hen you're mulling over the creation of your very own educational product, a critical question crops up: should you opt for a pre-packaged solution offered by a SaaS learning management system, or should you embark on the journey of crafting a custom online learning platform? Which route holds greater long-term benefits? What do you need to consider, making the right choice?
Allow us to shed some light on the difference between the 2 types of LMS customization, aiding you in making the right choice.
Custom LMS vs. Highly Customizable SaaS LMS: Main Differences
To kick things off, let's delve into the fundamental concepts: what exactly do we mean by a custom LMS and a highly customizable SaaS LMS, and how do they set themselves apart?
A custom or individual LMS is essentially a tailor-made solution meticulously crafted to cater to the specific needs and requirements of a particular client or organization.
Of course, as with anything in life, each of these solutions comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here's a quick summary of the important things you need to know about custom LMSs.
- You can enjoy all the essential features without any compromises.
- Your learning experience can be completely customized and branded to your liking.
- You'll only pay for the components you actually require, saving you costs.
- You'll maintain full control over future upgrades and updates.
- You won't be reliant on another company's software, ensuring independence.
- A substantial financial commitment is required.
- The development phase may demand a significant investment in man-hours.
- You'll be responsible for troubleshooting issues on your own.
- Ongoing upgrades and improvements will be necessary over time.
- Prior to getting started, you may need to train or hire personnel.
On the flip side, a highly customizable SaaS LMS is a standardized product designed to serve a broad user base. Yet it comes loaded with a diverse array of customization options, allowing it to be fine-tuned to meet the unique business demands of its users.
Highly customizable platforms, also bring to the table some pros and drawbacks.
- More cost-effective compared to developing a custom solution.
- No concerns about handling updates and improvements.
- Field-tested by a community of big number of other users.
- Expedited implementation process.
- High variety of different customizations.
- Potential for including unused features in your costs.
- Expanding user numbers can lead to higher expenses.
- Necessity to adapt to any platform changes.
- Can also be used by your competitors.
Let's examine the cost implications of choosing between a custom learning management system and a SaaS LMS customization. It's important to consider various factors, including financial, time, and human resources.
- Financial Cost. When it comes to developing a custom LMS, you're required for a significant upfront investment encompassing development, design, and rigorous testing.
On average, the cost of custom LMS development can range from $50,000 to a substantial $500,000.
Additionally, you'll need to budget for
- hosting expenses, typically ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 annually;
- training costs between $2,000 and $10,000;
- ongoing support expenses, averaging from $5,000 to $50,000 per year.
- Time. Building a custom LMS is a time-consuming process. Development, testing, and implementation may take from 6 months to 1.5-2 years, depending on the complexity of the project.
- Human Resources. Let's consider two options: building an LMS of equal complexity within a 6-month timeframe and an 18-month timeframe.
- 6-month custom LMS development: you will approximately need a team of 15–17 members (1 project manager, 2-3 frontend engineers, 2-3 backend developers, 1 DevOps, 1 architect, 1-2 UX/UI designers, 1 QA Tester, 1-2 tech support, 1–2 engineers for maintenance & updates.)
- 18-month custom LMS development: you will approximately need 9–11 team members (1 project manager, 1-2 frontend engineers, 1-2 backend developers, 1 DevOps, 1 architect, 1 UX/UI designers, 1 QA Tester, 1 tech support, 1 engineer for maintenance & updates.)
Highly-Customizable SaaS LMS:
1. Financial Cost. SaaS LMS platforms typically involve subscription fees, which provide predictable costs over time. The average cost of ready-made customizable LMS varies from $500 to $3000 / month.
2. Time. Private label LMS often offers faster implementation compared to custom development. You can kick-start your journey much sooner, as customizing ready-made solutions may only take up to 1 month, significantly expediting the system's launch process.
3. Human Resources. SaaS LMS providers typically handle technical aspects, reducing the need for a dedicated in-house team. For using highly – customizable LMS, you require a team that consists of 3 members (1 project manager, 1 IT administrator, 1 project stakeholder).
How to understand what solution you require?
There is no universal answer to that question as it will depend on variables, for example, time frame, budget, and IT capabilities. However, a ready-made customizable LMS is still the most frequently chosen software, in comparison to its custom counterparts.
Let's look at the main criteria that you need to rely on when making a decision.
#1. Budget Constraints
Determine your budget for LMS development and maintenance. A custom learning management system can be more expensive upfront due to development costs, while SaaS LMS options often involve subscription fees, which can be more predictable but may add up over time.
#2. Specific Needs and Features
Assess your organization's unique requirements and the specific features you require in an LMS. A custom LMS software allows you to tailor every aspect to match your needs precisely, while a SaaS LMS offers flexibility but may have some limitations.
Consider your timeline for implementation and time-to-market. Custom LMS solution typically takes longer to develop and deploy, while SaaS LMS platforms offer much quicker setup and deployment options. And it turns out that the time you spend developing a custom LMS could be better invested in the development of the final educational product.
#4. Support and Maintenance
You should also take in mind the ongoing software support and maintenance processes. Custom LMS solutions may necessitate dedicated IT resources, while SaaS LMS customization providers typically offer support and handle updates on their side.
#5. Integration Needs
Identify any integration requirements with other software or systems your organization uses. Both options should support integrations, but try to assess which can accommodate your specific integrations more effectively.
Think about your organization's growth potential. Both custom and highly- customizable SaaS LMS solutions should be scalable, but you need to assess which option can adapt more effectively as your needs evolve.
#7. Industry Compliance and Security
As you work on developing your custom LMS software solution, you have the perfect chance to ensure compliance with security and industry standards. While you choose to use SaaS LMS, it's essential to make certain it adheres to industry regulations and offers robust security features to safeguard sensitive data.
Conclusion: Making the Right Choice
Selecting the right solution isn't a straightforward decision, and it entails careful consideration of numerous factors. So what are the companies that truly require custom development?
- Multinational corporation with limitations of using third-party solutions;
- E-learning startups with innovative approaches;
- Educational institutions that offer specialized courses or unconventional teaching methods;
- Government agencies & organizations that need to meet unique compliance and security standards.
In all other cases, a SaaS LMS customization will be enough. This solution will not only be cost-effective and scalable but also fast to implement, constantly up-to-date, and best suited for your requirements.
If you find yourself seeking customization in the educational process but believe that building a custom LMS platform from scratch isn't necessary, consider exploring the EducateMe solution. Discover how our highly customized LMS can seamlessly align with your distinctive needs and objectives. Together, we can elevate your learning experience.