A learning management system (LMS) is software that lets businesses host, deliver, and track employee training and certifications. An LMS enables employees to complete training or eLearning courses and keeps track of where they are in the training process. The learning system can print or save certificates once employees complete training.
We reviewed 5 small-business-appropriate learning management system vendors that are low cost and easy to set up and use.
Best Learning Management Systems (LMS) Summary Table
|TalentLMS||Best overall LMS due to low cost, a free version, and great customer reviews|
|Moodle||Best free SCORM-compliant open source LMS for do-it-yourselfers|
|SkyPrep||Best LMS for businesses that use Google apps|
|Skillsoft||Best LMS for number and quality of included e-learning courses|
|LearnLinq||Best LMS for ease of setup and ease of use|
How We Evaluated Learning Management Systems
Small business owners don’t typically have extra staff, so we focused on Learning Management Systems that can be administered without a full-time trainer. We narrowed it down to five LMS vendors based on price, ease of setup and administration, ease of use for employees, and the ability to host both instructor-led and elearning courses.
The five vendors reviewed here offer cloud-based services accessible from an employee’s computer or mobile device. They are also SCORM compliant, which means they can host most standard elearning content that includes text, video, tests, quizzes, and surveys.
Some of the systems below let you create your own training lessons. Others provide courses for you to choose from, either as part of the package or at an additional fee. You also have the option to purchase and upload additional content from any provider with SCORM-compliant elearning lessons.
1. Best Overall LMS for Small Businesses: TalentLMS
We recommend TalentLMS as the best overall learning management system because of the low price, courses included, and robust features. There is a free version if you have fewer than 5 employees/users, and even if you need a paid version, it’s cheaper than most of the other LMS systems out there.
You can create your own learning content, or select from TalentLMS’ Course Marketplace of eLearning courses. Even the free version gives you 10 courses to start with. Access to built-in courses saves you time and money because you don’t have to search for, purchase, and upload training content from course providers. Customization with your company logo, and single sign on (SSO) for user authentication is also included. You can even sell courses to customers or online through Paypal or Stripe with the ECommerce option.
In addition to the standard LMS features, TalentLMS also includes video conferencing, a training calendar, personal messages, and discussion forums for informal learning – allowing your employees to reach out to and learn from peers and experts.
The price of TalentLMS ranges from $0 for the free version to about $200/month with no setup fees and is based upon the number of users. If you have fewer than 5 employees and 10 courses, you can keep the free version – no time limit! The annual plans are cheaper, but you can also sign up for monthly billing if you need to spread your expenses over 12 months.
You have the option to try any plan before you buy without providing a credit card. TalentLMS doesn’t charge for content storage, unlike many of the other LMS systems. The pricing below shows limits on the number of active users at each price point. If you go over these limits, you’d pay a $4 per user fee that month (for example, if you have 7 users, you would pay $8 per month).
No credit card needed
|Number of Users|
|Number of Built-In Courses|
What You Can Do in TalentLMS
Core features of TalentLMS include:
- CSV Bulk User Upload
- Built-in Course Authoring
- Course Marketplace
- Social Learning
- Learner Portal and Learning Paths
- Custom Branding
- 300+ Integrations
- Blog and Knowledge Base
Everything you need to host and track training is already built into TalentLMS, and very few of these features require you to upgrade to a pricier plan.
What’s Missing from TalentLMS
Although TalentLMS is a great product, there’s no telephone support. End users and administrators are required to submit a service request from the learning portal. If you want SSO, you have to upgrade to the Basic package. And if you want customized reports and automation, you’ll need to upgrade to the Plus package. Otherwise, it’s all there, even in the free version.
2. Best Free Learning Management System (LMS): Moodle
We recommend Moodle as the best free learning management system. It is user supported and very popular (with over 70K customers and almost 90M users). It has a robust community forum, an easy to use interface, personalized dashboard, and includes some nice extra LMS features such as a calendar and user notifications. The site is customizable and secure, and it is a great option if you’re a bit tech-savvy and don’t want to have to pay for an LMS.
