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The 13 Best eLearning Apps for Businesses
Posted by Thang Le Toan on 11 May 2016 08:08 AM
UPDATE 8/19/2015: This post has been updated with more great eLearning apps and analysis based on emails and comments since the original publication. The new apps appear after the first ten.
According to technology research firm Gartner, by 2018 70% of mobile professionals will conduct work on their personal smart devices.
With worldwide smartphone shipments topping one billion per year it’s not surprising that businesses and employees are putting these tools to use with forward thinking BYOD policies and mobile-accessible resources.
The question is, how are you putting corporate and employee mobile devices to work for your training program?
If you’re not yet ready to dedicate the resources to a homegrown native or online mobile eLearning app, don’t worry. There’s already plenty out there that you can use out-of-box to help with your business eLearning efforts.
Here are ten great apps for eLearning that you should already be using within your organization:
With their introduction of Udemy for Organizations, and pivot towards offering corporate training and more business-focused classes, Udemy’s app is a must for any business looking to incorporate MOOCs into their training process.
Accessible in both iOS and Android versions, the app will allow your learners to take any of thousands of courses available through Udemy. Users can watch presentations on the go, view articles, and save courses to view offline. Unfortunately to create courses you’ll still have to use Udemy’s website interface, and the app doesn’t allow you to track learners or progress.
The app is free, though many courses are not.
Built specifically for instructional designers, trainers, and performance consultants, this app allows you to plan, design, and build training courses. It’s optimized for use with an iPad, and is only available in an iOS version. You may find limited ability to customize needs analysis questions in the planning phase.
The app is $4.99.
With options for iOS, Android, Windows phones, and Blackberry, the Skill Pill app allows you to provide bite-sized training videos (the eponymous “pills”) for your learners. Topics range from customer service, to management, to sales and marketing, and can be mixed and matched to provide a unique course per learner. Skill Pill also develops custom courses.
While the app is free, and some “Skill Pills” are included on download, to access the entire course library requires you to pay for a login with Skill Pill.
The official app from Moodle will only be useful for you if you currently use Moodle but, given that it’s the most popular LMS out there, bar none, there’s a good chance you already do.
The My Moodle app, available for both iOS and Android devices, while not a full-blown replacement for the Moodle interface, does allow you to upload files, download course resources for offline viewing, send messages, and track course participants. If you’re using an older version of Moodle however, beware, as issues have been reported with versions 1.9 and below.
This app is free.
The American Society of Training and Development is one of the most important resources out there for trainers and instructional designers.
This app is a kind of performance support tool that helps you create activities to get learners more engaged, motivated, and help them retain content better. It also allows you to take notes, bookmark, and create new activities. Available in both Android and iOS flavors.
While the app is free, if you want more than the standard activities you can purchase them starting at $1.99.
CLO magazine is one of the leading industry sources on news, trends, and thought leadership in the training and business learning space. Their app, on iOS and Android, automatically sends you each new issue, with the ability to see up to three months of back issues, save and bookmark articles, and view CLO blog articles in addition to magazine issues.
The apps are free, as is a subscription to Chief Learning Officer magazine.
Given that the fourth most popular LMS is Blackboard, and that it’s got a lot of utility for corporate learning, this app is a great addition to your existing Blackboard implementation. With the ability to join web conferencing sessions, chat, view whiteboard content and presentations, and answer multiple choice questions, you can download this app on either an iOS device, or Android.
The app is free to download, but requires a hosted enterprise Blackboard Collaborate license to use.
This is essentially a simple course content creation tool for iPads. While you can’t share whiteboards in real-time, the app does allow you to build and record different lessons, videos, and annotated images which you can then share with your learners via social media networks or email.
Ideal for instructional designers on the go, or when you need to whip up a quick performance support lesson for employees or techs in the field. The app is free.
Access lynda.com’s catalog of 564 business courses, including things like content marketing, management training, advanced Adwords tutorials, and accounting fundamentals. The app, on iOS and Android, allows you to access courses, save and share courses for offline viewing, create course playlists, and stream course videos to a TV using airplay and chromecast, respectively.
The app is free, and lynda.com offers some free courses accessible through the app, but access to the full Lynda library of courses is $25 a month.
