Home » Canvas »Moodle »Open Source »Sakai » Currently Reading:

Open Source Learning Management Systems

September 28, 2011 by Kevin Hegg Canvas, Moodle, Open Source, Sakai  1 Comment

In response to the increasing demand for flexible, robust open source learning management systems, the number and variety of  “open source” offerings have increased in the last few years.  The following are among the most widely used in academia.


The Moodle software package and documentation is licensed under one of the GPL licenses. Moodle version 1.x is licensed under GPL version 2 and Moodle 2.x under version 3 or any later version of the GPL, at the licensee’s option. Click here to view the GPL version 3 license as published on the moodle.org site. Sakai is developed under the “community source” model.


Sakai is licensed “as free and open software” under the Educational Community License (version 2). This license has been approved by the Open Source Initiative and complies with the Open Source Definition. The Sakai Foundation oversees work on the Sakai software. Sakai is developed under the “community source” model.


Canvas distributes its software through GitHub under the GNU General Public License, version 3. Canvas also distributes it software under a commercial license, offers professional services and support, and sells a hosted solution. Note that Canvas, providing both an open source and commercial license, is dual-licensed. It’s hard to figure out exactly what is missing under the open source license. An Instructure blog post (1) suggests that with the commercial license you get migration tools, SIS integration and 21st century features. The commercial version of Canvas is what powers Instructure’s hosted service.

Others Open Source LMSs

Wikipedia (2) currently lists twelve open source learning management systems:


Gartner places open source e-learning applications (aka learning management systems) at the very top of the “Plateau of Productivity” in its 2011 hype cycle graph for education (3). Gartner’s justification for placing open source e-learning applications at the top of the productivity plateau is as follows:

Open-source e-learning platforms such as Moodle and Sakai have proven to offer mature, out-of-the-box solutions; consistent adoption; and the ability to implement and bring live. Maturing community source management in the case of Sakai, and an increasing commercial support ecosystem for both Sakai and Moodle (see www.moodle.com for a listing of vendors), together with turbulence in the commercial e-learning platform market, have continued to increase the open-source software (OSS) “market share.” OSS e-learning platforms now represent 58% of all installed platforms, and are in 21% of institutions, where the platform is designated as the “single official campuswide standard for the delivery of all e-learning courses,” according to Gartner’s 2010 E-Learning Survey for Higher Education.


  1. Josh. (2011, February 28). Our Open Source Strategy. Retrieved from http://www.instructure.com/blog/2011/02/28/our-open-source-strategy/
  2. List of Learning Management Systems. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved September 29, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_learning_management_systems
  3. Lowendahl, J. (2011, July 29). Hype Cycle for Education, 2011. Retrieved from http://my.gartner.com/

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Kevin Hegg Kevin Hegg says:

    I really like how you used that footnote plugin. Too bad the superscript tag doesn’t work right. Maybe you can show me how to use the footnote plugin one day?

Comment on this Article:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Administrative Posts

Recent Comments

  • harriscm: Podcasts: Please consider adding ease of creating instructio...
  • Sarah Cheverton: I'm thinking that class rosters provide a list of students a...
  • Amanda Echterling: In regard to the class roster, I'm unclear as to how that is...
  • Mary Ann Chappell: Thinking through the details of what we want in an LMS in co...
  • Sarah Cheverton: Amanda-- I just saw this post and think it's very intriguing...