What Are Online Learning Platforms for Business?
If your business is looking for an in-house training solution, then there are two types. First, there are systems designed for companies that sell training and associated content as a service. Then there’s training software for enterprises and small to midsize businesses (SMBs) that want to serve up their learning resources internally. While there are a lot of similarities between these two types of products, there are also distinct differences. Platforms for training companies tend to offer more flexibility in terms of storage, and the number of users, courses, tests, landing pages, and dashboards you can have. That’s because training companies always attempt to sell their products and services to as many people as possible. If a Fortune 500 company decides it wants to buy a course from, say, a Firmwater client’s website, then Firmwater provides the flexibility to onboard thousands of new learners. Conversely, learning platforms for enterprises and SMBs conducting internal training usually offer more restricted access. You’ll be able to add a limited set of users and courses, which should be okay unless you expect dramatic expansion in a short timeline.
How you plan on using your learning platform will ultimately determine which type of solution you’ll need and how much you’ll have to spend. Docebo, one of our Editors’ Choice tools (the other being Absorb LMS), is an excellent product for both sets of purchasers as well as large businesses and SMBs. That’s one of the many reasons I rated Docebo so highly. However, you’ll typically find that each vendor caters its training software to one specific kind of buyer.
The Price Divide
The type of online learning platform you choose will dramatically impact how you’ll pay for your software. Firmwater, for example, is designed primarily for training companies. Its plans start at $495 per month for its Starter tier, giving you an unlimited number of users, up to 100 active courses per month, and two client portals. It’s an ideal setup for training companies because it doesn’t matter how many users you load into the system. Firmwater’s plans increase depending on how many courses and portals you need. There’s an $895-per-month plan that includes up to 200 active courses and five portals and a $1,295-per-month option that gives you access to 400 active courses per month and 10 portals. But none of these plans limit the number of learners you can activate.
Online learning platforms such as LearnUpon offer pricing that is mainly dependent on the number of people who will be consistently using the system to train. For example, LearnUpon starts at $599 per month for 50 active users and one client portal. Set pricing models increase to $1,499 per month for 500 active users and five client portals. If you need room for more, then LearnUpon offers a customized package but you’ll have to negotiate specific pricing with the company directly.
How to Use the Learning Platforms
Regardless of the kind of online learning platform you use, you’ll be able to upload multimedia content and develop quizzes based on the information in your files. You can also use a Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) platform to create more interactive, dynamic courses that combine lessons and quizzes.
Platforms are easily sortable by administrators, courses, portals, quizzes, and users. Most novice technology users will be able to access, use, and master these platforms with no difficulty. There are, however, some points of contention that you’ll need to consider when making your purchasing decision. For example, some vendors let you store unlimited data on their servers whereas other vendors have limits. This feature is crucial for companies that use video to train staffers. All of the vendors I spoke with downgrade the quality of your video file to minimize the file size going into their servers. If you plan on using video for your training sessions, then use a SCORM platform, or add your video files to YouTube and then input the links for streaming within the online learning platform.
E-Commerce and Video Conferencing
You’ll notice in your search that some online learning platforms offer an integrated e-commerce tool. This integration is beneficial for training companies that are trying to sell courses to users across the web. Online learning platforms often integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) tools to help companies organize their training by specific roles and to track employee performance. Live classes are becoming standard in the enterprise training market. Not all online learning platforms offer integration with a web conferencing tool for live courses, though.
An excellent example of live course functionality is LearnUpon’s integration with Cisco Webex Meetings, which lets trainers mark attendance for anyone who joins a required lesson. Then they can communicate directly with users throughout the course.
These integrations shouldn’t be crucial to your purchasing decision making, but they’re worth investigating. Some tools (such as Docebo) integrate with dozens of third-party platforms while other platforms (such as Firmwater) offer very few integrations.
Gamification and Fun
One of Docebo’s primary differentiators is its gamification elements. Learners earn badges and appear on company leaderboards. This lets a company create healthy competition among its employees and hopefully encourage them to take courses voluntarily. Docebo also has built an environment similar to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter that entice users to log in and take classes.
You’re spending a good deal of money to get people to take courses to become better employees and corporate citizens. Choosing the right online learning platform could help grease the wheels to make this process more enjoyable for everyone involved. Let pricing, usability, extensibility, and enjoyment be your guiding principles when choosing the best online learning platform for your business.
Pros: Best-in-class user interface. A smart approach to filters. Dedicated plans for internal and external training. Standout mobile support with useful secondary apps for Android and iOS. Nearly two dozen learner language localizations. Optional Mercury Module adds billboards, surveys, polls, and contests.
Cons: Plans are only viable for midsize and large offices.
Bottom Line: If you have a midsize to large business with employees to train, then Absorb LMS is the most attractive and functional turnkey learning management system we have tested.
Pros: One of the more attractive admin consoles on the market. Full feature set. Excellent array of third-party integrations. The best gamified learning we’ve reviewed.
Cons: Training companies working with clients will probably do better with systems designed primarily for that purpose.
Bottom Line: Docebo has garnered our Editors’ Choice award for not only providing an attractive and intuitive user interface, but also an advanced feature set, including gamification, and a vast array of third-party integrations.
Pros: Live training option. Has education metrics that can be incorporated into a performance review. Makes smart recommendations based on your activity.
Cons: No gamification features. Pricing available only on request.
Bottom Line: Instructure Bridge LMS is an LMS that provides not only employee education but ensures that learning is connected to career development.
Pros: Robust e-commerce offering. Gorgeous and neat user interface. Lovely learner portal. Live courses with multiple plugged-in vendors. Suitable for training companies and in-house trainers alike.
Cons: Quizzing options are lacking. Module-based course creation requires more data input and tabbing than should be required.
Bottom Line: LearnUpon has dramatically improved upon its previous iteration by delivering a gorgeous user interface that’s intuitive and quick to navigate. But a few nagging issues remain.
Pros: Generous third-party integrations and language localizations. Reports include lively visualizations. Attractively priced baseline plan includes integrated e-commerce (via Shopify).
Cons: Text editor has minimal functionality. Could use more user roles.
Bottom Line: No matter the size of your business, SAP Litmos LMS delivers a surprisingly affordable and capable learning management system, with integrated e-commerce.
Pros: Customers can purchase prepackaged content or sell their own using add-ons. Reporting and role-based permissions are extensive. Event triggers via IFTTT. Friendly user interface.
Cons: User interface lacks customizability. International users will find localization limited without additional modification.
Bottom Line: Axis LMS continues to upgrade its user interface and user navigation. Already one of the better tools on the market, Axis LMS is worth considering, especially if your company requires an unlimited number of users.
Pros: Accountability tracking. Low monthly rate. Excellent e-commerce options. PowerPoint-to-SCORM conversion.
Cons: No gamification. No foreign language support.
Bottom Line: DigitalChalk Corporate LMS offers rich course assembly features and some handy business-class features, all at an affordable monthly cost.
Pros: Easy course creation and deployment. In-app audio and video recording. Live courses.
Cons: Expensive. 350MB file size limit. No gamification.
Bottom Line: Mindflash does an excellent job blending simple course creation processes with a few advanced time-saving features. However, the online learning platform’s price and lack of gamification put it a slot below the elite.
Pros: Beginners will have no problem using this system. White-labeling is available for customizing learning environments. Loaded with pre-built reports.
Cons: Customizations are not self-service. Click-only navigation. No live training.
Bottom Line: Firmwater is easy to use and serviceable but, because it doesn’t include content creation, it lacks the bells and whistles of other tools. However, it’s an ideal platform for companies that sell online courses.