It was back in 2003 when I placed myself in the open-source community. As a web developer myself, I find Open Source concept intriguing and suits the current open society. Not only that it saves a lot of money (from buying commercial software), it also promotes constant development of a software without the limits of a specific software company or entity. Practically anyone (with programming knowledge) can contribute to the betterment of a software. Browse through SourceForge and Open Source Living, and you’ll know what i mean. You can find desktop applications such Firefox or OpenOffice and web-based applications like Content Management Systems, all available for free and it’s packed with features on par with other commercial software.
One area that many have yet to fully explore is Learning Management System (LMS). When it comes to open-source e-learning tools or LMS (particularly in Malaysia), many would only know the existence of Moodle. Of course, Moodle is famous mainly because it is widely used by educational institutions across the globe especially when The Open University (UK) is spending millions in using it as its main LMS. With large user base, this allows Moodle to undergo rapid development and improve. However, there are many open-source LMS available and the following systems are as good as (if not better than) Moodle.
Though the name sounds Japanese (or Iban), the Sakai Project actually began in 2004 when Stanford, Michigan, Indiana, MIT and Berkeley began building a common Courseware Management System rather than continuing their homegrown systems or licensing software from a commercial vendor. Sakai is as popular as Moodle (though many are still debating this). Unlike Moodle, Sakai is mainly coded in Java and can cause some problems in older versions of browsers. [Demo Site]
You might not have heard of Dokeos but it is a firmly established player in the LMS market. It is used in over 6,000 installations in 60 countries, serving 1.3million users and 122,000 courses. Dokeos bills itself as an ‘open source professional learning suite’. This comprises three core products: learning management system, rapid learning authoring tool and videoconferencing tool. This puts Dokeos firmly in the Learning Content Management System (LCMS) camp. Collaborative features of Dokeos include Agenda, Forums, Chat, Videoconference, Open Questions and Assignments. Dokeos looks better and less-complex in terms of interface (as compared to Moodle. If you’re looking for one simple-to-use-yet-effective LMS, then Dokeos is the one you’re looking for. [Demo Site]
eFront is available in two editions – Educational and Enterprise edition. The Enterprise edition is pitched firmly at the corporate sphere. eFront is indeed visually attractive and packed with features. The open-source edition of eFront is a fully flexible eLearning 2.0 system capable of fullfiling almost all of your learning needs. eFront is an Ajax enabled, Unicode, LDAP and SCORM supporting, multilingual eLearning platform. eFront is also avaiable for commercial license in which more added features are included with setup and maintenance support. [Demo Site]
From the first look, aTutor seems like a down-sized version of Moodle with a slightly more technical look than eFront. Since it has a smaller user base, the development on its modules are rather limited. Nonetheless, the basic features are there to be used and explored. ATutor has online test capability, and stores tests that have been completed. It has a unique tool called "My Tracker" which tracks your own navigational patterns this means that students can track their own use in addition to instructors being able to track student use of the site. For those who do not like reading everything on a screen, ATutor has a print compiler, which really helps those students or instructors who want to print out notes or a transcript of a discussion. [Demo Site]
Nope, it’s not a women’s name. Claroline is purely targetting educational realm and has the support of UNESCO. Developed by the catholic University of Louvain in Belgium as well as ECAM, the system primarily offers common tools for forums, administration of documents or online-tests. It’s easy to be used and very light (in terms of bandwidth requirements). Unforunately, the developers community is quite restricted and this limits its expansions in terms of script and features development. [Demo Site]
Thus, before you start claiming Moodle is the best, please explore other available LMS and compare. Whether or not a LMS is suitable for you depends on your pedagogical needs and of course the needs of your learners.
NOTE: Similar to Moodle, all LMS listed here are SCORM-complaint. Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is a collection of standards and specifications for web-based e-learning. It defines communications between client side content and a host system called the run-time environment (commonly a function of a learning management system). SCORM also defines how content may be packaged into a transferable ZIP file.