Switching your campus from one learning management system to another can entail risk—especially since the LMS has quickly grown into one of the most mission-critical and heavily used applications for many institutions. But making a smart decision in choosing a new LMS can greatly reduce the risks surrounding a new system—in addition to making it a smoother and more cost-effective move.
Institutions should look for a scalable and reliable infrastructure, a software application that is flexible to fit their needs, and change management and support services to transition their faculty, staff and students to a new LMS.
Investing in a new commercial learning management system traditionally means heavy upfront costs—licensing the software, purchasing appropriate servers and backup systems, training staff to manage the system, educating users and arranging support, among other things. Before you ever enter the content for that first course, your college or university must spend heavily in setting up the infrastructure and support services. An integrated approach of cloud hosting, managed open source and SaaS can mitigate that risk considerably.
Cloud hosting generally refers to off-site infrastructure that is available on-demand—the invisible layer that makes your application accessible to your users. The cloud makes it easier for institutions to quickly scale their resources up or down as needed and provides instant access to additional resources for infinite growth. By choosing a vendor who uses cloud hosting to provide high-availability infrastructure, you can enhance the reliability, scalability and security of your learning management application. You’ll also benefit from a significantly lower total cost of ownership as you no longer have to invest human, technical and financial resources into installing and maintaining the hardware and software that is required to support your learning environment. Instead, you simply pay for the resources you need and use. In addition, cloud hosting moves the responsibility for infrastructure support to a vendor who specializes in that aspect of technology.
Combined with the benefits of the cloud, also consider the risk reduction of managed open source. One of the main benefits of managed open-source solutions is the multiplier effect—when one individual, institution or vendor contributes a new module or plug-in, the entire global education community benefits. This sharing of resources aligns with core academic missions and provides a level of extensibility not available with a proprietary LMS.
Another reason that open source has traditionally been popular in higher education is that the upfront costs of software are greatly reduced because there are no licensing fees to pay. Additionally, managed open source creates a best-of-both-worlds situation for institutions because, for an added cost that is usually far less than the licensing fees paid for a closed system, you can rely on the service provider’s expertise to handle testing and certification of code, and manage the updates, upgrades and software patches that are required to maintain any application.
A third component, SaaS as a delivery method, can reduce risk even further by providing no-risk, subscription-based solutions. With SaaS delivery, much of the inherent costs of a new LMS are avoided, since you pay only for the services you want and need and avoid the need for a large permanent investment. A SaaS provider wraps the fundamental infrastructure and application components with the consultative services and support you need to get started quickly, assist with effective change management, seamlessly transition courses and content, and develop custom features and integrations to meet your institution’s unique learning management needs.
Face it, your institution’s focus and specialty isn’t providing hardware and software, training and support. It’s providing top-notch educational services. With the convergence of cloud hosting, managed open source, and SaaS, you can return to doing what you do best—and roll out a new LMS with far less risk, leaving application and resource management to a trusted vendor.
To learn more about how cloud hosting, managed open source and SaaS fit together, register to attend this upcoming Campus Technology webcast on May 20, 2010.
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