The Learning Management System is no longer a luxury that only a selected few can enjoy. These Days it has become the necessary tool to impart education(we can thank the global pandemic for that). As an educational institution in tune with the current trends, you should choose the best LMS which fit your needs. There are numerous options for the same, however, the major debate boils down to two main choices- Open Source LMS or Software-as-a-Service SaaS based LMS. This guide aims to analyse both these choices so that while you are choosing the best LMS for you, you get to choose it correctly.

However, before diving deeper into the analysis let’s first figure out why there exists a critical need for LMS?

Why do you need an LMS?

Thanks to the pandemic we are compelled to live our life indoors. The old model of education where your students come to a physical location to gain knowledge has become obsolete. And once the pandemic ends and educational activities resume back, students would still prefer blended learning cultures over the traditional methods. Hence you need an innovative way to impart education, track the progress, conduct exams, monitor the content and interact with your students, all through an online medium. And here is where a Learning Management System LMS could come in handy.

An LMS is an application that equips you with the entire digital framework that covers all aspects of the learning process. Right from managing the admission process to job placements and internships, an LMS provider can handle all the operations involved in running a College/University. This way you get to monitor the entire process through your device, anytime anywhere and the students get to learn at their convenience. That said, choosing the best LMS according to your college/university is important. If not you will be paying a huge investment for something you won’t be needing or you might not be having a critical feature that you need.

Choosing the best LMS

Now that you have understood the need for an LMS, you would be wondering which LMS to choose. When it comes to LMS you will be bombarded with numerous choices. There are countless ‘LMS’s out there offering an amazing set of features. But you need to get your priorities sorted so that you can choose the best LMS that will work for your college/university. For this, you should know the different types of LMS that are currently available in the market.

Learning Management Systems can be divided into two major categories- Proprietary LMS and Open Source LMS.

Proprietary LMS:

Proprietary LMS is a non-free LMS software, which is owned by an individual, an organisation or a company. That means they own all rights to the product, including the intellectual property rights to the source code.

Proprietary LMS is subject to copyright laws, and only the owner has control over its development and source code. The owner reserves the rights to sell the software and its rights to use, modify, or share the software.

Proprietary LMS could come in handy for corporate learning and other kinds of learning where the system is small and pertains to one particular domain. When it comes to colleges/universities either Software-as-a-Service-based LMS or Open Source LMS are preferred.

What is SaaS based LMS

A Software-As-A-Service based LMS is the one in which the entire framework of LMS is provided as a Software Service and is hosted on the cloud. Meaning, you don’t have to install the LMS software on every device which you might use. Instead, you install it in the cloud (usually provided by the vendor) and you can use all the features of the said LMS through a web application or website browser/mobile app. Since all the features of the LMS are provided as a Service you don’t have to break your head on platform up-gradation, design and development, deployment, hosting etc

What is Open Source LMS

When you started your search for an LMS the first few searches would have given you terms like MOODLE, Canvas etc who offer free open source code to create your own custom-made LMS solutions. Open Source LMS is just that- an LMS that offers open-source code for free so that the end-user can build his/her own LMS according to the required features.

The main gimmick which these companies use to attract more users is that it is free of cost, (as the source code is free). Agreed. When you are starting your LMS journey you start it for free through Open Source LMS. However, once you are faced with your requirements like customisation, design and deployment and other major factors, the LMS is no longer a free option but a huge investment.

Hence you need to figure out the best LMS for the smooth running of your college/university.

SaaS based LMS vs Open Source LMS

Since both LMS’s offer numerous attractive features, we have compared them under various factors which a College/University might consider. Here are those findings.

Investment Costs for Open Source vs SaaS based LMS

For explanation let’s consider the famous Open Source LMS- Moodle. The source code for Moodle is available for free, which means you don’t have to pay any licence charge to use that LMS (as long as you adhere to certain conditions). You can modify the code to gain a higher level of customisation and create all the features you might need accordingly. Hence one might assume that Moodle is the most cost-effective LMS out there. However, there is a catch.

What you have for free is the original Open Source Code. If you decide to have an additional feature or delete some features, you might incur some costs. How? Let’s assume you want to change the appearance of the LMS according to your College/University. To do this you need a high degree of technical expertise and programming knowledge to achieve the same. Hence you need established expertise in coding to have your own LMS. A dedicated technical team is a must to have an LMS that satisfies all your requirements. If you can afford a dedicated technical team then Open Source LMS will be the right fit for you.

When it comes to SaaS based LMS you have various cost-effective plans (as less as $1/month) based on the number of users and not your needs. There are many options like a pay-per-user plan, pay-per-use plan, licensing plan etc. By choosing these plans you can have a highly personalized custom-made LMS under your College/University Name with all the features which you might need. This customised LMS will have all your requirements under one big umbrella and you don’t need a team to create and monitor your LMS. Your LMS vendor will be doing that for you.