Moodle refers to itself as a ‘content management system’ in addition to being an LMS.
Moodle is the best free LMS we found. No other free LMS comes close with respect to features and popularity.
What You Can Do in Moodle
Core features of Moodle include:
- Mass data upload
- Free course content available
- SQL database integration
- Automated email reminders
- Multiple languages
- Robust user community and resource center
- Custom branding
Because it’s been built with input from the user community, Moodle has great features even if its interface looks less slick than the others. It is used by large industries and educators as well as small businesses. It has a wonderful resource center with answers on how to do just about anything in Moodle.
What’s Missing from Moodle
While Moodle is a powerful LMS, its course authoring options aren’t the best. You either have to create your own courses using software like MS PowerPoint, Articulate, or Captivate, or you need to upload free courses created by other Moodle users. You could also do an internet search using keywords like ‘SCORM courses for sale’ or ‘Free courses for Moodle’ to find Moodle-compatible courses created by other vendors. The problem here is that there’s no guarantee of the quality of user-generated courses.
In addition, Moodle doesn’t have a back-end database for your employee list, so you can’t just upload your list of employees who need training with a CSV or Excel file. You have to upload your employee list to a SQL database such as MySQL, MariDB, and PostgreSQL. Moodle also has no direct integration with any HR software or Payroll system. And there is currently no social learning component allowing learners to reach out to experts on social media. And, finally, if you want to sell courses via PayPal, you’ll need to do some research on how to set up the code in the program. In other words, it’s possible to do lots of things on Moodle, but not necessarily easy unless you’ve got some programming skills.
3. Best LMS for Businesses Using Google Apps: SkyPrep
We recommend SkyPrep for businesses using Google apps because you can easily upload and import employee data into the LMS from Google Sheets. It’s also competitively priced and offers a good user experience. It is easy to install by allowing you to import users from Google Sheets and upload your own courses or courses found elsewhere. Although they don’t have their own course catalog, they integrate with OpenSesame where you can find and upload courses, many at no or low cost.
Like the other LMS systems we reviewed it contains encryption of sensitive data, and has security (https) on all pages. In addition, SkyPrep supports 8 languages and like TalentLMS, gives your business the option to sell courses using Paypal or Stripe.
The range of pricing for SkyPrep was between $79 and $649 based on the number of employees you need to train (when we contacted them, SkyPrep gave us a small business price of $79 for 25 users, although that price wasn’t posted on their website). They offer a free 30-day trial that doesn’t require you to use a credit card.
Their pricing includes user access for a limited number of administrators – individuals who can assign courses, print reports, etc. If you want phone support, you’ll need to choose a package that includes it. Social learning is not included in SkyPrep, but is available as an additional service called BoostHQ Social Learning Platform that costs between 0-$49 month, plus $1 per user per month.
users + 2 Admin Roles
What You Can Do in SkyPrep
SkyPrep’s core features include:
- CSV Bulk User Upload
- Built-in Course Authoring
- Course Content through OpenSesame
- Social Learning through BoostHQ
- Automated email reminders
- Learning Path and Learning Tracks
- Employee Self Service
- User Blog
SkyPrep offers the kind of features that most LMS offer, although some of the features like SSO require you to upgrade to the Premium package. It integrates with Google, Facebook, and many other social media systems.
What’s Missing from SkyPrep
SkyPrep has plenty of nice features and was a close runner up to TalentLMS. However, there is a limit on data storage based on the package purchased, so if you have a lot of courses or your courses have lots of video/media, you might have to upgrade. And although SkyPrep integrates with OpenSesame’s free courses, they don’t have their own course catalog, and you may have to pay for content if the free courses don’t meet your needs. In order to get SSO, you’ll need to upgrade to the Premium package.
4. Best LMS for eLearning Course Options: Skillsoft
Skillsoft provides thousands of high-quality e-learning courses with video and animations to choose from, including certification courses and e-learning lessons in IT, HR and project management. There’s a reason 7K customers have chosen Skillsoft. I chose Skillsoft for one small employer that I worked with based on the top-notch catalog of courses which could be very expensive to purchase separately. So, if you want to offer regular ongoing training in a number of areas to your employees, Skillsoft is a good value.
