A learning management system (LMS) helps 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 the 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 the upfront fees, there may also be hidden fees that could strain your tight budget.
But if you have just a handful of employees or students, then a free or open source LMS tool is your best option. Here’s why:
- A free LMS may have limited features, courses, and users but still gives you a good overview of the software as a stand-alone solution.
- An open source tool makes its source code open to everyone to inspect, modify, and enhance according to their business/education needs.
Open source LMS tools are often free to use and customize—unlike proprietary software that has restrictive copyright licenses, so you can’t change their source code to improve the design.
Small businesses that use free LMS tools will have lower software costs, while still gaining the benefits of core software features. In addition, open source LMSs allow 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. Therefore, we created this list of the top 11 free and open source LMS tools that are suitable for small and midsize businesses. The order of this list may change in future updates.
We’ve also included a chart that provides a quick, high-level overview of all 11 products. The products are listed in alphabetical order. Learn more about our selection methodology at the end of this piece.
The top free LMS tools
Coggno: Built-in certification tool for instant certificates
Coggno is a cloud-based LMS for creating online courses on compliance, safety, and business management. It allows you to add visual elements, such as images and tables, to the course material. It offers courses in a variety of formats, including video, audio, and as Microsoft Word files.
The solution has a built-in certification feature that generates certificates after course completion. Instructors can track a learner’s progress and create reports to measure the ROI of the training programs. In addition, course creators can sell their courses on Coggno.com and other similar marketplaces.
Monitoring the training stage of employees on Coggno LMS (Source)
Pros: Capterra reviewers like that they can control and manage access permissions to the course material. They can also view the available training courses, submit requests for registration to a course, and send reminders for assignment deadlines and quiz dates.
Cons: Reviewers say that the tool doesn’t allow course customization. To create course content, you need to purchase easygenerator, a course authoring tool. If you don’t want to buy a new tool, you could create your own Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM).
Cost to upgrade: Coggno is free for universities but the option to upload additional training courses isn’t available in the freemium version. The software is available for purchase under two plans:
- Professional LMS at $19 per user per year for 25-200 users.
- Enterprise LMS at $15 per user per year for more than 200 users.
Mobile apps: N/A
CourseSites: Analytical insights to boost learner engagement and academic performance
CourseSites (Blackboard for Business) is a cloud-based virtual learning and course management tool. It offers deployment options of managed hosting, self-hosting, or software-as-a-service (SaaS).
The solution helps users create, administer, track, and deliver digital content online. Users can access online courses, upload assignments, and interact with classmates and instructors. The CourseSites modules consist of files for presentations, course handouts, teaching and learning exams (TLE), and discussion boards.
Analytical insights on CourseSites (Source)
Pros: Capterra reviewers say that CourseSites is user friendly and easy to navigate. Users can upload and access course assignments and take online tests. Some of them like the ability to schedule online classes, personalized announcements, group emails, and meetings in real time.
Cons: Some users feel that newer system updates have made it difficult to play training videos.
Cost to upgrade: N/A
iTunes U: Deploy training courses through mobile
iTunes U is an eLearning platform that supports course authoring, homework and assignment distribution, integrated grading, and course forums. The content library has courses for businesses as well as schools.
Instructors can create courses as PDFs or presentations using images, videos, etc. iTunes U lets you work with in-app worksheets and complete lessons.
Course creation in iTunes U (Source)
Pros: Capterra reviewers like that the solution has an extensive library of high-quality podcasts and short informative videos that cover a wide array of topics.
Cons: Reviewers say that the connection to iCloud is inconvenient in some cases as it quickly consumes their limited cloud storage. They also said that the tool takes a lot of time to boot up. The time estimates for software updates, downloads, and syncing aren’t always accurate based on the size of the update.
Cost to upgrade: N/A
Mobile apps: iOS
LatitudeLearning: Reporting helps measure the success of training programs
LatitudeLearning is a cloud-based LMS tool for the administration and documentation of online courses, eLearning programs, and training content. It works well for corporate training and B2B programs. The tool can be deployed as SaaS or over the cloud.
