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Itmazi, Jamil, Gea, M. M., Paderewski, P. and Gutirrez, F.L. 2005.

A Comparison and
evaluation OF Open source learning managment systems. IADIS International Conference Applied Computing 2005. Algarve, Portugal. 22-25 Feb.


Jamil Ahmad Itmazi
PhD. Student
Computer Science Department, Granada University, Spain

Gea, M. M., Paderewski, P. and Gutirrez, F.L

Computer Science Department
ETSI, Granada University, Spain

The eLearning is a new modern tool of current learning system; it is becoming so important of the
learning of the universities. The core of eLearning solutions is LMS or CMS (learning/course
management systems), which help the university to automates the managing of learning events.
Some of LMS are commercial Software, while others are free Open-Source LMS. The universities
give more attention to OS-LMS, which are becoming very interesting of the eLearning landscape,
even it are competing other proprietary software.
In fact, studying and analyzing LMSs is not easy; because the serious studies that made
evaluation and comparison of the LMS are not sufficient, especially the open-source LMS, which
did not take a good attention in those studies, so we emphasis the necessity of more analysis and
study of LMSs which involve OS-LMS and we try to contribute with this article.
In this article, we make an introduction of LMS, listing some of them, choosing two OS-LMS
(Moodle and Ilias) to study and evaluate then we start the comparison and evaluation to every
package with introduction, features, different views and weaknesses (suggests to improve it).
The study of them covers the basic information of every package: the name, link, source,
version, structure and explain his features.
LMS, Moodle, Ilias, eLearning.

The learning process needs mechanism to represent the knowledge (using different resources),
allowing the interactions with it and sharing with other persons. In this sense, eLearning is
becoming an important tool to support the learning system to achieve these goals.
ELearning (as an ICT supported education) became hot topic in the 1990's [Nag04:5] after the
spread of the Internet. Although it has a relative short history, it is becoming important part of our
learning system and our society. We notice that the majority of the universities adopt the use of
eLearning within its learning system.
The eLearning is the use of new multimedia technologies and the Internet to improve the
quality of learning by facilitating access to resources and services as well as remote exchanges and
collaboration." [Pla01]. The eLearning is based on Special purpose Information System called
LMS- Learning Management System, that it has been widely used on universities.
We have to understand that the importance of eLearning in the universitys environment did not
mean that it intends to replace the traditional Learning mode, we mean e-Learning is not intended
to replace face-to-face classroom training but can be used to enhance traditional training [APO03].


2.1 Background of LMS
LMS is the main software of the eLearning solutions; we can give it this definition. LMS Is
software that automates the administration of training events. All LM systems manage the log-in of
registered users, manage course catalogs, track learner activities and results, and provide reports to
management. An LMS may or may not include additional functions such as: Authoring of content,
Management of classroom training, instructors and resourcesLearner collaboration tools (chat,
discussion groups, etc.) [BRA03a].
Some experts use additional terms to LMS, e.g. Portal Learning, which some experts consider it
as another name of LMS; while others consider it as broader in functionality than an LMS.
[ELe01]. Also some experts use Learning Content Management Systems, which is a combination
of typical LMS featureswith the additional ability to implement a standards-based learning object
structure, incorporating the storage, controls and methodology, [ELe01].
The key functions of a LMS are [ANT02]:


Manage courses and programs.

Provide and administer course registration.
Track student registration, access and progress.
Manage learning administration and reporting.
Enable financial tracking and control of learning.
Provide course scheduling and administration.

E-learning Solutions

Figure 1. The LMS within E-learning.

