Learning Management Systems (LMS)
What is an LMS?
An LMS, acronym for Learning Management System (or "Course Management System", "Pedagogical Platform", "e-Learning Platform") is a software that delivers courseware (content) plus e-tutoring over the Internet.
Attention: For the "purists": When we speak about LMS systems on this site, we mean the combination of "LCMS" and "LMS" systems. (Explanation of the difference on this page)
When searching on the internet, you will find many listings of LMS systems:
Which LMS system do YOU need?
Usually, the starting point is very simple: "We need a system allowing us to share and distribute available knowledge in our organization to as many people as possible, at the lowest cost."
But when we start comparing systems with each other, we discover so many extra possibilities and advantages. We start to experience the "feature creep" phenomenon... This makes it very difficult to make a choice!
Therefore it's important to make up our mind where we want to start and what is our final goal when starting an e-learning project.
Here is an interesting summary (2009) of what the ideal "21st Century LMS system" should offer: LINK
Most of it is still valid...
Choosing an LMS...
The number of commercial LMS systems is overwhealming! Choosing one is a huge task...
We have also looked around to what specialists say about how to choose an LMS today: See this page (english)
Nobody can see clear in the features offered by all systems on the market. Also the cost of systems is so varied, making it even more impossible to make "the right choice". And once we start working with one system, it will be very difficult to change to another system!
You will find a lot of comparisons on the web, but it will always be a "snapshot" of the situation on a specific date. All systems evolve...
A very important point if you want to keep the possibility to migrate to another LMS system later, is the interoperability of the content: The system should be SCORM compatible, so that courses can be imported and exported. (refer to video below)
Our focus: Free, open source LMS systems!
At iTroniX, we spent a lot of time, testing and comparing the best "open source" LMS systems and we want to share our experience with you. We believe this is definitely the best approach for small and mid size companies without a fully fledged IT department and on a small training budget...
The main advantage is that this type of software is completely free and supported by an active development community.
Below, you find a shortlist with today's most important open source LMS systems, including our personal choice (in red):
This is currently still the most popular and well known example of a free, open-source LMS system. It's also one of the oldest.
Moodle is easy to install, but sometimes challanging to configure. It can be adapted to (almost) every need by plugins, available from the Moodle community. (The more professional plugins are usually commercial products...)
If you want, we can set up a Moodle system for you and get you started. Find out more on this page (English only)
Recently, many good Moodle alternatives, with specific characteristics, have been introduced. Here are the other well known open source systems:
LMS systems, originated in Belgium: These first three are in fact, a "family".
They appeared on the market in this sequence: Claroline > Dokeos > Chamilo ...
This open source LMS aimed originally at the educational arena, mainly in french speaking countries. It is based around specific pedagogical principles (as is Moodle). Claroline supports SCORM content as well as a built in Wiki and other online content development tools.
As the features of Claroline have evolved more in the Chamilo LMS, we do not offer support for Claroline. We do have a working Claroline portal, just in case you want to compare it. Find out more on this page (English only)
This very well featured LMS (actually a fork of Claroline) is available as a "Community Edition" with only basic possibilities (and no support) as well as a "PRO version" (SAAS) offering extra features.
We do NOT offer support for Dokeos for the following reasons:
- Although the core software is still "open", Dokeos is now mainly a commercial product.
- The "Community Edition" is quite limited, has many bugs and is not supported by Dokeos at all.
- Like Claroline, Dokeos has recently evolved into the Chamilo LMS.
Find out more on this page. We do have a working Dokeos portal, just in case you want to compare it, but we prefer the next system:
Chamilo is actually a fork of Dokeos, and it's our best offer at this moment!
This completely free and open source system inherited all the features from it's ancestors (Claroline and Dokeos) and evolved into a fantastic LMS offering an incredibly complete and up-to-date list of features, comparable to the PRO version of Dokeos.
The further development of Chamilo is an international project involving several universities, schools and other organizations. It is growing very strongly in the Spanish speaking countries, because it's founder is living in South America.
The functionalities include multimedia content authoring, SCORM import and export, integration of Hot Potatoes ® tests, and copying of content to other courses. Chamilo is available in 30 languages.
We will be glad to demonstrate and set up a Chamilo LMS for you. Find out more on this page
The others: These systems are not so familiar to us as we focused on the above systems.
One of the latest, advanced (open source) LMS systems. It can be installed freely through the GitHub site but it seems more complex than usually. Many plugins (not all free!) expand the possibilities to (almost) unlimited functionality. It is supported in various ways by the makers (Instructure) on a commercial basis. Watch their video clip "Change is good!" below! (There is also a collection of CANVAS videos in VIMEO)
We are currently studying CANVAS and hope to be able to demonstrate and set up also a CANVAS system to demonstrate it...
This LMS has been around since 2001 and is in use in several large organisations. The site, and the LMS itself, are in French but it can be translated.
In use in corporate and higher education settings. Offers support for a number of different learning models and is compatible with SCORM 1.2 and 2004. It offers interfaces to external systems such as video conferencing and HR systems.
The base install is quite minimalist, but this is easily extended with modules available from the site. Commercial versions with additional features are also available.
Actually an LCMS, ATutor also offers tools for the management of learning. The “A” stands for Accessible and it has excellent support for key accessibility standards as well as support for SCORM, IMS etc.
Provides testing and assessment tools as well as collaboration tools such as chat and forums, and distribution technologies like RSS and podcasts.
A well featured system in its tenth year of development. Recently the winner of the “IMS Learning Impact ‘Leadership Award’ 2009 for best open source learning platform”.
Aimed at Universities, this project has a clear roadmap and has seem considerable development in the last few years. Backed by the Sakai Foundation which manages relationships with educational and commercial supporters.
Originally developed at MIT, .LRN claims to be the most widely adopted enterprise class open source LMS solution.
Marketed specifically as a business solution, and claims a diverse customer base that ranges from Merrill Lynch to Queens Park Rangers football club.
As you will understand, with such a variety of systems it is very complicated to make a good comparison and conclude what's most suitable for your needs. One thing is sure: If you decide to go for a commercial system, the bill is equally difficult to predict! I've seen it...
With an open-source system, at least the software is FREE!
Also among the open source systems, it remains very hard to see clear in this forest!
Studying all these systems in detail takes months for people familiar in this area. of course, you can pay a big company to help you with this, but first ask for a price tag also...
We are focused strongly on the systems we believe in (red names above) and we will be glad to demonstrate and help you get started. We are confident we can offer an adequate and cost-effective solution to most of the small to mid sized companies and organizations.
Do not hesitate to call us if you are looking to start with e-learning!