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The Top 8 Free/Open Source LMSs

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Update 10/26/16: Back by popular demand! We saw your comments and decided to incorporate the free LMSes you told us about. We’ve also upgraded our honorable mentions into full entries in order to give you better information about each one.

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I have a friend who once wrapped his entire body, head to toe, in tin foil.

He also wrote “steak + guacamole” on himself in permanent marker, and then sauntered (in public, on public sidewalks with normal people all around) to his local burrito joint. He endured the stares, embarrassment, and giggles all for one, glorious thing: a free burrito.

People will do a lot just to get something for free. Luckily, if you’re looking for a free or open source Learning Management System, you don’t have to go crazy and break out the tin foil.

Get a FREE Copy of the Top 20 LMS Software

I’ve collected a list of the very best freemium, totally free, and/or open source LMSs out there, and it’s all below, no enduring of awkward stares on the sidewalk required.

1. Moodle

This is the gorilla in the room of open source LMSs. Moodle is primarily aimed at the education market, but is also used by plenty of corporations for eLearning and training purposes, including big guys like Cisco and Subaru. Being open source Moodle is totally free, but certain optional peripherals and support from third parties can cost money, and it should be stressed that open source solutions can cost as much or more than proprietary software because of the internal tech resources you need to devote to implement and maintain them.

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Moodle’s welcome screen

Differentiating features

Moodle has most of what you would expect in an LMS, like student dashboards, progress tracking and support for multimedia classes, and additionally includes mobile friendly themes, support for third party plugins and add-ons and the ability to sell courses using PayPal.

Pros/cons

Because Moodle is the big open source player in the LMS space, it is supported by a massive and active community with tons of plugins and options to customize it to your exact specifications. It also benefits from a lot of online documentation for help with support issues or questions as well as loads of pre-constructed courses that may just save you from having to create your own content. All this comes at a price, however, and Moodle has been criticized as overly complex and difficult for a lay person to learn and set up. Other potential downsides include incomplete reporting and no easy way to manage groups of learners.

2. CourseSites by Blackboard

Blackboard is a very well-known name in the eLearning community, and they’ve released a free version of their Blackboard Learn software called CourseSites. CourseSites is aimed at individual instructors and, like Blackboard’s other offerings, caters to the academic rather than the corporate market. The software is web-based and free, and allows the creation of up to five active “course sites” (each representing one discrete class).

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An example of creating a lesson plan in CourseSites

Differentiating features

CourseSites has the ability to login using popular web services like Facebook and Gmail, and supports an unlimited number of students and easy integration with Blackboard’s other offerings.

Pros/cons

CourseSites is not open source software, so it avoids some of the issues which plague those (lack of support, a requirement that you be tech savvy to implement etc.) and it’s a very user-friendly system as it was created with the individual teacher in mind. It is, however, missing some of the functionality of Blackboard’s paid offerings, which may make it less useful for institutions and organizations. These include white-labeling and branding features, custom scripts, single sign-on, integration with a wider enrollment system and the ability to batch and archive things like grades.

3. Sakai

Another open source solution, Sakai differs from Moodle in a few key elements. It is built on Java, as opposed to LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) and while it is open source, only certain key stakeholders and commercial affiliates are allowed to contribute to the source code. It is aimed at academic institutions as opposed to corporate training.

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Tests and quizzes within Sakai

Differentiating Features

Sakai integrates with Google Docs, and includes tools like a wiki, online testing, presentation slides and the ability to use Dropbox as well.

Pros/cons

Sakai enjoys the support of a well-endowed educational foundation which oversees the strategic development of the software. This means that significant resources ($6 million compared to Moodle’s $12,000 per year) can be brought to bear should any major issues arise. That said, because Sakai is Java-based as opposed to LAMP, some have argued this increases the total cost of ownership for users. Java servers and developers are typically more expensive than PHP ones. Additionally Sakai serves a narrower clientele and so there is not as broad a community of support, plugins and add-ons as there is with Moodle, for instance.

4. Latitude Learning

Latitude Learning is a “freemium” LMS that is free to use for up to 100 learners and then starts at $1,000 a year with optional add-ons. It’s a largely web-based system and targets corporate training and B2B environments. Clients include Chrysler, GM and the American Board of Emergency Medicine.

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The homepage of the LatitudeLearning LMS

Differentiating features

Latitude Learning includes certification, integration with Webex and GoToMeeting, as well as collaborative whiteboards, and support for nine different languages. It also has extensions (like eCommerce) that can be purchased.

Pros/cons

With over three million users, Latitude Learning is definitely scalable and a focus on corporate training sets it apart from all the other, more academically focused, solutions on this list. For businesses and training professionals this focus is definitely a pro. However, Latitude Learning does not yet have mobile support, or a 3rd part content library, and its add-ons can be costly if you need to extend any of its functionality.

5. Dokeos

Dokeos is another open source solution, this time built on PHP as opposed to Java like Sakai. It originates from France, and has seen wide adoption there and in Belgium (as well as 60 other countries comprising over 6,000 total installations). It relies on an on premises model as opposed to SaaS.

