4 Best Free and Open Source LMS Tools

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Just because you’re looking for a low cost solution, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality. These four free and open source LMS tools are top rated for a reason.

Learning management systems (LMS) help businesses and educational institutions create, track, and manage their eLearning programs. However, most tools come with a set pricing model that can be expensive for small businesses and institutions.

While finalizing a budget for LMS software, you need to consider factors such as cost of installation, license, fees per user/course, and ongoing maintenance. On top of these upfront costs, there may also be hidden fees that could strain your tight budget.

If you only have a handful of employees or students, a free or open source LMS tool may be your best option. Small businesses that use free LMS tools will have lower software costs, while still realizing the benefits of core software features.

Open source LMS tools are often free to use and customize—unlike proprietary software with restrictive copyright licenses (meaning you can’t change source code to improve the design). Essentially, this means that an open source LMS allows more customization without having to purchase expensive licenses.

While there are hundreds of LMS tools out there, only a handful are free or open source. That’s why we created this list of the top four free and open source LMS tools.

See all free learning management tools

This article looks at four highly rated free and open source learning management system options. Check out a full list of free LMS tools in Capterra’s software directory.

We’ve also included a chart that provides a quick, high-level overview of all four products, listed in alphabetical order. You can learn more about our selection methodology here.

4 best free and open source LMS Tools, compared

 

  • Free plan: With GoSkills’ free plan, you can create your own courses, add your own branding to the platform, and keep track of learners’ progress through the tool’s reporting functionality.
  • Cost to upgrade: Upgrading GoSkills will cost you around $29 per learner, per month. The main benefit of upgrading to a paid plan is access to GoSkills’ corporate course library, which hosts more than 50 premade corporate learning courses.

GoSkills is a free, cloud-based LMS for teams of any size. GoSkills LMS has no minimum user requirements, meaning users have access to its enterprise-level features no matter the size of their company or team.

Some of GoSkills’ free features include custom course authoring, course and catalog management, and access to reports and analytics that help you measure course effectiveness. GoSkills LMS also includes gamification and social learning features to help you create more engaging courses.

A report in GoSkills LMS
A course completion report in GoSkills LMS (Source)


 

  • Free plan: Moodle’s free LMS offers a standard set of features including course authoring, learning analytics, and custom certifications. Schools or businesses that use Moodle’s free plan can add up to 50 users.
  • Cost to upgrade: MoodleCloud is Moodle’s paid version. Pricing starts at $120 per year for 50 users and includes unlimited courses, a personalized learning platform, web conferencing with up to 50 concurrent users, and custom certificates.

Moodle is a free, open source lms platform that lets users create customized courses. It offers tools to manage virtual classrooms, generate certificates, and measure training program success via analytics.

Moodle’s social learning functionality allows learners and instructors to send direct messages to each other on course forums. In addition, it has mobile-friendly themes, support for third-party plugins (such as Office 365), OneNote integration, and the ability to sell courses via PayPal.

A forum in Moodle LMS
A course discussion forum in Moodle LMS (Source)


 

  • Free plan: TalentLMS’ free plan allows for five users and 10 courses and includes access to unlimited email support. There is no time limit for how long you can use the free version.
  • Cost to upgrade: TalentLMS’ paid options kick off at $59 per month. This Starter plan allows for up to 40 users and includes unlimited courses and email support.

TalentLMS is a cloud-based LMS that helps businesses of all sizes train their employees. With TalentLMS, you can create your own courses and host live sessions. You can also track learners’ progress, add your own branding to the platform, and download custom reports.

TalentLMS also includes TalentLibrary, a repository of over 50 premade courses covering subjects like project management, marketing, HR, and customer service. One unique aspect of TalentLMS is that there are different versions of the tool geared toward specific industries; the software provider offers a tailor-made solution for the manufacturing, technology, automotive, and food and beverage industries.

