So you want to implement a learning management system for your organization but are unsure whether one of the free options out there could really do the job properly? In considering any software purchase, it is normal to have this sort of thought process.
What if there really is a free version of the tool we need that would help us achieve everything that we want with our online training without spending a dime? And on the contrary, what if going with the free version would cause a myriad of future headaches?
Thankfully, this old adage is rarely as put to the test as in the world of software. After all, with the right kind of business model and enough creativity, many companies are able indeed to put great products out there and charge little or nothing, even while redefining customer success.
Now, if you want the short version of the answer to whether a free LMS for business can really be an effective tool; it’s yes. A free LMS can be as effective and beneficial to your workforce as a paid tool, but this certainly depends on the size and needs of your organization.
To really understand the answer, however, we first need to understand how an LMS or eLearning platform is meant to drive value and a slight look at the vendors that are pushing the envelope when it comes to putting out great products gratis.
In case you want more information on LMS vendors, we’ve actually put together a roundup of the best LMS for business that are free or just really, really cost-effective.
What do We Mean by “Free Learning Management Systems”?
First, a clarification here. At least for the purposes of this blog post, when we say that a course authoring tool is “free”, we don’t mean that it’s an open-source LMS like Chamilo or Moodle. That will incur various operating costs like hosting and maintenance, so it’s not precisely free. We also don’t mean software that is free as in the ideas of the Free Software Foundation; that is, free to be run, modified, and even distributed, as you wish. While that may certainly be free, you get the responsibility of fully owning the software, and hence a lack of dedicated support from a vendor.
Rather, we’re talking about good options for a Learning Management System that are cloud-based, proprietary, yet free to use. As in, you won’t have to pay anything with certain plans, nor do you have to give your credit card information. You can also get started using them pretty much by signing up.
If We’re a Business, Why a Free LMS?
Now that the confines of the word “free” have been established, why would one want a free LMS platform in the first place? The benefits of a solid training program in the workplace have been well-known for years. Studies have shown that it can lead to a boost in income per employee as high as 218%.
So who wouldn’t want to invest in this? Besides, with the advent of remote operations, now your training program doesn’t even have to consider the costs of in-person training. A learning management for business essentially means that employees can access instructional information anytime and anywhere, for as little as it may cost you to create the materials.
Yet, it’s also true that only 29% of IT implementations are successful, while 19% are downright failures. With alarming stats like this a reality, it’s perfectly understandable to want to find a software choice that requires que minimum investment or is at least freemium-priced.
Will a Free LMS Mean Less Efficient Training?
Nevertheless, even if we’re going the “freebie” route with LMS software, with reason, the preoccupation may still remain. Will it lead to an effective learning environment for our employees? Will our online courses be more or less popular because of it?
If one looks at the principles of effective online learning put together by an authority on the matter such as eLearning Industry, it becomes evident that these are attainable even with very basic tools. Namely, these principles are:
- Presenting learners with a cohesive and customizable visual experience.
- Allowing for peer interaction during the learning process (whether it’s through gamification, feedback, or chat).
- Having multiple types of content within each online course.
Thankfully, the key features of an LMS for business that may lead to such an environment are widespread among vendors that offer their platforms for free in some way, such as GoSkills, TalentCards, Myicourse, and Blackboard CourseSites.
What does ‘Free’ actually mean when it comes to a business LMS?
Lastly, as with any kind of software that claims to be free but is still proprietary, one should look closely at what’s the catch exactly. The user cap tends to be the typical one, with vendors like TalentLMS offering their full platform for free if your team is smaller than 5 users. With GoSkills, on the other hand, you just pay if you ever want to take one of the courses that are for sale on the platform.
Of course, once we’ve surpassed the mind barrier of using a free platform for something that can be essential for our business, the work doesn’t stop. Next comes the process of vetting the functionality, accessibility, and integrations that each software offers.
The process to find the best free LMS can certainly be worthwhile if we consider what a properly-implemented LMS can do for engagement, retention, motivation, and productivity within the workplace. Studies have actually shown that companies who train their employees tend to have a 24% higher profit margin compared to those that don’t. Even with the minimum investment, can your company be one of them? It’s certainly possible!