Open-Source vs. Closed-Source: Why the Technology Your LMS Uses is Important

By September 18, 2017 No Comments
open-source vs. closed source

When looking for a new Learning Management System (LMS), there are a multitude of questions that must be asked, starting with: What do I need my LMS to be able to do to allow us to reach our eLearning goals? However, one initial consideration that people often overlook is the type of technology an LMS uses. Your LMS technology will determine the type of functionality you’ll be able to use to meet your eLearning goals.

Therefore, when beginning the LMS evaluation process, you must first choose whether to utilize an open-source or a closed-source learning management system. Let’s explore the differences between the two and highlight a few of the advantages of choosing an open-source LMS.

Open-Source vs. Closed-Source Technology: What’s the Difference?

First, we’ll provide definitions for both types of Learning Management System software.

Open-Source Software – Denotes software for which the original code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified.

Closed-Source Software – Unlike open-source systems, closed-source software (also referred to as proprietary software) does not share their code.

To put these terms into perspective, here are some examples of open-source vs closed-source technology:

  • Android phones (open source) or iPhones (closed source)
  • WordPress (open source) or Squarespace (closed source)

Commonly, open-source dominates – or at the very least gives closed-source a run for its money – in various sectors like mobile, database, and web front-end. Open source allows you to constantly update, customize, and expand your platform. Conversely, closed-source solutions arguably tend to offer more user-friendliness, security, and support directly.

Why Do We Love Open Source?

Here at eThink, we are very big advocates of open-source products, like Moodle™ and its corporate offshoot Totara. An open-source LMS give you the flexibility to utilize a best-of-breed content strategy to incorporate the best content and eLearning tools into your platform. Closed source options are simply limiting. Conversely, open source allows you to constantly customize your LMS to meet your specific needs. When utilized to its best abilities, open-source technology also provides other advantages, including top security, ownership of data, cutting-edge technology, and high service standards.


One of the more common questions we receive is around security. A common misconception in the market is that an open-source product isn’t secure. It is actually quite the opposite!

Moodle™ consistently releases an update once every 6 months. These updates not only incorporate new user-requested features but provide security patches to combat and prevent any potential issues. Also, as an open-source product with visible code, the Moodle™ community is able to find and note any security issues. This means security glitches are recognized much faster and patches are turned around almost immediately. So really, the more eyes on the code, the better!

Furthermore, going with a Certified Partner like eThink provides you with added security, as we have our own security measures in place around our servers to ensure complete LMS protection.

Ownership of Data

Another aspect of security, but an important advantage on its own, is the ownership of one’s own data. With a closed-source solution, they often are the only available support for your LMS. As your sole LMS vendor, they have the power to raise prices or even charge you to buy back your own data if you decide to switch solutions.

With an open-source system, you will always own your data and your LMS code.  If you’re less than satisfied with your current hosting partner, easily bring your learning platform in-house or move to another service provider. Open source leaves you in charge of your data, and rightfully so!

Most Up-to-Date System

With an open-source product like Moodle™, you can expect the most up-to-date system. Users constantly monitor an improve it, ensuring the integrity of the code. As a result, open source often means a higher-quality solution.

Moodle™ HQ developers are constantly working to ensure the product includes cutting-edge technology and features. However, Moodle™’s open-source functionality also allows for an entire community of developers across the globe to contribute to the code. If there is ever a gap in functionality, any developer within the community has the opportunity to contribute and update. These updates can be added into the core code or added in through free plugins. Speaking of plugins, as Moodle™ is modular in nature, the platform is incredibly flexible. Typically, with more than one way an objective can be accomplished within the system, Moodle™ really encourages a best-of-breed approach.

On the other hand, with closed-source solutions, there is only one team of developers working to keep their system up-to-date. Also, there is typically only way an objective can be accomplished and it may not be what works best for you. Closed-source platforms are typically more rigid in terms of flexibility and customization options.

Lastly, as previously mentioned, the developers at Moodle™ HQ release an updated version of Moodle™ every 6 months. Certified partners like eThink Education are able to give our clients a voice within the Moodle™ community and advocate for their specific wants and needs.

LMS Services

As previously mentioned, closed-source solutions solely manage and execute product development. This means you pay for not only the LMS license and support, but also the upkeep and evolution of the product. This may be the biggest advantage for an open-source LMS. When you go open source you don’t pay for licensing fees – only for service. This means that you should expect the highest level of service from your open-source LMS provider.

Here at eThink service is our number one priority. This asset has been instrumental in allowing us to maintain a 99% client retention rate over 11 years of business. We take a fully-managed approach to eLearning, meaning that our team of eLearning experts will take care of every need related to your LMS including implementation, integration, consultation, and management of your system. As part of our hands-on approach to eLearning, clients simply submit a ticket and we make the requested changes – no sending you to an instruction manual or providing steps on how to accomplish the task yourself.

Therefore, when evaluating different LMS options, make sure that you are asking about their level of support. This is an extremely important consideration and one of the main reasons clients make the switch to become a satisfied eThink client.

In conclusion, these are a few of the important differences to consider between an open-source and closed-source LMS. What it comes down to is what level of control and flexibility you will need with your LMS. In particular, if owning your code is important to you and you will want to have the ability to customize your platform to meet your specific needs, then open-source is the way to go.

If you aren’t sure whether a closed-source or open-source LMS would be better for helping you meet your eLearning goals, or if you’re concerned your current software is restricting you, it may be time to talk with an eLearning expert.

Request a demo to speak with one of our eLearning experts about the possibilities available with eThink’s open-source solutions.

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By September 18, 2017