“Round 1” in a look at the many free, richly featured CMS & LMS apps available in the cloud.
What options exist for teachers who want to try using a Course Management System, but don't have one available in their school? Fortunately, there are many free CMS/LMS tools available on the Internet. The heavy snows across the US this winter pushed the value of these tools to the forefront of my mind – courses hosted in a Learning Management System position students and teachers to keep course work moving forward when schools are closed due to inclement weather.
There are actually so many free and low cost CMS tools out there that learning about them turned out to be very time consuming. I spent many hours searching and reviewing web sites, and selected the most impressive looking tools to list below. I created two groupings of these applications – those that provide unlimited use for teachers for free or for nominal fees, and those that have useful free functionality but charge higher costs for full capabilities.
I should also mention that there are also plenty of free open source LMS/CMS platforms available, with Moodle and Sakai leading the way, but they require that you either install and maintain them locally, or pay for hosting. So while these powerful tools are free for licensing, they require equipment and technical talent and time to put in place and maintain. In this post, we're only looking at free hosted options.
Options Providing Unlimited Courses & Unlimited Users
These applications appear to have extensive functionality, and offer a full range of functionality to individual instructors for free or for nominal fees. I'm really looking forward to learning more about some of these tools when I take a closer look at selected apps next week.
The applications each have limited free versions, and charge a more substantial fee for full functionality. It was challenging at times to determine if some of these sites warranted listing in the above section, but if wasn't very clear that an individual teacher could use all the functionality they were likely to require, for an unlimited numbers of students, I listed them below rather than above.
Edu20.org: Up to 2000 students for free, which is certainly substantial, but there are a lot of functional limitations under the free plans. The functionality they offer is extensive, but you do have to upgrade to one of the 3 “Premier Plans” to take advantage of some of these functions. Click here to check out their demo page. Their inexpensive Bronze plan is quite affordable and functional for the individual instructor.
Next Week – A Deeper Dive
I want to focus more closely on the top set of apps above – the ones that provide for unlimited course and unlimited users. Next week I'm going to look more closely at these and select one to trial. I'm considering setting up a free course to introduce readers to some of today's most important education technologies. I hope you'll come back and join us!
In the meanwhile, if you have any suggestions or questions, please comment. I have no doubt that there are other CMS/LMS applications that provide some level of free, hosted capabilities, so feel free to mention any that I may have missed. Thanks.
Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Moodle 2.0 versus Blackboard 9.1 – a Brief Comparison
Exploring the World of Free Teaching Productivity Resources on the Web
Learning about Moodle – a leading open source LMS