Skillsoft provides administrative and user support 24/7 by phone, email, or live chat — which I have used and found to be very responsive. All packages provide custom branding.
Skillsoft pricing starts at $500/month for 25 users and increases based on the number of users and the number and kind of courses you choose. The Select package lets you choose from 300 self-paced e-learning courses from Skillsoft’s business, IT, and project management catalogs. The Select Plus package adds leadership videos and ebooks.
Certification courses, like workplace safety or sexual harassment training, are also available from a different catalog at a different price. Skillsoft doesn’t offer a free package, but they do have a 14-day free trial if you want to check it out.
Skillsoft is unique in that, if you purchase a package of 300 Skillsoft courses, you get the LMS and all the course tracking features that it comes with.
Requires a Setup Session.
|Built-In Course Content|
+ 100 Leadership Videos and Books
kinds of courses chosen; lets you add your own course content.
What You Can Do in Skillsoft
Skillsoft’s primary features include:
- Bulk user upload
- Course content included
- Automated email notifications
- Learning Plans
- Social and Collaborative Learning
- Integrates with multiple applications
- Product Knowledge Base and Blog
For no additional cost, you could also add eCommerce with an additional Channel Agreement or Social Learning with their InGenius add on.
What’s Missing from Skillsoft
Skillsoft contains just about every course that a small business would ever need included with its LMS. But what’s missing is the ability to upload your own proprietary learning/e-learning courses such as a product video or your new hire orientation program, without having to pay an additional hosting fee based on the amount of storage you use. Also, the Select package does not include SSO or any HR Software integration. Like content hosting, those features require an upgrade to the more expensive Unique package.
5. Best LMS for Ease of Setup & Ease of Use: LearnLinq
We included LearnLinq in our comparison as a rising star among LMS systems. While not as well known or tried and tested as the others, it was designed specifically for small and mid-sized businesses. Users give it great reviews for being quick to implement, easy to administer, and user friendly for employees, with intuitive visual menu icons. It includes all the basic LMS features, and almost all users in companies with fewer than 50 employees said they would recommend it. Their user support is via the web and phone.
LearnLinq is based in Europe, so pricing is in Euros. The prices range from approximately $240-$1200 USD/month depending on the number of users (we didn’t change the price chart below to US Dollars because international currency exchange rates fluctuate). LearnLinq has a free 30-day trial, with no credit card required.
What You Can Do in LearnLinq
Core features of LearnLinq include:
- Data can be imported from Excel
- Course creation with EasyGenerator
- Self Service Learning Portal
- Learning path with progress tracking
- Email invitations and reminders
- Integrates with HR Systems
- Knowledge Base and FAQs
- User Community on Facebook
LearnLinq has a modern look and feel and many users stated that LearnLinq is easy to use and fast to implement. It integrates with SAP, and has helpful online resources including text chat and video tutorials to help you get started.
What’s Missing from LearnLinq
LearnLinq is based in the Netherlands and new in 2017. While it supports US clients, most of the reviews were from European users using LearnLinq for less than 6 months. They noted, that some features are still in development. It doesn’t yet have robust reporting, videoconference integration, or social learning, but these items are on their roadmap. The drawback I found for US business owners is LearnLinq’s sales and support is not currently 24/7, so I had to wait until the next business day for text chat and email responses.
Bottom Line: Best Learning Management Systems (LMS)
For the value and the features, TalentLMS was our favorite learning management system. But if you have programming capability, you might find Moodle to be a great free solution that meets all your needs. Skyprep costs more, but it does offer phone support which might be more important than price for you, and it’s easy for Google Apps users. All three of those had access to courseware either through their catalog or via free content sites.
However, if top notch e-learning and leadership development courses are what you need right away, then SkillSoft is probably your best bet. And if you want something simple without all the bells and whistles, you might want to try the newcomer LearnLinq, which has rave reviews for usability.
Ultimately, the LMS you choose depends on your business needs. Once you select one, drop us a comment. We’d love to know which LMS you chose and why.