We suggest the following logic to compare and eventually choose a LMS:
1. Choose the right type of LMS
2. Choose the right product feature-wise
Let’s start with stage one.
LMS Types Comparison
LMS types are differentiated by 2 main criteria: licensing type and deployment type.
From the licensing type perspective there are 2 types of LMS: Proprietary and Open Source software.
- Proprietary LMSs are licensed under exclusive legal rights, restricted from modification, further distribution, reverse engineering and other uses. They are closed-source with license costs per user.
- Open source LMSs, on the contrary, work under the terms of the GNU General Public License. The license is intended to guarantee freedom to share and change the programme and ensures that it is free for all users.
From the deployment method perspective there are also 2 types of LMS: On-premise and Cloud LMS.
- On-Premise Learning Management Systems are most of the time enterprise products hosted on the company’s own server. They are traditionally more expensive, but their price can be justified by the fact that they offer more customization and individualization than any other type, and they tackle scalability issues. Most of them can be integrated with other locally hosted products.
- Cloud-hosted LMSs are probably the most popular option among companies looking for streamlined and cost-effective training. They are hosted on the Internet and accessed by logging on the vendors’ site, which is exactly where all communication and training take place. Due to the fact that there are no implementation and maintenance costs, they are ranked as the least expensive solutions for online training.
So what type of LMS would suit you best?
LMS Comparison - The Logic
When you enter the market of learning management systems, it is critical to compare and contrast all the options, services, and features available.
"Elearningindustry" defines 99 criteria and features for an LMS. We’ve combined them with the most discussed features and other portals’ review characteristics to define more general groups and subgroups of main categories.
LMS Consideration Factors
For our LMS comparison, we’ll use such main groups and subgroups of categories:
- Content management system
- SCORM, LTI, API
- Assessment Tracking
- Administration Reporting
- Feedback Tracking
- Student Tracking
- Automated Report Creation
- Gamification/ Simulations technologies
- Assessment and Testing technologies
- Audio/Video Conferencing tools
- Learning outcomes technologies (Grading functionality)
- Social & collaboration technologies (chat tools)
- Customizable LMS Branding
- Customizable Reporting
- Customizable User Interface
- Customizable Functionality
- Customizable Certificates
- Adaptive learning
- Social learning
- Blended/Hybrid learning
Integral Quality Score Calculation
We believe in metrics. So, to evaluate different LMS solutions and choose the best options, one needs some metrics to compare them. One of the best way to compare different products/services is the “multi-attribute utility” model approach. So we used this approach to evaluate the frontrunners of each LMS type (proprietary and open source).
The main principles are:
- When one chooses LMS they look for some crucial characteristics (sub characteristics)
- Different characteristics affect differently on the final decision. We’ll call the level of such influence ‘feature weighting’. For example, choosing a new laptop, we can consider such factors: performance, design, battery life, display quality, sound quality. But these features have a different impact on our decision, so feature weighting could be the following:
Performance - 40%
Battery life - 20%
Display Quality - 20%
Sound Quality - 10%
Design - 10%
The sum is always 100%
- Different features work differently in different products. Some are perceived as “better” some as “worse”. We’ll call these rates “feature performance”. Feature performance will be assessed from 0 (worst) to 1 (best)
- A combination of features weight and their performance can be the integral score that is useful in comparison of different products.
To be more precise, it can be calculated using such formula:
FW, fw, fp are defined by our research based on CHLOE 3 and CHLOE 2 report, The Complete LMS Buying Guide, blog posts and discussions on industry-leading forums like Elearningindustry, Capterra, Quora, Trustradius, Class Centra, Software Advice… 200+ resources in total.
So, below are feature weight info for higher level and their lower-level factors:
Comparison of Top 3 Proprietary LMS
Let's take a look at selected Top 3 Proprietary LMS and compare all the mentioned features.
Litmos | Learning Management System Review
Litmos is a cloud-based continuous learning platform that unifies learning management, an extended enterprise, prepackaged content, and a content management system to meet any organization training needs.