With a library of 6,000 courses focused exclusively on business training, the BizMobile app for BizLibrary offers access to a lot of content for training managers. The app can be downloaded for both iOS and Android, and lets employees view course videos, read supplemental course materials like PDFs, and comes with full database search functionality.
The app is free to download, but access to the course library costs around $5 a month per employee.
This app, by eLearning vendor Kineo, is a download exclusively for iOS devices. Essentially a treasure trove of tips and advice for instructional designers, this is a great little resource to have handy when you’re starting out designing eLearning courses. The latest tips are automatically updated as well, which is a plus.
This app is free.
This mobile version of the popular UK-based E.Learning Age magazine comes in both iOS and Android flavors. The magazine covers news, case studies, and research from the eLearning space, and all of these can be accessed through the app. You can read the latest edition and bookmark articles, as well as highlight and save them for later.
This app is free.
An unfortunate oversight in the previous version of our list, Apple’s own presentation app is ideal for building course content on-the-go. Similar to PowerPoint, Keynote allows you to create presentations on your iPhone, Touch, and iPad (and even integrates with Apple Watch now). Easy saving via iCloud or Dropbox, and the ability to export in multiple formats, make Keynote a great tool for building basic course content wherever you are.
This app is $9.99.
Though included for free on all iOS devices, this Apple app is sorely overlooked by instructional designers. Not only does it grant users access to a huge library of free and paid instructional content, including hundreds (or thousands) of business and skills courses, it also allows you to create your own courses to be used on learner’s iPads. While marketed at schools, vocational and professional learning is still an option with this tool.
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9 Cheap Alternatives to Moodle for Small Businesses
Posted by Thang Le Toan on 11 May 2016 07:55 AM
Whenever my uncle is offered something for free, he always asks, “Is it ‘free’ like a beer, or ‘free’ like a puppy?”
The implication, of course, is that not all things billed as ‘free’ really are. Some things, like puppies, require a lot of upkeep, food, vet shots, and newspaper-covered floors, and may end up costing you quite a lot of money, despite originally being ‘free.’
This is the dilemma you face as a small business owner looking for an LMS to train your employees or to sell courses with. ‘Free’ open source solutions like Moodle tend to have hidden costs you only realize after implementing them (or, ahem, paying someone to implement them for you). The cost in time and resources for upkeep and maintenance is outdone only by the cost of hiring or contracting IT specialists to customize, install, and fix a system which, quite frankly, is probably more complex than most small businesses need.
Unless you yourself are a programmer with a lot of time on your hands, you may be interested in this list of some low-cost alternatives for Moodle that, while not free, are not ‘free’ either.
CSB is Cornerstone OnDemand’s small business suite of web-based products. CSB Learning is a SaaS LMS that compliments (and integrates with) CSB Performance (for talent management) and CSB Goals (for ad-hoc goal tracking). It focuses on social learning, and also comes pre-loaded with Skillsoft’s eLearning course catalog (so you may not even need to build courses from scratch).
Pricing is $6 per employee per month, with an optional $1,000 implementation fee (which includes a dedicated implementation manager and training on the software). A minimum contract of one year is required, but you get a discount if you commit to three years or more.
A web-based LMS aimed at both trainers and those who sell their courses to external learners, DigitalChalk is optimized for smaller players. Highlight features include HD streaming video, a full course editing tool, and mobile learning on iPads and other tablets.
DigitalChalk shines here with very flexible payment options. Customers can choose from either annual, per user fees (starting at $399 per month for 75 users, up to $1099 a month for 500 users, with several tiers in between), or pay-as-you go pricing when users register for a course.
Docebo has two LMS offerings, but the one most likely to appeal to small businesses is the Docebo SaaS product. A web-based solution for up to 2,000 users, Docebo SaaS comes replete with a library of free courses, white-labeling functionality, and mobile access through tablets. The software has also recently undergone a facelift and the UI has been modernized and streamlined.
