Several organizations choose an open-source LMS, assuming it is free. But eventually, does it really arrive at no cost? Sure, the software’s source code is freely available for download and is free to modify and use. However, there are several hidden costs that organizations need to be cognizant of before opting for this solution. In this article, we highlight the accurate, long-term price of the so-called ‘free LMS’. Therefore, let’s get on with it!
Is a Free Open-Source LMS really Free of Cost?
What is an open-source LMS? An OSS is a practical example of open collaboration. It uses a licensed source code, which offers users the option to use, study, change, and distribute the software. An OSS LMS can be used for multiple activities in EdTech (for both corporates and educational institutions). Some areas where you can use OSS LMS are blended learning, distance learning, flipped classroom, and e-learning.
Organizations generally opt for an OSS, believing that it is entirely free. But is this true? Are there really no hidden costs involved? It is true that the source code of the software is available openly for download and is free to use. However, we have several hidden costs that companies must be aware of before choosing this solution. In this article, we highlight the accurate, long-term price of the so-called ‘free LMS’. So, let’s get on with it!
Hidden Costs of an Open-source Free LMS?
Installation and Customization
When you download and install a free LMS, you can immediately access the code without paying any extra fee. You can also get the user licenses for free. But the issues arise once you decide to get the LMS running. You have to search for the required skills needed to install the server. Again, you will need to set up an extensive hosting infrastructure, which can handle several users simultaneously. For all of the activities mentioned above, you might have to seek the guidance of your IT team or recruit external experts. In either of the cases, you end up spending quite an amount of money.
Now, several OSS LMSs offer a gamut of rich features. They provide the flexibility to customize features and designs as per your specifications. However, after installing the software, you will have to personalize the experience according to your brand image. You will also require configuring specific features. Even for the tasks mentioned above, you might have to deploy your IT department or an implementation partner — which will charge you. The entire process of setting up the server, customization, and branding demands professional guidance or inputs from your in-house teams.
After the installation and customization processes, your next step is to host your free LMS as the users will need to access the software for learning and training. You have two options here — host the LMS on-premise by buying the specified hardware or host the LMS on the cloud. In the second scenario, you are advised to subscribe to a reliable hosting service. Usually, the cloud is cheaper when compared to a hardware purchase. Hence, you have to decide on a hosting service that best suits your requirements.
Next up. What about technical support. It’s not common for open-source, free LMSs to offer dedicated and consistent tech support. To find solutions, you will usually have to look for forums where getting a time-bound answer is a problem. Since the customization and administration of an open-source LMS is solely your responsibility, you will need to solve technical roadblocks like de-bugging and upgrades on your own. Yes, all of these consume precious hours. Yet again, you will have to seek the advice of a dedicated IT team or external experts to give you timely solutions. Yes, it involves extra costs as well.
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Training and Administration
You cannot, by yourself, administer most of the open-source, free LMSs. You will end up seeking expert assistance. And this demands money and a budget. The choice is yours — do you want to deploy your in-house staff, or do you wish to hire an external professional. Will they be full time or part-time? Moreover, you will also need to offer the necessary training to your LMS administrators.
Finally, following the customization and setup of an open-source, free LMS, you must improvise on its features as your organization evolves continually. For installing the next upgrade, you spend some extra bucks. But this cost is not included in the upfront budget. Even in such a case, you have to access expert help or IT team support for installing upgrades and adding new features. The activity mentioned above entails expenses as well.
Open-source and free Learning Management Systems seem to be the ideal cost-effective solution compared to a commercial LMS. There are no licensing costs. You even have the flexibility to customize and add features. But as you can see above, they do involve several hidden expenses. Hence, it is advisable to consider all the factors before picking an open-source, “free” LMS. PlayAblo LMS is a feature-rich and highly affordable option if you think a SaaS-based LMS might suit your organization.
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