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Tracking student progress in Dokeos

Differentiating features

Dokeos boasts a built-in course authoring tool, as well as pre-made quiz templates, private groups, and a chat tool.

Pros/cons

With Dokeos’ “Oogie Rapid Learning” feature it’s easy to convert both Powerpoint and OpenOffice Impress to SCORM, and Dokeos has a lower learning curve than Moodle (and looks better out of the box if aesthetics are a priority). Dokeos does suffer from difficulty in customizing user levels, and users have reported that response times for questions/issues on the forum are long so that support may be an issue.

6. eFront

eFront is an open source LMS, with a paid, hosted version available as well. The company that runs it is based in Greece, and the paid versions start at $85 a month. While the open-source version is no longer supported officially by eFront, you can find older releases on SourceForge.

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Student progress in eFront

Differentiating features

eFront includes an intuitive icon-based interface, a course creation tool, as well as internal chat and built-in forums.

Pros/cons

Because this is open source backed by a for-profit company, the support forums tend to be active and technical issues get resolved. That said, the free open source version of eFront lacks eCommerce functionality, certification, and social media integration.

7. Schoology

Schoology is a freemium LMS aimed primarily at educators (similar to Blackboard’s CourseSites). It’s web-based and the Basic Package is free for instructors, with the option to upgrade to an Enterprise Package if you want specialized support or integration with your school’s SIS platform. Schoology does not share the prices for the Enterprise Package on its website.

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A course in Schoology

Differentiating features

Several of the stand-out features for Schoology include mobile access, Google Drive integration, content creation tools, and access to a library of public courses and other content.

Pros/cons

Schoology’s mobile functionality and workflow are top-notch, and the modern interface and integration with the newest cutting edge cloud apps helps to bring it out of the pack, though it may not be as full-featured as something more complex like Moodle, and doesn’t include private messaging between students.

8. ILIAS

ILIAS is an open source, web-based LMS developed at the University of Cologne in Germany, where it enjoys a wide user base of installs. Its user base (5,000 current installations) is a mix of universities and government and defense organizations, primarily in Europe.

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Managing courses in ILIAS

Differentiating features

ILIAS is security certified by NATO and used in NATO’s high-security intranet as well as by several national defense departments and armed forces. Additionally, the system makes it easy to set different user roles and control access to separate parts of the software.

Pros/cons

ILIAS has a long pedigree (13+ years) and has managed to retain a growing user base and coherent code-base, so if you’re looking for something with strong security, that’s likely to be around for a while (something “safe”), this may be the LMS for you. Additionally, an active community that even sponsors its own annual conference ensures support issues you may have will be dealt with. However, it suffers from a clunky interface design, and several features of other LMSs (like mobile integration) require the installation of plugins or other add-ons.

9. ATutor

This open source, Canadian LMS includes contributions from as diverse a group as the University of Toronto, government of Ontario, and the American Academy of Opthamology.

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A sample ATutor dashboard

Differentiating features

ATutor is paired with another free/open-source system called AContent, which is an LCMS that allows for course and test authoring using the same functionality as the ATutor LMS.  This means you only need to really learn one system for both creating and delivering SCORM-compliant learning content.

Pros/cons

The standard open source caveats apply (make sure you’re fairly technical before trying to implement it yourself, for support you may have to rely on FAQs and community forums unless you want to pay extra etc.), but ATutor otherwise has a lot going for it.  A very active online community means getting bugs fixed and questions answered is pretty straightforward, and the wealth of available functionality should satisfy most LMS requirements you have.

10. Canvas

Canvas offers a paid version with pre-built course content and hosting, or an open source option that relies on you to provide the content, hosting etc.  The open source version is free for individual teachers if you want Canvas to host it (click the “Build It” link), or free for unlimited users if you host it yourself.  Canvas boasts 15,000,000 users worldwide, and organizations that use it include Champlain College and Michigan Tech University.

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The Canvas dashboard

Differentiating features

Canvas offers a wide array of unique functionality, including Integration with hundreds of third party apps, mobile apps on both iOS and Android, and built-in video recording.

Pros/cons

The free version is limited to one user if you’re looking to have Canvas host it for you, and the system is very clearly aimed solidly at the academic market (Canvas’s parent company, Instructure, offers a paid corporate training LMS separately).  That said, Canvas is a slick tool, designed from the ground up to be a modern web application, with plenty of functionality for the educational space.

11. ELMSLN

Much like LMSs built on WordPress, ELMSLN is a free extension for open source content management system Drupal.  ELMSLN has been installed in over 12,000 Drupal systems, including those of Penn State University and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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ELMSLN logo

Differentiating features

ELMSLN is a very active open source project, with a plethora of developers working on it and the advanced functionality it offers reflects this.  From Open Badges support, to Tin Can/xAPI integration, ELMSLN is on the cutting edge of eLearning functionality.

Pros/cons

If you’re not familiar with Drupal, ELMSLN may present a difficult learning curve.  Yet an active development community, and a plethora of updates will ensure a useful, feature-rich system if you already know, or are willing to learn, Drupal’s back-end.

12. Google Classroom

Google’s free LMS offering is only available to accredited academic institutions (those with a Google Apps for Education account).  Google Classroom is also free for any number of students and teachers.