You pay only for active users, not total registered users, with Docebo SaaS, and pricing starts at $89 per month for up to 25 users, with tiers going up to $690 per month for 2,000 users.
eFront, like Moodle, is open source. However, unlike Moodle, eFront also offers a paid-version that alleviates a lot of the built-in problems of open source software. This paid version is hosted on eFront’s servers, so you don’t have to worry about implementation and installation, and support is included. The software itself comes with social learning, the ability to do certifications, and eCommerce functionality.
eFront’s educational version starts at $85 a month for up to 100 users, and increases in tiers to $945 a month for up to 3,000 users. That said; there is a minimum subscription length of three months.
Another web-based offering, Feathercap also has a free version for up to three users which can be used a trial of the system. Feathercap boasts a very modern, pretty UI, with mobile access with tablets and smartphones, as well as eCommerce and pre-built course templates for quick content creation.
Like Docebo, Feathercap only charges for active, not registered, users. Plans start at $69 per month for 25 users (though the more realistic starting package is probably $199 per month for 100 active users) and go up to $899 per month for up to 2,000 users.
ICS’s Inquisiq R3 is an LMS with a multitude of deployment options: from web-based SaaS, to hosted on an ICS server, to installed on premises. This makes it ideal for businesses who may need something installed locally or with an internet connection that rules out web-based options. Additionally, for corporate training it offers support for blended learning and certification, as well as access to partner libraries of pre-built course content.
Inquisiq R3’s web-based solution offers two pricing models; either per user, which starts at $99 per month for 10 users and goes up to $1,750 for 50,000 users, or per enrollment which is optimized for content resellers and starts at $200 per month for 200 user accounts and 25 course enrollments up to $1,000 a month for 1,000 user accounts and 225 course enrollments.
The installed on premises version may be more suited for enterprise customers, at $19,950 for a single server, perpetual license with no user limit.
Latitude Learning’s LMS, similar to Feathercap, offers a free version, this one for up to 100 learners. It’s a web-based software, and includes certification, integration with Webex and GoToMeeting, as well as collaborative whiteboards.
The standard LMS is free up to 100 users, and then starts at $1,000 per year (about $84 a month) for up to 250 users, $9,000 for up to 3,000 users ($750 per month) and goes all the way up to $175,000 per year for up to 100,000 users.
A web-based LMS from CallidusCloud used by organizations like Zumba Fitness, Litmos boasts integration with Salesforce. The software has a big focus on mobile learning, with mobile optimized video functionality within courses, and also allows for course creation, eCommerce, and custom branding.
Litmos starts at $49 per month for up to 5 users, and $99 per month for 25 users. It goes up in tiers to $1,499 per month for up to 2,000 users.
This open source LMS is actually based on a distribution of Moodle. However, a subscription to the web-based product brings with it support, automatic upgrades and security patches that a DIY open source implementation would not provide. Totara supports social learning, white-labeling, and management of face-to-face training.
Totara starts at $2,950 per year ($246 per month) for up to 500 users, and goes all the way up to $29,950 per year for up to 250,000 users.
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The Top 8 Free/Open Source LMSs
Posted by Thang Le Toan on 11 May 2016 07:51 AM
UPDATE: 10/01/2015 – This list has been updated with additional free/open source LMSs and comparisons thanks to a lot of great feedback in emails and the comments. New solutions appear at the end of the list (after the first eight) and bring the total to 18 top free and open source LMSs products.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Sakai integrates with Google Docs, and includes tools like a wiki, online testing, presentation slides and the ability to use Dropbox as well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dokeos boasts a built-in course authoring tool, as well as pre-made quiz templates, private groups, and a chat tool.
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.
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.
eFront includes an intuitive icon-based interface, a course creation tool, as well as internal chat and built-in forums.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kornukopia is an advanced academic LMS. That means it supports things like Common Core, mobile access, and an integrated student information system (SIS).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Created by Pearson, OpenClass is a totally free online education platform with a focus on social learning. It’s open to everyone, though primarily aimed at the K-12 and higher education market, and is used by organizations like NuSkool and Abilene Christian University.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A couple other great options that we don’t have space to discuss here, but may be worth your time include Chamilo (a Dokeos fork), Forma LMS (a Docebo fork aimed at the corporate training market), OpignoLMS (another Drupal LMS), Varsity Learning (free for individual teachers) and Claroline (an older but well-known open source learning and collaboration platform).
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29 Free eLearning Tools
Posted by Thang Le Toan on 11 May 2016 07:27 AM
The world is awash in “free” these days.
