E-learning platforms: to buy or not to buy…Cloud or On-Premise

The content distribution platforms (Learning Management Systems) for our trainees is a key component of implementing a program as it will accompany us for several years.

It would be useful to have the help of the company’s IT while choosing it,  however from our experience the following are the key points to explore before choosing your platform:  

1. Open Source or Commercial
2. Cloud / SaaS or On Premise
3. LMS Authoring Tools or 3rd Party.

We will try to shed some light on all three points, taking into account our experience, to help you as much as we can in your choice.

Open Source or Commercial?

With the predominance of Linux, open source software gained a foothold in the market as a business solution, so it is not surprising that Open Source software is now offered to cover many business needs (CRM, HCM, Help Desk, etc.).                                                                         

So in the e-learning market there are many Open Source options with Moodle gaining ground, and now being one of the main choices of our customers.

The main advantage of an Open Source LMS is that there is no license purchase cost, therefore there is no limit to the number of users or courses that one can upload. Some times additional functionalities are also free (although there is usually a small charge for add-ons with more professional features).

However, one should not ignore the fact that commercially licensed platforms also offer benefits. The most important, in our opinion, is the ready interface with other systems that can be offered by the publisher of the LMS. Most of the times such an LMS is a subsystem of a larger ERP. For example, an HCM software can have the functionality of the Evaluation,  the Training, the LMS as subsystems. This way it automatically consolidates all the information for the development of the HR under a database. Some commercial LMSs have created such interfaces with well-known ERPs on the market, but still do not consider the interface to be automatic and effortless…

A key factor in both options is to have a trained staff on the provider side to carry out the implementation task, which is not just a technical IT project (note that this is usually the characteristic of IT Integrators). They must take into account all the requirements and the educational process followed by each company.

Last but not least – SCORM support is the minimum to ask for so that we can seamlessly upload our own or other ready course content.

Cloud/SaaS or On-Premise?

This question has been answered by the market for a long time already. Providing Cloud / SaaS is preferable (also from a financial point of view) as technologies are changing very fast, software updates are constant and it makes no sense for a company’s IT (unless there are special reasons) to install a platform on an internal infrastructure. Commercial versions of LMS are only available in Cloud / SaaS licensing format while Open Source can also be installed locally. Local installation is usually chosen by educational institutions for obvious reasons.

When choosing a Cloud / SaaS solution with Open Source software, it’s important to consider the physical location of the Data Center, if it meets ISO 27001 criteria and GDPR issues. The pricing policy differs as there are providers that offer a service with a user or course rating, and others that have a fixed charge regardless of the number of users or courses.

The same approach should be considered for the content authoring tool that we will see below.

LMS Authoring Tools or 3rd party?

Most LMSs come with their own Authoring tool as a free extra, that seems attractive at a first sight. However, there is a pitfall here. If we start building content with a built-in writing software, it is very likely that in the future it will not be possible to switch to another newer technology or better functioning platform.

After 1-2 years if there is a library of 20-30 courses that have been created, it is very likely that they can not be easily transferred to a new LMS platform. For this reason we always suggest to our clients to choose an Authoring Tool besides the LMS.

Contact us, so we can create the training program to meet your company needs!