Finding software can be overwhelming. Software Advice has helped hundreds of institutions choose the right online course platform to help them provide online classes to a variety of different learners.

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Docebo

Docebo is a cloud-based LMS solution to provide training programs for employees, partners and customers. Docebo serves various industries including IT, technology, retail, consulting, healthcare, manufacturing, energy, oil and ga... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 101 recommendations

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Inquisiq

Inquisiq is an adaptable LMS solution that provides eLearning, instructor-led and on-the-job training on a single platform for effective employee development programs. Inquisiq is used by businesses of varying size in a variety of... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 47 recommendations

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Mindflash

Skip the classroom, train anywhere. Mindflash's cloud-based e-learning platform provides a simple, training solution for employees working from home, in the office, or in the field. We make it easier for business leaders to enable... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 38 recommendations

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Coassemble

Coassemble is a cloud based learning management solution (LMS) that allows training administrators to create, manage and deliver online education. The solution is compatible with Android and iOS devices and enables users to access... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 34 recommendations

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Schoox

Schoox is a cloud-based social eLearning solution that helps companies deliver employee training, development and certification courses. Available online or via mobile app, Schoox allow users to create custom-branded academie... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 30 recommendations

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Thought Industries

Thought Industries offers a cloud-based customer training platform designed to suit the needs of business across multiple industries including software, manufacturing, professional training, continued education, continued medical ... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 22 recommendations

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iTacit

iTacit is a workforce app designed to simplify communication and improve engagement between employers and teams. This solution is suitable for organizations in various industries including healthcare, government, banking, manufact... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 14 recommendations

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VAIRKKO Suite

eLearning Cloud is a cloud-based learning management solution (LMS) from VAIRKKO that enables organizations to provide training to their employees. The solution allows users to distribute learning content to company employees, cre... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 13 recommendations

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NextThought

Designed for customer, employee, and partner training, NextThought is a learning management platform built for teams. NextThought empowers team leads to implement training programs to support learning, upskilling, and reskilling w... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 12 recommendations

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Prosperity LMS

Ziiva's suite of Prosperity software systems is designed to help businesses manage their employee training programs. It is suitable for businesses of all size and kind to deliver an end-to-end learning management solution. Pr... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 11 recommendations

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Edvance360

Edvance360 Learning Management Software is a cloud-based learning management system that provides online learning programs for K-12, higher education and corporate training departments. The system features online lesson management... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 9 recommendations

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Intertek Alchemy

Intertek Alchemy is a cloud-based and on-premise solution designed for food processors, manufacturers, packagers and distributors of all sizes. It helps companies engage with their frontline employees to drive safety, quality and ... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 9 recommendations

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OpenSesame

OpenSesame is an elearning course provider that offers more than 20,000 courses covering business skills, safety, compliance, technology, industry-specific and certifications, and it is suitable for the training needs of organizat... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 8 recommendations

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HealthcareSource Learning Management

Designed exclusively for the healthcare industry, HealthcareSource provides a talent management platform with a variety of features, including applicant tracking, onboarding, learning management, performance management, and more. ... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 8 recommendations

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SyberWorks Training Center

Syberworks is a hybrid learning management (LMS) solution that caters to small and midsize businesses across industries such as medical products, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. The solution helps businesses to deliver and mana... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 7 recommendations

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Meridian LMS

Meridian provides award-winning learning management solutions to corporations, federal state and local government agencies and member organizations where operational and compliance requirements are especially complex and critical ... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 5 recommendations

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Kiddom

Kiddom is an education platform that connects curriculum, instruction, and assessment in one place with integrated tools for communication. With Kiddom, schools and districts stay prepared for teaching and learning in any scenario... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 4 recommendations

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BlueVolt

BlueVolt is a cloud-based channel learning and readiness solution. Its design combines a learning management system with a channel marketing network of manufacturers, distributors, buying groups, associations, retailers, and contr... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 4 recommendations

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Crowd Wisdom

Crowd Wisdom is a learning management system that services the corporate extended enterprise market along with the association market. Its cloud-based services allow customers to provide a branded learning portal along with truly ... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 4 recommendations

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Blackbaud Learning Management System

Blackbaud Learning Management System delivers the necessary functionality from assignments and graded discussions to rubrics and competency-based education, to power academic programs in the classroom and online. Our robust partne... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 3 recommendations

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Buyers guide


Last Updated: April 15, 2021

Let's be honest—a lot of us hated going to class when we were young. But now that we're out of the traditional school system, we recognize just how much we still have to learn. We may want to develop our career skills, take up a hobby or even delve deep into a scientific topic we've become interested in thanks to a late-night Wikipedia binge.

