Should You Build or Buy an LMS?

May 24, 2021

Whether you’re in the process of launching your first online learning program or you’ve successfully been running one for years, you might be wondering if you should build or buy an LMS (learning management system). As you compare the pros and cons of both options, you’ll notice that the right solution depends on your budget, customization needs, timeline, and willingness to maintain the tech. As a quick refresher, a learning management system helps course creators store, organize and distribute content to their learners. Check out this article to learn more about what makes a great LMS.  

Building an in-house LMS 


  • Meets your exact requirements. 
  • One-time investment with ongoing maintenance costs. 


  • Large upfront investment. 
  • Takes time to build. 
  • Requires hiring a team of engineers and tech support.  

Building an in-house LMS offers the ability to create custom software meeting your exact requirements. With a custom solution, personalize your dashboard, have more control over your branding, and continuously add features that help you streamline your business and deliver content to your learners.

However, building a learning management system is not an easy feat. You will likely need a team of engineers, including 2-3 developers, a design engineer, and a product manager. Requiring an initial investment of capital and a lengthy timeline, building an LMS can cost upwards of $3 million. Your platform will also require ongoing maintenance, so consider how you will solve technical issues and field customer inquiries. 

Buying an LMS 


  • Instant access to build and scale operations. 
  • Lower upfront investment. 
  • No need to hire a team of engineers.  


  • It may not meet all requirements. 
  • Little control over the addition of needed features. 

If you’re considering purchasing an LMS, you’re in luck because there are many established platforms to choose from. Most LMS platforms will have 80-90% of the requirements you’re looking for at a fraction of the cost. Anticipate spending under $100,000 per year. 

Also, you do not have to hire a technical support team. Instead, depend on an external team for ongoing maintenance, technical support, and the implementation of new enhancements and features. Contrarily, you’ll have little control over how quickly a done-for-you LMS will implement suggested features and improvements -- it could take months, years, or never happen. 

Virtually is an example of an LMS. We help online course creators build and scale online learning programs like cohort-based courses, bootcamps, accelerators, and other group-based programs. Virtually can manage your entire program from a single platform, including admissions, live conferencing, calendar management, assignments and grading, payment processing, storing and organizing content, and more. We take pride in building a solution that is powerful, customizable, and flexible. Our team is also actively building an open API that will allow for greater access and integration to software like Zoom, Google Calendar, Slack, and more. Leverage our API to custom build your online school. 

Want to give Virtually a try? Browse our features and try us risk-free for 7-days. Or schedule a demo call with a Virtually team member. We will use this call to learn more about your organization's needs and whether Virtually might be a good fit.

Danielle Desir

Danielle Desir is an author, freelance writer and the host of The Thought Card, an affordable-travel and personal finance podcast. ( Follow on Twitter: @thethoughtcard