Jim is the L&D manager of a large multinational company. Recently, his boss informed him that the training budget for the new year has been slashed by 15%, as part of the company’s cost-cutting measures. However, the number of training programs planned for the year has been increased by 10%. Jim is in a fix.
Many a training manager face a similar predicament. According to the 2016 Training Industry Report, published by The Training Industry, only 37% of organizations increased their training budgets. To deal with financial constraints, several companies are opting for free learning software, and these include Learning Management Systems (LMSs). Most developers of free learning management platforms offer their products free of charge to companies who don’t use these platforms to sell courses.
What are the most popular free LMSs?
Capterra has come out with list of the most popular free LMSs. Here are the names that made it to the top five slots.
MOODLE is the acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. This learning management powerhouse is inarguably the king of the LMS world. Though MOODLE was conceived as a learning platform for institutions in the education sector, it is widely used by companies. Some of the distinctive features of MOODLE include:
- Facility to deliver courses and customize the GUI in 200+ languages
- Availability of hundreds of third-party plug-ins
- A massive user-community
On the flip side, this LMS is quite complex and people with no technical background often face problems setting up this application.
Blackboard is one of the most popular names in the learning management software market, and this is a free version of their commercial product, Blackboard Learn. CourseSites is an online tool and primarily caters to the needs of individual corporate trainers. Here are a few features that differentiate it from other free LMSs.
- Facility to login using Facebook and Gmail
- Ability to support unlimited learners
- Option to integrate with other Blackboard offerings
This free learning management platform has one major limitation – it doesn’t have an open code. This compels companies who use the LMS to rely on Blackboard to customize the system according to their needs. Moreover, some facilities such as white-labeling and branding features, custom scripts, and single sign-on are available only on payment.
This learning management application has been developed mainly to meet the needs of educational institutions. However, some companies are also using this LMS. Some of the key strengths of this learning platform are:
- Seamless integration with Google Docs
- Collaborative learning (can be facilitated through wikis)
- Good support from a well-funded foundation, which makes it easier to resolve problems
On the negative side, the code of this free LMS is available only to key stakeholders, identified by the developers, from time-to-time. This means the code cannot be accessed by most users of the learning management software. This limitation has resulted in restricting the number of organizations using this LMS.
This LMS can be used free of charge for up to 100 users, and if user populations exceed that number, a subscription fee is charged. The developers of this learning management platform offer their product in 12 languages for a fee. Some of the distinctive features of this LMS are as follows:
- Integration with WebEx and GoToMeeting
- Collaborative whiteboards
- Focus on corporate training needs, as opposed to other free LMSs that are primarily geared for academic institutions
Coming to the limitations, this learning management product does not provide best-in-class mobile learning support. The developers of this product charge for add-ons and some of them can burn a hole in your pocket.
This learning management application is used by many organizations in Europe, where it originates. Dokeos comes with an inbuilt course authoring tool. Here are a few differentiating features of this LMS:
- A library of pre-built quiz templates
- A chat tool
- A relatively low learning curve, compared to other open-source LMSs
There have been many complaints that response for queries and issues is slow, and the resolution of this problem can certainly increase the adoption of this useful learning platform.
Free LMSs offer cost-effective solutions to the learning management needs of companies. What are your experiences with these learning platforms? We’d love to know.