Choosing the most suitable learning management system for your organization is based on a number of criteria and requires your attention as well as money. When deciding between which LMS solution to pick, you will encounter a choice between two main types of LMS - Open Source LMS and Cloud LMS. To make a decision you will need to consider a variety of factors like features, the difference in their pricing model and mode of deployment, and which one is the most cost-efficient one.
What are Open Source and Cloud LMS (SaaS)?
Open Source LMS
Like the name suggests, an Open Source LMS has an open source code that you can access for free, and customize it according to your specific requirements. The most popular example of an Open Source LMS is Moodle which is a feature-rich platform with community support. Though originally designed for academia, Moodle has found its use-cases in corporate learning as well. Moodle can be customized and extended to suit various learning environments by using community-sourced plugins.
Cloud LMS is a web-based LMS hosted on the servers of the service provider (vendor). It is offered as a completely managed Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). You can subscribe to the software and can access it from anywhere and any device. Users can log in with a username and password and can either access the content online or download the e-learning course material for offline usage.
Cloud LMS provides more flexibility in scaling up or down and since it is a hosted service, you are free from the hassles of installing plugins, troubleshooting or making updates. All the maintenance is done by the service provider themselves.
How do an Open Source and a Cloud LMS differ?
Difference in Pricing Models
Broadly, the Open Source LMS is available for free or is offered as a freemium service; which means that the basic software is free but you have to pay for any additional features. Open Source LMS can be scaled to large number of users without incurring any license cost. However, there are other costs like setup and hosting fees, customization cost, support and maintenance charges, and upgrade cost that you have to incur on implementing an Open Source LMS.
Cloud LMS is typically available in Monthly or Annual Subscription plans generally depending on features and number of users or subscribers. The pricing model is typically pay-per-user model and you can easily scale up or down as demand within your organisation changes. In addition, some LMS providers can charge you a one-time set-up fee to install the LMS and covers functions like implementation, training, support, upgrades, and maintenance.
Difference in Mode of Deployment
The Open Source LMS requires a great deal of time and effort dedicated to the deployment process. To deploy an open source LMS like Moodle, you need to download the moodle package and install it on a server and customise it to map your learning requirement and branding. It requires a higher knowledge of coding and IT expertise to deploy an open source LMS and they also lack dedicated support services.
However, the Cloud LMS tend to not have an overly complex deployment procedure. They can usually be set up in minutes or hours without any technical expertise and need for any hardware or plugin. You don’t need to host lengthy meetings with your IT experts to implement or install it, neither a high level of coding knowledge is required. In Cloud LMS, the hosting, maintenance and support are also taken care of by the provider so you don’t need to worry about support services.
So which one should you choose?
Well, the ideal choice will depend on your organization’s need and budget. If you have a technical team in-house and want to support a large number of users in a limited budget, you can explore an Open Source or Free LMS. However, you should also consider the hidden costs of setup, hosting, maintenance and support while making the decision.
In case you do not have an IT team to support and are looking for a hassle-free installation, maintenance and upgrade experience at an affordable budget, Cloud LMS would be your best bet. It provides flexibility and you can start with as low as 25-50 users and gradually scale up by subscribing to more number of users.
So with this basic understanding of differences between Open Source and Cloud LMS, evaluate your need and make a more informed decision regarding which LMS option will be more cost-effective for your organization.
To dive deeper into the practical world of Cloud LMS, take a trip around MindScroll Free Trial and experience the process yourself.
Click here to read our detailed comparison with Moodle