eCourse Growth Strategies

Best Free Learning Management Systems (LMS)

5 min read | Jan 7, 2014
Best Free Learning Management Systems (LMS) cover image

2020 UPDATE: This post has been updated to include the top free learning management systems for 2020.

We’ve put together a list of the best free Learning Management Systems (LMS) options available in 2017 2020. Below you’ll find 15 of the best free, almost free and freemium options available to educators and course vendors looking to put their courses online. Or check out our Learning Management System comparison chart.

Benefits of a free LMS

Going with a free LMS is a great idea especially if you are a small business or new startup that is new to learning management systems. By using a free LMS you will start to figure out what your business needs in a learning management system and save yourself a lot of time and money.

Additional benefits

  • Zero to low startup costs
  • Free open source LMS’s allow you to change source code
  • Easily test several different solutions before deciding on one

Disadvantages of a free LMS

When it comes to using a free or open source LMS you run into a few big disadvantages as you start to scale your business or discover new feature requirements for your business this can cause some headaches if your business is already reliant on a free LMS.

Additional disadvantages

  • Little to none customer support
  • Limited course customization
  • Difficult to scale or costly to upgrade


1. Canvas: Great free LMS for higher education

Canvas is a very powerful LMS platform. One of its key strengths is the presence of a robust API to connect various components. In terms of User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX), it is one of the most friendly lms out there. It competes with other incumbents like Backboard and Moodle. It is open source but requires active contribution if you want to use the free version.

2. Blackboard Course Sites: Free Mobile Friendly LMS

Blackboard is a big name in online education. Many really big universities, corporate organizations and governmental agencies use their main educational LMS called “Blackboard Learn”. However, they’ve released CourseSites to the community of individual teachers and academics. It’s a great free option, but of course, since it caters to individual instructors there are limitations imposed (for example only 500mb is allowed uploaded, only 5 courses can be added).

3. Latitude Learning: Great LMS for startups with low student count

This is another really feature rich “freemium” LMS. You can use their Learning Management System for up to 100 users. This is a great option for individual teachers teaching really small classes. If you want to go beyond 100 users it will costs you around $2 – $4 / active user. The LMS ad-ons (such as the virtual classroom which costs $600) will also add to the costs of the LMS if you’ll need these ad-ons for your online program.

4. Eduflow: Modern Freemium LMS good for startups

Eduflow is a tool to build and run any kind of learning experience online. It allows you to combine a wide range of learning activities together in a so-called “learning flow”, including videos, submissions, instructor feedback, peer reviews and discussions. Eduflow can be used for teaching online courses, for onboarding employees, for sales training – any learning experience you can imagine. Eduflow offers a free version for a limited number of classes and students, and the paid plans allow you teach thousands of students.

5. Thinkific: Great for life fitness instructors & solopreneurs

Thinkific is a great solution for solopreneurs, coaches and fitness instructors looking to sell courses easily. While the free plan only allows for a small selection of features it is a very straight forward learning management system with affordable pricing to attract small businesses.

6. Udemy: A free way to sell courses in a marketplace

Is an interesting option for those looking to sell their courses online. Of course, with us you keep 100% of profits but you pay a small monthly fee but with Udemy because they handle the marketing of your online course, customer support, hosting and those details they take 50% of your course sales but there is no monthly fee so you can teach your course for free from their website.

7. Open edX LMS (from MIT and Harvard): Course marketplace for institutions

EdX is a nonprofit online initiative created by founding partners Harvard and MIT and composed of dozens of leading global institutions, the xConsortium. EdX offers interactive online courses and MOOCs from the world’s best universities and institutions. Open edX is the open source platform that powers edX courses.

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1. MOODLE: The world’s most popular LMS

Moodle is a free web application for educators and probably one of the most popular free LMS’s on the market today. It’s open-source Learning Management System software so it’s constantly being upgraded and developed. However, you might find that you need to hire third parties to help you customize the platform to help you achieve your educational needs. Just because it’s free, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to cost you money. However, you should test it out. It might work for your needs right out of the box.

2. Dokeos: Free open source community edition

Is another open source learning platform. It has pre-built quiz templates and course authoring tools. If you’re on their website you can go to their “videos” page to see a list of their tutorials on using their PHP based platform. This will give you a glimpse into how the course admin back-end looks as well.

3. .LRN: Great LMS framework by MIT

This LMS (pronounced “dot learn”) was originally developed at MIT, .LRN is used worldwide by over half a million users in higher education, government, non-profit, and K-12. It comes out of the box with a lot of great teaching tools (forums, assessment, calendar, grading, evaluation, surveys, syllabus, file storage and a lot more).

4. ILIAS: Flexible course SCORM course player

A SCORM certified open source Learning Management System. ILIAS is a multipurpose tool that can be used as a flexible course player, as an authoring tool, but also as a communication and collaboration platform.

Free LMS Alternative

While not technically a free option we offer services many of the free options don’t. First of all, many of the free options don’t let you sell your course. So you can offer your course, but you can’t make money from it. With us, you can sell and make money from your online course software. Secondly, a lot of the free options leave a lot to be desired from a design standpoint. You can check out our live demo to see how our learning platform looks. And thirdly and most importantly, we believe we’re better than free… because we actually make course vendors money. Our services pay for your small monthly fee many times over. We help our clients make thousands of more dollars on a month to month basis. The way we see it, if we cost you $800 but we make you $6000, we’re not really costing you money. And you keep 100% of your enrollment sales. So in a way… we’re kind of better than free! But if you’re interested in truly free, 100% free… then check out the options above. There are a lot of great options available for those of you who don’t want to monetize your course or want to try to do it on your own.

We hope you found this list helpful. We actually have a really great 40-minute podcast on the topic of creating an LMS for your online course. It’s packed with great information and it’s free to listen to of course.

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