Update 1/25/2017: After nearly three years, we’ve amassed quite the collection of comments on this post, including a slew of suggestions for other cheap, small-biz friendly LMs options. We decided to give you a closer look at a few of them. We’ve also updated the already listed software, to reflect price and feature changes since our initial publication.
Whenever my uncle is offered something for free, he always asks, “Is it ‘free’ like a beer, or ‘free’ like a puppy?”
The implication, of course, is that not all things billed as ‘free’ really are. Some things, like puppies, require a lot of upkeep, food, vet shots, and newspaper-covered floors, and may end up costing you quite a lot of money, despite originally being ‘free.’
This is the dilemma you face as a small business owner looking for an LMS to train your employees or to sell courses with. ‘Free’ open source solutions like Moodle tend to have hidden costs you only realize after implementing them (or, ahem, paying someone to implement them for you). The cost in time and resources for upkeep and maintenance is outdone only by the cost of hiring or contracting IT specialists to customize, install, and fix a system which, quite frankly, is probably more complex than most small businesses need.
Unless you yourself are a programmer with a lot of time on your hands, you may be interested in this list of some low-cost alternatives for Moodle that, while not free, are not ‘free’ either.
CSB is Cornerstone OnDemand’s small business suite of web-based products. CSB Learning is a SaaS LMS that compliments (and integrates with) CSB Performance (for talent management) and CSB Goals (for ad-hoc goal tracking). It focuses on social learning, and also comes pre-loaded with Skillsoft’s eLearning course catalog (so you may not even need to build courses from scratch).
Pricing is $6 per employee per month, with an optional $1,000 implementation fee (which includes a dedicated implementation manager and training on the software). A minimum contract of one year is required, but you get a discount if you commit to three years or more.
A web-based LMS aimed at both trainers and those who sell their courses to external learners, DigitalChalk is optimized for smaller players. Highlight features include HD streaming video, a full course editing tool, and mobile learning on iPads and other tablets.
DigitalChalk shines here with very flexible payment options. Customers can choose from either annual, per user fees (starting at $249 per month for 75 users, up to $699 a month for 500 users, with several tiers in between), or pay-as-you go pricing when users register for a course.
Docebo has two LMS offerings, but the one most likely to appeal to small businesses is the Docebo SaaS product. A web-based solution for up to 2,000 users, Docebo SaaS comes replete with a library of free courses, white-labeling functionality, and mobile access through tablets. The software has also recently undergone a facelift and the UI has been modernized and streamlined.
You pay only for active users, not total registered users, with Docebo SaaS, and pricing starts at $230 per month for up to 50 users, with tiers going up to $600 per month for 300 users. After that, you’ll need to get a custom quote from their enterprise pricing system.
Another web-based offering, Feathercap also has a free version for up to one user which can be used test out the system. Feathercap boasts a very modern, pretty UI, with mobile access with tablets and smartphones, as well as eCommerce and pre-built course templates for quick content creation.
Like Docebo, Feathercap only charges for active, not registered, users. Plans start at $19 per month for 2-5 users and go up to $899 per month for up to 1,000 users.
ICS’s Inquisiq R4 is an LMS with a multitude of deployment options: from web-based SaaS, to hosted on an ICS server, to installed on premises. This makes it ideal for businesses who may need something installed locally or with an internet connection that rules out web-based options. Additionally, for corporate training it offers support for blended learning and certification, as well as access to partner libraries of pre-built course content.
Inquisiq R4’s web-based solution begins at $199 per month for up to 50 users, and has tiers going up to $1,199 per month for up to 5,000 users.
The installed on premises version may be more suited for enterprise customers, at $14,950 for a single server, perpetual license with no user limit.
Latitude Learning’s LMS, similar to Feathercap, offers a free version, this one for up to 100 learners. It’s a web-based software, and includes certification, integration with Webex and GoToMeeting, as well as collaborative whiteboards.
The standard LMS is free up to 100 users, and then starts at $1,000 per year (about $84 a month) for up to 250 users, $9,000 for up to 3,000 users ($750 per month) and goes all the way up to $175,000 per year for up to 100,000 users.
A web-based LMS from CallidusCloud used by organizations like Zumba Fitness, Litmos boasts integration with Salesforce. The software has a big focus on mobile learning, with mobile optimized video functionality within courses, and also allows for course creation, eCommerce, and custom branding.
Litmos starts at $3 per user per month for up to 500 users, after which the price drops a dollar. Alternatively, you can get the Salesforce tie-in version of Litmos, which starts at $5 per user per month, and drops a dollar at the same point.
This open source LMS is actually based on a distribution of Moodle. However, a subscription to the web-based product brings with it support, automatic upgrades and security patches that a DIY open source implementation would not provide. Totara supports social learning, white-labeling, and management of face-to-face training.
Totara starts at $2,950 per year ($246 per month) for up to 500 users, and goes all the way up to $29,950 per year for up to 250,000 users.
Quite popular with reviewers, Aktiv Mind prides itself on a simple, straightforward user interface that doesn’t demand a heavy technical background to figure out. It’s a fairly straightforward LMS with basic reporting, all the features one would expect (quiz creation, course hosting, video hosting…) and is low on the bells and whistles that can make other learning management software feel too complicated. It also made Capterra’s Top 20 Most User Friendly LMS list.
Aktiv Mind starts at $69 per month for up to 25 users and scales up to $499 per month for 2,000 active users. Features across pricing tiers are nearly identical, though at the top two levels Aktiv will create your content for you.
If you want a very popular but less “default” feeling LMS, LearnUpon is a great option. LearnUpon is integrated with several Webinar tools as well as Salesforce and xAPI. It’s also gamified, using leaderboards and award badges.
LearnUpon starts at $299 per month for 100 users. After that it has two tiers, each with progressively more features, ending at $899 per month for 1,000 users. After that, you’ll be looking at enterprise custom quotes.
We had several comments letting us know about ProProfs and encouraging us to include it in an update, so here we are! ProProfs is an affordable LMS with multi-device functionality (including mobile), a wide range of design options (even white labelling), and a variety of integrations. It’s robust and no-frills in a good way.
If you want to give it a test run, ProProfs comes with a free version. It lacks reporting and is public online, but if you’re not worried about security lockdown or training data, it’s not a bad choice. If free and public isn’t for you, the paid plan begins at $149 per month, with increased price plans for increased features.