Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Is Open Source LCMS really the way to go?

On the surface, don't open source LCMSs sound like a great idea? They have three major advantages that make them very attractive, especially for budget conscious smaller schools that are considering deploying LCMS software for the first time:

   Advantage #1: The code is FREE!
   Advantage #2: The code is FREE!
   Advantage #3: The code is FREE!

However, despite these three undeniably amazing advantages (*grin*), remember that the technical labor required to deploy, customize and manage the LCMS must be located within the school and is costly. In my view, you need about twice as much in-house technical and development support to an Open Source LCMS than you need for a commercially available LCMS. While theoretically, Moodle is customizable to meet any specific needs of the school, the customization process is conducted in-house by individuals on the school's payroll and that costs money! In a recent round table meeting of five Universities that I attended in Ottawa on the subject of LCMSs, all five Universities had decided to continue pursuing commercially available LCMSs instead of Open Source products like Moodle or SAKAI because they had judged it to be more cost effective in the medium and long term. Placing experienced technical development personnel on the payroll is not cheap, and investing similar amounts of money into the licensing of a commercially available LCMS was judged to be a safer and more stable choice.

Interesting. If you have an opinion on this, leave a comment.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

There may be a middle road as well. My university has deployed Blackboard. I find it to be awkward and to restrict interaction between students and particularly interaction between students in related courses. I have a web hosting account and use the off-the-shelf open source forum, wiki, image gallery and blog software. They are easy to customise and deploy. I don't have a full LCMS, but I have all the collaborative bits in a form that is very easy to manage. Our implementation of Blackboard does not have access to these tools (except for a bulletin board, but it is not the most user friendly).

Pit said...

Hi - From my point of view Open Source (technical aspect) could never be a criterion for choosing a learning managing system (pedagogical aspect). One criterion which is of importance for technical and pedagogical interested persons is usability.

Jason Rothstein said...

I see your point, but it overlooks the great potential for open source LCMS systems to enable change through their disruptive nature. Sure, if an organization has the budget and initiative, they may well want to invest in a commercial system and professional consulting services. But where systems like Moodle are really making their mark is in environments where there are budgetary, technical, or bureaucratic obstacles to installing commercial systems. The cool thing about Moodle isn't that it's a "free" option to throw into the mix when evaluating LCMS products. It's that it empowers a teacher or instructional technologist to bypass tight budgets, uncooperative IT staff, or procedural hurdles and just start building innovative learning solutions.

Thierry said...

I have seen many LMS implementations in Universities, and some Open Source LMS compare VERY favorably to commercial LMS (NOT because they are Open Source), but because they are better !
See Claroline and Moodle : http://www.wouarf.com/blog//index.php?2005/08/21/81-claroline-moogle

Anonymous said...

You're assuming that all LCMSs are the identical products and are going to remain identical products. You're not comparing like with like. The right solution is more likely to depend on what you want to do now and might want to do in the future rather than on cost.

Even on the cost front, you're also ignoring long-term costs of migration if you change your mind about what you want in the future and the fact that it is possible to purchase reputable support for open-source products like Moodle rather than employ people yourself, a much cheaper alternative.

But nobody has ever been sacked for buying IBM.