Ready-made LMS vs Custom: What to Choose & When in 2022

The difference between digital and in-person education got even sharper since the pandemic started. It brought major changes to the learning industry and affected both corporate and academic training. However, as the organizations struggled to adapt to the new conditions, another problem arose: what approach should they take in the large and diverse LMS market?

In this article, we will compare the three major ways to digitize learning, provide advice on when you should select each of them, and show how custom development is organized.

LMS Development in a Nutshell

LMS — a learning management system — is a class of software that is intended for organizing and demonstrating educational materials. They provide a much better experience than a disparate jumble of content, especially on physical carriers. LMSes can include reporting, grading, gamification, automated learning paths, and other features that make them stand out.

There are three approaches when it comes to getting a learning management system.

The first is simple: buying a ready-made (out-of-the-box) solution. In this day and age, it is likely to be a cloud-based SaaS LMS that charges monthly/quarterly/yearly payments for use.

The second is customizing an open-source solution to fit your needs. For example, certain features like game-based learning are almost never included in boxed systems. But you can hire a team to modify the existing LMS for this purpose. Note that “open-source” does not necessarily mean free. It just means that the code of the system is available for viewing and changing.

The third one is building the LMS entirely from scratch. Together with the chosen contractor you will plan out and implement a unique solution tailored to your organization’s processes and needs.

Boxed vs Custom vs Customized

Let’s compare each option in detail.

Boxed LMS

There are dozens of possible choices when it comes to purchasing a ready-made LMS. The market is full of reliable products and new ones join the club every year. There are also free options.

These are the main advantages of this approach.

However, there are drawbacks as well:

This is the best choice in the following cases:

Customized LMS

Using an existing product (e.g. Moodle or Open edX) as a basis and expanding them with additional features.

It brings the following benefits:

However, it isn’t perfect:

Customization works best in the following cases:

Custom LMS

This implies building the software entirely from scratch. However, if your contractor is experienced in LMS development, they might have pre-made code snippets for certain features. This speeds up the work.

Custom LMSes have a number of important advantages:

However, there are disadvantages too:

The fully custom solution works best in the following situations:

Common Features

When it comes to boxed LMSes, there isn’t much else to say. However, custom and customized ones need a more in-depth look.

Let’s look at the typical features a vendor (e.g. Aristek) can implement:

Process of Custom Development

Suppose you have decided to order a custom LMS and contacted Aristek. After all, there are good reasons, with our reasonable rates and decades of industry experience. But what comes next?

Stage 1. Analytical Phase

The first step is analysis. Together with the client and based on their vision, we will research the market conditions, available technologies, competitors, and other factors that can affect the final product. This is needed to formulate the most efficient way to deliver the software. This is also the step where the preliminary estimate of time and costs can be made.

Stage 2. Discovery Phase

This stage is mostly dedicated to preparation. It includes documents (Software Requirements Specification, Service Agreement, etc.), architecture, designs, etc. Once the scope of work is narrowed, the estimates can be made more precise and down-to-earth.

Stage 3. Development

This is where the LMS is developed. The work goes in stages (“sprints”), with finished functionality delivered at the end of each. It is also tested for all manner of things, from bugs to security vulnerabilities. As a result, the product is solidly built.

Stage 4. Delivery

Once all the agreed-upon features are done and checked, you can go live with the product. Either you implement it in your organization or start selling it to customers — the details depend on the project.

Stage 5. Post-Launch Support

Should you require it, we can keep working on the project. This doesn’t just include keeping it in mint condition. Post-launch support can include expanding the functionality, updating the software to keep up with the latest trends, technical assistance to the users, and much more.


Today teaching without an LMS puts you at a significant disadvantage compared to your competitors. Choosing the right system (in the case of a boxed one) or the right approach could be difficult. However, with this article, you will have everything you need to know to choose the direction.