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Understanding systems and tools for sharing eLearning

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There's a huge range of Learning Management Systems (LMS) on the market. There are also new players in the field. Their solutions aren't always considered as LMSs. But they do similar things and could fulfil the same role. It’s useful to understand what's available and identify which one will work for you.

Please also refer to our accompanying page, Creating and sharing useful eLearning, which helps you understand key eLearning terms. It also highlights the things to consider when creating valuable and purposeful eLearning.

All-in-one shared solutions

Online shared solutions are a new and popular option for small organisations. They have content creation and resale functions and offer user creation and management. This gives you a low-cost solution that's flexible. You can also brand your site and sell licences to individuals and organisations. Some of them also allow you to upload rich, interactive content created in an authoring tool.

Solutions include:

  • Skills Platform
  • Learnworlds
  • Thinkific (free version available).

Solutions with a focus on classroom support

Classroom support solutions focus on the management of class groups learning together. They work well for live learning (real-time, online or in-person). These solutions do include supporting content such as documents and video. Their priority features are assignment submissions, timetables and live classrooms.

Solutions include:

  • Google Classroom.

Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

MOOC platforms allow anyone to build online courses covering their preferred topic(s). They include basic tools for course creation. That includes audio and video upload, PowerPoint presentations and text. Instructors and organisations can direct users to their courses on these sites. The sites are one-stop-shops where learners can search through many course options. Learners select their chosen courses and pay through the site. The course owner receives part of the sale price.

Some examples.

  • Udemy
  • Skillshare
  • Future Learn
  • Coursera
  • LinkedIn Learning

Solutions with authoring tools at their core

These solutions offer both enhanced eLearning development with a basic LMS. This gives you the ability to create interactive modules and manage learners. Authoring tool solutions balance ease of use with functionality. You can’t create state-of-the-art eLearning, however you can create more interactive solutions based on templates, and pre-build interactions. These services also often include pre-created content covering common business topics.

Some examples.

  • Articulate Rise (LMS) (doesn’t include an e-commerce facility)
  • Nimble (does include an e-commerce facility)

Open-source LMS

Open-source solutions give you a dedicated site and full control of your LMS. They are free to download but you'll need to set up your own hosting. You'll also need technical support to set up, customise and manage the service. We don't recommend paying an expert to set it up and hand it over to you to run. You'll need some knowledge to manage the site, make changes, manage users and create the reports you need .

Some examples.

  • Moodle
  • Chamilo
  • Canvas
  • ILIAS

Managed open-source LMS

If you want to use an open-source solution but need someone to manage it for you this is a good option. The cost usually depends on your estimated number of learners and any extra services. For example, some solutions come with built-in, off-the-shelf content for your learners. Some also provide e-commerce facilities for selling access to the site and/or courses.

Some examples.

  • Charity Learning Consortium – a vibrant community of charities supporting each other. Offers managed Moodle sites and off-the-shelf content.
  • Tatara – based on Moodle but with added functionality and tailoring. This platform is available from a host of suppliers, all offering different solutions.
  • Learning Pool – an industry recognised system used by some UK charities. Based on Moodle.

Commercial LMS

Specialist eLearning companies develop these standard LMS solutions and license them. You can choose the one with the best capabilities and tools for your organisation. They're designed to manage large numbers of users. And to offer delegated access to managers. They come at a higher cost than other solutions, so it tends to be larger organisations that use them to support staff development needs.

Some examples.

  • Hive
  • Kalidus
  • Doecebo

Comparing learning management systems

Last reviewed: 02 March 2021

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 02 March 2021

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