The current software market of LMS packages are probably has at least 200 products already,
[Wil02]. The LMS are increasing very fast; The Brandon Hall report ( reviewed 27 LMSs in 1997-1998 and 59 LMSs in 2000, and 70 LMSs in 2002. CUE
(2003) state that, by 2003, there are now almost 200 providers, but the market is expected to

consolidate [BRA03b], and the last Brandon-Hall resource estimates that by 2003, the LMS sector
will represent about 10% of entire E-learning market.
Some of LMSs are commercial Software, while others are Open-Source. Table.1 shows some
Table 1, some examples of LMSs: commercial and free Open-Source
Commercial Software


Free Open-Source Software


Claroline <>

2.2 Open Source LMS

OSS-Open source software is becoming an interesting sector of the entire software landscape, it
spread out and competition others proprietary software. In short phrase, OSS is software that you
can freely: access, use, share, modify, and redistribution the Source Code [Ope].
The landscape of LMS has many types, manly: Open Source and Commercial Software. The
OSS is very suit to the universities learning sector due to:
- OSS is a good solution to control their software and format it upon their need.
- The cost of using licence is almost nothing.
- OSS licence permits any change, modify and improvement of the LMSs without any pay.
- Some big organizations adopted OSS, e.g. NASA's Center switched from Oracle to MySQL.

2.3 List of LMS:

According to [BRA03b] there are now almost 200 LMS, we are going to list the more recent and
power LMS/CWS (Course website software) according to Google (visited in 1/3/2004)1.
Table 2. List of CWS [Goo]
Fle3 -
Blackboard -
WebCT -
Moodle - -
TopClass -
IBT-Server -
Claroline -
CyberProf -
dotLRN -
IntraKal -

Open Knowledge Initiative-

The Manhattan Virtual Classroom
Generation21 Learning Systems -
Convene Learning Platform -
ATutor -
Jones e-education -
Knowledge Environment for Web-based Learning
Interact -
Virtual-U -
Lotus LearningSpace
Knowledge Forum -
Janison Toolbox -
Online Instructor Suite


Also there is a list of OS-LMS in link, [Les]. Another list has found in [Com03].

2.4 Why Moodle and Ilias?

We choose two famous LMS-OS software; Moodle and Ilias to study and analysis, due to the
1Ilias and Moodle are OSS.
2The recommendations; according to [Com03:2; CUE03] ILIAS and Moodle are in the top
three candidates, also the Austrian Ministry of Education [Kri03] beside Fraunhofer Institute
[Ber02] recommended using Ilias and [Kam03; Bav03:13; Yor03; Rey03] somehow
recommended Moodle.
3The credit of Moodle is high, 1026 sites from 75 countries, Ilias have 115 from 18 countries1.
4Moodle translated to 30 languages, Ilias-16, while commercial e.g. WebCT-14 and
BlackBoard-11 2

Thanks to [Edu] site, that list 68 LMS and performed a comparison of 42 LMS features and
Table 3. General comparison of the characters of ILIAS 2.3.8 y Moodle 1.1 [Edu]
Discussion Forums
File Exchange
Internal Email
Online Journal/Notes
Real-time Chat
Video Services
Calendar/Progress Review
Searching Within Course
Work Offline/Synchronize
Student Community Building
Student Portfolios
Course Authorization
Hosted Services
Registration Integration
Automated Testing and Scoring





Course Management
Instructor Helpdesk
Online Grading Tools
Student Tracking
Accessibility Compliance
Content Sharing/Reuse
Course Templates
Curriculum Management
Customized Look and Feel
Instructional Design Tools
Instructional Standards Compliance
Client Browser Required
Database Requirements
Server Software
Unix Server
Windows Server
Company Profile
Open Source
Software Version
Optional Extras






3.1 Moodle
1 Ilias (, Moodle (, on 15.4.2004
2 Moodle (, Ilias (, on), WebCT
( and BlackBoard ( on 4.4.2004

3.1.1 Introduction
Name: Moodle Version: 1.1.1, Last release: 10th Sep.2003, Link: Source: company by the lead developer Martin Dougiamas. License: is available as Open
Source software GNU General Public License (GPL).
Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) is one of a LMS or (CMS
course management system) for producing Internet-based course Web sites. It has been designed to
support modern pedagogies based on social constructionist theory, and includes activity modules
such as forums, resources, journals, quizzes, surveys, etc.,. It is Open Source, and runs without
modification on UNIX, Linux, Windows, and support some databases (e.g. MySQL). In general, it
is easy to use, install and maintain.