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A teacher’s syllabus view in Google Classroom

Differentiating features

Having been built by Google, Classroom integrates very well with other Google properties like YouTube, Docs, and Drive.  An intuitive look-and-feel, combined with functionality like commenting on individual course content encourages student engagement.

Pros/cons

As we said in our Google Classroom review, the tool is not quite yet a full-featured LMS.  It’s missing features like automated grading of quizzes and tests, or adding of students.  However, it’s a great tool for a blended learning course to cut down on paper and ensure tighter collaboration between students.

13. Kornukopia

This free, web-based LMS is already used at several hundred different schools worldwide.  Kornukopia offers all its core modules free of charge to “valid schools,” though may charge at a later date for advanced or add-on modules.

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Kornukopia’s grading module

Differentiating features

Kornukopia is an advanced academic LMS.  That means it supports things like Common Core, mobile access, and an integrated student information system (SIS).

Pros/cons

Kornukopia doesn’t yet charge for anything, but they do state their intention to “make a profit by providing schools, students, parents and teachers additional value,” so there is some risk that their current free version may not remain free, or that their business model may change in the future.  However, the tool itself, while limited to academic organizations, is clean, straightforward, and intuitive.

14. Myicourse

Myicourse allows users to create online “colleges” which house multiple courses.  If you decide to make your courses public, creating and running them is totally free (Myicourse makes money through ads), but if you’d prefer to keep them private, the software is only free up to 100 students.

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Example of a public Myicourse college

Differentiating features

Easy white labelling, as well as the ability to sell courses (Myicourses takes 10% if you choose to do this), marks this system as a good option for corporate training (as opposed to the large amount of academic-only tools on this list).  Being able to track student traffic, course sales, and more also adds a layer of quantitative detail that makes it a great fit for those offering things like certifications.

Pros/cons

Unfortunately, if your course content is sensitive and not something you want online for everybody to see, the free version of this tool is limited, and students will have to deal with banner ads.  However, the tool itself is easy to use and straightforward with built-in course creation functionality.

15. NEO LMS

This freemium LMS, previously “EDU 2.0” but since rebranded, allows accredited schools with 400 students or less to use the platform for free.   The company also offers a paid LMS, MATRIX, for businesses and other organizations that are not accredited learning institutions.

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An example course dashboard in NEO LMS

Differentiating features

Aside from the clean and modern interface, NEO LMS stands out with its ease of use and integrated eCommerce functionality, as well as native iOS and Android apps, and built-in gamification features like badges.

Pros/cons

Unfortunately, the free version of NEO LMS is limited to accredited schools, and some users have complained about difficulty exporting grade rubrics.  However, its well-designed UI makes it easy to pick up and use, and the transparent visuals encourage students to check on their own progress and assignments.

16. Open SWAD

Open SWAD (which stands for “shared workspace at a distance”) is a product of the University of Granada.  It’s open source, but also available for free as a cloud-based system.  SWAD is currently used by the National University of Asunción in addition to the University of Granada.

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A sample class in OpenSWAD

Differentiating features

Being open source, the SWAD system is very configurable, allowing you to edit mail domains, banners, degree types, notifications, and more.  You can easily share files, and there’s built in forums and chat along with an Android app.

Pros/cons

OpenSWAD was developed primarily by Spanish speakers, and this can be apparent in some of the terminology or grammar in the English-translated pages, and the tool doesn’t support newer functionality like gamification.  However, the ability to access the tool online for free, and the great job it does offering the basics in a small implementation package make it worth a look.

17. OpenClass

Open Class is shutting down. It will close fully in 2018, but in the meantime they are not accepting any new accounts.

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OpenClass’s social sharing view

Differentiating features

This web-based tool puts a premium on social learning, and this is apparent with its integration of profiles, shares, feeds, and statuses, as well as option to video chat within the software.  Additionally its mobile and tablet apps make it easy to access on-the-go, and a curated learning content marketplace offers course content and Open Educational Resources from publishers.

Pros/Cons

OpenClass doesn’t offer support, but does have a full user community to answer questions.  Additionally, while the software itself is free, Pearson is hoping users will go on to buy additional content from them.  That said, this is a very solid hosted solution with great modern features and a continuous update cycle that will keep it relevant for a while to come.

18. Open edX LMS

Last, but not least, is this well-known collaboration between Stanford, MIT, and Google.  Open edX is an open source platform for creating and hosting MOOCs, as well as smaller classes and training courses.

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A course within the Open edX LMS

Differentiating features

The biggest differentiator here is not any special functionality, but the fact that this tool is supported very publically by such heavyweights as MIT and Google.  Not only is there a huge, active community around Open edX, but tons of guides and help getting started with it.  The tool also comes with more than just the Open edX LMS (which itself includes progress tracking, a built in discussion wiki, and detailed reports) such as Open edX Studio which lets you create courses and content.

Pros/cons

Open edX LMS has wide adoption and a big user base, but that does mean it needs to cater to a lower common denominator.  For instance, it may not include advanced functionality like gamification out-of-the-box.  That said, with such a huge community, and with tons of pre-built course content already available on the platform for free, if you just want something that does the basics and does them well, this could be a good fit.

19. Chalkup

Chalkup is an LMS that doesn’t like calling itself an LMS. The origin story found on Chalkup’s website suggest it was born out of a frustration with traditional learning management systems. Whatever you call it, it has the features you’d expect from any good LMS (course creation, online hosting, dropbox-esque submissions, etc), which it provides in a clear and tech savvy package.

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Chalkup’s instant messaging feature

Differentiating features

Teachers can grade projects from in-app rubrics, which is a neat feature I haven’t seen before. Chalkup also features an instant messaging function with group and direct options.

Considerations

Chalkup has innovative new designs and options and is very aesthetically attractive. It has Google Drive integration, which is always a plus in my book. It’s primarily used by schools, K-12 in specific, but there’s nothing about it that should inherently bar it from being used by corporate trainers. We, unfortunately, don’t have a ton of Chalkup reviews, but what we do have seems very favorable.

20. Chamilo

Chamilo is a free LMS developed in Spain. It’s open-source, cloud-based, and designed for the corporate world. It hadn’t made our main list previous because it’s really a fork of Dokeos (which does not have a free version), but because it was so heavily recommended by our commenters, we’ve decided to include it.

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A Chamilo profile page

Differentiating features

It’s a customizable system with an edits-friendly source code. It has user customization options, including profile pages, which can be helpful for social learning. Thanks to its Spanish origins, it also comes in several languages, including Spanish, English, French, and Italian, so if you’re not working in English, you have options.

Considerations

Chamilo is a clever system, however, it is absolutely a fork; it can’t quite stand up on its own. The open source code has a strong online support community. The memory cost is fairly large since it comes with a lot of files. Clean your computer or expect a slowdown. Chamilo reviewers recommend that you try it extensively before deciding if it’s right for you. They also suggest you avail yourself of the tech support Chamilo offers.

21. Claroline

Note that the home page is in French, though the software comes in several languages. Claroline is sometimes heralded as the original LMS. The argument is that most “LMS”s are actually “TMS”s. They manage and are geared towards the teachers far more than the students. Claroline attempts to be learner-focused instead by keeping the system as streamlined and as intuitive for the learner as possible.

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Claroline course selection page

Differentiating features

The system is extremely simplified, which allows for it the be very streamlined and stripped down. There isn’t a lot of clicking around through pretty pages to find what you need. There are also social learning aspects, such as the ability to have students peer-edit one another. Claroline also comes mildly pre-gamified with achievement badges (which is my favorite thing, honestly).

Considerations

The streamlining of the simplicity has a downside in that, aesthetically, the software looks a bit low-tech. And while English versions are offered, the main site and primary focus is in French, so turn your auto-translate on if your browser has it.

22. Coggno

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Coggno’s group view

Focused on corporate training, Coggno is a web-based LMS that is offered free of charge to all businesses.

Differentiating features

Coggno is free because they don’t sell learning management software. They provide the software as a host for the courses they design, which you can buy separately from the LMS. This is a pretty innovative angle, especially since they allow you to use the LMS for as long as you want, for as many people as you want, without forcing you to buy any courses. If you do want to buy pre-made courses, they have a marketplace that lets you choose a la carte. You can also sell your courses in this marketplace, and retain a portion of the profits.

Considerations

While many LMSs can be adapted to either education or corporate training, Coggno is definitely designed for corporate training, and won’t be able to meet the needs of a school (you might want to check out free school administration software instead). Coggno isn’t fully customizable, so hopefully you like the Coggno aesthetic.

23. Forma

Screenshot_course_list

Forma.lms course list

Another Docebo fork, billed as an add-on that can play more like an upgrade, or even a standalone software.

Differentiating features

Much like Coggno, Forma allows you to sell your courses through their marketplace, if you like. Some of the more interesting features include en-masse editing tools for user management (which is nifty if you’ve ever spent twenty minutes meticulously clicking single boxes on a list), and a customizable reporting function.

Considerations

While aimed at corporate training, we have a Forma review that reports that Forma has worked great for educational settings, too. Many of the aspects of Forma are fairly standard for an LMS, but there is a lot of power “under the hood,” as one user called it. The reporting and management tools are more extensive than they may appear.

24. iTunes U

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iTunes U library view

I know, I know, but stay with me here: iTunes U is a surprisingly effective LMS with a lot of potential, if you’ve got a lot of Mac users and you’re willing to get creative. Apparently, at least one university dropped Blackboard in favor of iTunes U.

Differentiating features

It comes free and pre-installed on all iOS devices, it has loads of content, a good chunk of it free, and allows for custom course authoring. The content library offers both business and school materials, and you can work with in-app worksheets and complete lessons. If you have a small group of learners and can manage to trust it instead of viewing it as a mere supplement, it could pleasantly surprise you.

Considerations

Since going all-in on iTunes U is unexpected, and the balance between novelty and use may make it a hard sell to your users (or your managers). However, it will really differentiate your courses. If you don’t have a lot of Apple fans, you’ll be in for an expensive hurdle to get the proper devices, but if your students or organization are Mac-friendly already, there’s really no reason not to try iTunes U.