The built-in HTML editor in LatitudeLearning (Source)
Pro: The solution provides video tutorials to help users organize courses, manage trainees, and create reports that track a learner’s progress.
Cons: Capterra reviewers have said that the interface feels outdated and isn’t user friendly. There is no mobile support or third-party content library. They found that extending a functionality could require some expensive add-ons.
Cost to upgrade: The standard LMS is free for up to 100 users. It offers the following pricing plan for users who are looking to upgrade:
- 60¢ per user per month for up to 1,000 users
- 55¢ per user per month for up to 5,000 users.
- $2.75 per user for up to 5,000 users (the annual plan for maximum number of courses).
Mobile apps: N/A
Myicourse: Continuing education for professionals
Myicourse is a cloud-based course creation and distribution solution for instructors that can be used in continuing education or for business training.
The tool lets users create online “colleges” that house multiple courses. If you want to make your courses public, you can create and run them for free. But if you’d prefer to keep your courses private, the software is free for up to 100 students.
Example of a private Myicourse college (Source)
Pros: Capterra reviewers like the solution’s editing tools to customize courses. Instructors can track student traffic, manage course sales, and offer certifications.
Cons: If your course content is sensitive and private, the free version may not be for you as the courses are posted publicly. Also, as the tool is free and limited, learners have to deal with banner ads.
Cost to upgrade: The software is free for public use but you can upgrade for private usage at the following prices:
- Bronze: $50 per month for 100-500 users, with access to 500 courses.
- Silver: $100 per month for 501-2,500 users, with access to 2,500 courses.
- Gold: $250 per month for 2,501-10,000 users, with access to 10,000 courses.
Mobile apps: N/A
Schoology: Course management on multiple devices
Schoology is a freemium web-based LMS that hosts eLearning content such as courses, training, and programs. It allows instructors to build reports on learners’ performance based on course completion.
Schoology offers learning options for schools and businesses. The basic package is free for educational institutions. It allows upgrading to an enterprise package if you need specialized support or integration with a student information system (SIS).
Schoology’s course dashboard with tiled view (Source)
Pros: According to users, the standout features include mobile access, Google Drive integration, content creation tools, and access to a library of public courses and other content.
Cons: Capterra reviewers say that the solution lacks a few essential features such as the ability to lock a course folder and navigate through quizzes/tests easily.
Cost to upgrade: Schoology offers two packages—the basic package is free for instructors and learners, while the enterprise package targets educational institutes and has customized pricing.
Top open source LMS tools
ATutor: LMS for blind and visually impaired people
ATutor is a web-based LMS that offers online course management and content authoring to create learning courses.
The authoring tool includes a web service that evaluates the accessibility of authored content against international standards such as the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).
Built-in course authoring feature in ATutor
Pros: Capterra reviewers say that the tool allows you to author courses on the platform and even import external files.
Cons: Reviewers say that the graphical user interface is old-fashioned, complicated, difficult to operate, and needs to be updated.
Cost to upgrade: N/A
Mobile apps: N/A
Dokeos: Compliance training for pharmaceutical industry
Dokeos is an open source LMS tool for pharmaceutical and healthcare businesses. It offers features such as course authoring, progress tracking, reporting, and certification management.
The tool allows instructors to create quizzes or tests using 2D and 3D graphics. Dokeos’s unique feature is Oogie Rapid Learning, which automatically transcribes Microsoft Word and PowerPoint presentations into Dokeos slides.
The solution has compliance training programs to help businesses abide by norms such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA).
Course management in Dokeos (Source)
Pros:Capterra reviewers say that Dokeos offers chat and messaging to let instructors communicate with learners and content publishers in real time.
Cons: They said that it lacks the ability to customize courses. Users also noted that the response time for questions/issues on the forum and from the customer support team is long.
