Gone are the days when training employees was limited to classroom sessions. With a learning management system (LMS), you can move the entire corporate training process online, from creating courses to tracking progress. The software also lets you add multimedia content and interactive elements to your courses, so the learning experience is fun and engaging for employees.
There are hundreds of LMS tools available on the market, but if you’re looking for free software, there are relatively fewer options. Free LMS software will not only help you save big on IT costs but also let you play around and tailor software functionality to your needs.
To make your search easier, we’ve created a list of the top five free and open source LMS platforms (arranged alphabetically). All tools offer a stand-alone free module that you can choose to upgrade if you need more features. Read our complete product selection methodology here.
ATutor is an open source LMS platform that lets you create online learning courses in 30+ languages. You can even share and archive the learning material. You also get access to AContent, a stand-alone tool that has the content authoring, test authoring, and content interoperability features of ATutor.
A view of the homepage in ATutor (Source)
Here are some key capabilities of ATutor:
- Its course search feature lets your employees browse through course content as well as the course catalog using a built-in native search engine.
- Employees can take tests, review their performance, and track their progress. They can also exit a test midway and later resume from where they left off.
- You can use the content editor to create training content in both HTML and plain text. You can edit learning material online or import it from another editor.
- You can collect online learning material from books, websites, or research papers related to a course and create a reading list using the collected resources.
Upgrade cost: ATutor is free of cost.
2. Forma LMS
Forma LMS is a learning management platform that specifically caters to the online learning needs of corporates. It helps train employees via online webinars, live classes, self-paced courses, and instructor-led training sessions.
Course catalog in Forma LMS (Source)
Here are some key capabilities of Forma LMS:
- It lets you group employees based on their roles and departments to easily assign courses and access rights.
- You can arrange courses under multiple categories and catalogs, making it easy for employees to navigate through them.
- The automatic notification feature alerts employees of approaching due dates, course completion status, registration deadlines, etc.
- Once an employee completes a course, you can generate and share the completion certificate (in PDF format). You can also customize the certificate to add your branding, color scheme, graphics, etc.
Upgrade cost: Forma LMS is free of cost. But if you want to access its latest version (and newest features), you can become a member of the forma.association by paying a standard fee.
Odoo is a customizable open source suite of business applications. It offers an e-learning platform, Odoo eLearning, that lets you create online courses and learning material. It also allows you to track the progress of employees, measure their performance, and share certificates on course completion.
List of lessons in Odoo (Source)
Here are some key capabilities of Odoo eLearning:
- Its advanced reporting feature offers a real-time view of employee performance. It also lets you visually depict employee data using charts, graphs, etc.
- With the help of its instant feedback capability, employees can compare their answers with the actual ones, once an assessment is over.
- It allows you to create various types of assessment questions, such as text box and multiple choice.
- Its course leaderboard helps boost competitiveness by displaying the profiles of top performers.
Upgrade cost: Odoo eLearning is forever free.
4. Open edX
Open edX is an LMS system that allows you to create various types of online courses, such as instructor-led, blended learning, and self-paced courses. It lets your employees access training content, take notes, bookmark specific lessons, have discussions with their peers, and track their learning progress.
View of an ongoing lesson in Open edX (Source)
Here are some key capabilities of Open edX:
- It lets you reuse the material available in the content library across courses. This helps save time, as you don’t have to design content for a course from scratch.
- You can create training content in various formats, including PPT, PDF, and MP4. You can also embed videos from YouTube or any other video streaming platform.
- You can host webinars and live events by integrating the platform with a video conferencing tool of your choice.
- Employees can use the discussion forum to engage in active discussions. They can answer queries or give suggestions to other employees taking the same course.
Upgrade cost: Open edX is free of cost.
Moodle is an open source LMS solution that can be used by corporates as well as educational institutions. It lets you create online courses and learning material for various types of programs, such as compliance training, skill development training, and employee onboarding.
The “My courses” dashboard in Moodle (Source)
Here are some key capabilities of Moodle:
- Its open source code allows you to customize the software per your business needs. You can add your own branding, color palette, logo, etc.
- It lets you create learning content and training material in over 100 languages.
- It offers an app that lets employees access course material and submit assignments using their mobile devices.
- Its third-party integration functionality helps you connect the software with tools such as video conferencing, document management, and content management.
Upgrade cost: Moodle is free of cost.
Next step: Things to consider when choosing an LMS tool
In this article, we’ve featured five top-rated free and open source LMS software options. To choose the one that best fits your needs, follow these steps:
- Speak to your learning and development team and check if they’re looking for any specific features. Ensure those features are available in the free version.
- When choosing any product, confirm with the LMS vendor that there are no hidden charges.
- Visit our LMS software page to read user reviews of your shortlisted tool and get an in-depth understanding of its performance, features, user-friendliness, etc.
We identified popular products for “free and open source LMS” via incognito Google search on Jan. 5, 2021. Each product that appeared on Google’s result pages (going from the top of the page to the bottom) was evaluated on the criteria given below until we had five qualifying products:
We checked if each product offered at least five out of the nine common key LMS features: grade book, learning paths, course authoring, learner portal, test assessment, compliance tracker, certification, gamification, and mobile learning.
- The qualifying tools were further evaluated for a stand-alone free module that didn’t need to be purchased post a limited period or expiry of usage limits.
- Tools that met all of the above criteria were selected for the article.