25. Opigno

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A lesson page on Opigno

Based off of Drupal, Opigno is a cloud-based LMS that is free with limited functionality for up to five users. After that, prices begin at $35 per month for ten users, and another $.35 for each additional user.

Differentiating features

Opigno offers certificates for completion of certain courses. You can also lock courses to pre-requisites, requiring that some lessons be completed before others can begin. You can also offer a subscription service to your courses, so if you’re offering a course that is optional, rather than required, you can track and manage who’s enrolled and who isn’t easily.

Considerations

Some features that you’d see standard with other free LMSs are only available on Opigno’s paid version. In-app messaging and IM, for instance, are available only on the paid version, as are the live-meetings. Then again, if you don’t mind juggling different applications, there’s always Skype.

26. Totara

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Another fork, Totara uses Moodle’s open-source system as a skeleton for its own open source LMS. Appropriate for corporate training and for colleges, it’s a well-rounded, nicely designed overall system.

Differentiating features

Totara makes a point of having their code be fully open rather than partially open, which I respect. In terms of their LMS, some nice features are their badges for course completion and performance recognition, and their mobile functionality.

Considerations

You have a lot of control over Totara, with options like the ability to set courses with an expiration date to keep learners deadline-focused. There’s also reporting for compliance and, yup, it’s both Tin Can and SCORM compliant.

More?

Who did I miss? Would you consider something like Edmodo a free LMS, or is it more a teacher/student discussion tool? Sound off (or include pictures of yourself dressed as an LMS) in the comments!

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Looking for Learning Management System software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Learning Management System software solutions.

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About the Author

JP Medved

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J.P. currently works as a Content Editor at Capterra, a privately held technology and online media company focused on bringing together buyers and sellers of business software. He is a graduate of Georgetown University where he founded The Georgetown Federalist. Follow him on Twitter at @rizzleJPizzle.

Comments

ATutor (atutor.ca) is a standards-compliant open source LMS and associated tools. I was surprised not to see it on the list.

John,

Great addition to the list, and one I overlooked that I probably should have included.

-J.P.

We emailed, but I wanted to comment here to clarify a few inaccuracies about Schoology in the article:

“it does suffer from an inability to assign learners to groups (as opposed to classes)”

Actually, you CAN assign grading groups in Schoology. It’s a very popular feature! Here’s more info: https://support.schoology.com/hc/en-us/articles/201001403-How-do-I-use-the-Grading-Groups-feature-in-a-course-

also,
“the discussions feature does not allow moderating by the instructor.”

You may choose the moderation settings within a group or course, which allows you to moderate discussions: https://support.schoology.com/hc/en-us/articles/201002103-Course-and-Group-Moderation

Thanks for including Schoology in the write up.
-Jen, Schoology Community Manager

Moodle is a terrible platform, it is big complicated and lacks in predefined lesson templates. I spent 3 months building our LMS and eventually gave up.

Dokeos actually sucks, but it looks good, and teachers are finding it is very easy to setup a bunch of slides and build online tests. it is a nightmare to add and remove users as they are all dumped into one list that you can flip through page at a time. AD not LDAP intergration would be marvelous. Currently you have to sit with the class list and find each one of the learners out of the 1000 on the system. It creates a seperate database and folder for each course. one hell of job to backit up.

The other LMS systems are not free and actually cost far to much in our currency.

When will someone create a school based LMS that works properly?

Chadley,

I’ve definitely heard similar complaints about Moodle from others. You may be interested in this piece on some cheap Moodle alternatives: http://blog.capterra.com/9-cheap-alternatives-moodle-small-businesses/

Have you tried other open source options like eFront?

Jen,

Thanks for the heads up; will correct the article here shortly!

Thanks for sharing. I am using Schoology as a teacher and Moodle as a student right now and am quite happy with it, but it is always good to know which other options exist.

Canvas by Instructure didn’t make the list. I just piloted it this past Spring and found it quite good. I’m still testing it, and feel it deserves inclusion here.

Canvas isn’t free.

What about ELMS by Drupal? Completely free…been testing but haven’t actually deployed it in a working environment yet…I find it a bit complicated to manage so far but I’m installing it with web designer’s background not a programmer…any thoughts

Alan, good catch on ELMS! Definitely one that should be added to an updated version of this list. What are you finding complicated about it? The implementation, or the UI/user experience after getting it set up?

Forma Lms (www.formalms.org) is a free open source fork of Docebo. It’s aimed at corporate training because in addition to the classical elearning functionalities it comes with some business critical features (custom report system, multi-client or brand architecture, open API, native skill management features, and more), but it is used also in some universities.

Few more open source LMS listed here http://www.elearningindia.in/p/oe-lms-1-66.html

Please check the site http://www.elearningindia.in for other categories as well.

I am looking for a free LMS to host online course contents that can be purchased and viewed by general public. Which one would you recommend? I have only used the expensive LMS for corporate. Please kindly advise!

Will at http://www.wetutoringnation.com

Anand, that’s a great list, thank you for sharing it!

Will, I know Latitude Learning has an eCommerce add-on that you can purchase which allows you to sell services through the LMS, and Moodle, which is open-source, has tons of free plugins that allow you to sell courses (the “PayPal enrollment” plugin comes to mind). Most of these listed above should allow the sale of courses, but some may require additional purchases to do so.