Figure 2. The main screen of Moodle

3.1.2 Features
Moodle is an active and evolving product. This page lists some of the many features it
contains [Moo]: Promotes social constructionist pedagogy (collaboration, activities,
critical reflection, etc).
1- Suitable for 100% online classes as well as supplementing face-to-face learning.
2- Simple, lightweight, efficient, compatible, low-tech browser interface.
3- Easy to install on almost any platform that supports PHP. Requires only one database.
4- Course listing shows descriptions for every course on the server, including accessibility
to guests.
5- Courses can be categorised and searched.
6- Emphasis on strong security throughout. Forms are all checked, data validated, cookies
encrypted etc.
7- Most text entry areas can be edited using an embedded WYSIWYG HTML editor.
[Glo] confirmed the features of Moodle and [Jen04] mention those additional characters:
8- Moodle allows a choice of 3 course formats.
9- Moodle is based on PHP and MYSQL (both are OSS).
10- Easily upload course resource, or link to other websites, and will track.

3.1.3 Views of Usability:

The Current User Community is very wide and its credit is high; there are 1026 sites from 75
countries, which mean that those organisation are actively participating in making improvements to
it, also Moodle have a high popularity, because it translated to 30 languages (one version for every
- User: Moodle is easy to use; I tested it as a student and teacher. It needs small training to use it
- Programmer and developer: very interesting to them, because Moodle is open source, which
mean it is free to re-programming, modifyingetc. Also it is programmed in PHP, support
MySql and Apache; all are open, active and power. It can install and runs without modification
on UNIX, Linux and Windows.
- Organization and administration: Moodle is OSS, which means that the Organization can
customise it to their local needs, and can development it without any cost of licenses. Also there
are more than 1000 organization are using, developing and sharing it. About the security {they
can review the source code!}.

3.1.4 Weaknesses
Upon table 3, Moodle had 34 capabilities and missing 8. Here we list some of missing features.
Table 4. Features absent from Moodle 1.1
Calendar features - there are plans underway to integrate it for version 1.3.
Bookmark - It manage create, save, share, display and update links of Internets, it allows
students to return to important sites easily within their Groups / Classes or outside their
course on the web.
Work Offline - it enable students to work offline. Sometimes students download course
content and they access content on a CD-ROM. A course placeholder automatically returns
to the location in their course where they were working the last time they logged off [Jen04].
Groupwork it organize a set of student in one group, it provide services to facilities
achieve specific tasks or projects and support cooperative learning. The new released
Moodle 1.2.1 supports basically this Feather.
Student Community Building- some tools related to Groupware that allow students to
establish teams (groups or clubs) to encourage and support the growth of student
collaborative, studying, friendships and partnerships.
Recommendation system - tools provide personalized and related suggestions about items
that students will find interesting, which can intelligently obtain information from profiles
of: teachers, students, Courses Material...etc
Standardization Tools (SCROM standard) - Standard in general and SCORM in LMS
sector, is very important to allow knowledge to be publish, distribute, share, tracking from
the LMS. This important feature is not supported by Moodle. Moodle will have basic
support for SCORM in their upcoming Moodle version 2.0
Instructional design tools/Course templates- tools that help instructors create the initial
structure for an online course and creating learning sequences. Moodle somehow- support
those tools weakly, those tools need deep support because those tools are important to
facilitate and help the instructors creating their courses.
Private Email (and messaging) - This tool may be :Allow Users to send / receive email

to/from outside sources and Notifies users of new Mail, Announcements, Discussions,
quizzes, content, grades and assignments.
Content Sharing/Reuse - enables specific content created for one course to be conveniently
shared with another instructor teaching a different course perhaps even at a different
institution. [Edu].
Curriculum Management- provides students with customized programs or activities based
on prerequisites, prior work, or results of testing. It manage multiple programs, these tools
may be similar to the tools used in student services as part of providing academic advising to
students. [Edu].
Video Services - enable video conferencing and enable instructors to run stream video from
within the system.
Whiteboard Tools- tools used by instructors and learners in synchronous modes (virtual

3.2 Ilias
3.2.1 Introduction
Name: Ilias Version: 2.4.4, Last release: 28th Feb.2004, Link: Source: It was developed as part of the VIRTUS project in the University of Cologne, and
is now also worked on by the Sal. License: GNU General Public License.
ILIAS (Integrated Learning, Information and cooperAtion System) is a web-based LMS; it
consists of tools for learning, authoring, information access and co-operative work, thus presenting
an integrated environment for learning and teaching on the Internet. ILIAS authors can create entire
courses within a team and publish them on the web. Students can create groups to work through
learning material and communicate with each other. ILIAS allows users to create, edit and publish
course units in an integrated system with their web browsers.
ILIAS is OSS, developed using PHP, MySQL and the Apache to work mainly under UNIX/ Linux.

