10 open source e-learning projects to watch – TECHWORLD – Choices for e-learning the best option

As corporate and government organizations embrace the Web for delivering more education and training programs, a wealth of free and open source e-learning applications will help lower the barrier to entry. TechWorld looks at the options.


ATutor is a Web-based learning content management system (LCMS) designed for accessibility and adaptability by the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre at the University of Toronto. ATutor claims to be modular for new looks and functionality.

Like Moodle, ATutor is a PHP application with some 25,000 registered installations. With ATutor instructors and students can manage the courses they teach or are enrolled in, send messages to other participants, create workgroups and collaborate on courses, blog, share and track content, and store files among other things.

Web site: https://www.atutor.ca
Licence: GPL
Commercial support: Project home
Developed with: PHP


Claroline is an e-learning and “e-working” platform allowing teachers to build online courses and to manage learning and collaborative activities on the Web. Claroline was started by the University of Louvain in Belgium and since 2004 the research centre of ECAM has also been collaborating on its development. It is now available in 35 languages.

Claroline is organized around the concept of “spaces” related to a course or a pedagogical activity. Each space provides a list of tools that enable creation of learning contents, management of training activities, and interaction with other students.

Web site: https://www.claroline.net
Licence: GPL
Commercial support:
Developed with: PHP


Another Belgian e-learning vendor is Dokeos, which produces an open source e-Learning suite of the same name. Dokeos provides learning management, Oogie Rapid Learning for building online courses from existing systems like Microsoft PowerPoint, reporting that can be exported to Excel or an enterprise business intelligence suite, and videoconferencing for virtual meetings and classrooms or training sessions.

Dokeos has a number of customers in the corporate enterprise and government space, and is growing a community of developers writing third-party extensions.

Web site: https://www.dokeos.com
Licence: GPL
Commercial support: Project home
Developed with: PHP


eFront claims to be an easy to use e-learning and “human capital development” system, making it suitable for both company and educational usage.

The flagship product of Epignosis, an e-learning company based in Greece, eFront enables “community learning” and supports the principles of “collective knowledge”. Organizations using eFront include the Greek Ministry of Public Order, and the Polish Ministry of Interior.

Version 3.5 is in beta and claims improved stability and speed, extended courses management, a new Ajax-based file manager and functionality, and core functions have been rewritten to take advantage of the object oriented features of PHP 5. Also new is a PayPal payment module and the ability to install eFront without any Web server or “Documentroot setup hassle”.

Web site: https://www.efrontlearning.net/
Licence: CPAL
Commercial support: Project home
Developed with: PHP


Fle3 is a Web-based learning environment with the sophisticated title of server software for computer supported collaborative learning, but, hey, we call it e-learning.

Fle3 development is coordinated by the Learning Environments for Progressive Inquiry research group of the UIAH Media Lab at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki Finland. According to Wikipedia, the abbreviation FLE comes from the words Future Learning Environment, with the number three in the name referring to the number of times the software has been built from scratch.

Fle3 has WebTops to store different items related to studies, Knowledge Building for groups to participate in knowledge building dialogues, and a Jamming tool for a shared space for collaborative construction of digital media like pictures, text, audio, and video.

Web site: https://fle3.uiah.fi/index.html
Licence: GPL
Commercial support: Project home
Developed with: Python


ILIAS began at the faculty of business administration, economics and social sciences at the University of Cologne in Germany.

In addition to e-learning features course, group and content management, ILIAS has support for Web 2.0 functions like RSS, podcasting, and Google Maps. For Web services a SOAP interface was developed.

ILIAS now has a large cooperation and support partner network concentrated around Europe.

Web site: https://www.ilias.de
Licence: GPL
Commercial support: Project home
Developed with: PHP


Learning Activity Management System, or LAMS, is an e-learning application based at the Macquarie E-learning Centre of Excellence (MELCOE) at Macquarie University, Australia.

LAMS claims to provide teachers with a “highly intuitive, visual authoring environment” for creating sequences of learning activities. Activities can include a range of individual tasks, small group work and whole class activities based on both content and collaboration.

LAMS is also developed in Java and uses the JBoss application server. Versions that integrate with other e-learning systems like Moodle, Blackboard, and Sakai are also available.

Web site:
Licence: GPL
Commercial support:
Developed with: Java


Moodle is a Web-based e-learning project that describes itself as a course management system to help educators create “effective online learning communities”. Moodle claims to scale from a single-teacher site to a university with 200,000 students, and can be used as a general Web content system, so it’s not tied down to just e-learning.

Moodle’s footprint is already quite large with some 38,000 sites from 198 countries having registered their installation. Moodle users include RMIT University, the University of Sydney, Brigham Young University, and California State University.

Check out the MoodleMoot conference if you would like to see what other Moodle people are doing.

Web site: https://moodle.org/
Licence: GPL
Commercial support: https://moodle.com/
Developed with: PHP


Unlike most of the other e-learning applications in this article, OLAT (Online Learning And Training) is based on Java and is Apache Licensed.

The development of OLAT started in 1999 at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, where it is used as the learning management system. The University of Zurich leads the development and has a team of 12 working on OLAT.

In addition to its typical e-learning functionality, OLAT has new features including a wiki, calendar, Ajax, and full text search, among others. Version 6 is due out this month.

OLAT boasts its Java-based framework can handle over 700 students simultaneously on one standard Linux server. Definitely one to watch.

Web site: https://www.olat.org
Licence: Apache License 2.0
Commercial support: https://www.frentix.com
Developed with: Java


Like OLAT, Sakai is a Java-based e-learning system developed by an international alliance of universities, colleges and commercial affiliates.

Sakai’s core tools like forums, chat rooms, and message centre can be augmented with tools designed for a particular application like assignments, syllabus, and WebDAV. Sakai claims to be in production at over 150 institutions and being piloted by over 100 more.

The latest Sakai 2.5 series has changes at both the tool layer and framework level. One new provisional tool has been added, while two existing provisional tools have been promoted to the enterprise bundle.

Web site: https://www.sakaiproject.org
Licence: Educational Community License
Commercial support: Project home
Developed with: Java


Author: Rodney Gedda 05/06/2008 11:43:42