Learning Management System Comparison – Open Source VS. Commercial

A good learning management system comparison is not easy to do especially with so many LMSes and EMSes (Education Management System) choices available today. But, we have decided it is high time to compare LMS platforms for the sake of a better understating of the differences between each one of them.

I am 100% sure we will miss something, or that our comparison is not as thorough as some would want. However, this is a good started recourse to get you going as far as what to expect when it comes to making a choice.

There are many, many, more LMS providers than the list above. And with so many options there are even more organizations relying on them to deliver their training content as well as a complete platform for their online courses. Among these organization, the twp most notable of the bunch are: the Army (which uses Skillsoft’s LMS) and McDonald’s (which uses the Saba LMS).

Moodle site

The main navigation and course list for a typical company.

Just off the top of my head, the top brands that dominate this technology are:

We have decided to narrow down our list and compare the leading software systems from each license type category (open source vs commercial).

We chose Moodle from the open source license group, and Blackboard from the commercial license group. Both are best of bread portals for today’s higher education institutions.

The main categories that should be important to you when choosing an LMS are: Ease of use (for administration, faculty, and students), vendor support (response time and training), system reliability (down times and speed), and actual costs.

Ease of Use

From our research we came to the conclusion that for administrative purposes both Blackboard and Moodle (also known as Moodle rooms) are equal in installation and setup. the one advantage that blackboard has it is well document manuals, troubleshooting guides, and general support. of course you pay for such organization but that is well worth it when it makes the administration a breeze.

Faculty also has an easier time with Blackboard, including non novice users and the none too tech savvy users. mentions of less clicking, and easier setup of classes were the main points that won with faculty. However, they did mention that Moodle was much more flexible in terms of the look and feel of the class, how it was organized, and that the general flow and style was in control of the teacher.

On the other hand, students preferred Moodle’s interface, even though some had difficulty with the navigation and organization of the document view. In general, students are known to be more tech savvy (just witness the popularity of Connexus), so they had a much easier time learning both systems. but this too came with mixed results as some students thought the interface was too cluttered and confusing.

blackboard login

The Blackboard login page

Actual Costs

This is a no brainier. Moodle is free and Blackboard isn’t. But the actual cost as an organization like yourself should consider is the time to manage, train, and generally support internally. And in that sense Blackboard is well worth its hefty price tag.

For a truly proper learning management system comparison we would suggest using both side by side and actually installing and setting up both programs. After that you should go about and creating some classes, and using the classes to really get a good feel for both systems before making such a major decision.

Here is a video on the subject done by a well respected teacher: