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Published on:
March 23, 2022

Top Free LMS Platform Options [Comparative Guide]

Thinking about checking out the wide world of learning management systems?

Online training has increasingly become the go-to solution for businesses looking to train employees, and learning management systems have stepped in to become the software of choice to facilitate that training. This has resulted in tons of free LMS platform options popping up around the internet, with a lot of them promising the same or similar features to paid LMS software.

A quick Google search for “free LMS” should result in hundreds of free online LMS software offerings, but is “free” all it’s really cracked up to be?

In this article, we’ll discuss the details of a typical free online LMS system while diving into a comparison of free versus paid LMS options.

Introduction to Free LMS Software

The eLearning industry is currently booming, and showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. With the mobile learning industry predicted to reach a value of $80.1 Billion worldwide by 2027, it seems that companies are taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to implementing eLearning into their existing tech stack.

Like any other software out there, you can find free online LMS solutions all over the internet. Using LMS free to start off with might be a great idea, as you can get yourself used to the idea of LMS software and experiment with different features, giving you a better understanding of what would work and not work for your business.

After all, the best way to get to know a piece of software is to get your hands dirty and dig deep into its functionality.

Free Online LMS Software: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Free Online LMS Software

The most obvious advantage of a free LMS online system is, well, that it’s free. The best part of a free LMS is that you can practice with the platform, familiarize yourself with typical LMS features, and get used to the main function without having to spend a dime. 

But when you don’t have to pay for a piece of software, it’s sometimes easier to overlook the negatives that will inevitably come with it. That being said, some companies have the resources, employees, and time to dedicate to a free LMS, and that is the best solution for their business.

Let’s take a closer look at a  free LMS online system, and provide a transparent look at what you’re actually getting when you opt for free overpaid.

Types of Free LMS Platform

To start with, it’s important to realize that when it comes to a free LMS platform, there are two different types that you can choose from:

  • Open-source free LMS software. The term “open source” refers to software that is openly and publicly accessible, meaning that whoever created the software has provided the full source code so anyone can use the code in any way they desire. For example, Google’s Android operating system for smartphones is open source software, meaning that any company can use it in any way they see fit. This is why you’ll see different takes on the Android interface when you buy a smartphone from Samsung versus Huawei.
  • Free versions of Paid LMS software. Many paid LMS software solutions to offer free trials and demos of their software to prospective customers. These trial periods are often limited to anywhere from 7 to 30 days and occasionally restrict some more enticing features to get you to opt for the full, paid version. Sometimes paid LMS solutions will also offer a completely free version of their software, albeit with restricted access to some of the more enticing features of the full paid version.

Is an Open Source Online LMS Free Secure?

There’s a common misconception that open source software is less secure than proprietary software (software that is created and maintained by one entity, often a company, and the software code is not shared with any outside parties), but that is actually a myth. In actuality, open-source software is just as secure, if not more secure, than proprietary software. Companies who make open-source software release security patches just like anyone else, and sInce open source software typically has a community of people who dive deep into the code. Exploits and vulnerabilities are often identified quickly so they can be addressed.

Are There Hidden Costs with Online LMS Free?

The short answer is yes.

Every LMS out there, whether it’s free or paid, is going to need, at the very least, ongoing general IT maintenance and course development. This is where free online LMS software incurs costs since, unless you have an existing team of IT professionals and instructional designers, you’ll have to dedicate time and money to creating course content and maintaining the platform.

In addition, you’ll likely have to pay for additional server space to host your free LMS since most free online LMS systems don’t include server space. If you want your employees to be able to access the LMS on the cloud (a standard feature for most paid LMS platforms), you’ll need to ensure that feature is set up in advance as well. 

Basically, even if you are opting for a free online LMS, you’ll still need to spend money somewhere, whether that’s time for existing employees to develop and maintain the system to hiring outside help to take care of maintenance and course development tasks. In short, a free LMS is never completely free.

