Top open-source learning management systems

A learning management system is a software program dedicated to education. Today we discuss the top open-source learning management systems.

Fidel Chaves
8 min read

Before 2020, Learning Management Systems were already the essential tool in favor of the digital transformation for all levels of education. The year of pandemic only enhanced their implementation in response to an urgent need. Today, LMSs play a crucial role in continuing educational processes worldwide. In all likelihood, teaching and learning will have changed to be something different from what we knew before the pandemic, and in this new reality, part of the bond between teachers and students may occurs through a LMS.

 

Learning Management Systems are, after all, content websites that enable the interaction between teachers and students. And they are required to meet functionality parameters: content management, user roles, calendars, progress-tracking tools, video conferences, online assignments and exams, and registration through social networks are some of the most significant features.

Open-source learning management system

We have already discussed what open source means, but here is a quick reminder. Open source is a term born after a critical examination of the political and moral connotations in the free software movement. Open-source software is publicly available code. Any person can see, distribute and modify it at their whim. It is often cheaper, more flexible, and has a longer life cycle as it does not rely on a single company or author. That sounds okay so far, but what is a learning management system?

 

A learning management system (LMS) is a software program dedicated to education and can be used by any group of people: businesses, high schools, universities, or the government. This kind of software emerged straight out of e-Learning; as internet usage and distance education kept growing, the LMS has started replacing traditional learning practices. Even if they made their first appearance in higher education, these systems are often used in the corporate world to assess and train employees. These platforms have come a long way: new versions include automated recommendations for courses based on the user’s skill and learning history. That is what I call putting AI at the service of human learning.

 

Most open-source learning management systems are web-based and can support different embedded technologies. They were originally developed to be hosted locally, but they now have changed to a SaaS (software as a service) business model, with provided hosting.

 

Without further ado, here are the top five open-source learning management systems. I know that the market is more complex than that, but an exhaustive list can feel quite exhausting for the reader and writer alike.

Top five open-source Learning Management Systems

#1 Moodle

Moodle is the most known and used open-source eLearning platform worldwide. Since its creation in 2002 by an Australian educator and computer scientist, Moodle showed constant growth, reaching over 200 million users. It has a simple interface that makes it a top pick for schools and universities. Its user interface is somewhat plain, but it provides flexibility to adapt to each educational project.

#2 Canvas

Canvas stands out for its intuitive way of working but also its modern user interface. As a differential, it is hosted on the cloud, so it does not require a server. Apart from the free version, there is a business version called Canvas Network. Focused on aesthetics, it has a responsive design that adapts to smartphones and tablets while also offering apps for iOS and Android.

#3 Chamilo

Chamilo, though not as popular as Moodle, has already reached more than 180 countries and grown to over 20 million users. Easy to use and understand, it seeks to become a highly adaptable and accessible alternative for any project. This LMS platform, oriented to academic settings, is licensed under GNU/GPL v3 (General Public License), which allows installing, modifying, and creating complementary elements to fit the platform to specific needs of eLearning projects. Developed in PHP, Chamilo can run on Windows, Apple OS-X, and Linux.

#4 Sakai

Sakai is an LMS platform created in 2005 by several universities across the US (Indiana, Michigan, MIT, and Stanford) as an alternative to Moodle. Developed in Java, Sakai can be installed on a server or used as a cloud service, too. Its code is available at Github but guarded by the Sakai Core Team—a group of people from universities and partners gathered by the firm to ensure that the code is not affected by harmful practices. In 2019, the Info-Tech Research Group ranked Sakai as the best LMS platform on the market, based on reviews provided by more than 800 users.

#5 Dokeos

Although it is not 100% considered an LMS platform, Dokeos enables managing content and offers every resource for eLearning. It is focused on delivering live online classes, hence being ideal as a video conferencing solution. It was released under the GNU license (General Public License) and can be downloaded and installed on a server or used directly from its website.

 

Besides the options stated above, we can find many others popping up. With a market that is constantly shifting and presenting new competitors, static classifications do not last long. Even Drupal, the open-source CMS, has entered the field with two other alternatives that we will discuss after some introduction.

What does CMS mean, why use Drupal, and the relationship with LMS

As a quick reminder, CMS refers to software used to create, manage and update content.It allows you to create a framework, a standardized set of practices, and criteria to manage content without the need for specialized technical expertise. As we already talked before, Drupal is our CMS of choice,and we showed many of its strengths. The robustness and flexibility of Drupal's developments for its Content Management Systems are also reflected in Learning Management Systems. Drupal is an open-source system and, as such, it offers three key attributes: lower costs than commercial products, flexible development owing to the dynamic contribution of the open-source community, and maximum security (since code is accessible to anyone, developers can locate and correct bugs faster than in commercial products).

 

Drupal offers advantages as a content management system that make it the best possible starting point to develop a Learning Management System. Drupal is multipurpose and highly configurable. It enables publishing articles, images, and multiple files. It also allows users to include forums, surveys, and blogs while managing users and permissions.

What can Drupal offer?

#1 Educational sites can be used by teachers, students, parents, friends, and guests, granting different access rights.

 

#2 An interface translated into more than 100 languages, enabling developing sites for educational institutions across the world.

 

#3 Systems are compatible with mobile devices by default.

 

#4 A community of enthusiasts who are constantly coming up with solutions to aid distance-learning evolution.

Two Drupal-based Learning Management Systems.

Opigno

Opigno is a Learning Management System based on Drupal 8 aimed at managing online courses. It offers a high-class functionality package for students and is compatible with SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model). What does this mean? SCORM refers to a set of specifications governing content production for eLearning, i.e., it is a beacon to follow when sharing educational content.

 

Opigno 2.0 is a stable, robust, and flexible tool which is also compatible with all Drupal modules offering thousands of additional extensions. It is one of the best options to provide ready-to-use eLearning experiences these days.

Wrupal

This LMS is also derived from the Drupal-based Opigno distribution and remains open source. It is an alternative for academies, training centers, companies, and other organizations because of its qualities: flexibility and versatility. Wrupal allows to create virtual classrooms, organize individual or group training, track student performance statistics, set up webinars, upload content, and market available courses.

LMS options listed

I know I said I would not make an exhaustive list, and be sure, this is not the case. If you are used to investigating, you know the drill. The further you go down the rabbit hole, the more options appear, the wackier everything gets, and the choice paralysis gets stronger. We had the same issue when choosing an audit tool. Now let me overwhelm you with open-source learning management systems options.

 

Moodle

Talent LMS

Forma LMS

ILIAS

Opigno

OpenOLAT

SAKAI

Dokeos

Chamilo

Open edX

Totara Learn

Canvas

Forma

Effectus

.LRN

ATutor

Edu-Sharing

LatitudeLearning

Nera

NexusComply Solution

Opentute

Percolate

Thinkific

GoSkills

 

So yeah, having seven options described in the article might not look like much, but those are the ones that amount to most of the market share and remain open source (data on sources below). As always, feel free to send us a message to clear up any doubts.

 

At Awkbit, we have always chosen open-source software, and we have experience implementing learning management systems. We work with Drupal for its robustness, flexibility, and scalability, three essential attributes for a learning environment. Are you planning to get started with an eLearning project? Do you want to set up an LMS for your organization?

Reach Out!

Sources & further reading