This is a good list. It always depends on what you are looking for. Totara LMS should also be mentioned as it is a low cost, high yield companion to Moodle, using Moodle’s engine, but with corporate and government tools.

Any LMS that you get will need training and work for Administrators to use it. It is flexibility and ease of use usability for the end users that is key. You can expect to work some as an Administrator or Trainer on an LMS. All of the above require learning prior to using and there are lots of resources available for tools like Moodle and Totara.

EDU 2.0 is also a great LMS, i’m suprised it’s not on the list, the user interface is far more beautiful and customizable than the ones on the list and it’s really easy to use, it has e-commerce and a tone of other features.

Alina, nice addition; I hadn’t heard of EDU 2.0 before.

[…] it so cool? It’s is free. Want to know the top 8 free and open-source LMSs? Take a look at J.P. Medved’s […]

What do you know about GoogleClassroom?

Hi Sue,

It’s my understanding that GoogleClassroom is still very much early days. From what I’ve seen it excels as a tool for receiving, editing/grading, and returning student assignments, but that it’s still missing many key features that a lot of the LMSs listed above have (like online exams). It’s also definitely aimed at the academic (rather than corporate training) market, and specifically K-12.

I’d probably recommend waiting to see what new functionality is added to it for now.

You totally forgot CHAMILO http://www.chamilo.org a not recently Dokeos fork. Worth considering and CLAROLINE the grand mother of al LMS.

Interesting to learn of other LMS’s. I’ve used Moodle as a student and then discovered Schoology and Canvas which I have trialed in my classroom. I like the collaboration & communication features Canvas has, but like the way Schoology is organized. I’ve chosen to use Schoology as my LMS. It is very student friendly and reliable. I think it is a good platform to expose students to online/blended learning if they’re planning to go to college.

Canvas by Instructure is a commercially open-source LMS that is FREE for individual teacher use or self-hosting, just like several of the other LMS’ mentioned above. Canvas does have an enterprise version as well that does cost money. Canvas has over 15,000,000 users across the world.

This is a must have on this list. It is the system used by many ivy league schools and pretty much the entire state of Utah…..

I tested many and practically all of them (at least the free ones) are too complex, too buggy and less practical.

The worst that i tried was Dokeos, i found several bugs, even bugs in the installer!. And the forum is a no-law-man place.

OpenSWAD is another free software platform to support face-to-face and blended learning: https://openswad.org

Try myicourse.com , much better then many one listing in this blog. I am sure it will help you to provide best solutions for education purpose.

Look at Varsity Learning.com LMS with math content included. Aimed at middle and high school math teachers, but easily used for any subject. They are promising science, language, and additional subjects next year.

Looking to teach art online – hopefully interactively with artwork uploaded or shared easily in order to critique. Any thoughts on the possible platform?

So three on the list aren’t really free. 100 users will easily be topped by the majority of potential customers, and one person’s “premium” content is another person’s “necessary”. Since you included CourseSites by Blackboard, it would only be fair to include Pearson’s “OpenClass”. What many people don’t know is that Pearson partnered with Google in the development of this platform.

I agree with Aroldo about Chamilo LMS. I tested several of the LMS’s on this list (Moodle, Dokeos, and Sakai) and found out about Chamilo through a LinkedIn post. The pros are that it is easy relatively easy to use and customize compared to most systems; it also includes a great feature for connecting learning modules/courses to employee skill sets and promotions (I love this feature).

The biggest con is that while it has great support, much of it is in Spanish, but the team still answers in English if you send them an email. I have been using Chamilo for our large industrial manufacturing company for over a year now and I have been very happy with it.

Kornukopia is a state of the art software as a service FREE learning management system.
Free to use, free to try, free for life. Don’t try to implement some open source legacy LMS before you try Kornukopia.com!

[…] said, I have jotted down three top picks from an extensive list of popular and widely used free open source LMS platforms. Read on and check them […]

Someone commented above that “Canvas isn’t free.” This is false. Canvas is an open-source LMS available under the GNU AGPLv3. You can download the source code from Github. Search for canvas-lms.

Canvas is supported by Instructure, Inc. They will let you run courses for free on their server if you don’t want to download and install it from sourcecode yourself. I believe they also sell support contracts.

I really like Canvas; the interface is up to date and easy to use. However, I’ve attempted to install it on a server before and didn’t quite succeed. It’s not that it’s extremely difficult, but it’s more complicated to install than Moodle. Canvas uses Ruby, requires more steps in the install, and I’m just not as used to it. Moodle mainly uses PHP and Mysql and in most cases is extremely easy to install on a LAMP server.

I’ve probably installed Moodle 100 times and have been using it and other LMSes for about 15 years.

Is anyone aware of any LMS solutions which are .NET based?

I have been using CourseSites for 3 years now. I like it because I can sub-divide my students into sections, yet they can still interact with each other via discussion boards as one large group. I can put all my background materials there, assign them weekly journal entries, upload powerpoint presentations, and the most important from my point of view, launch a virtual classroom for our synchronous portion. The only thing I really don’t like about it is that the live classroom is a bit glitchy, and at least one person is booted off during every meeting (sometimes, it’s me, and that’s annoying!). Does anyone know a rival to CourseSites that has this functionality for free? An option to record the course without using 3rd party software would be a mega bonus!