Free LMS Sites vs. Paid LMS

Free LMS Sites vs Paid LMS

You’re ready to take advantage of all that eLearning has to offer, but the big question still looms: should you go for a free LMS or spring for a paid version? In order to answer that question properly, we’ll have to explore what you’re really getting when you choose a free LMS versus paid LMS and go from there.

Let’s start with the main advantages and disadvantages of online LMS free:

Advantages of a Free LMS 

  • Low barrier to entry (you can download a few pieces of free online LMS software and play around with their features without worrying about the financial investment)
  • Gain familiarity with core LMS features (downloading free online LMS software helps you learn what an LMS does, and helps you understand your own use cases)
  • Helps with future Resource planning (how much dev time will be needed, IT considerations)
  • Allows you to test course functionality (upload your course and see if everything works properly without having to pay for an LMS platform)

Disadvantages of a Free LMS 

  • Typically has little or no customer support (although there is usually a community of developers and users that you can reach out to, there’s typically no or limited formal customer support offered with free online LMS systems)
  • Requires development knowledge (this is especially applicable to open-source LMS platforms, as you’re expected to build off of the base software with your own development initiatives)
  • Can quickly become costly with hosting and maintenance (with a free, open-source LMS, you’ll have to provide your own server space, IT support, and development to keep the system running smoothly)
  • Limited features (many companies that offer free versions of their paid LMS will limit features to entice you to move to the paid version)

In contrast, there are the main advantages and disadvantages of paid LMS platforms:

Advantages of a Paid LMS 

  • Typically has full customer support and options for development help (if you don’t have the resources to develop and maintain courses yourself)
  • Free LMS hosting and server space is included in a paid plan (so you don’t have to worry about hosting the LMS on your own servers)
  • Includes robust features (the features of a paid LMS go above and beyond any free offering)
  • Easy to use (paid LMS platforms are typically built from the ground up to be easy for the average user to create, modify, and analyze course content)

Disadvantages of a Paid LMS Platform

  • Often has an onboarding process cost (the LMS platform you choose will likely have an onboarding fee in addition to the subscription cost)
  • Can be costly to maintain over time (especially with updating course content and ensuring the system continues to run smoothly)
  • Requires time investment to create training materials (although some paid LMS platforms offer a library of course content, you’ll still need to create or upload internal company training materials and resources)

Comparison of Popular Free LMS Sites versus Paid LMS Software

comparison of popular free LMS vs paid

Wondering how the free versus paid versions of popular LMS software stack up? Here is a quick comparison of LMS platforms that offer both free and paid versions and how their features differ from each other.

LMS software

Free version features

Paid version features

Moodle

  • Open source and free forever
  • Community support
  • Completely customizable 
  • Low-cost hosting and maintenance options
  • Professional support with hosting, customization, and training
  • Cloud-based

GoSkills

  • 7-day free trial
  • Access to all features in the LMS during the free trial
  • Low-cost entry point for small teams
  • Access to a library of course content on GoSkills.com
  • Microlearning
  • Gamification
  • Accreditations and awards for completed courses
  • Access to handpicked expert instructors

TalentLMS

  • 100% free option (up to 5 users and 10 courses)
  • Unlimited email support
  • Unlimited course uploads
  • Up to 1000 users (depending on which plan you choose)
  • Gamification
  • Single sign-on
  • Custom reports
  • Automations
  • Custom domain with SSL
  • Success manager (a dedicated person to help you with TalentLMS)

Thinkific

  • 100% free option
  • Drag and drop course builder
  • Website templates
  • Email and phone support
  • Access to Thinkific App Store
  • eCommerce
  • 1 site admin account
  • Limited courses but unlimited students
  • Unlimited courses and students
  • All features in the free version
  • Live chat support
  • Custom domain
  • eCommerce
  • Drip scheduling
  • Access to Thinkific courses (depending on the plan)
  • API Access (depending on the plan)
  • White labeling (depending on the plan)
  • Onboarding package access (top tier plan only)

