What Are Online Learning Platforms for Business?
Business-oriented online learning platforms typically fall into two distinct categories: training systems for training companies and training software for enterprises and small to midsize businesses (SMBs) that are conducting their own internal training. The two platforms are similar in how they operate but quite different in terms of what they offer. Learning platforms for training companies tend to offer more flexibility in terms of how much content you can store within the system, how many courses and quizzes you can create, how many separate portals or dashboards you can create, and how many people can access your content. 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 off of a Firmwater client’s website, then Firmwater provides the flexibility to onboard thousands of new learners. Conversely, learning platforms for enterprises and SMBs conducting their own internal training tends to offer more restricted access. You’ll be able to add a limited set of users and courses, which should be okay because dramatic expansion is unlikely for your company over a short period of time.
How you plan on using your learning platform will ultimately determine the type of solution you’ll need, how you’ll be charged, what integrations will be available, and and even what eLearning authoring tool you want to use to create your course content. Docebo, our Editors’ Choice tool, is a wonderful product for both sets of purchasers, as well as large businesses and SMBs. That’s one of the many reasons we rated it so highly. However, you’ll typically find that each vendor caters their training software to one specific kind of buyer.
The Price Dilemma
The type of online learning platform you choose will dramatically impact how you’ll be charged for your software. Firmwater, for example, is designed primarily for training companies. Its plans start at $295 per month for its Bronze tier, giving you an unlimited number of users, up to 50 active courses per month, and two client portals. This is an ideal setup for training companies because it doesn’t take into account how many users you load into the system. Firmwater’s plans increase depending on how many courses and portals you need. There’s a $695-per-month plan that includes up to 150 active courses and five portals, and a $1,495-per-month plan that gives you access to 600 active courses per month and 20 portals. But none of these plans limit the amount of learners you can activate.
Online learning platforms such as LearnUpon and Mindflash offer pricing that is largely dependent on the number of people who will be consistently using the system to train. For reference, LearnUpon starts at $399 per month for 100 active users and one client portal. Set pricing models increase to $1,399 per month for 1,000 active users and 10 client portals. If you need room for more users or more portals, 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 add most content types via upload and then develop quizzes based on the information delivered in your files. You can also use a Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) platform to create more interactive, dynamic courses combining 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 take into account when making your purchase decisions. For example, some vendors let you store unlimited data on their servers whereas other vendors limit the data you can store. This is especially important for companies that use video to train staffers. Every vendor we spoke with downgrades 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 add the files as 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 is beneficial for training companies that are trying to sell courses to users across the web. You’ll also notice that online learning platforms often integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) tools to help companies determine who needs certification for specific roles or how employees perform before and after they use training software to master specific tasks. Live classes are becoming standard in the enterprise training market. However, because some online learning platforms don’t offer an integration with a web conferencing tool for live courses, you won’t be able to take advantage of this feature.
An excellent example of live course functionality is LearnUpon’s integration with WebEx, which lets trainers mark attendance for anyone who joins or doesn’t join a required lesson, and then communicate directly with users throughout the course. WizIQ offers an equally impressive live course feature with its own proprietary web conferencing solution. With WizIQ, you can upload documents on the fly to schedule impromptu live sessions. You can schedule live classes in advance, enroll people in recurring live classes, or conduct classes that run 24/7. Live classes are the future of enterprise training software; we suggest buying into a system that does this well.
These integrations and add-ons shouldn’t be crucial to your purchase decision making but they’re definitely worth investigating as some tools (such as Docebo) integrate with dozens of third-party platforms while other platforms (such as Firmwater) offer very few integrations at all.
Gamification and Fun
One of Docebo’s main differentiators is that it offers gamification as part of its online learning platform. Learners earn badges and they appear on company leaderboards—all of which enables you to create healthy competition among your employees. This will hopefully encourage them to enter the system to voluntarily take courses. Both Docebo and WizIQ do an excellent job building environments similar to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, encouraging users to actually want to log in and take classes.
At the end of the day, 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.