I think you’ll agree with me when I say:

A learning management system for business can break the bank for a small company on a tight budget.

But, it doesn’t have to.

There are many SaaS learning management systems out there that can provide a scalable and affordable solution for companies with less than 500 employees that provide a much better alternative to free systems like Moodle. If you need to be conservative with your training dollars, but still see the value in a cloud-based training system, this article is for you.

In the next few paragraphs, I’ll share:

  • What cloud-based training is
  • The options for cloud-based e-learning for a small business
  • The key benefits of a SaaS learning management system for a small business

Now, let’s start by defining what cloud-based training is so that you can articulate its benefits to your leadership team as you rally support for a learning management system for your small business.

What is cloud-based training?

If you’re a small business looking for an online training solution, you probably already do some training already and are looking for a more efficient, cost-effective, and consistent way to deliver training to your workforce.

Similar to in-person training, cloud-based e-learning helps facilitate the exchange of knowledge between subject matter experts (or instructors) within your organization, and less knowledgeable employees or new hires. The primary difference is in how that knowledge is delivered, tracked and managed.

Cloud-based training is essentially what it sounds like. That is, training delivered via the internet.

To deliver online training, you’ll need three key things:

  1. A system to house your content
  2. Content converted to the acceptable online format (SCORM)
  3. A system administrator who is responsible for keeping track of training completion

Once you have the things listed above, you’ll be able to use cloud-based training to make the training process more accessible, reliable and consistent within your small business.

Now, that we’ve covered what cloud-based training is, let’s dig deeper into what the options are for a small business looking to move from traditional, in-person training to online, cloud-based e-learning.

Cloud-based e-learning options for small businesses

If you’ve started searching for an affordable LMS, you’ve likely come across an array of online training software options ranging from $0/month to upwards of $10,000 or more a month. While this array of options can appear overwhelming at first, as a budget-conscious Training Manager you’ll want to get the most bang for your buck. In this case, there are two clear options to evaluate—an open source learning management system and a SaaS learning management system.

Open source learning management system

For some, there is merit in evaluating very low cost, or free LMS options. If this sounds like a viable option for your small business, Moodle is by far the most popular free LMS option and a good starting point for your search. It includes basic learning management features geared primarily for organizations in the educational sector, and you can download it directly from Moodle’s website and start using it right away. There are other free alternatives to Moodle available as well, like CourseSites by Blackboard, Sakai, Latitude Learning, Dokeos, eFront, Schoology, and ILIAS. All of these options provide a basic cloud-based e-learning option for free.

  • The biggest upside: Using an open source LMS is FREE! It won’t cost your organization anything to download the software.
  • The biggest downside: Although open source LMS solutions don’t require an initial investment, they only offer the most basic learning management features—making it difficult for organizations to get what they need out the system without customizing it. Often, corporate customers that use Moodle invest a large chunk of change into integrating it with other software programs and making it more applicable to their business needs.

SaaS learning management system

For most, a SaaS learning management system is going to be the best platform to deliver corporate training materials. Unlike open source learning management systems, SaaS-based systems include LMS features that are focused on corporate training delivery versus educational knowledge transfer, and a large majority of them have flexible integration options so that you can connect your learning management software with the other software programs that your business uses every day.

There are many options for a SaaS-based system in the market, though many of the options are catered toward medium to large organizations with a bigger budget for cloud-based training delivery. However, there are a variety of LMS providers that offer reasonably priced options for small businesses. Let’s look at the best LMS options available for organizations with less than 500 employees.

Five SaaS Options for Small Businesses

  • Knowledge Anywhere: For 500 active users it is $799/month, or $1.60/employee/month. Learn more about all the features included in our LMS pricing.
  • Litmos: For 500 active users a month it is $1,500, or $3/employee/month.
  • Digital Chalk: For 500 active users it is $699/month, or $1.40/employee/month.
  • MindFlash: For 500 active users it is $599/month, or $1.20/employee/month.
  • Unboxed: For 500 active users it is $799/month, or $1.60/employee/month.