Bitrix

  • 100% free version
  • One-on-one chats
  • Public and private chats
  • Chat channels
  • One-on-one HD video calls
  • 5GB of storage
  • All features in the free version
  • Enhanced video call features (more features the higher the plan)
  • 24GB to 1TB of storage depending on the plan
  • Enhanced CRM features (more features the higher the plan)

Top 4 Free Online LMS System Choices For Every Industry 

top free LMS choices

Let’s say you’ve gone through all the top free online LMS platforms, but you’re wondering what the best option is for your particular industry. After all, different industries have different needs, and it could be that a particular free online LMS system is a great option for a business in the education industry but doesn’t serve the needs of a business in the construction industry as well.

Here is a list of 5 different free online LMS software options for common industries and how their specific features serve businesses in those industries:

  1. Moodle (best free LMS for schools)
  2. KloudLearn (best free LMS for business or enterprise)
  3. Talent LMS(best free LMS for healthcare workers)
  4. EdApp (Best free LMS for retail)

Moodle (Best Free LMS for Schools)

moodle

Source

As one of the most popular open-source learning management systems on the market, Moodle is often used by educational institutions, including primary schools all the way to universities. Because Moodle is open source and has built up a large online community, the features for educators have been honed over the years to cater to different levels of schooling.

Features in Moodle that directly benefit students and teachers include:

  • Collaborative learning activities (Wikis, forums, workshops, blogs, and more)
  • Notifications that help keep students on track with courses, assignments, and exams
  • Checklists for students to keep track of their own progress
  • The ability to measure and track student progress, including keeping track of grades and submitted assignments and tests, as well as identify students who may need extra help
  • The ability to issue rewards for progress and completion of assignments, courses, and tests
  • Gamification features to keep students engaged in coursework
  • Themes, integrations, and third-party plugins to enhance functionality

KloudLearn (Best Free LMS for Business)

Kloudlearn

Source

We chose KloudLearn as free LMS for corporate learning or business pick because it includes a robust mix of learning management and learning experience platform features, as well as cyber security training. They even offer a free demo for up to 100 users without limiting features, making it easy for you to try out the software and see if it works for your business.

Specific features that make KloudLearn attractive to businesses include:

  • Full content management and course authoring
  • Analytics and reporting dashboard
  • Free cloud LMS
  • Gamification elements to keep learners engaged
  • Built-in assessment creation, including video and quizzes
  • Social learning capabilities to encourage employee collaboration
  • Robust administrator control, including single sign-on and restricted access
  • Mobile and web-based learning support
  • Email and phone support

Talent LMS (Best Free LMS for Healthcare Workers)

Talent LMS

Source

When it comes to keeping your medical staff trained and kept up-to-date with the latest information, those in the healthcare industry often look to in-person seminars and similar events, which can cause strain on already tight department budgets. On the other hand, healthcare professionals are busy, so being able to dedicate time and effort to training is a big ask.

With a platform like Talent LMS, however, you can deliver training to healthcare professionals quickly and easily through its built-in course authoring tool. You can also upload your existing content. 

Features that make Talent LMS attractive for the healthcare industry include:

  • Support for microlearning, which is bite-sized training that can be taken in minutes
  • Mobile support to give busy professionals more flexibility for completing training
  • On-demand analytics and reporting to keep track of an entire team's learning outcomes
  • Ability to issue certificates for course completion
  • Automations to reduce time-consuming administration tasks

EdApp (Best Free LMS for Retail)

EdApp

Source

Despite the name suggesting that this might be a free LMS for schools, Ed App offers several features that make it perfect for a frontline workforce, including a big focus on mobile learning and microlearning. The free version of EdApp offers support for unlimited users and a decent selection of standard LMS features, including a free cloud LMS, making it a great choice, especially for smaller businesses like retail or restaurants looking for value. 

