Why there’s no such thing as a free LMS

Why there’s no such thing as a free LMS

October 17th, 2011 // 9:07 am @ admin

Given the announcement from Pearson PLC that they will be introducing a free LMS into the Google Apps Marketplace we have been asked over the weekend for our thoughts on this and how we see it affecting our business model as an LMS in the Google Apps Marketplace. It’s important to say that the Pearson LMS is as yet unreleased so of course we are unable to comment on any specifics of the Person LMS features.

It’s also important from the beginning to state that this has often been misreported as a joint venture between Google and Pearson, whereas in fact Pearson are adding a product to the EDU Marketplace like any other, although clearly a company with Pearson’s reach will have a far larger impact.

The ‘Free LMS’, of course, is not a new concept. Currently within the Google Apps Marketplace are several free systems with many LMS features and in addition there are many free ‘cloud based’ LMS systems outside of the Marketplace. For example Moodle is offered via free hosting from several providers and there are numerous other free cloud based LMS systems available from providers such as NineHub and of course ‘CourseSites’ from Blackboard was introduced in February this year.

So how does this tie-in to my original proposition that “There’s no such thing as a free LMS”? Well effectively if a company is offering an LMS for ‘free’ they generally have one or more of three broad business models in mind:

  • 1. Advertising supported – Adverts and sponsorships on pages of the LMS provide income to the provider
  • 2. Building up a large user base in order to (a) Introduce a paid model in the future (accepting that this will lead to a high attrition rate), (b) Introduce paid premium features in the future (see below) or (c) Be on the radar to be acquired by a larger eLearning company due to the large user base
  • 3. Have a free version and on top of this sell premium content or premium features. Effectively some variation on the ‘freemium’ model

It seems fairly clear at the moment that Pearson is following the third option, using it’s captive audience to sell its online courses and other premium content to schools. None of this is of course intended as a criticism of Pearson, theirs is a business model like any other. But it is important to be clear that it is a business model, not a display of altruism.

So back to our approach. As a company founded by Google Apps EDU certified trainers we do a lot of work with schools for free to promote the amazing Google Apps for Education platform, but in terms of our approach at CourseDirector we plan to keep a pay model, charging a very low cost per user, typically meaning an average school will pay a maximum of $499 per year. Within this our focus is on no additional costs or ‘up-selling’ to the school; providing free support, making custom changes for free and focusing on exceptional customer support.

With this approach we won’t be the right LMS for every school but our keys point are clear: Our goal is to help schools who require a simple LMS with the highest possible integration with Google Apps. For schools who want the most tightly integrated LMS with Google Apps, where for example courses are created in Google Sites and coursework is submitted to Google Docs, we hope to continue to  find many schools to partner with.

It’s important to say in conclusion that we welcome the arrival of Pearson in the Google Apps Marketplace.  The immense interest in OpenClass will bring many additional visitors into the Google App Marketplace, and lead to some schools adopting systems from other vendors as well. Additionally it will help promote Google Apps as the great learning platform it is. As Google Apps EDU certified trainers we work with many K-12 schools and colleges and promote various technologies other than CourseDirector and for some schools this will be the best solution.


Category : Blog

4 Comments → “Why there’s no such thing as a free LMS”


  1. Bill L

    3 years ago

    Well stated. I am a fan of your strategy and agree that Pearson announcement will help drive the Google Apps ecosystem as a whole more than anything else. Once people like me go to learn more, get the facts, and see what options are available, the better solution will emerge. In fact, that is how I learned about CourseDirector.

    Google Apps for Ed + partners poses a real threat for entrenched LMS vendors like Blackboard. I am seeing this first hand at a local school district as Google Apps for Ed chips away at BBB’s collaboration features and soon course management.


  2. admin

    2 years ago

    Hello Bill and thanks for your comment. I agree it’s uncertain times for the large Enterprise LMS providers. I think in addition Moodle will take an increased share of the market for schools who want a more complex solution just doe to the reduced cost and a broadly comparable feature set.


  3. Keith

    2 years ago

    This is becoming an increasingly interesting marketplace, and your post helps clarify the different options. Thanks.


  4. admin

    2 years ago

    Thanks for the comment Keith. Have you added any Apps from the Google Apps Marketplace?


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