It used to be that if you were a small-to-medium business that wanted a learning management system (LMS) to sell courses, you either had to develop custom software or bolt e-commerce onto platforms that were built for big corporate training or delivering college classes. Needless to say, this usually came with plenty of headaches and and a less than ideal experience for customers and channel partners.
Fortunately, the “LMS for SMBs” and “extended enterprise” categories have improved dramatically in the past few years for businesses interested in selling online courses – including selling courses to other businesses.
These days, many small businesses or larger businesses with an extended enterprise strategy may be able to take advantage of the new breed of affordable LMS platforms geared toward solopreneurs and very small entrepreneurial businesses that I cover in my round-up of the best online course platforms. This is particularly true, for example, of Thinkific, which has begun expanding its efforts to support enterprise customers.
This new breed of platform isn’t just about providing a low cost LMS, it is also about addressing the need for LMS with ecommerce that most corporate LMS providers have ignored (because most employees don’t have to but their training, or course).
However, based on my own experiences and feedback from many small business owners, some of these platforms may not meet the more sophisticated demands of businesses that:
- Sell business-to-business and may need to set up separate portals for each customer
- Need to award continuing education credit learners
- Already have an extensive catalog of courses built out in SCORM or TinCan-based authoring tools like Camtasia, Articulate, Captivate, Lectora, or iSpring
- Plan to build out a catalog of courses and don’t want to be “trapped” by using proprietary LMS tools
- Need to manage online and classroom-based courses in the same system
- Need complex assessment capabilities (creating questions and answer pools, randomizing questions, ability to analyze the performance of individual questions – i.e., item analysis)
Because many course sellers do have these needs, I decided to create a separate page dedicated to the LMSes that are a good fit. The following is my short list of platforms to consider. To set expectations, I would not call any of these a cheap LMS, but each is an affordable LMS for SMBs, and each will give you the ability to sell training and education.
LMS for Small Business and Extended Enterprise
Keep in mind that these systems will tend to cost more than many of the other platforms I list on this site. All of them, however, comply with major e-learning standard like SCORM, and they tend to be much better suited to scaling businesses that have relatively large catalogs and complex customer relationships. Basically, you get what you pay for.
Academy of Mine
Academy of Mine is the best bet for small businesses and organizations that want an all-in-one option – that is, a platform that will run your main Web site as well as manage your online and offline courses.
The platform supports SCORM courses, sophisticated quizzing and assessment, and issuance of continuing education credit. And, it has top notch capabilities for building out a full-featured Web site. Academy of Mine is also offers fully-managed plans that include customizations and support for getting your courses built. (Feel free to contact me if you want more information about how the managed plans work.)
Pricing starts at $9,997 for an annual contract.
The platform can be used to sell just about any kind of online content, and I like the fact that it also has an integrated blog engine to help you with your content marketing and SEO. It also has a number of nice integrations – with GoToWebinar and Google Analytics for example. All in all, it is quite sophisticated for licenses starting at $179 per month.
A significant number of small-to-medium business use WordPress to host their websites. LearnDash, in my opinion, is pretty much the gold standard for integrating serious learning management system capabilities into WordPress. It is a very feature rich platform that was clearly developed by people serious about e-learning.
Once you’ve have a license, LearnDash offers a range of integrations and add-ons –WooCommerce, bbPress, Stripe, and Zapier, among many others – for free. And there are also a number of premium add-ons – including a connection to the GrassBlade LRS (for you e-learning geeks out there) – that look quite useful.
Overall, this is serious e-learning at a very reasonable price. Perhaps best of all, LearnDash has also introduced a cloud version – LearnDash Cloud – that provides for a fully-hosted course website similar to the standalone platforms above, but built entirely on WordPress. You get all the upsides of using WordPress without having to install and maintain the software.
LearnDash pricing starts at $199 annually for the plugin version and tops out at $799 for unlimited sites. Both come with a 15-day refund. LearnDash Cloud pricing starts at $29 per month or $299 if paid annually.
Digital Chalk offers a variety of plans for getting courses online as well as production services to help you do it. If you’ve got the expertise, but don’t want to have to deal with the nuts and bolts of producing a course, this is a choice to consider.
The company’s lowest price plan starts at $15 per month ($10, if paid annually) plus $4.99 per registration.
While most of the learning management system for small business options here have some level of content authoring capabilities, EZLCMS aims to take things a step further with its Adaptive Course Authoring PowerPoint Plug-In.
The company says the plug-in ‘will convert your presentation into a mobile-friendly HTML based courseware product that can be delivered on computers and mobile devices.” If you happen to be delivering serious assessments as part of your offerings, EZLCMS also offers item analysis as part of its reporting capabilities.
There’s a free 15 day trial and after that pricing starts at $199 per month.
One of the particularly strong features of LearnUpon is its capabilities for created branded client portals – a feature that is often weak in the learning management system for small business category.
So, if you license your course out to customers who want their own branded user interface – and who may even want to offer courses of their own – this is definitely an option to consider. LearnUpon is also SCORM and TinCan compliant and supports classroom-based training as well as online.
Starter pricing is $349 per month ($249 if paid annually up front) for up to 100 user.
Thought Industries bills itself as the world’s first “Learning Business Platform,” and clearly the company has put a lot of thought into supporting organizations that sell and market e-learning, as opposed to offering it only to an internal employee audience.
The platform has user friendly course development and management tools, but also very strong e-commerce capabilities, including some of the best overall catalog design and management I’ve sen in an LMS. The company also offers a full range of services to get you up and running quickly.
Pricing is not published on the company’s site.
I’ve seen TalentLMS emerge rapidly as one of the more visible brands in the “new breed” LMS market in recent years. The company offers a very full-featured system, including a very high level of brandability and wide range of pre-developed integrations via Zapier. You can sell your courses individually or via subscription via PayPal or Stripe.
Perhaps best of all, TalentLMS offers a free option that gives you the ability to kick the tires. After that, the lowest price standard option starts at $39 per month (less with annual payment up front) and the lowest price “unlimited” plan starts at $109 per month (again, less with annual payment up front).
So, that’s my short list in the learning management system for small business category. If you have used any of these systems and have constructive things to say about them, please comment. And also comment if you feel strongly there are other systems that should be represented here (keeping in mind that this post is focused on systems that are strong when it comes to selling online courses).
P.S. – If you liked this post, you may also like:
- Tools to Create an Online Course
- Looking for an Alternative to Udemy?
- The 4 Critical Components of a Successful Product Launch Formula
- What I’ve Learning About Selling Online Courses
- What’s the Best Way to Market Online Courses?
- Landing Pages 101 for Your Online Education and Training Business
And check out the full range of tools to help you create and sell online courses in The Learning Revolutionary’s Toolbox.
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