While it might be nice to take time off from work and go back to college or graduate school for a first or second degree, this isn't always feasible, and it's certainly not easy financially speaking. That's where online course platforms come in.

Like other learning management systems (LMSs), online course platforms facilitate learning, teaching and training programs for large groups of people. They automate the administration, testing, tracking and reporting of student progress through online courses.

LMS software is commonly used by educational institutions for academic purposes, and by businesses for training and compliance purposes. But, online course platforms can serve larger audiences, and they are frequently open to anybody who is interested in taking the course.

This buyer's guide will discuss the unique properties of online course platforms and explain how they may best be utilized by you and your business.

Here's our syllabus:

What Are Online Course Platforms?
Common Features of Online Course Platforms
What Type of Buyer Are You?
Key Considerations

What Are Online Course Platforms?

Online course platforms are a specific form of LMSs that provide access to massive open online courses, commonly known as "MOOCs." A variety of institutions, from universities to foundations to even the Smithsonian, provide MOOCs through online course platforms. They provide courses in science, engineering, mathematics, writing, business, project management and so on.

These courses are similar to traditional classes in many ways—a teacher provides a syllabus, complete with readings and assignments, posts weekly material for discussion (which may include a live-feed of a lecture, a pre-recorded lecture and/or a discussion board) and makes sure that assignments receive some form of grading or feedback, whether that grade is assigned by a person or a computer algorithm.

Some of these courses offer specific types of certification upon satisfactory completion of materials, while others will open up access to more advanced courses. Many of these classes are provided for free, while others charge a fee. This fee may be charged per class, as a monthly subscription with access to all the classes on a particular platform or as a specific charge in order to receive certification for a class.

Common Features of Online Course Platforms

Learning management The core function of course platforms, manages creating, storing, organizing and administering learning materials.
Certification/compliance management Tracks student progress in order to manage and monitor certification and compliance training and provide certification upon completion of the course.
Virtual classrooms Facilitates live, remote training sessions, typically led via video.
Proficiency reporting/testing Administers tests to gauge users' learning of the course material. Allows for reporting of test scores to identify proficiencies or gaps in learning.
Discussion board Provides a space for students and teachers to interact, whether via text or through the uploading and sharing of video or audio responses.
Dynamic calendar Allows teachers to release materials at specified times during the life of a course, as well as track the submission of assignments by students.

An example of a course calendar in online learning platform Canvas

An example of a course calendar in Canvas

What Type of Buyer Are You?

A wide variety of different types of people and organizations may find online course platforms useful. As a software buyer, you're likely to fall into one of the following categories:

  • Individual. If you are an expert in a particular subject that you wish to teach, you may want to create and self-publish your own online course(s). If this is the case, rather than purchasing software yourself, you should find an online course platform that will allow you to host a class. You may have to pay a fee for this, which you can recoup by charging tuition. The platform may also offer a per-student tuition profit-sharing plan.
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  • Educational institution. Colleges, universities and even high schools are going to be the primary users of online course platforms, since they are institutions that are naturally structured around the provision of educational courses. Online course platforms are especially useful for schools providing distance learning, whether it's for a particular program or for every course offered, in the case of online universities. Systems that mimic tried-and-true educational methods through online recreation of classes, assignments and teacher/student interaction will likely prove the most effective for these institutions.
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  • Nonprofit organization. Charities, foundations, hospitals, religious organizations and other nonprofits may also have a need for online courses. Some nonprofits, such as the United Way, offer classes on topics such as financial management, parenting and other life skills.
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  • For-profit business. Larger businesses may use online course platforms for purposes of employee training, but general LMS software is usually more suited for this task. Online course platforms may be more useful for ongoing career development programs that are structured more like a traditional class.

Key Considerations

Other factors to take into consideration when picking the best online course platform for you or your organization may include:

  • Integration with other systems. If you are going to be hosting classes that pulls a great deal of information from elsewhere—perhaps from a digital media library, or from a business' policy documents—you'll want to be sure that the platform you choose is able to integrate with those other systems. A poor technical experience for students will reflect poorly on you, so you want to make sure they can smoothly access all course materials and can upload their assignments in a variety of different acceptable formats.
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  • Cloud-based software vs. on-premise software. When researching and consulting with potential vendors, make sure you check how their software is hosted. On-premise software will, as the name suggests, be hosted on the premises of your business. This will require space for the hardware as well as an IT department (or consultant) to help you get the software set up and running, as well as to maintain it over time. It is more common today, however, to find cloud-based software, which is hosted by the vendor and delivered to your business online. This will cost less up front and require fewer IT resources, making it a favorable option for most smaller businesses. For online course platforms, it is extremely rare that you will have any need to host your own hardware, since the entire industry is structured around cloud-based access.