported for LRN classes, such as students, teachers, and administrative staff.
- LRN has been internationalized to support multiple languages, dialects and time zones
However, its main flaw is that it has a very diverse interface with many inconsistencies.
The basic version of eFront is exactly that, basic, but can be extended with modules downloadable from the eFront site. The thought process behind this decision was for users to spend time learning new skills, not learning how to use the platform. There are two efront learning management platforms, an educational edition and an enterprise edition. The enterprise edition was aimed at medium-sized companies with between 100 and 10,000 employees. Extensive research was conducted on organizations of this size before development began.
- Visually appealing interface
- Very fast and modern as it is Ajax enabled
- Unicode, LDAP and SCORM support
- Advanced security features
This particular learning management system is available in three versions, the original free open source version, a pro version and a medical specific version. It is possible to build visual learning without graphic experience.
- Turn Office documents into learning paths
- Content creation tools
- video conferencing tools
- Synchronization with HR Management systems
- print certificates
Sakai was designed by universities, for universities. It was built by MIT, Stanford, and Berkeley, among others, so they didn’t need to use their own systems or pay vendors. It aims to adapt very well to group projects and describes itself as a Collaborative Learning Environment (CLE).
- website list
- View site usage statistics
- Show external web pages
- Create new Sakai sites from templates with preloaded tools
- Contains tools for portfolio-based activities.
Because Sakai is primarily coded in Java, it can cause problems, especially if you use older versions of browsers. It can also be difficult to find programmers with knowledge of Java.
ATutor differs slightly from the other systems in that it is actually a Learning Content Management System (LCMS). The A stands for accessible, and accessibility is its best feature. Additionally, user browsing patterns can be tracked so that instructors can view student usage of the site and students can track their own usage.
- Print Compiler to print notes or transcripts of discussions
- SCORM and IMS packages can be imported
- Easy course creation (though difficult with different types of content)
- Easily accessible and adaptable
- File storage feature has a version control feature to keep track of changes and drafts
One downside to this particular platform is that the Java Runtime Environment must be installed on the client side for SCORM tracking. Also, course items cannot be bookmarked.
To conclude, of the six learning management systems listed above, Moodle is by far the most popular and in our opinion the best. It has more than 62 million users worldwide. In addition to the features listed above, here are other reasons why we think Moodle should be your number one choice for an open source learning management system.
repositories – With Moodle it is very easy to import files from Flickr, Google Docs, Dropbox, Youtube, etc. All of these files can be saved together in one location for easy access later.
discussion forums – The Moodle community is full of discussion forums in many different languages, so users can communicate with people outside of their organization, as well as with their employees.
Support for – There is a plethora of support options for Moodle users. On the Moodle site you can find books and manuals, documents including FAQs, and a forum where you can ask questions. Forums often have many other users and even computer programmers who are happy to offer help, advice and recommendations, whatever the problem.
Sach Chaudhari is an expert in the field of e-learning platform development. He is the CEO of Paradiso Solutions ( www.ParadisoSolutions.com ) which focuses on the development of e-learning platforms. Sach is based in Silicon Valley. He studied business administration at Harvard Business School and computer science at the University of Cincinnati. He has several software engineering patents to his name. Before starting Paradiso Solutions, Sach worked at various startups and Fortune 500 companies in Silicon Valley.