Open Source LMS – 10 Alternatives to Moodle

Since the economic downturn began I’ve noticed much more interest in open source Learning Management Systems (LMS), and it’s no surprise that when people ask what the options are, the answer is usually Moodle. Now, there’s nothing wrong with Moodle, but it certainly isn’t the only open source LMS out there.

Because there is no licensing cost involved with open source solutions, its easy for organisations to just jump in and set up the first solution that comes along. There is however a cost to installation and support, either financial or time related. Anyone setting up an LMS has a responsibility to research and choose the solution that is right for the learners and the organisation.

As a starting point here are 10 open source alternatives to Moodle. These are deliberately brief descriptions, and I would encourage you to visit these sites and explore each solution in some detail.

Docebo In use in corporate and higher education settings. Offers support for a number of different learning models and is compatible with SCORM 1.2 and 2004. It offers interfaces to external systems such as video conferencing and HR systems.

eFront The base install is quite minimalist, but this is easily extended with modules available from the site. Commercial versions with additional features are also available.

Dokeos A very well featured LMS that also offers content authoring and video conferencing tools. Supports converting Office documents into Learning Paths. Offers user synchronisation with HR management systems such as Oracle and SAP.

Claroline Aimed more at the educational than corporate arena, this system is based around specific pedagogical principles (as is Moodle). Supports SCORM content as well as a built in Wiki and other online content tools.

ATutor Actually an LCMS, ATutor also offers tools for the management of learning. The “A” stands for Accessible and it has excellent support for key accessibility standards as well as support for SCORM, IMS etc.

ILIAS Provides testing and assessment tools as well as collaboration tools such as chat and forums, and distribution technologies like RSS and podcasts.

OLAT A well featured system in its tenth year of development. Recently the winner of the “IMS Learning Impact ‘Leadership Award’ 2009 for best open source learning platform”.

Sakai Aimed at Universities, this project has a clear roadmap and has seem considerable development in the last few years. Backed by the Sakai Foundation which manages relationships with educational and commercial supporters.

.LRN Originally developed at MIT, .LRN claims to be the most widely adopted enterprise class open source LMS solution.

openelms Marketed specifically as a business solution, and claims a diverse customer base that ranges from Merrill Lynch to Queens Park Rangers football club.

Ganesha This LMS developed by Anema, has been around since 2001 and is in use in several large organisations. The site, and the LMS itself, are in French but it can be translated.

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Facebook and democracy

It’s a sign of  how quickly things move in the field of social media, that I was half way though composing a post about content licensing and the recent furore over Facebook’s changes to their terms of service, when what should pop into my feed reader, but another bombshell from Mark Zuckerberg and co. Only this time, they seem to have got it right, or at least they intend to.

This post on the Facebook blog outlines what they intend to do. Essentially, they plan to take a more democratic approach, giving members the opportunity to comment and vote on changes to the way the site is managed. They’ve made a start by inviting comment and discussion on two documents that would become the foundation of the new way of working; the Facebook Principles and the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

Of course, only time will tell how well this new approach works, and that will depend both on Facebook’s commitment to these principles, and the user’s willingness to engage with them in this way.

You might be cynical and say, “hey, isn’t this just another big company screwing up and now desperately back pedaling?”, but for me, this is what web 2.0 is all about. Things change rapidly and as a result companies like Facebook sometimes get it wrong, but I can forgive them this as long as they keep listening, learning and changing. Better that than the over cautious, focus group obsessed approach of 20th century business.

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Don’t blame PowerPoint

Jay Cross has written a post called PowerPoint is tyranny, about whether offsite conferences need to change. I’ve not seen Jay’s presentation, but I don’t think we can lay the blame at PowerPoint’s door.

Like everything else in this rapidly changing world, conference organisers need to demonstrate value. It will no longer be acceptable to roll out the same old faces, talking about the same old subjects and charging excessive prices for the privilege of attending.

For example, the eLearning Guild Annual Gathering will cost you $1369.00 for 2.5 days of sessions run by speakers that the eLearning Guild thinks you should see.

Compare that to DrupalCon, where I’ve paid $250.00 for 3.5 days of sessions run by awesome speakers that the attendees voted for.

The differences?