Add content from other platforms to your TalentLMS course
Adding content to a course in TalentLMS (Source)


 

  • Free plan: Thinkific’s free plan allows for up to 100 students. You can build courses with any content type, import courses you’ve already created, run student surveys, and host student discussions.
  • Cost to upgrade: If you’re happy with Thinkific’s free plan but have more than 100 students or employees you want to train, you can keep the free plan and pay an extra $0.10 for each additional student. Thinkific’s lowest cost paid tier is the Basic plan, which starts at $49 per month and allows for an unlimited amount of courses.

Thinkific is an all-in-one online course platform for small to midsize businesses. Building an online course in Thinkific is simple: You just drag and drop uploaded content where you want it. Thinkific helps you build an engaging learner experience by hosting a wide variety of multimedia types, including discussion boards, surveys, and videos.

Thinkific’s platform also comes with a template library that includes options for building mini-courses, webinars, and resource libraries. Each template comes with an instructional lesson to help you make the best use of the template and introduce you to some eLearning best practices.

uploading course videos in Thinkific
Uploading course videos in Thinkific (Source)


 
Check out our LMS software buyers guide for answers to basic questions about this type of software.
 

How to choose the right free LMS tool for your organization

Keep these things in mind when comparing different free or open source LMS software options:

  • The primary goal you’re trying to achieve through your LMS. As you may have noticed from the products featured in our directory, there are learning management systems for educational organizations and ones for corporations. When browsing products, view them through the lens of what you’re trying to accomplish. Are you training and upskilling your employees or teaching high school students a completely new subject?
  • Your must-have features. Almost every LMS has a set of foundational features, but it’s important to know what you need in a system beyond those basic capabilities. For example, do you need an LMS with course authoring functionality built in? Would you prefer a system that comes with its own premade course library?
  • The number of users you’ll have. Free LMS software often has user limitations, so it’s essential to have an idea of the number of students and instructors that will be using the system on a regular basis.
  • The limitations of your IT department. Customizing open source software to your needs (the main benefit of having access to the source code) requires significant IT input. If your IT department lacks the time and knowledge to take this on, customizing an open source solution may not be the best option for you.

Common questions to ask before selecting a free or open source LMS tool

Here are some key questions to ask during conversations with software providers about their LMS tool:

  • What kind of support do you offer? Adopting a new tool can be overwhelming without the proper support. Before committing to an LMS, find out what level of customer support the software provider offers. Is support available only within certain hours or is it 24/7? Is it by email or phone?
  • Is your LMS usable on any mobile device? Learners like to develop their knowledge and skills on the go. Ensuring participants can access courses and resources from anywhere at any time is a must, which is why it’s important to ask providers if their solution is accessible on most mobile devices.
  • How easy is it to integrate your product with other software systems? If you’re looking for an LMS as a means to upskill or train employees, it’s a good idea to choose a tool that integrates with your HR software. That way, new hires’ employee data can be imported into your LMS with ease. If you have a single sign-on (SSO) tool, you’ll also want to make sure your LMS integrates with that so learners can log in to your LMS with a single click.
  • What kind of reporting does your tool offer? A strong reporting functionality is an integral part of your LMS tool as it offers insights on learner performance and course effectiveness. Free versions of these tools often don’t include a robust reporting function, so if you choose to go without, make sure your team has the ability to create and customize your own reports.


How we evaluated products

This article was updated on March 31, 2021. Products considered for this article had to:

  • Be included in Capterra’s Learning Management System Shortlist report, published in March 2021.
  • Offer a free, stand-alone version of the software (not a trial version of the software where you must purchase a product after a limited amount of time).
  • Meet our learning management system definition: Learning management software helps organizations manage and track learners progress within eLearning courses.

Note: The content in this piece that provides opinions and points of view expressed by users does not represent the views of Capterra.

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

Sierra Rogers

Sierra Rogers

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Content Writer at Capterra, covering the human resources and learning management industries. BBA, Baylor University. Based in Austin, TX. You can find me either hiking with my dog or collecting vintage designer clothing.

Comments

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Nice information given keep sharing more thanks for it

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Thanks Erik!

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Tirena,

Vidhya is referring to Teachr. It looks like a nice Litmos alternative https://getteachr.com/litmos-lms-alternative

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Thanks Jerry!

