Should we consider Open Source Learning Management Systems?

This is an excerpt from the popular article on open-source learning management systems entitled:

B4 you Say Yes – Know the Pros and Challenges, ” written by Craig Weiss .

“I want to make something very clear – Moodle and other open-source LMSs, Learning Portals, CMSs, etc. are not out of the box solutions. They are not turnkey. This is extremely crucial and important. You must customize.”

As Craig goes on to say, much has been written about the pros and cons of Moodle, and we feel that this is the best summary of those reviews. If you have questions about open source “LMSs” or are curious to see if open source solutions, such as Moodle will suit your needs, read on.

Moodle Cons

• Administration is difficult, confusing and not user friendly

• User management

• Reporting is limited

• More of a course management system, than a LCMS/LMS as they try to push it. I say this because its real strength IMO is in the education sector, and you see it, in its overall presentation. Yes, corporations are using it, but a significant number of schools, colleges, universities are as well.

• Flexibility efficiency is lacking

• Help materials within the system are awful

• You can either have all open, which many companies do not want, or are stuck with course keys and other additional non-necessary steps

• You need technical skills

• Documentation i.e. support (how to) can be challenging for some people, thus many people turn to Moodle tutorial sites

 Moodle Pros

• Free

• Unlimited users (BTW, some paid LMS vendors – smaller ones with robust features are moving into the unlimited users space)

• Enormous amount of add-ons and plug-ins

• More and more tutorials online, a result of a vast online community of user groups

• Resources – guides, etc. all free

• You can host it on your server or on an outside server (can also be seen as a con)

• If you host on an outside server, many will install it ahead of time for you and have the experience in doing so

• APIs and mashups – can expand Moodle to the next level of learning

 Evil Realities of Moodle-Tech Demons

The biggest challenge you will face with Moodle, and in many cases with open-source learning management systems is that you need to have strong technical skills. Having a skill set of using .Net, MS Office, Articulate, etc., will not work.

You will need skill sets that would include programming – javascript, HTML, CSS, XML, perhaps Ruby on Rails, .PHP, databases, .SQL., etc.

Even if you have it hosted on an outside server, while it will automatically provide you with a vast amount of programming languages, typically it is not WSYWIG.

If you host it on your own servers, you will need to have someone – a minimum of one person who knows programming languages and can customize.


Moodle and some other open-source learning management systems are not really “out of the box” solutions. They provide the features, software, etc., but their real strength is for you to customize it, and continue to tweak and you build, add on and develop. So, you need to have someone who can do this in your organization. You need someone dedicated to providing this to you, whether they are in your IS/IT areas.


Sure you can upload courses into your open source LMS/LCMS, but with third party off the shelf courses and with some 3rd party developers, you will still face interoperability issues. So tweaks with code with the third-party vendors/developers – tied to your system still applies. Again, another reason you need someone who has technical skillsets unless you have those skill sets yourself.

 Bonus Challenges

• What if something goes wrong with your system, while you have end-users in it? Do you have a process on how to handle that? Worse, what if your key IT/IS person is sick, injured or leaves the company, do you have a back-up that can and knows the system to handle anything and make mods, etc?

• You have unlimited users, but with off the shelf courses, the same issue still applies with seat purchases. You still have to purchase seats for that content and that will cost. They will not give you unlimited seats – okay they will – but it will cost major $$$. For your own content/courses, it is free – so you can have unlimited users.

• Do you have someone who can dedicate the time needed for your open source LMS/LCMS? At many companies, it can be difficult to have someone who has unfettered amount of time to do so, considering everything else on their plate. Scheduling becomes a challenge in and of itself, especially with small IS/IT departments, where the person is expected to handle multiple tasks.