What are Open Standards and Does Your LMS Meet Them?

Open standards are becoming an integral part of software development all over the world. Staying compliant with these standards is the key to interoperability, which makes it easy for organizations to use several systems simultaneously and incorporate a variety of content interchangeably.

A Learning Management System (LMS) must meet open standards to ensure smooth integration with the rest of a company’s tools and software to provide a seamless workflow. While many LMS developers are following open standards by default, others focus on proprietary systems without interoperability in mind.

Let's take a closer look at open standards to find out if your LMS meets them...

What Are Open Standards?

Open standards are transparent specifications and descriptions of data and behavior that provide the basis for interoperability. Interoperability in an LMS refers to the ability of different learning tools to exchange information, so they can interface and share or transfer data as needed. The result of such exchange and collaboration should be a streamlined experience for the end-user.

In short, these compliance standards allow two systems to integrate seamlessly, exchange data and provide similar results for the user without adjustments or customization. An LMS that meets open standards should not block participation and integration, making it easy for the user to work with third-party software.

Open Source vs Open Standard

While open source sounds similar to open standard, these terms are different in their core. Open-source learning management systems leave the software code accessible and open to everyone. This means that anyone with sufficient knowledge can use or modify the code to fit custom needs.

This is a highly convenient option for organizations that have an in-house team of developers with sufficient knowledge of how to adjust the system. In many cases, however, the code of an open-source LMS is incredibly complex, making it a costly and time-consuming task to edit without outsourcing the project to qualified third-party specialists.

With open standards, the user does not have access to the source code to edit or customize. Open standards denotes certain specifications that are open, aside from actual code. Examples include document-sharing software or WiFi connectivity. The interoperability options offered by an open standard-compliant LMS make it easy to adjust the workflow or switch software vendors without changing the system's code.

Open source and open standard systems are not mutually exclusive. For example, Moodle™ and Totara are open-source systems that also adhere to open standards.

Why Is Choosing an Open-Standard LMS Important?

By committing to open standards, an LMS developer gives organizations using that product access to flexibility, manageability and scalability options. A few key benefits include:

Content innovation and collaboration

While only open-source software allows for endless customizations and code alterations, open standards can still provide a level of flexibility to incorporate third-party learning content into your learning platforms, which is crucial to building sustainable, engaging learning programs.

As the saying goes, content is king. Without the ability to integrate with a variety of content, from gamified tools to course content from an external training provider, it can be difficult to build a dynamic learning ecosystem that meets the unique needs of your learners.

No Vendor Lock-In

Open source and open standards prevent vendor lock-in when it comes to the hosting of your software or the content you can use within that software. Open source holds vendors and LMS providers accountable for their level of service and support, because clients have the freedom to easily switch to another vendor or self-host if dissatisfied. Open standards allow you to migrate your content (such as a PDF document reader) to a different solution as needed.


A very important benefit of using an open standard system is security. A respectable LMS provider offers regular updates to its software. If you work with a high-touch, high-quality vendor like Open LMS, these security measures are doubled. We help you determine which elements can be safely shared or viewed on alternative software, ensuring a personalized, optimal learning experience. Other benefits of using an LMS that is compliant with open standards include:

  • Efficient organization of available resources
  • A broader adoption scope
  • Simplified information transfer

Does your LMS Meet Open Standards?

Before choosing your LMS, it is imperative to research whether a software meets eLearning open standards. Ensuring that you’ll have the flexibility and interoperability to incorporate whatever content you might need into your learning programs is crucial, especially when you hope to deploy a best-of-breed content strategy or experiment to find what works best for your goals.

The following international open standards should be met by any compliant LMS:

1. Open Source License

As mentioned earlier, an open-source system may still meet open standards, such as content distribution standards in LMS. When using an open-source LMS, the code can be modified to meet the custom needs of your organization. An open-source license is approved by Open Source Initiative (OSI) after going through OSI's license review process. The most popular open-source licenses include:

2. LTI™ Certification

The purpose of the IMS LTI™ certification is to demonstrate the system's interoperability with any certified LMS. To be certified, the system must pass a variety of tests to show its ability to exchange information with external tools.

The certification is issued by the IMS Global Learning Consortium. All IMS certified products are backed by IMS technical support to deal with any technical issues.

3. SCORM Compliance

SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) is a collection of technical specs and guidelines for creating content, which can be accessed through all open standard systems. In short, SCORM-compliant eLearning content can be used in any SCORM-compliant LMS.

If your LMS is SCORM-compliant, the eLearning content you create while working with this particular system can be used with other LMS seamlessly. If your system is not SCORM-compliant, you may face vendor lock-in issues, which may keep you from switching between systems.

While an LMS should not need to be open source to comply with open standards (this is an additional flexibility factor), the other two certifications are essential to ensure interoperability. Be sure to check with the software provider to find out if an LMS meets these compliance standards.


xAPI is short for Experience API. This standard is a successor to SCORM that allows you to pull learning data to be produced not just from the LMS, but from almost any learning experience – online or offline. An xAPI records all learning activities, from watching an educational video to reading a textbook chapter. This information can be stored in a Learning Record Store to provide more detailed learning data that encompasses your overall efforts. xAPI’s adoption continues to increase, and is set to be a standard for the future.

The Takeaway

Open standards give LMS users an opportunity to structure a smooth workflow, ensure interoperability between systems, and integrate content into their LMS from a variety of sources. With open standards, you’re able to incorporate the content most relevant and engaging to your users in a seamless and streamlined solution, and scale as your needs or goals evolve. With technology constantly evolving, the ability to collaborate with external software programs, content creation tools, and extensions makes an LMS highly flexible.

Open standard and open source systems don't just offer impressive flexibility, security and functionality, they also create new growth possibilities.

At Open LMS, we focus on fully-managed eLearning solutions for organizations and institutions around the world. To learn more about eLearning systems that are open-standard compliant, contact us.

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