Proverb says, “there is no such thing as a free lunch” or nothing is free in this world. However, in e-learning, we got an “open source” term that can be accessed free of charge. In addition, there is also the “open source LMS” term which is known to be cheaper than licensed or proprietary LMS. Well, is it true that open-source LMS is inexpensive? Here’s the discussion.


What is an open-source LMS?

The definition of open source refers to any type of software or program that uses computer programming codes and can be used or modified by other developers freely. Thus, an open-source Learning Management System (LMS) is a type of LMS that allows developers or users to freely access, modify, and change codes so that the LMS becomes more in line with the needs and brand image of the institution.

There are many open-source LMS platforms such as Moodle, Open edX, Canvas, Odoo, ATutor, Forma LMS, Open LMS, Masteriyo LMS, and so forth. However, Open edX is the most recommended because of its excellent stability and scalability. Open edX has been used by more than 55 million users from all over the world. Popular universities such as Harvard, MIT, Arizona State University, Singapore University of Social Science, the University of California San Diego, and world-class corporations such as Google, Johnson & Johnson, McKinsey, and Microsoft Laas also use Open edX to deliver e-learning.


Open-source LMS drawbacks controversy

Although it is the choice of many people because it is more affordable, open-source LMS has controversial drawbacks. Here are some of them.

Lack of support

Open-source LMS doesn’t always offer the same support as the licensed one, so users must rely on online forums, documentation, and user communities to troubleshoot problems and find support.


The more features of an LMS, the higher the complexity and the higher the learning curve. If an organization chooses to implement its open-source LMS independently, it will require a qualified IT expert team.

It takes time and resources to customization

While an open-source LMS can be customized according to organizational needs, customization can be time-consuming and requires considerable technical resources to get it right. If the team does not have an IT expert, of course, it will be an expense for the company.

Fast evolution

Open-source LMSs are constantly being developed and improvised, so they have to be upgraded frequently. This upgrade process becomes a burden that is quite troublesome if the organization is implementing it independently.

Integration problem

Open source LMS integration with other systems is very flexible because the source code is available, but because the available documentation is usually limited, it takes a high learning curve to do it if the organization implements it independently.

Hence, it is important to consider the drawbacks of open-source LMS before selecting and implementing it for an organization. However, with the right planning and management, open-source LMSs can be a viable and effective alternative for organizations on a tight budget or in need of more extensive customization.


Is an open-source LMS appropriate for your institution?

Many companies or institutions choose open-source LMS because it is free and can be customized according to their needs. However, being free doesn’t mean there is no charge. As the companies or institutions that choose to use an open-source LMS must be prepared with high-complexity coding configurations and software customization, so they must have IT experts. This of course will be an outlay of company funds.

Besides having IT experts, there are other points to consider to determine whether or not your company or institution is appropriate for using an open-source LMS. Those are budgeting and time. Open-source LMS do tend to be more economical, but, again, not free at all. Make sure your company’s budget is suitable to meet the required costs. In addition, open-source LMS requires a relatively long time for the customization process. If a company urgently needs to use an LMS soon, the option of using an open-source LMS can be reconsidered.


The cost of an open-source LMS

The fees required for an open-source LMS can vary depending on various factors, such as:


Installing an open-source LMS on a server or hosting can be done free of charge, but costs may occur if you need help from a developer or consultant to do the installation.


Open-source LMSs are generally adaptable to an organization’s needs, but costs may be incurred if it is necessary to modify the source code or add special features.


An open-source LMS can be hosted for free on a server or self-hosted, but hosting fees may occur if you choose to use a managed hosting service.


Costs may be incurred to provide training to open-source LMS users, especially if the organization requires specific or individual training.


While an open-source LMS is free, it still costs money to maintain, update, and fix technical issues that arise.

Therefore, it is important to plan for the costs involved before choosing an open-source LMS and consider all the factors involved in using it. However, in general, open-source LMSs can be a more affordable and adaptable alternative to organizational needs, especially for organizations on a tight budget.


Is an open-source LMS cheaper?

Open-source LMSs can be cheaper than licensed LMSs, but this depends on the specific needs and situation of the organization using the LMS. With an open-source LMS, there are generally no initial costs to purchase the software as the source code is freely available for anyone to download and use. However, there are still costs associated with installing, customizing, and maintaining the LMS, and any infrastructure or hardware required to run it. In some cases, organizations may choose to hire external consultants or developers to help with these tasks, which can add to the overall costs.

In contrast, licensed LMSs usually require an initial fee to purchase the software and may also require subscription fees or ongoing licensing. While a licensed LMS may offer some benefits such as customer support and pre-built features, the overall cost can be higher than an open-source LMS.

Ultimately, the cost of an LMS depends on a variety of factors, including the size of the organization, the number of users, and the specific features and functionality required. One of the increasingly popular options is to use a cloud-based LMS where the installation, maintenance, customization, hosting, and configuration matters are carried out by a third party so that organizations can focus on the content and implementation of the training.


Solutions when choosing the Open source LMS

As the proverb above, it turns out that nothing is truly free in this world. An open-source LMS that does not require the cost of purchasing software also still requires costs

for customization, installation, etc. However, open-source LMS remains the best recommendation, especially for companies with limited budgets. Because the cost for open source LMS is more affordable than licensed LMS.

Another recommendation is to work with an open-source LMS provider like Katalis.App. It is an LMS provider based on Open edX, one of the best open-source LMSs that has been used by top universities and large companies in the world. Katalis.App makes it easy for you to have an LMS with your company brand without the hassle of installation or other maintenance. Besides, Katalis.App provides full technical support so that you can simply focus on developing learning and business content. Contact Katali.App here.


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