Facilitating Education in the Digital Era: eThink by Open LMS Delivers Hosted eLearning Solutions and Management Service

The open-source learning management system (LMS) Moodle™ is the most widely used solution of its kind. Short for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment, the free platform is designed to provide administrators, educators, and learners with a robust system for personalized learning.

Moodle™ garnered even more attention as usage spiked during the pandemic. The platform’s core version is a wise choice for many users, offering a free and easy-to-use option for getting started in digital education. But after getting Moodle™ up and running, many organizations and educational institutions find they need help with integrations, consultation, and daily management. That’s where eThink by Open LMS comes in.

The company offers fully-managed solutions for Moodle™ as well as the open-source enterprise LMS Totara Learn. The goal is to provide customizable hosted LMS products and management services to meet specific institutional learning and organizational training needs. “We look at ourselves as an extension of our clients’ internal learning and IT teams,” said Brian Carlson, CEO of eThink. “We want to understand their needs and be proactive in terms of suggesting solutions that other clients in the space are using. We act as a strategic partner that goes far above and beyond the normal support desk model.” eThink by Open LMS also boasts a wide range of use cases, serving educators in higher ed, as well as corporate training teams in the healthcare, retail, and government sectors.

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Support and Customizations for Learning Management Systems

Brian and Co-Founder Cheryl Patsavos started eThink in 2008 before growing to become a leading Moodle™ provider. Despite tremendous growth across the traditional and professional education spaces, eThink remained relatively small compared with competitors focused on closed-source LMSs. So, in 2020, eThink joined forces with Open LMS and eCreators Pty Ltd. under the umbrella of the UK-based Learning Technologies Group plc (LTG). “It was a three-way merger with Open LMS and eCreators Pty Ltd. under the Open LMS name,” Brian said. “We’re now 140 people with different solutions that we’re combining into a powerful and cost-effective hosting platform that we’ll be rolling out this year.”

Each company specializes in different yet complementary services. Open LMS, for example, is the largest commercial Moodle™ provider in the world, helping organizations and institutions deliver outstanding learning experiences free from technical complexity. eThink is known for industry-leading LMS support, while eCreators specializes in custom content building. “The combination of Open LMS, eCreators, and eThink has created a powerhouse, and we’re hiring even more talent to grow the organization by another 20% over the next year or so,” Brian said. “We’re the largest provider focused on open-source learning systems by far.”

Open LMS will remain a stand-alone company under LTG. But LTG does own several other best-of-breed solutions in the learning space centered on custom content building, authoring tools, analytics, and standards web-based educational technology known as Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM). “And our goal over time is to integrate some of those solutions into the Open LMS cloud,” Brian said. “The LMS ecosystem is changing dramatically, and while it’s still a central point of most platforms, educators also need other services.”

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Accelerating Digital Transformation in Higher Ed and Corporate Settings

eThink already boasts an extensive list of products—from hosted LMS solutions for Moodle™ and Totara to instructional content design and training through an academy. With the additional features brought forth through the merger, Open LMS is destined to become a turnkey service provider in the LMS space. “So we’re building out a lot of technologies in the cloud that will allow us to offer a click-to-launch solution,” Brian said. “We’re already there in a lot of ways, but we’re going to be making it even bigger with more dramatic steps for the road ahead.” The timing is right—there’s no doubt that digital transformation has been accelerated in the pandemic era.

In March, eThink helped 200 higher education universities transition from a hybrid of virtual and physical classrooms to fully digital learning environments. “We probably had a 500% increase in usage behind the scenes on our servers during that period,” Brian said. “There were a lot of technical changes required to handle that load, and also a pretty large change in the level of service that customers needed. Fortunately, providing unlimited support is where we excel.”

After a year of solid business, Brian told us Open LMS is looking to leverage the new technologies under the expanded company’s umbrella to further meet the needs of the pandemic-era market. “Open LMS is in a unique position to broaden market offerings right now,” he said.

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Serving as an Extension of LMS Teams

Whether part of the Open LMS family or not, eThink has always aimed to provide top-notch customer support. “The team of Moodle™ experts we have is by far the largest in the world, and with our unlimited support model, customers don’t have to worry about prioritizing their needs within a 10-hour timeframe like they would with some providers,” Brian said. The team wants clients to ask every question possible because the more familiar they are with using the system, the more benefits they will get. And the word will only spread from there. “It’s really more about the services than the product,” Brian said. “Yes, there is some back-end stuff we’ve done to tool up the servers where they can handle incredibly high loads, whether it’s quizzes or log-ins. But the client really doesn’t see that as much.”

Brian told us the eThink team almost never loses clients. He credits the company’s open-source background. “The value is so high that you never leave,” he said. “Because it’s open-source, the price point is extremely low. They’re getting a high-value service model on a relatively inexpensive product compared to the rest of the market. And the functionality is often better than what’s out there in the closed source market.”

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A Continued Focus on Usability and Discoverability

Moving forward, the Open LMS team will be intensely focused on blending its technologies in a way that provides maximum customer satisfaction. “We’ve got a great opportunity to scale these three organizations and provide real, immediate value to clients,” Brian said. He added that the goal is to become one of the most attractive digital education companies in the market: “It’s about finding a way to put all of our collective strengths into one uniform solution—and then bolstering that experience with the track record we already have.”

Note: This article was originally published by Christine Preusler on HostingAdvice.com. eThink is now fully part of Open LMS and some details of the case study have been updated accordingly.

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