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Low Cost LMSs – Yes, u can find one for under 10K

The argument that you have to spend over 50K to find a sweet LMS is totally bogus.  What is true is that there are plenty of awesome systems for less than 25K and even sweet systems with very nice feature sets for under 10K.

I’m not talking about freebies such as Moodle or Sakai, but actually commercial systems.

Number of Users

These are folks who are going to use your system. In my experience, small businesses (500 or less users) are the ideal audience for a low cost system.

This does not mean that anyone who has more than 5,000 users should be a system in the low cost mode, but rather these systems are definitely suited to this business size.  Do these systems have customers with more than 10,000 users?

For many the answer is yes – however in general these systems will go above the 10K price point, with most falling in the 12-18K range.

Are there low cost systems for the education market? Absolutely. 

User Interface

The variance of UIs from slick to yucky exist in this market, but don’t despair – awful UIs can be had in systems that run over 100K.  The LMS market as a whole, has some serious issues when it comes to “ease of use” and “sweet” user interfaces – on both the end user and admin side.

This is not to say that the systems on my top 10 (announced in a bit) have bleech user interfaces. Rather they run the gambit from fair to excellent.

But please be aware that as a whole, you are talking about a very clean interface without not a lot of “pop” and “sizzle”. When I think low cost, I think streamlined which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Simple is common – again, not a bad thing – depending on what you are seeking in a system.  Navigation can run the gambit – as it does on any system regardless of price point in the market.

In the cloud or on your own servers

Low cost systems are typically SaaS based (then again, the LMS industry as a whole is more SaaS based than hosted on your servers). There are exceptions to the rule (as u will soon see).

Get your features here, red hot features

The low cost market in general offers a solid set of features. At one time these systems were extremely streamlined and contained just the basics, but that is starting to disappear. Some systems in this space include e-commerce at no additional charge.

The standards – curriculum paths, reports, calendar, batch uploads, assign users to one group and they see X courses, while another group sees Y courses will appear in these systems, along with the most common features in any system.


Common in low cost systems are templates from which to choose from for your background. The templates are built into the system, you select one, add your logo and whalla – you now are ready to go.

If you want a more robust front end, it may not be possible.  Many low cost systems do not offer this capability and those that do (a small percentile) will charge similar to more expensive systems.

Live in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

Going live with a low cost system takes about as long as you adding your logo, turning on and off some features and selecting your template. On the SaaS side the time ranges from five minutes to several hours. If the system offers a robust customization front, then expect implementation time to be aligned to systems that cost more – i.e. depends on what is needed to be done and specs.

Mobile and Social

Mobile as a whole in the LMS space is still extremely low, but there are low cost systems that offer it. 

Social on the other hand is a hit or miss.

Pluses and Minuses

Are there systems in this price point you have recommended to your clients?


My List of Top Low Cost Systems

Rankings as of July 23, 2012 – as noted this list can change – and updates will be presented monthly on my Linkedin Group, E-Learning 24/7, with final rankings in November and the announcement of Low Cost (under 10K) LMS of the year

1. BizLibrary – BL is coming out with a new user interface – projected for August release that just fires off a WOWSA. Beyond containing the standard LMS feature sets, what makes this system standout is the UI is geared for those folks who want to have videos as their courses, incl. video tutorials (using Camtasia, BlueBerry, DemoCreator, etc.).  To view this new UI, you need to schedule a demo.

2. Docebo “client” – What I love about this streamlined system is the immediacy of going live in a simple turnkey box. The big win for me is the language personalization, whereas each end user can view their home page and other screens in their native language with a simple click of the countries’ flag.

Thus if you have learners who prefer Spanish they can view their pages in Spanish, while others can view it in English, German, etc. With over a dozen languages to choose from – set up by the administrator, it adds a nice touch.  I liked this system before they were a client and now with some new enhancements they still deliver.

Oh, and they work with mobile devices – a huge plus.

3. Litmos – At one time my favorite Lite LMS on the market. UI is very good, but I’m expecting more from this system since they seem to be stuck in a perpetual mode

4. Totara While I’m not overly impressed with its UI, the system has an uber set of features

5. VkClass – System is for the education market and is built similar to Facebook, as a result the UI is crisp and clean. Feature sets include IDP, mentor page, class side view, parent portal, file repository, blog for each student, event mgt and lots lots more. The site is in Swedish, but you can change the language by selecting country flags or by using Google Translate.

Others in no particular order

Bottom Line

The days of having to drop serious cash flow on a LMS are long gone. Low Cost LMSs meet a need and are necessary as the market expands. While most of the systems have nice feature sets, from a UI standpoint they are everywhere on the board from awful to excellent.

Are systems that run over 20K better than low cost systems? It depends on what you are looking for – from a feature to a design standpoint and robustness in general.

If a streamlined system with the standard features are what you are seeking then my top 15 list will help you along the way.

E-Learning 24/7

Follow me on Twitter  and you will be entered to win a $75 gift card from Amazon. When you follow, send a message to your followers with the hashtag elearning247 (#elearning247) and @diegoinstudio – winner to be selected on August 31st. 

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