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Really amazing post with much helpful information. Thank you very much for writing great stuff about Shared hosting for us.

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Thanks for sharing helpful guide about Small Business. This post will help out many people who wants to learn about Open Source LMS Tools.

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Hi Vidhya,

You can find out more about Litmos LMS here: https://www.capterra.com/p/133660/Litmos-LMS/ and more about Teachlr here: https://www.capterra.com/p/161286/Teachlr-Organizations/

I hope these links help you find the right software for you!

Let me know if we can help with anything else!

Best- Tirena

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Thanks for the detail. I am a professional CS staff, I plan to teach my students online.
I am in need of online e-learning platform in hurry, I had been come up with Litmos and Teachr. I planned to move on Teachr because it possessed all the Litmos LMS features, also, comes in affordable range. Any review on this?

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I am looking for LMS
My main concern is to be deploy-able on a local server, but still to be able to be used as WEB LMS.

List of required features:
– Deploy-able on local server, not cloud-based
– Virtual classroom
– Adding/Deleting/Updating learning material
– Creation/Approval/Verification of tests
– Creation/Approval of polls
– Certificate generation

Could you recommend me such an LMS? Even if it does not have all the listed required features.
Thank you in advance!

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“Chamilo is a clever system, however, it is absolutely a fork; it can’t quite stand up on its own, that is to say, it doesn’t add much to the original Dokeos.”

I don’t know who wrote this article, but if you compare both you will notice pretty fast how outdated Dokeos is.
Social learning, skill wheel, open badges support,… seriously Chamilo is now a 6 year old fork with a totally different code base 😉

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Thanks for all the interesting info. I am however confused as to why you say opensource requires extra support, and the extra costs for setting it up. I have used two propriety LMS- WeCT and Blackboard, and one open source- Moodle. Moodle was by far the easiest to use, the least learning curve for everyone, and by far gave the best support for issues. And we did not need to spend anything extra for additives, moodle and their free plug ins had all we need. There are many companies that can be contracted to provide all the support needed, at way less the price of Blackboard etc, it was a huge savings to have moodle with far better support. When we had WebCT the support was extremely poor, took forever for them to fix our issues. Friends who used Blackboard extensively found the same problem.
We tested moodle and WebCT side by side at our uni before selecting moodle, and the users overwhelmingly approved of this opensource LMS So really I am not sure where you are coming from (and no, no one is paying for my post, I just think there needs to be expert users from open source to contribute to content) Thanks

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I wanted to mention Eliademy. easy to use.
https://eliademy.com/

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If you are struggling to create the LMS using open source try WizIQ.
This is a cloud based e Learning delivery platform easy to integrate with top known open source – Advanced open inetgration, Moodle, Blackboard, Joomla, Sakai, WordPress, Drupal, efront, edmodo, totaralms and canvas.

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I tried creating an account at Blackboard’s CourseSites but couldn’t because it requires my educational institution. Does that mean CourseSites is only for school teachers? I’m a consultant and continuing education provider, does then mean I can’t use it?

[…] Medved, J.P. (2016). The Top 8 Free/Open Source LMSs. Retrieved from: https://blog.capterra.com/top-8-freeopen-source-lmss/ […]

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Hi JP, some of the mentioned LMS is now very old and outdated. For example OpenClass will retire next year. Instead, it’s my opinion that newer, better LMS solutions like EdX, Google Classroom should be moved to the first places instead of being buried somewhere hard to see in the list.

Also, can you consider adding LearnPress WordPress LMS to the list?
It’s a completely free Open Source LMS that runs on WordPress and is frequently updated, maintained: https://wordpress.org/plugins/learnpress/
According to stats on WordPress, LearnPress now is the WP LMS that has the most active install.

Thanks 🙂

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Um….. Google Classroom does have automatic grading. Forms.google.com

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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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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?

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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 …

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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.

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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.

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

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Iris,

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

Cheers,
J.P.

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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)

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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

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

https://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!

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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.

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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

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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)?

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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!

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Where is Totara LMS?

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Hi Bizanosa,

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

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

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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

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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!

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