Hi Guys ,
I have reviewed the overall 8 lms.
In my suggestion moodle always best.because i have too many reasons.
Moodle LMS developed since 2002.now a days i have seend most advantages and features are added. Most universities and schools are suggest and used in moodle.
Moodle support LTI , SCORM package , SEB(Safe Exam Browser) supported.
Moodle mobile app available.we can change the mobile app color thorugh our site style urls. Mobile app use underscore js and backbone js.

I have seen some free themes url below the links.
https://moodle.org/plugins/view/theme_essential
https://moodle.org/plugins/view/theme_academi
http://www.buymoodlethemes.com/free-responsive-moodle-themes

Hi,
you should definitely add Open edX as a LMS + CMS in your list.
We are using it for 2 years now and it is a very great tools for both instructors and students.

Hi Yvain, I’m actually working on an updated list to be published in the next couple weeks and will add your suggestion to my research!

Having reviewed nearly all of your Top 8 – I will say, without a doubt, that Open edX is the best free, open source LMS in the marketplace.

How can you argue with Harvard and M.I.T. and the $60M investment they have made to teach the world? 5 million users!

If you are interested in presenting data AND collecting data in an interactive, engaging community – where collaboration is easy and interesting with portfolios and Google Hangouts embedded in each content collection – then edX is your #1 choice. They should be on the top of your list.

Personally, I like dokeos/ Chamilo the best. Open edx is also great however LDAP and AD integration is terrible on all 3 of these great platforms. Have been using dokeos manually with one class at our school for almost 5 years, going well but forums can be very buggy. High hopes to get the Django plugin working with LDAP and get open edx functional…

This article reads like a paid product placement.

Title is: TOP 8 free open source LMS
What you get: crappy systems like moodle which are a stopper if you decide for a LMS.
And of course many NON-FREE systems.

Sorry dear author, you should feel ashamed a little bit.

Still missing FORMA LMS, http://www.formalms.org … it’s useed by hundreds of organizations worldwide, including universities, governements and large corporations.

It’s the only Free Open Source LMS natively featuring talent management and white labelling for multi client installations.

Give it a try! 😉

Hi Alberto,

Thanks for the comment, we actually included Forma LMS in the “Honorable Mentions” section as a Docebo fork!

Lonesome Walker, sorry you don’t like the selection on this list. Moodle is used by a lot of respected organizations and institutions, so we felt it worth including here. Additionally, all the options on this list are free, wither by offering a free starter version, or being open-source, or being free and ad-supported. If you find a system that is on this list that is NOT free, please let me know and I can remove it.

Hi, we are looking for a LMS solution to offer training to employees that can support the following requirements mainly
— Built-in and available training content for common courses, technical courses, etc
– On-demand training as and when needed by remote users
– Ability to track training completions, users, etc
– Ability to add custom/internal/company created training classes to platform

Which one would you recommend?

Hi Mansi,

Most LMSs should be able to handle your #s 2-4 (for #4 make sure they are SCORM compliant). You’ll likely find differentiation in which ones already offer available course content for the subjects you need.

For that you’ll need to look through the course libraries of the individual platforms. On this page, while Schoology offers a course library, most of those offerings are likely to be academic-focused. You may have more luck with something like Moodle which has tons of free, third party courses out there.

Canvas has a paid and an open source option. I use both – Maricopa Community Colleges converted from Blackboard to Canvas about 3 years ago. The open source is free and though its missing many of the paid options, it’s simple to use and in some situations a good choice.

Great and useful article. I’m in the process of finding a video intensive LMS for http://bizanosa.com, where I want to start teaching how to build websites . Open source is a good place to start since I can then customize it to my needs. I was more interested in a WordPress solution because I have a lot more experience with that. Still this was a good list and will look into all of them one by one.

Similar to Google Classroom (LMS), iTunes U was probably the first robust MOOC platform as well. We’ve been using iTunes U at our residency program for a few years now. Very easy to use, new grade book options, and if you use iBooks Author (free), you can easily set up some very nice interactive ‘book’ assignments. Why no mention of iTunes U?

Hi John,

Great catch! I actually mentioned them in my piece on top eLearning apps, but failed to include them here.

http://blog.capterra.com/best-elearning-apps-businesses/

I’ll add them for the next update.

quite impressed with this article and the depth /range of it’s analysis on the products. Will 100% bookmark this and reference to it. thanks!

Here is another great resource, free LMS by coggno. I think you should add it to list too.
http://www.Coggno.com
1. A branded Training Platform for the exclusive use of your organization.
2. Ability to upload your internal training documents, employee manuals, processes & procedures so your employees have one convenient location to access them.
3. Track employee usage, view results and certificates of completion.
http://coggno.com/lms/free-training-platform

Hi Bizanosa,

If you’re looking for a WordPress-based LMS, check out this list:

http://blog.capterra.com/wordpress-lms-comparison-7-amazing-solutions/

Where is Totara LMS?

