What are the best low cost alternatives to Moodle for training companies?


Introduction

Moodle is a popular open source learning management system. It’s used by colleges, training providers and other organisations to deliver online learning, often to cohorts or groups of students.

Moodle is a good fit for many organisations, but you may need a different solution. What should you consider before choosing a learning management system and what are some of the alternatives to Moodle?

How popular is Moodle?

Moodle is popular. There are more than 190,000 Moodle sites delivering more than 36 million courses worldwide.

It’s noticeable that Moodle skews towards smaller sites. Moodle’s own data suggests that x% of their sites support less than 1000 users. Moodle is often the learning platform of choice for smaller training providers and colleges that want a low cost learning management solution.

You can find out more about Moodle's popularity at Moodle's own stats page.

https://stats.moodle.org

What can Moodle do?

Moodle’s own description is a good place to start:

“Moodle is a free, online Learning Management system enabling educators to create their own private website filled with dynamic courses that extend learning, any time, anywhere.”

Moodle’s a big web application with a lot of features. It includes:

  1. Support for instructor led, blended and fully online courses
  2. Built in collaboration tools - wikis and forums
  3. Tools to enable bulk learner enrolments
  4. Progress tracking - tutors can follow learner progress
  5. Support for elearning standards like SCORM

There’s also an extensive ecosystem of third party Moodle plugins. Start by looking for a Moodle plugin if the core Moodle application seems to be missing a feature you need.

Moodle is popular in colleges and universities. It’s roots are in education and you can argue that because of that, Moodle is a better fit for academic institutions than it is for commercial training providers.

What are the disadvantages of Moodle?

Moodle is successful, but it attracts some criticism. Some users complain that it’s become too big and its interface is dated. It’s got a reputation for being slow - performance may be an issue if you want a system that scales to support hundreds of users.

Large Moodle sites can be complex to administer and manage - your organisation may need a dedicated Moodle enthusiast or expert to manage Moodle.

You might decide you want something different - a learning management system aligned with the requirements of a commercial training provider. There are other learning management systems that can give you:

  1. A simpler, more focused user experience
  2. eCommerce features - learner self-enrolment with online course payments
  3. Customer relationship management (CRM) type features - capturing course leads and enquiries
  4. More modern, built in content authoring solutions

What does Moodle cost?

Moodle is open source software. That means you’re free to download it and use it (as long as you stick to the terms of the licence) - you don’t need to worry about paying for user user licences as your learner community grows.

Using Moodle isn’t really free though. It takes time to set up, you have to host it somewhere and it needs to be managed. You’ll need to organise backups and from time to time you’ll need to apply software patches and other server updates. These are ongoing hosting and management costs.

Moodle alternatives - serious contenders

What are the alternatives for a small-medium sized training provider that wants to create some online courses, enrol learners and do some basic tracking of progress.

A key requirement is that the system needs to be secure - learners have to login to get access to courses.

A small-medium sized training provider may want a solution that:

  1. Includes a self-enrolment and payment option for learners.
  2. Comes with online content that includes simple assessments that can then be marked by external tutors.
  3. Includes customer relationship management tools - analytics that give insights into visitor behaviour when potential learners visit the online course directory.

Here are 5 contenders:

Learning Platform Link Features Pricing
Genius LMS www.geniussoftware.co.uk Wider than just LMS.

Includes features for managing training business.
£2k per user per annum
LearnWorlds learnworlds.com/lms-training/ Build your own online academy.

Create, sell and promote courses online.
$249/month
In2uitive www.in2itive.co.uk “Monetise your training content and knowledge assets using our LMS to sell, deliver, monitor and manage everything online.” £25k per annum for upto 2,500 users
Thinkific www.thinkific.com “Make every decision about publishing, pricing, and promoting your education business while crafting amazing learning experiences for your audience.” $399/month
iSpring Learn www.ispringsolutions.com/ispring-learn Content management includes using PowerPoint to create courses.

Free mobile app.

Tools for assigning training to employees.
£1.98/month for 500 users

Training providers & learning management systems - conclusion

How do you choose between Moodle and one of the alternatives? That decision is really about requirements first and cost second.

You could:

  1. Download and install Moodle. Create some simple courses and get a feel for the effort involved. Work out where the gaps are between what you need and what Moodle can do.
  2. Find a local Moodle partner consultancy and ask them to quote for a hosted/managed instance of Moodle. Can they adapt Moodle to fit your requirements? How much do they charge for basic configuration vs. more extensive changes?
  3. Choose an alternative learning management system. Look at the alternatives in the table above.
  4. Consider the bespoke option - find a software development company and build a bespoke learning management system. Companies like Sheaf Digital can provide expert elearning consultancy and software development support.

A final thought. You must think long term when making a decision about enterprise software. What happens as your learner numbers increase? How difficult will it be to switch to another learning management system if your business grows and your requirements change? Enterprise software is always a big investment - direct costs, time and other resources - and open source software like Moodle is no different.