How do I Choose Open Source vs Proprietary LMS


Open Source vs Proprietary LMS: How Do I Choose?

October 23, 2019 | 4 Min Read

Managing LMS Costs: How to make cost-saving eLearning decisions

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"Which LMS is right for me?"

It may not be the most exciting decision your organization will ever make, but it’s still one of the most important steps in developing an eLearning program. The choice between hosting your content on an open source or proprietary LMS has significant implications for the way your eLearning scales in the future, so it’s important to develop a detailed understanding of the opportunities each model offers, as well as exactly what your organization needs.


In this post, we will cover:

  • What is a proprietary LMS?
  • What is an open source LMS?
  • How do I know which LMS is right for me?
  • The bottom line: open source vs proprietary


What is a proprietary LMS?

The defining feature of all proprietary LMS platforms is the licensing fees and 'closed code'. Subscriptions and license fees are required for access. These are normally paid on an annual basis, alongside other fees related to maintenance. So if you’re considering a proprietary platform, the first port of call should be to find out exactly what subscription and fee costs cover - and what they don’t.

For significant investments, proprietary LMS vendors offer a high degree of external support. The platform itself is managed and maintained by the provider, and a technical team is on hand to offer personal support for issues arising with your content. However, the initial investment is only one factor to consider in deciding between proprietary vs open source LMS. 

Because proprietary systems are ‘closed’ users need to trust in a vendor’s ability to maintain their platform over the long-term, against issues like bugs and security patches, as well as mergers or market forces. 


For help on weighing initial investments against potential benefits, take a look at our white paper:

READ: Assessing The ROI Of A Learning Management System

If you’re building a business case for a proprietary LMS, demonstrating ROI should be near the top of your list.


What is an open source LMS?

eLearning on an open source platform is all about combining individual control with cost-efficiency. Open source systems are freely distributed without licensing fees, can be run in-house, and maintained by the users themselves. This model has a number of distinct advantages, including the ability to create a truly bespoke, optimized learning platform. In addition, new functionalities or upgrades can be implemented immediately and for free, which is something not covered by every proprietary subscription.

However, this level of accessibility and control comes with its own set of requirements. Organizations must have the infrastructure necessary to support a fully operational LMS. This includes hosting servers with a team able to run and maintain them. It also requires an L&D team familiar with your LMS platform. Because of this, many organizations find the best way of building an eLearning program with open source LMS is through a managed hosting solution, the best of which are True Cloud Hosting that keeps performance high, security tight, and ready to scale as your needs grow.


How do I know which LMS is right for me?

If you’re still unsure about How to Choose the Best LMS for Your Organization or Business, try looking at the issue from the opposite perspective. What does your organization’s eLearning program look like now, and how do you see it scaling over the next few years?

Building an accurate picture of your current eLearning program gives you a tangible method of deciding between open source and proprietary models, because it becomes quickly apparent where changes will need to be made to adapt to a new system.

Thinking from the perspective of your business needs also reveals any idiosyncrasies between the learning solution that seems best right now, and what will work in the future. This is particularly true for start-ups and other quickly expanding businesses. What might work perfectly for 50 employees may not have the scalability to accommodate 500 employees!

For help on creating a constructive discussion about which LMS platform best suits your needs, take a look at this blog post: 3 Common Mistakes Organizations Make When Choosing an LMS and How to Avoid Them.


The bottom line: open source vs proprietary

Proprietary platforms offer users a fully comprehensive package, providing peace of mind through managed upgrades and technical support teams - and charging for the service.

Open source LMS, on the other hand, provide cost-efficiency for the majority of businesses, even when taking into account necessary investments in internal infrastructure. Open source platforms are also arguably more suited to organizations looking for a long-term solution to building a bespoke eLearning platform.

Want even more eLearning cost-saving advice?
Get the best practices for cost-effective eLearning with this free paper:

Managing LMS Costs: How To Make Cost-Saving eLearning Decisions


Whether you’re looking to manage the costs of your Learning Management System, are looking to optimize your LMS and eLearning programs with learning analytics, or need any other eLearning solutions for selling online training courses (eCommerce solution), we have the expertise to help you reach your goals.

Contact us today. We’d love to help you create a better way to learn!

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