Features that make EdApp attractive for frontline workers include:

  • Mobile support
  • Microlearning
  • Offline mode when the internet connection is an issue
  • Unlimited course authoring
  • Integrations support (even in the free version
  • Customer support
  • Full reporting and analytics
  • Leaderboards and gamification

Paid LMS Options if You Need More Robust Features

paid lms options

While free is never a bad thing, once you get your feet wet with LMS platforms, chances are you’ll want to dive into paid offerings. Paid LMS platforms typically offer features such as support for more users, enhanced course authoring capabilities, more course features like gamification, and much more.

Let’s get into our list of paid LMS offerings:

  1. Tovuti
  2. SkyPrep 
  3. ProProfs Training Maker
  4. Absorb LMS

Tovuti

tovuti

What exactly makes Tovuti hit the top of our list of paid LMS software? A user-friendly, fast, and robust learning management system that makes it easy to create engaging, atheistically-pleasing courses with the click of a few buttons. 

But Tovuti is more than just a pretty LMS, as the reviews tell us. Tovuti is a powerful learning management system that is backed by excellent customer support and an effective back-end administration system that is easy to use. 

In addition, we work for any industry: our built-in LMS features, integrations support, and API support ensures you have what you need to keep your employees fully trained and compliant. Need more information? Watch our demo, and we’ll walk you through our system.

SkyPrep

skyprep

Source

The key takeaway from reviews of SkyPrep is that it is an easy-to-use LMS platform that provides all of the main features that one would expect of a paid LMS, including a modern, intuitive interface that makes uploading and creating course content easy. It also has mobile support for training on the go. 

With SkyPrep’s enhanced user management system, you can bulk upload user information or enter user information manually and set automatic actions for bulk users, such as deadline and training reminders. This makes it much easier to manage many users at a time and also aids in the platform’s scalability.

ProProfs Training Maker

proprofs

Source

A robust training solution that offers LMS features that can work for multiple industries, ProProfs is a lesser-known but fully-featured LMS platform that allows you to create and sell online courses.

The course creation platform works entirely online through a browser, so there are no downloads and installation time necessary to start creating courses. There’s also a variety of course templates to choose from to make it easier to make nice-looking courses in less time. For regulated industries or workplaces where certifications need to be kept up to date, the ProProfs platform includes compliance monitoring and automatic notifications that let employers and employees know when further training is required. 

Absorb LMS

absorb LMS

Source

As an LMS that hovers on the boundary of LMS and LXP, Absorb LMS provides a variety of online training solutions through its various product offerings, including the main Absorb LMS, Infuse, Engage, Analyze, and Create LI. Each product offering gives you a different piece of the LMSpie, with the main LMS being the crust that keeps the pie together. Infuse, for instance, integrates learning into your existing software, while Engage incorporates gamification and other elements to keep learners motivated.

 Because there are 5 different product offerings, Absorb’s approach to pricing for its system depends on your company’s unique needs, which they determine by an investigative phone call with you.

Conclusion

paid is better then free for lms software

Free online LMS software is needed in the online learning marketplace, as it removes barriers to entry and provides a way for organizations in all industries to educate themselves on the benefits of LMS software. 

But as the old saying goes, “free is never free,” and there can be hidden expenses even with a free LMS, mostly in implementation, maintenance, and ongoing IT support. Still, some businesses prefer the control of open source, free LMS software, while others prefer the ease of use and included customer support that is typical of paid LMS software.

If you’re looking for LMS software that provides benefits to any business in any industry, is easy to use, and has robust features, look no further than Tovuti. Our software is built from the ground up to support your online training goals. Watch our demo today, and we’ll walk you through how our software can benefit you.

Author:
Tyson Chaplin

Tyson Chaplin earned his Master of Educational Technology degree from Boise State University in 2014. He also earned a graduate certificate in Technology Integration and holds teaching certificates in online teaching, special education, and history.

Tyson is an Idaho native who is passionate about technology and how it can help all people learn and better themselves. He has worked in both public and private sectors. Tyson enjoys cooking and traveling with his wife, Malia, and restores vintage video game systems in his free time.

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