A Reality Check for Cannabis Training & Compliance
Costs of Open-Source Learning Management Systems (LMS)
When it comes to training and compliance in the cannabis industry, businesses must be compliant. To meet these tough compliance challenges, cannabis businesses need software to train and develop their employees while keeping detailed records of who has completed training when.
Green Cultured utilizes the world’s most widely used Learning Management System (LMS) called “Moodle” since it is the world’s most widely used LMS due to it being open-source as well as having direct access to your code-base.
Moodle is provided freely as open-source software so anyone can adapt, extend or modify it for commercial projects without any licensing fees and your business benefits from the cost-efficiencies, flexibility and other advantages of using the platform.
Businesses often research what LMS’s are available to implement to solve these regulatory challenges and after some Googling, open-source solutions become quite attractive due to the cost: FREE.
Free in this case is free “like a puppy“.
Anyone can download/install Moodle on a server, but free does NOT mean zero cost because once the LMS is in place, it needs to be “taken care of” for the rest of its lifespan.
It can be quite costly to use an open-source LMS and even more expensive to use a proprietary-code LMS like SumTotal, Cornerstone On-Demand, Canvas or Blackboard. When using open-source, you OWN your employee-data and code-base.
You can easily spend more time managing Moodle than what you originally thought; doing site administration duties for users, Instructional Design to develop your training, creating custom SQL queries for compliance reporting and that’s just the beginning.
Using an LMS, your cannabis business can:
- Recruit & train top talent by providing professional growth opportunities
- Train employees “on the job” via a Mobile App
- Create personalized learning plans for each employee
- Connect employees together and encourage collaboration on the job
- Create custom reports for government compliance
- Develop new revenue via eCommerce selling courses
- Provide consistency in onboarding process while reducing costs
You can never be “vendor-locked” using open-source technologies and we provide the flexibility for cannabis businesses to deploy critical features needed in the regulated cannabis market.
It is our mission to help you determine what to customize and how to design the learning ecosystem to meet business goals, ensure employee safety, and increase profitability.
Our clients have a high-level ability to customize their learning environment to their EXACT NEEDS. Clients can completely brand it to their business, integrate it into their website, develop compliance training, and generate custom regulatory reports as needed via 1,300+ Moodle Plugins.
Costs of Hosting Moodle LMS
We’ve created an example organization to demonstrate the true costs of setting up an open-source LMS in the example below we’ve created a customer with a total of 500 active user accounts per year. To determine the cost of implementation, we created a table outlining:
- 1-Time Costs
- Annual/Recurring Costs
Their platform has been customized and branded for business identity, integrated into their website (ex. moodle.YourDomain.com) and critical business systems (Human Resources Information Systems), and a mobile-friendly user interface has been created as well as the Mobile App.
|One-Time Cost||Annual Cost|
This is the average cost most vendors will charge for consultation, development, and implementation of an open-source Learning Management System.
There are a wide variety of themes categorized by available features and compatibility for your organization to customize the learning environment.
Customization and integration with your own legacy systems are possible because our open-source platform is the most widely used LMS in the world, with support for thousands of plug-ins for a variety of software. We build a “best-of-breed” cannabis training and compliance strategy for your organization.
Hosting services like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Rackspace average about $200 – $350 per month.
When you want to accept payments online, you need SSL to encrypt your users’ personal and credit card information that will be transferred from their servers to your website servers. SSL Certificates are available from a variety of providers including GoDaddy, Thawte, Verisign, Geotrust, and Comodo.
A Technical Team is required to design, build, and maintain the integration into other critical infrastructure systems such as Human Resources Information System (HRIS), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and Customer Relationship System (CRM).
Responsible for the management of the LMS environment. An LMS Administrator will be responsible for Tier 1-3 Support.
Training is provided to help you manage the site and support your employees, eight remote video webinars focused on key management and administrator functions are held live and recordings provided.
The Moodle project is well-supported by an active international community and a team of dedicated full-time developers at Moodle HQ in Australia. Moodle undergoes two (2) upgrades per year. It’s best practice to upgrade to the latest stable version of Moodle for security and functionality.
|Total Cost||$18,500||$33,500||Note: These are the costs for Moodle ONLY, this does NOT include any courses installed in LMS (that’s what Green CulturED does at LESS costs).|
Implementing, Configuring, and Managing Moodle is Difficult
The scenario above serves as a conservative estimate to deliver a “best of breed” Learning Management System for cannabis training and compliance reporting.
If you plan on self-hosting your LMS, remember to calculate your costs plus the time that you will be spending administrating instead of focusing your employees’ development and ultimately your business.