Figure 3. The main screen of Ilias

3.2.2 Features - In general, we can list the main feathers of ILIAS:

Personal desktop for each user.
Learning environment with personal annotations, tests, glossary, print function,
search engine.
Communication features like news system and discussion forums.
Group system to organise group members and resources.
Authoring environment (Editor) to create courses.
Context-sensitive help system for learners and authors.
System administration interface.
"Users play different roles such as system administrator, authors, tutors and students. The
system administrator puts the actors together by creating groups and assigning the
access rights, privileges and resources needed: mailboxes, forums, discussion groups etc.

3.2.3 Views of Usability:

There are 115 installations from 18 countries. It gains a good evaluation in some recent
studies. It has somehow- sufficient credit. Also Ilias has somehow- good popularity,
because it translated to 16 languages.
The Evaluation of Ilias could be from some views:
- User: In [Com03] they mention that Moodle is easier than Ilias, but any way Ilias
somehow is easy to use, I used it as a member of the Demo version on their site, it needs
small training to use it effectively.
Programmer and developer: Ilias is very interesting to them, because it is open source,
which mean it is free to re-programming, modifyingetc. Also it is programmed in
PHP, support using MySql and host at server Apache; all of them open, active, power.
They said, ILIAS has been tested with Linux and Sun Solaris and is developed for those
OS. With small changes it can also be used under Windows or Mac (, I think it did not work correctly on Windows XP.
Ilias somehow not easy to install, it need many software, with the lasts versions of those
versions, and need a long procedure to install it.
Organization and administration: Ilias is OSS, which means that the Organization can
customize it to their local needs, and can development it when it need without any cost of
licenses. Also there are more than 115 organization are using it, always develop it and
share those developments. Also they can ensure about the security {they can review the
source code!!}.
The [CUE03] mention a weakness to administration There is no module for competency
assessment. The system is set up with no clear links to reports in the administrative

4.3.5 Weaknesses
Upon table 3, Ilias had 26 capabilities and missing 16. Here we list some of missing
features of ILIAS.
Table 5. Features absent from ILIAS 2.X

Recommendation system See table 4.

Standardization Tools (SCROM)-See table 4. ILIAS is planning to support it in
Instructional design tools/Course templates- See table 4.
Windows OS It does not work correctly under Windows.
Student Portfolios tools allow students to use area related to groupware to display
their work, display their personal information and may be they can create a personal
home page.
Hosted Service- Ilias do not provide host CMS. These tool help to work without
provide any hardware.
Content Sharing/Reuse - See table 4.
Curriculum Management- See table 4.
Registration Integration - tools are used to add/drop students from an online course.
Administrators and/or instructors use registration tools but students also use them
when self-registration is available.
Course Management- it allow instructors to control the progression of an online class
through the course material.
Online Grading Tools - help instructors mark and provide feedback on student work.
Student Tracking - is the ability to track the usage of course materials by students,
and to perform additional analysis and reporting both of total and individual usage.
File Exchange-allow learners to upload files from their local computers and share
these files with others.
Video Services - See table 4.
Whiteboard Tools- See table 4.
Real-time Chat - a conversation between people over the Internet online (the same

LMS -as the core of eLearning- is very important to the university, furthermore, the Open-source
LMS seem to be a good solution due to many reasons.
We made a Comparison and evaluation of two OS-LMS (Moodle and Ilias), and found that they
have a good features and they have a good usability.
We lighted some weakness of them, those weakness are suggests to hundreds of programmers
and developers round the word- to fix them and add the necessary characters.

I would like to thanks my doctor: M. Gea about his supports, and agency (AECI), which give me
the Scholarship of my PhD study.


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