As you can see, the five SaaS options mentioned provide an affordable and feature-rich option for a cloud-based training system for a small business on a tight budget.

Still not convinced that paying for a cloud-based training system is doable for your small business? Keep reading to learn why an LMS is worth the cost.

Why an LMS IS worth the cost

As a small business with less than 500 employees, you’re running on a much tighter budget than some of the giants. As such, you may wonder whether or not a learning management system falls under the list of things your business genuinely needs or if it’s something that you can do without. Is a learning management system worth the cost for small businesses? An affordable learning management system can transform the way your business handles training and free up your employees to take care of the other important tasks that come their way every day.

#1 Keep All Your Training Materials Together and Easily Accessible

A learning management system allows you to more effectively manage employee access to vital training materials—that is, it allows them easy access to everything they need to know at any given time. Not only are all the materials in the same place, which means there’s no need to go digging through several people’s offices to find the relevant materials, organizing your training materials in a learning management system offers some other benefits.

  • Ensure that you can always find the materials when you need them, rather than needing to “wing it” or recreate them every time you offer the same training
  • Offer employees who have been with the company longer the ability to access information from old training modules, refreshing their knowledge and understanding when necessary
  • Ensure that every employee is using the most up-to-date version of your training materials, rather than the outdated version they just happened to get their hands on

#2 Streamline the Training Process

In many training sessions, employees find themselves listening to information they don’t need to get the information that they do. For example, the employee may already be familiar with safety regulations in the industry (and able to pass a quick quiz or check to prove it) but struggle with the specific procedures for your organization. By providing only the information that employees need to know in a smooth, efficient manner that allows employees to skim through or even bypass information they already have, a learning management system makes it much easier for employees to complete the training process. That means they can get back to work faster!

#3 Cut Organizational Costs

When you decide to use a learning management system, don’t just consider the initial cost of the project. Consider the costs that it saves you in the process! This might include:

  • Travel costs for a trainer
  • The cost of hiring a trainer in the first place
  • The cost of printed materials

The up-front cost of a learning management system is designed to be manageable for businesses of all sizes. Before deciding that it’s “too expensive,” consider what you’re spending on training already. You might be surprised by what you can manage!

#4 Track Your Training More Effectively

Some types of training, like safety training, are required on a regular basis, whether by your business or by your industry. Other types of training are mandatory for new employees to complete within a specific period. Still, others must be completed by all employees before they can use new equipment or engage in new processes. Learning management systems don’t just allow you to provide the information to your employees. They also make it possible to track it! They can:

  • Show you how employees scored on assessments
  • Send employees reminders of the fact that they need to complete specific training modules
  • Determine which employees have completed training and which ones still need to do it
  • Give you the dates when specific employees last completed annual training requirements

#5 Offer Better Feedback Opportunities

Learning management systems allow you to provide the same training to every employee in your company. They also provide you with the opportunity to collect feedback from your employees as soon as they finish a course. Rather than bringing it up in the discussion later or telling them to submit information that they might later forget, you can assess employees’ understanding of each module along with their final material assessments, completing it as a natural part of the process. This will allow you to refine your training to offer exactly what employees need to be successful, ensuring that there’s less wasted time both throughout the training and after, when employees may need to go back and revisit information.

#6 Update Training Materials More Easily

When you use a learning management system, updating your training materials is as simple as altering the document, then making the new copy available. Updating paper training materials can be complicated: you have to track down every copy of the materials and replace it with a new one, then make sure that everyone knows not to use the old copy of the materials. That means that small changes are more trouble to make than they’re worth, and big ones get put off for as long as possible! With a learning management system, however, you can update your training materials with ease and get them in your employees’ hands fast, whether you’re creating an update in answer to a common question, correcting an error, or providing updated information.

Learning management systems are well worth the cost for your small business. When you want to provide high-quality training that is easily accessible and easier to manage than ever, choosing a quality learning management system is the best way to ensure that your employees are getting exactly what they need. Contact us to learn how you can change your training methods forever with a quality SaaS learning management system today.

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