Hi Sylvia,

As I understand it Totara is a Moodle fork, is that correct? I’ll add it in a subsequent update in the honorable mentions section if so. Thanks!

Thanks for giving many options! I’m new to this, but thinking ahead to something I’m wanting to do. I’m looking for something comparable to an academic LMS, with ability to have self-graded quizzes, and also discussions. I assume every LMS allows uploading of files and videos, etc. Is there a chart somewhere that would tell me the exact features that each of these have (as well as how well they work for a non-tech person)?

Campus is also a web based university management ERP software. Campus is built on a flexible technology, that makes it easy for any academic institution to scale up or scale down their operation as per convenient

Chalkup (https://www.chalkup.co/) should totally be on this list. Best free LMS I’ve used. It’s quite similar to Google Classroom, but it connects to rubrics and has parent access in the paid version. Worth checking out.

Hi Sherry, this is the closest chart we have right now, though unfortunately it’s not for all these solutions:

http://www.capterra.com/learning-management-system-software/features-guide

We’re working on building out a more specific chart for this post shortly, so stay tuned!

Hi Catharine, Chalkup looks like a solid addition. I’ll make sure to add it in the next update!

Hi ! is there any open source LMS which has options for Video Chat/ Student-tutor interactive window for online learning. I am working on a school management system and i want to bring this available for students of the school who want learning from home. Please help me… Thanks & Regards’ Daljeet

Hi,

Please suggest a LMS which can provide feature like assessment and results, after the classroom session is completed.
E.g the assessment should have few questions to check the understanding of the student on the module taught. Each and every student in that batch should be able to take the assessment and it gives result for each and every student.
Please help.

Hi,

Thanks for the list. I’m looking for an LMS site on which I can host multiple courses to which
I can invite different individuals. I would like to upload assignments/ppts/videos to it and would like it to have an auto-correct option for the assignments. If it could be linked to a CRM that would self populate, that would be great as well.

Which site would you recommend?

Thanks!

Hello, we would like to add also free e-Learning platform – http://www.training-online.eu. It´s cloud based LMS and very easy and user friendly. You can also set your own languages for every user and you don´t need any initial investment or monthly fees. and what else you can get your provisions as an intermediary. if you need more please contact me or read the website.

Hi JP Medved,
Great article. Choosing an open source LMS can be a difficult decision, so I’m glad you’ve listed some of the best options out there. We would love it if you could also review our award-winning open source platform, Totara LMS.

To answer your question, yes, last summer we made the carefully considered decision that from 2016, Totara LMS will no longer be in lockstep with Moodle. You can read all about it here http://bit.ly/1MnOnIW Feel free to contact me if you need any further information.

Thanks,
Iris (Channel Marketing Manager, Totara Learning)

Iris,

Very interesting! I’ll take a look and make sure to include in the next update.

Cheers,
J.P.

[…] The Top 8 Free/Open Source LMSs – Capterra Blog […]

Google Classroom now had improved. It has an addition to create a quiz in Google Forms, except that the auto marking is not yet in place. Google forms also have other features such as creating a worksheet, and survey. Aside from the features as mentioned earlier, posting can be moved to the top so students will be reminded to work on pressing deadline. Other apps like Google doc (a word doc that is working in real time or offline), Google sheet (an excel format in real time), Google Slide (powerpoint that shows real time works), including Google site where you can create your classroom website. Just like any other classroom (non-virtual) we bring teaching tools into our classrooms, Google classroom works the same, and I found it compatible with other free apps available on the web for hosting online quiz such as ProProfs. Hoping for more new features by Google in the future, so give a try to Google Classroom.

Thanks for the help. I am currently looking for an LMS fit with my company’s requirements and want to throw a comment out there …

It takes literally hours to set up and evaluate a web-based LMS. It takes almost as long to get pricing information out of some of these companies!!! I’m afraid that I look at their web-sites and, if I can’t find pricing within 15 minutes, I move along to another platform. I don’t need some sales person to call me and explain a pricing structure that could be written in a couple of hundred words (or 30-50) – the fact that I’m shopping for an LMS surely means that I’m sophisticated enough to handle that level of complexity!! They seem to think that the word ‘free’ next to the word ‘download’ will make me invest four or five hours before I’m sure if my boss will sign off on the cost – what planet do they live on?
Rant over …
Many thanks for the blog.

Regarding Training Online.eu (see above) – a classic case of hidden costs. You are given 30USD which is spent in some unspecified manner when students access content. Spent 15 mins to discover this after wading through some very non-standard English usage. Was unable to discover more before the 15 mins elapsed so its on to the next …

I’m doing 1-on-1 training with Photoshop, Lightroom, NIK, and other photographic applications. I need an LMS that’s easy to use, both for myself and students. I’d like it to be web based but not data intensive. I’m a photographer who is sometimes in remote area’s with only a Verizon Jetpack. Suggestions?

JP – would like to show you something interesting we’ve built. We’ll definitely be more modern than many on this list but, like Chalkup, we don’t identify with most LMS’. We’ll serve the hospitality niche particularly well, with intentions to expand through retail, pharma, and financial services. Send me an email and I’ll send some demo links. Thanks

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