Are open source VLEs/LMSs taking off in UK universities?

Blackboard has the lion’s share of the US higher education LMS market but how’s it faring in the UK? Further education colleges are switching to Moodle in droves as I noted recently. But changing your VLE can be a massive project for a large university, involving the migration of huge amounts of content and upskilling of staff.

Alejandro Chiner, Service Innovation Officer at the University of Warwick has surveyed UK higher education institutions to find that 63% are still centrally providing commercial VLEs (presumably mostly Blackboard/WebCT). 23% provide Moodle centrally and 10.5% SAKAI. Chiner reports:

there is a growing number of institutions who have migrated to Open Source (OS) alternatives, and they seem happy with the outcome. The migration process is a major project that can take two years, but the costs associated are quickly offset by the savings in licence fees. More importantly, OS allows VLE integration with a range of ad-hoc systems and freedom from vendor lock-in. The HEI community is developing a range of cutting-edge application plug-in and tools to integrate other systems with either Moodle or Sakai.

I’m not convinced that the licence fee savings quickly offset the costs of migration but there is undoubtedly greater flexibility and the ability to adapt the product and easily integrate it with other systems. And he’s right about the growing range of innovative applications being developed by universities worldwide.

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