  • The latter is a gathering of open source (and open minded) people there to share their passion for the open source platform we all use. It’s not a commercial event, designed to turn a profit. (Make no mistake though, DrupalCon isn’t some kind of open source love-in. There are commercial sponsors, and there will be many commercial conversations and deals going on).
  • There is a fundamental attitude of sharing what you know, without any expectation of commercial benefit.
  • Many of the DrupalCon presentations talk about the future, whereas L&D conference agendas are filled with what’s been done. Have we not got the message yet that information has a ridiculously short shelf life?

Conferences will have to change if they want to survive, and I think we’ll all benefit as a result.

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Learning Technologies – A week later

It seems impossible that seven days have gone by since I was getting packed for Learning Technologies. It’s been something of a whirlwind. As always, I came away exhausted and with a head full of ideas. It was great to catch up with people I hadn’t seen for a while, and to meet a whole raft of interesting new ones.

Here are the highlights of the event for me.

Tony Buzan – This isn’t the first time I’ve seen him speak, and in all honesty there wasn’t much in the content of his keynote that I hadn’t already heard. But, he is an inspiring speaker with a true passion for his subject that rubs off on everyone.

Seb Schmoller – Introducing himself as someone more normally focused on the learning than the technology, Seb went on to deliver what for me was one of the highlights of the two days. The falling cost of technology, the ubiquity of tools and connections and the increasing prevalence of open source and open content, will continue to change the way people learn. We fail to keep up with this at our peril.

Jane Hart – As always with Jane, there were new tools to share, but I was more interested in the work she is doing with the University of East London. They are building a social learning platform, based on the open source Elgg. The project is still in it’s early stages and I hope Jane will be able to share more when the project is live.

Andy Tedd – This was a very entertaining and informative insight into some of the activity taking place at the BBC’s College of Journalism. Anyone wondering about what it is that makes Web 2.0/Learning 2.0 work, would have found their answer in one of Andy’s slides;

Peer Recommendation

Peer Recommendation

Peer Recommendation

Finally, I’m not suggesting that my own session was a highlight from the audience perspective, although I do hope it was useful, but I can say that it was a highlight for me. It was one of the new format sessions, with three speakers each presenting for 8 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of questions from the floor. Although we were close to the end of the event, and fatigue was taking hold, there were some great questions from the audience. I plan on expanding on my answers to those questions here on the blog.

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Twitter and RSS

twitter and rss logos

Twitter has had a great deal of media coverage this month, from worldwide news stories like the Hudson River crash and Obama’s inauguration through to its discussion by Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross (@stephenfry and @wossy respectively) on the latter’s Friday night talk show.

I wanted to share a handy way of using RSS feeds to keep on top of specific Twitter topics of interest.

For example, during the build up to this week’s Learning Technologies conference, there’s been a lot of related activity on Twitter, and to make it easier to find those Tweets, they’ve been tagged as #LT09UK. There are various ways that you can find all Tweets with that tag, such as using the #Hashtags search,  but one of the simplest is to head over to and use the familiar search interface.

That’s okay if you just want to do the search once, but what if you want regular updates? Well, you could simply come back and run the search again, or bookmark the url to make it a one click process. Or you could save time, and use RSS.

Once you’ve run your Twitter search, click on the RSS icon on the left of the page, and add the feed to your reader.

twitter search and rss feed

Now each time you check your feed reader, any new items matching the search criteria will be displayed. You can set up as many searches as you like and subscribe to them all.

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Nothing Important to Communicate?

speech bubble

Setting up this blog is something that has been on my mind for close to a year. That’s an embarrasing confession for someone who spends a great deal of time telling people that starting a blog is easy. There are several reasons that it’s taken so long to go from idea to reality, not the least of which was my decision to go from comfy corporate life to freelance consultant. But there’s more to it than that.

It’s about producing something worthwhile.

I’ve been reading Jupiter’s Travels, the story of Ted Simon’s four year journey around the world by motorcycle back in the 1970’s. Whilst travelling across Africa, he is reading one of Henry Thoreau’s journals, and reaches this conclusion;

“He wrote: ‘We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.’ If Thoreau were alive today he would have full confirmation of his fears. Instant information is instantly obsolete. Only the most banal ideas can successfully cross great distances at the speed of light. And anything that travels very far very fast is scarcely worth transporting…”.

So with no little trepidation, and keeping those thoughts in mind, it is my hope that this site evolves to be something useful. For those reading, and for me writing it.

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