“Free” consultations, “free” samples, “free” eBooks; they’re everywhere. Some of them are genuinely free, but many are just “free” and you don’t realize until it’s too late that they’re “free with the purchase of…” or “free for two weeks if you input a credit card first.”
I’m a simple guy. I like my “free” things to be free, period.
In the spirit of free, and not “free” I’ve put together a list of the best free tools you can use specifically for eLearning functions (for instance, I’m not a fan of saying Skype counts as a dedicated eLearning tool just because you can do face-to-face classes with it). I’ve organized them below into sections for course authoring, learning management systems, and mobile apps.
A free version of a commercial authoring tool, authorPOINT Lite creates eLearning content by converting PowerPoint presentations. The free version does not include live video/audio functionality or the ability to save as a SCORM compliant flash presentation. This is installed, not web-based, software, and is used by a plethora of institutions of higher education.
A freeware version of the commercial product, CourseLab 2.4 allows eLearning content creation in a “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) programming-free environment. It’s installed software for Windows computers, and is available for download at the CourseLab website. Customers seem to be concentrated in academic, rather than corporate, eLearning organizations.
A web-based course authoring tool, EasyGenerator offers a limited free version of their software. The free version is limited to one author and ten courses, and only allows publication to the internet, not to an LMS. Aimed primarily at the corporate eLearning market.
This is an open source content authoring application that allows you to design eLearning courses without HTML or XML knowledge. It is SCORM compliant and can run on Windows, Mac, or Linux. eXe is meant primarily for use by teachers and academics.
An open source tool, GLO Maker is a free download that helps you build “GLOs,” or “Generative Learning Objects” which are “rich, interactive learning experiences.” It allows deployment to mobile devices. The software is generally aimed at academic eLearning course designers.
iSpring offers a free version of their online eLearning Suite course creation tool. The free version is limited in some ways (it doesn’t support videos or custom branding) but allows for SCORM compliant course creation through PowerPoint. Primarily aimed at corporate eLearning course authors.
The Learning Activity Management System is a free open source tool to create and deliver online learning activities. LAMS allows for SCORM compliant course creation, and includes integrations with many LMSs like Moodle, Sakai, and others. It caters to both academic eLearning and corporate training.
This open source tool creates SCORM compliant “learning objects” that can include video, audio, images and text. It includes an online demo which allows you to create test learning objects of videos and images.
An older open source project RELOAD (Reusable eLearning Object Authoring and Delivery) is managed by the University of Bolton and provides an editor to create SCORM compliant courses.
You can sign up for the free version of this hosted authoring software at their website. It provides an object-based authoring environment to make course creation intuitive and straightforward. Clients for SmartBuilder lean towards the corporate side of eLearning and training.
An online course authoring tool that supports video, audio, graphic, and text functionality within courses, Udutu also follows a “WYSIWYG” format to simplify eLearning content creation. It’s meant for use by either corporate or academic eLearning professionals.
An open source suite of browser-based tools, Xerte lets you to author content with no programming knowledge required. It allows for the creation of mobile compatible content that does not rely on Flash. It is currently in use by a variety of corporate and higher education organizations.
This list is an in-depth breakdown of each of eight free, freemium, and open-source LMSs.
An open source LMS available for free download. This free tool has an active community of developers and continues to be updated. It is aimed primarily at the academic market and includes custom themes and web-based content delivery.
Not a traditional LMS, Morzino seems like a closed eLearning ecosystem where educators can create and publish eLearning content, and run a “virtual school” where they track student progress, assign work, and share custom-created apps. It is focused on academic, rather than corporate, eLearning.
A free LMS integrated and run through Google Apps, OpenClass is optimized for Higher Ed and K12 organizations. Mobile learning is a big focus, and it comes with course authoring and social learning functionality.
A design tool to create, modify, and share digital assets like presentation slides and images. Aimed at educators in an academic setting.
A “personal LMS” for small businesses and educators with authoring, testing,a nd repoting. Free for 25 users.
A tool to create an online learning environment utilizing Google Apps. Free for five users.
A free, Google Apps gradebook and LMS. Aimed at the academic market.
A free Google Apps tool to create and track exams and tests.
An individual course management app for teachers.
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