Cost to upgrade: The solution is available for upgrade for the following user types:
- Training centers: $250 per month for up to 50 users and $450 per month for 51-100 users.
- Corporate organizations: $385 per month for up to 50 users and $650 per month for 51-100 users.
- Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies: On demand.
Mobile apps: N/A
Forma LMS: Customized courses with built-in authoring tool
Forma LMS is an open source LMS that offers eLearning management, course management, videoconferencing, course authoring, certification, etc.
Other features include editing tools for user management and reporting function to collect data on learner participation in courses, completions, assignments, etc. In addition, Forma allows you to sell your courses on its marketplace.
The features dashboard on Forma LMS
Pros: Capterra reviewers like that the tool lets them organize courses based on categories. They can choose training topics from a pool of the most relevant courses.
Cons: Reviewers said that the user interface isn’t user-friendly and there are some minor bugs in several functions.
Cost to upgrade: N/A
Mobile apps: N/A
Moodle: Drag-and-drop feature to customize courses
Moodle is a free and open source platform that lets users create customized courses. It offers tools to manage virtual classrooms, generate certificates, and measure the success of training programs 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.
Managing plug-ins in Moodle (Source)
Pros: Capterra reviewers like Moodle’s simple and dynamic interface that is highly configurable. The open community forum provides updates on add-ons, plug-ins, and resources. To find out more about this, check out this list of 15 free Moodle add-ons.
Cons: Reviewers say that Moodle doesn’t make it easy to manage large groups of people across multiple courses or tracks. However, you can easily manage small groups of users per course.
Cost to upgrade: You can install Moodle free of cost on your server. The paid Moodle cloud hosting packages are offered at the following prices:
- Starter: $58 per year for 50 users (ideal for a single class).
- Mini: $182 per year for 100 users (ideal for multiple classes).
- Small: $364 per year for 200 users (ideal for multiple classes).
- Medium: $729 per year for 500 users (ideal for multiple classes).
Sakai CLE: Enhanced social learning through course forums
Sakai CLE is an open source LMS for schools that handle assignments, calendars, grade books, tests, and quizzes. Its features include course management, syllabus tool, and lesson builder (or course authoring tool). The solution focuses more on academic institutions than corporate training.
Sakai offers social learning features such as multimedia course embedding, chat functions, and video tutorial. It integrates with Google Docs and offers tools, such as Wiki platforms, which allow users to author web pages without requiring advanced web authoring skills.
Sakai’s progress tracking dashboard (Source)
Pros: Capterra reviewers say that the Sakai community is dedicated to improve the tool’s capability. The community is working to meet all the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A and AA Success Criteria.
Cons: Reviewers say that interface looks old and not intuitive. The presentation of visual elements, such as icons and buttons, could be improved.
Cost to upgrade: The software has no license fees and can be extended to any number of individuals or educational communities.
Mobile apps: N/A
We updated this list on February 5, 2019 to remove tools that no longer meet our market definition. We also updated the existing information and screenshots.
Our assessment of free and open source tools for this list was completed in the following stages:
For the purpose of this article, we classified a product as “free” if it offers a free, stand-alone version of the software. It isn’t a trial version of the software where you must purchase a paid version after a limited amount of time.
Open source products:
For open source software to be evaluated for this article, the tool has to make its source code open to everyone to inspect, modify, and enhance. The source code must also have been updated (full version or small fix) within the past 12 months and must support one of the following operating systems: Windows, Mac, or Linux.
The products that met the above criteria were then evaluated against our definition of LMS software:
“LMSs help organizations/institutes manage and automate their online teaching or training programs.”
This check verified their basic LMS capabilities and appropriateness for the category. We classified products as LMS software if they contained a core feature, such as eLearning management and course tracking, and some optional features such as certification and compliance management, course authoring, course library, and mobile learning.”
Disclaimer: The content in this piece provides opinions and point of view expressed by users and 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.