If you’re thinking about offering a self hosted online course then you’ll undoubtedly come across the need for some type of Learning Management System (LMS). An LMS is essentially the background processes that allow you to administer, teach and learn online.
An LMS can do many things including aiding in the process of student registration, grade tracking, student assessments, student administration and content blocking (such as the need to complete one course module before moving onto the next module) to name only a few things.
A Learning Management System is the framework that an online course is built upon. That being said, even though an LMS can do many things it’s important as a course vendor that you begin the process of deciding on an LMS by asking yourself what you need your LMS to do for you. As we discuss in the podcast below, sometimes all you need is the digital equivalent of two chairs and a table.
Academy Of Mine recently published a blog post where you walk you through the entire process of thinking about, and setting up an LMS for your online training course. You can listen to the full 40 minute podcast here. We’ve also published a Learning Management System comparison chart.
BEST FREE LMS: LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS FOR ONLINE COURSES
1. Academy Of Mine: 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 $100 but we make you $3000, 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 below. 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.
2. MOODLE: 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.
3. .LRN: 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. eFront: Offers a “freemium” LMS where the core of their software is open source but their hosted solutions cost between $85 – $1990 / month.
5. Dokeos: 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.
6. Sakai: Another open source option is Sakai. As is stated on Sakai’s website “Each day community members share thousands of interactions – building and improving the software, requesting help, collaborating on projects, and enjoying the relationships that result from this work”.
7. ATutor: It’s great when LMS websites allow you to see a functioning demo of their Learning Management System (like we do). ATutor does this well. At Atutor you can click on “try the demo” to test drive this LMS. It has plenty of great features and a lot of functionality. and it’s also open source so it’s constantly being improved and updated.
8. Blackboard CourseSites: 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).
9. Latitude Learning: 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.
10. Schoology: Another “freemium” option with a lot of great features for both individual teachers and enterprises. Their LMS comes with many interesting and visually impressive features. For example, an online grade-book, attendance sheets and a student usage tracker.
11. ILIAS: 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.
12: Udemy: 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.
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.