Key Takeaway

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uLektz LMS Open Source LMS
Initial Cost of Investments Cost is based on your LMS needs- costs less than a dollar per month per user Added to the licensing cost, other costs depend on the usage and can increase based on your needs.

Design and Deployment

Ideally, a college will have numerous digital requirements for the smooth and seamless running of its day-to-day activities. Some of them are listed below

  • Course Creation and distribution

  • Online classes

  • Admission and other Administration Activities

  • Online exams through remote proctoring features

  • Syllabus distribution through Digital Library

  • Internship and placements

  • Networking and Social Learning modules

You need an LMS application offering support in all the above-mentioned areas.

Under Open Source LMS, you need to design multiple applications to meet all the above-mentioned requirements. For your end-users to have a seamless experience you would need a dedicated team of IT pros, HR managers, Testing Professionals, administrators and content developers. This team will implement, manage, improve and maintain your college LMS needs. If you can afford a dedicated team, Open Source LMS will be the best fit for you.

Once your team has created various applications for your LMS needs, it is followed by the hosting part. For hosting your LMS applications (either in your server or an external server) you would need a team of technical experts in programming languages like- Javascript, HTML, CSS, XML, Ruby on Rails, PHP, databases, SQL Server monitoring and hosting.

Once your LMS applications are hosted on your servers, you need a special team for its deployment. Some challenges that might present themselves when you are deploying your Open Source LMS applications are

  • Ongoing maintenance

  • Upgrade requirements

  • OS patchwork requirements

  • Device compatibility support

Your college/university would require a technical support team added to the design and hosting teams to handle the day-to-day requirements of your online LMS portal.

However with SaaS based LMS, you will have all the above-mentioned needs, provided as a Service to you. Through Software-As-A-Service, your LMS will have

This way your college gets to offer a smooth, harmonious and uninterrupted LMS experience to your students, faculties and other administrator professionals.

Key Takeaways

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uLektz LMS Open Source LMS
Design and Deployment Designed, Deployed and Hosted by the provider through White labelled web apps and mobile apps
24*7 Technical support for all your LMS needs
Designed, Deployed and Hosted by various in-house technical teams under your college/university.
Technical Support is available through forums and user communities.

Features and Functionality

With changing dynamic markets, colleges and universities are compelled to stay up-to-date with the progressing syllabus. What is important for your syllabus today might become a secondary concern next month. Based on your current curriculum you would have to look into additional learning needs and implement the same on your existing LMS. Hence you need to design your LMS in a way that accommodates the adaptability and flexibility features into it.

In Open Source LMS you will incorporate the required dynamic customisations for your additional learning needs into the main source code. Also under certain circumstances, you might have to use an external application to meet your learning needs. Usually, such incorporations might affect the entire system resulting in a crash. Hence when it comes to adaptability Open source LMS presents a plausible threat. Though Open Source LMS are flexible to work with (once you know how to code) they offer challenges in terms of

  • User Management

  • Adaptability

  • Course Management

  • Interoperability

Under SaaS based LMS system up-gradation, syllabus up gradation, content up-gradation, courses up-gradation, and other adaptability features are harmoniously integrated and deployed to you as a Service. This is because the entire LMS framework is provided through cloud-based features. Hence in the scenario where you need to revamp your existing educational needs, the latter has you covered in terms of easy adaptability, seamless integration with external apps, and enhanced interoperability. Added to these you get additional features like

Key Takeaways

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uLektz LMS Open Source LMS
Features and Functionality “SaaS based LMS has your covered in terms of easy adaptability, seamless integration with external apps, and enhanced interoperability. Added to these you get additional features like
Campus Management System
Online Skill based courses
Networking platform for peer learning
Live Lecturing
Though Open Source LMS are flexible to work with (once you know how to code) they offer challenges in terms of
User Management
Adaptability
Course Management
Interoperability

Tips to choose the best LMS for your College/University

Implementing the right LMS is one of the most strategic decisions you need to make for your college/university. This investment will decide the future of education and in turn will decide the future of students graduating from your institution. Hence before taking this decision consider the following factors

  • Availability of resources

  • Initial investment costs

  • Features and functionalities you need

  • Future expansion and operability

With these tips in mind, we have tabulated our findings below

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uLektz LMS Open Source LMS
Initial cost of investment is as low as 1 dollar/month. Cost is based on client needs Though the code is available for free you need to invest in terms of licensing, design and development and deployment. Cost is based on usage and functionalities.
No installation required Requires initial setup and installation
No need of a dedicated technical team to handle your requirements You need separate teams for design, development, deployment, hosting and support
Free 24*7 Technical Support Technical Support is available in the form of consumer forums and discussions.
Can be hosted through the server provided by the vendor You need to have your own server for your LMS
Availability of advanced features and functionalities. Additional functionalities has to be designed, developed and deployed by the college/university.
Free software update and client support You need to periodically check and update your LMS through your in-house technical team.
No need for advanced technical training. Easy to use and monitor. You need to have advanced technical knowledge to design, deploy and monitor your LMS.