15 February 2022

Kenny McCormack

Senior Solutions Architect

Find out more about how open source learning management software works and whether it is right for your organisation.

Open source learning management software is e-learning software released in such a way that the user is granted the rights to use, study and change the source code.

The result is increased levels of transparency and flexibility: you can see exactly how everything works and update the code to ensure the learning management software delivers exactly what you need. The alternative is to shop around for software that offers the closest thing to your requirements, then bend your requirements to fit the technology.

The flexibility of open source learning management software often extends to the way in which it is licensed. Relatively short-term, cost-effective contracts set open source learning management software apart from the costly and infamously lengthy terms of traditional software licensing.

Open source learning management software is also often (though not always) accompanied by a process of open collaboration. In other words, someone will extend the source code to develop a new piece of functionality, then share the new code with the community for all to use. For example, we have made multiple contributions to the Moodle LMS source code that can be used by anyone. Similarly, we’ve saved development costs for clients by being able to use tried and tested contributions made by other members of the Moodle community.


Is open source learning management software free?

No, open source learning management software is not free. While (depending on the software in question) it may be technically free to download or access, there will be a cost – either a one-off fee or a subscription fee – for your organisation to use the software.

As we’ve already mentioned, these fees will typically be relatively modest in comparison to licensed software. Totara estimates that using its Totara Learn learning management software will deliver cost savings of 80% in comparison to licensed software.


Why it’s best to go with an Open Source Certified Provider or Partner

When we create your LMS, you’re our customer and you’re treated in the way a customer should expect to be treated. You’re also indirectly a customer of Moodle or Totara, and they have contractual obligations to you (via us).

You have a support structure in place, a roadmap for the future of the software and someone to complain to when something goes wrong. That’s unlikely to be the case if you’re downloading freeware.

Picture the scene: you’re out for a meal. You start to tuck into your food. It’s not good. It’s overdone. In fact, it’s burnt. You’re not sure you can stomach another bite, let alone finish your dinner.

What you do next depends on the context: is this scene unfolding in a restaurant or at a dinner party? If you’re a paying customer you have some leverage, regardless of whether you’re in a Michelin-starred restaurant or your local cafe, that you simply don’t have if you’re being given something for free.

It is beneficial to have some skin in the game because free software and serious business are not a good combination. You should be a paying customer of a platform that matters to your organisation.

If someone is distributing free software the likelihood is:

  • It is their hobby and the software will suffer the moment they get bored or busy.
  • It is a temporary ploy to build a user base until such a time as they can start charging a fee.
  • Your usage or data is being exploited and you are actually the product rather than the user (in which case direction and development of the software will be dictated by what is best for furthering that scenario rather than what you need from it).
  • The software has a social or political purpose which may diverge from your organisation’s needs over time.

In each of those cases, you’re faced with the prospect of going back to square one when the free learning management software stops being what you need it to be.

Far better to be the paying customer in frank discussions with the manager about how to remedy the situation than the sulking dinner party guest left to like it or lump it.

When you opt for open source learning management software with us, you get a dedicated account manager to work alongside you on projects and you have access to our Support Portal to get swift action if any issues arise. You have a team of experts to step in if something breaks or doesn’t work as you’d expected it to. You have experienced Moodle and Totara professionals on your team to provide expert advice and also represent your interests in our interactions with the software companies.


Still have questions about Open Source Learning Management Software?

If you’ve still got questions about Open Source Learning Management Software pricing or how it works, just fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch for a chat.

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