LMS System (LMS) are edtech tools designed to organize, store, and distribute online curriculum content to learners. They are extensively used by schools, teachers, administrators, universities, online education websites, and students to organize classwork and track course progress, and by businesses to guide employees through onboarding, training, or professional development. Learning management systems are used by local and state governments to support certain community initiatives that require e-learning components. They enable edtech stakeholders to create effective online courses without hiring edtech app developers or software engineers to build an LMS System from scratch.
LMS System are most often associated with asynchronous learning models, meaning students access course materials on their own time rather than together with a class. However, as more learning management systems add video chat and in-platform messaging functionality to their feature set, more students and teachers can leverage LMS platforms as virtual classrooms to allow synchronous learning to occur, too.
While versions of LMS System date as far back as the 1990s, 2020 saw a spike in learning management system adoption. Recent ed tech statistics are eye-opening. Research posits the LMS System industry will reach $28.1 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.5%, and many LMS providers experienced triple-digit growth in 2020. For instance, Instructure Canvas, a widely adopted learning management platform in North America, saw downloads spike 682% in August 2020, representing the massive market opportunity of such ed tech.
To meet demand, in addition to larger established LMS System providers, many emergent LMS System players are offering tailored features and functionality to serve the growing number of schools, universities, and businesses seeking online learning solutions for their students, teachers, and employees.
LMS System Features Include:
- Customizable layout and content management
- “White-labeling” options to make schools or brands stand out
- In-platform messaging between learners and teachers/support staff
- Focused discussion threads
- Scalability to support user increases
- Interoperability with external websites, portals, or platforms
- Video conferencing capabilities or integration for synchronous learning
- Analytics and reporting to track learner usage and progress
- Customer service support
- Custom certifications
- And more!
Here is a comprehensive list of learning management systems organized by free, open-source, or paid options to help provide an overview of the LMS System landscape.
Free LMS System
For larger organizations, finding a genuinely free, proprietary (i.e. not open source) learning management system will be challenging, as most platforms that offer free options cap a certain number of users. Plus, free LMS options may also contain limited features, with premium functionality provided at a price. However, for skeleton teams and small classes that don’t anticipate much future growth, these learning management systems may be a good solution.
Coggno is a training platform targeted at businesses. The LMS System has thousands of courses already built into the platform, making it easy for administrators to choose pre-built classes. Coggno also offers free lessons, and users can build their curriculum from this selection.
A free version of Blackboard — the feature-rich educator learning management system used by hundreds of school systems and universities — Course Sites efficiently engages students with clear course objectives, a responsive interface, and deep insights into academic engagement and course performance.
Part LMS and part virtual classroom, Google Classroom is a free resource used by myriad education institutions. It is a portal for teachers to house class materials, readings, assignments, curriculums, and more. Google’s Meet video chat enables students to gather synchronously for class lectures and discussions as well. The company’s G Suite for Education includes Google’s other products, such as calendars, Gmail, Drive, and more.
The free version of Kiddom’s comprehensive virtual classroom/learning management system for teachers, Kiddom Classroom allows administrators to send class announcements, create flexible lesson plans, view student progress, record video and audio, and start 1:1 or group chats from a student roster. Upgrades for Kiddom’s full product suites are available, too.
Latitude Learning Forever Free LMS
Free for up to 100 users, Latitude Learning’s “Forever Free” LMS version requires no software download and has no time limits. Latitude Learning is typically used for employee training, and it includes essential functionality such as content, course, and people management.
TalentLMS prioritizes easy content uploading and rapid implementation to make managing trainings and courses simple. The platform is popular with businesses to provide continuing education and onboarding resources for their workforce. Administrators can choose to add a gamification element to TalentLMS via badges, certifications, points, and leaderboards.
A slick B2B2C platform aimed at entrepreneur educators who want to develop online courses (think: fitness courses, cooking classes, business skills, etc.), Thinkific’s basic free plan includes unlimited students, quizzes and surveys, and video, images, and PDF content uploading.
Open-Source Learning Management Systems
Open-source learning management systems are suitable for those who want ultimate flexibility and control over their e-learning code. Open-source options allow developers to create optimal LMS for their unique needs. Other benefits of open-source systems include the ability to budget for the future (there will never be price increases), ownership of data, and the ability to immediately integrate new features and functionality.
An open-source LMS platform, ATutor can create and manage online courses and distribute interoperable content. Features include custom learner profiles, in-platform inboxes, chat rooms, group blogs, content editors, and more. ATutor improves accessibility in learning management systems and contains additional features such as screen readers for blind students and text alternatives for visual elements.
A free, open-source learning management system, Forma LMS is feature-rich downloadable software suitable for both businesses and teachers/students. In addition to responsive layout and flexible use cases, users can also integrate Forma LMS into most video conferencing software to host webinars and virtual classrooms.
An open-source LMS based in Germany, Ilias enables educators to give exams, grade exams, manage and store course materials, and add personalized colors and branding. Importantly, Ilias can integrate into any website or intranet. The software is also wildly scalable: Whether educators have 100 users or 100,00 users, it reliably performs.
Moodle is a free, open-source learning management system, and users can easily download Moodle and start building their course and curriculum immediately. It is a platform with no licensing fees. Advanced features such as in-platform messaging, tags, commenting, analytics, and more can be enabled, too.
Opigno is a Drupal-based, open-source learning management system. Both individuals and organizations use this 2008-founded platform for e-learning creation and distribution, and features include adaptive learning paths, gamification, quizzes, multilingual management, and e-commerce. Opigno is updated frequently.
The open-source version of Sakai’s cloud-hosted LMS System, Sakai Free is a self-hosted learning management system that offers teaching and learning support, chatrooms, announcements, forums, grade books, tests, quizzes, and more.
Paid Learning Management Systems
Pricing models for turnkey paid learning management systems vary depending on the company. Many solutions are priced per active monthly user; others have a flat monthly subscription fee. Choose the pricing model that works best for your organization’s budget, users, and needs.