Consider these costs since you must hire some combination of IT Personnel, Site Administrators, and Instructional Designers:
- Average salary of an Instructional Designer is $75,000
- Average salary an LMS Administrator: $65,000
- Cost for hosting is $3,000
Open-Source vs. Closed-Source LMS’s
The “Association: Learning Management Systems” report released by Tagoras was based on the responses of 11 LMS vendors (Avilar, Blackboard, Digitec Interactive, GeoLearning, iCohere, LearnSomething, Meridian KSI, Peach New Media, Results Direct, WBT Systems and Web Courseworks) contained some interesting statistics.
Especially for the average cost and time for deployment of a typical LMS. The average yearly cost for a closed source LMS ranged from $35,000 for 500 active users to $193,500 for unlimited users and bandwidth. Over 3 years the cost was $59,000 for 500 users and $435,000 for unlimited usage and bandwidth.
Average Implementation times for an LMS ranged from:
- 19.2 calendar days for a simple implementation of the stock-standard LMS
- 47.6 days for a ‘typical‘ implementation, as in the usual experience of LMS vendors
- 85.3 days for a complex implementation involving integration and custom development
4 LMS Cost Comparisons
How Are LMS’s Priced?
LMS solutions deliver educational materials to a vast range of learners because the software and associated courses have a variety of pricing options based on clients’ needs. We’ve identified four (4) standard pricing methods in the LMS marketplace:
The most common option is for clients to pay for their solution on a “per user per month” basis. This figure is based on the total number of users enrolled in the system each month, or the number of active and enrolled users taking courses each month.
An initial service fee for creating accounts may be charged as well. Vendors often provide discounts for upfront annual payment as well as plans with charges broken down monthly.
Intended Client: Small to mid-sized businesses with general training requirements. These solutions typically include cloud authoring functionality for the creation of new content. Lessons and materials are hosted in the cloud so users can access the solution from anywhere at any time, even through a mobile device.
- Lesson.ly: $200/month for up to 25 users; $1,000 for up to 300 users. A custom monthly fee is offered for those exceeding 300 users.
- SmarterU: An initial fee of $499 plus $200/month for up to 100 users. Larger implementations are $650/month for 1,000 users with a custom implementation fee.
LMS solutions often include a variety of features, lessons, modules, and tools. Not all of them may be necessary for every organization since a pay-per-use pricing model allows clients to opt out of certain parts of the software, only being charged for what they use.
Intended Client: Employers with a homogeneous workforce. Access for all users will be restricted to the same “a la carte” choices.
- Prices vary depending on client requirements.
Some vendors offer a “pay per course” model and courses are often selected to meet specific certification requirements. Vendors often offer consultation services to organizations to identify the right courses, they will charge to meet those needs through partnerships that can deliver lessons into the LMS platform.
The vendor may also have all the content available in an internal library, instead of offering authoring tools or third-party partnerships, and will charge to access the content.
Intended Client: Compliance-focused industries with users that must be certified for their roles, such as cannabis, HR, medical or safety.
- Cogentys: Start at $700 per month for a minimum of 500 users. However, this is an average to compare with other solutions and doesn’t consider the model of price per course. The actual costs can be diverse due to two factors:
- The course’s level – A higher level course will be more expensive than an introductory course.
- The industry of the course – A certification for a medical role may cost more than a certification in an HR role, for example.
- Litmos: Litmos specializes in healthcare training content as a separate pay-per-learner tier-based plan in addition to its general LMS solution. Prices range from $99/month for up to 50 users. Beyond 50 users requires a custom implementation.
Vendors may offer a content licensing model, typically at an annual cost. This allows clients to host the solution themselves so they must have a server to host the solution and an IT staff to maintain the server on-site. There are often additional implementation fees for installation, data migration, and training, and there may also be at a per-learner charge as well.
Intended Client: A business with an existing IT staff to manage its data internally.
- Accord: $2,000 implementation charge with an annual licensing fee. $3,540 for 200 users. $8,940 for 1,000 users. Custom pricing option for users exceeding 1,000.
With these pricing methods in mind, it’s important to note that some vendors may offer a mix of pricing plans. A vendor may offer course consulting services with an implementation fee as well as offering a licensing package with an annual fee.
Best of Both Worlds: “Best of Breed” LMS & Fully-Managed Learning Solutions
Many organizations today are moving from their legacy LMS (training content, employee data, etc.) to Moodle LMS to train using multiple content providers while integrating their current systems to get the best online training available for their employees.
Bringing together content from a variety of places so your team can run consistent compliance reports with our platform, built on Moodle, implements continued updates and are compatible with SCORM, Learning Tool Interoperability (LTI), and xAPI.
This means you can integrate all your content into one system and your employees can immediately start their professional development from any device, anywhere.
Let us know what you think.