The system lets users build logical learning paths, send messages and notifications and track corporate compliance. Gamification features make the learning experience more engaging while eCommerce tools provide a way to monetize course materials. The system supports Tin Can and SCORM content as well as mobile access and many third-party applications. Litmos LMS created eLearning environment that can serve as the foundation for all training tasks and related data.
LearnUpon | Learning Management System Review
LearnUpon is an online Learning Management system designed to meet the needs of a wide range of businesses and institutions. It was introduced to resolve the problems faced by larger organizations and to help them keep their employees and students updated with all the necessary information. To make learning easier for your students, LearnUpon has a mobile responsive interface so your website will appear equally attractive on a mobile device as it does on a desktop. All of the information in LMS is presented in reports. There are multilingual options also available. This makes sure that LearnUpon serves institutes from different parts of the world equally and effectively.
TalentLMS | Learning Management System Review
TalentLMS describes itself as a “super-easy cloud LMS” that can be used to train customers, students, partners or employees. It is fully customizable to your own needs, with simple analytics about everything that happens inside your elearning environment. It offers strong support for SCORM & TinCan (xAPI), notifications, course selling, video-conferencing, gamification, extensible user-profiles and more features. The services cater to very small to medium size organizations with options for larger businesses.
Top 3 Open Source LMS vendors and Open edX
Let's consider Top 3 Open Source LMS vendors and compare them with Open edX LMS platform. Top 3 Open Source LMS vendors are Sakai, Moodle, Canvas
Sakai | Learning Management System Review
Sakai is an open-source eLearning solution that can suit small-to-mid-sized companies or student groups. It provides integration with an ample list of third-party modules and plugins and can be extensively customized to meet almost any needs of both students and teachers. However, some of its features are bulky (many reviewers and commenters found its calendar a bit hard to use, work with media content rather complicated, email notifications hard to set up, etc.) Due to being open source, Sakai can shine in the hands of a skilled IT department able to push this LMS platform to its limits.
Open edX | Learning Management System Review
Open edx platform is an open-source educational initiative, a joint venture of giants like MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, Google and others, widely adopted in companies and educational institutions worldwide. Due to its XBlock technology allowing easy content creation and management, as well as detailed platform customization, Open edX rapidly grows in popularity. Easily scalable and customizable, fitting both for corporate training and for online learning, offering thousands of ready XBlocks out of the box, virtual laboratories for experiments and even a chatbot for better UX - choosing the Open edX service provider can become a great choice. The flaws include the need for good knowledge of Ansible, Vagrant and Virtualbox for correct installation (either from your IT department or contractors), rather long process of setting up the Open edX Analytics system - Insights, certain inconvenience of student management, and absence of self-paced learning possibilities.
Moodle | Learning Management System Review
Moodle is a freemium online learning solution, where basic functions are free yet advanced functionality comes at a price. It is a popular solution that meets standard needs and requirements, providing a stable eLearning solution for mid-to-large businesses and educational organizations. It is open source, a huge variety of extensions is available and there are no subscription fees. However, Moodle has some serious drawbacks - it’s not easily customizable, full setup of the platform takes around 18 months, each server requires a separate set of hardware to run and customers have to develop add-ons and plug-ins on their own. However, given an appropriate budget and adequate skillset of IT department, Moodle can become a real treasure grove.
Canvas | Learning Management System Review
Canvas by Instructure is a freemium LMS solution distributed under the motto of being simple, easy to use and highly customizable. Being mobile-friendly, allowing intense student collaboration and convenient progress tracking, Canvas is a decent choice for a small college or large company. However, many advanced features are distributed on the paid basis and you have to pay for personnel training while Canvas is adopted; in addition, while declared open source, final control over Canvas development is still in Instructure’s hands, so some specific modules might require in situ or third-party development.
As you can see, there is a variety of options that can suit any customer. Each of these popular LMS platforms have their own pros and cons, so when you are deciding how to choose the best LMS you'll have a variety of options.