Taking an open source approach to learning management at Tesco


Jane Williams, head of elearning at Tesco, told World of Learning conference delegates that open source provided the opportunity for organisations to provide cheaper, larger scale delivery of online learning.

Williams shared her journey of developing an online learning portal using a Joomla front-end and Moodle back-end. Tesco now use a customised version of Moodle – Totara – as an LMS.

Here are the learning points from her journey.

Benefits beyond cost of open source

  • Influence the core product
  • Part fund new development work
  • Be part of a wider development community
  • Take advantage of other functionality
  • Add new custom fields and reports
  • Keep the product yet change the supplier

But beware

  • If your IT department doesn’t understand it they won’t support it
  • Make sure you have a strong business case for your ‘non proprietary’ system throughout, not just at the beginning
  • You are taking a system that isn’t necessarily built for your sector so you may have to make some tweaks
  • Total flexibility means you have to make many decisions along the way. Are you prepared for that?
  • People will want your system to do everything, be clear on what it should and shouldn’t do
  • Although it can be quick and cheap, open source is not necessarily the easiest option, you’ll need to put some dedicated time and resource into it

Top tips

  • Flexibility means you always need to be thinking ahead -‘if I do this what does it cause further down the line?’
  • There isn’t a perfect delivery, make a decision and run with it . . . otherwise you’ll never start
  • Start small and build up – audience and functionality
  • Find the right balance between bespoke and ‘off the shelf’
  • Have a clear governance process from the beginning
  • Sort out your reporting requirements early and test them!
  • Marketing and communication strategy is fundamental
  • Making open source work depends on good service provision – choose a great developer
  • Involve IT at the start and all the way through
  • Check out: maturity of the open source product, size and activity levels of the community, whether similar organisations are using it, is there a producet roadmap in place?
  • Get involved in the community



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