LMS Pricing Models: The Definitive Comparison Guide (2021)

“People spend 59% more than they expect to on their Learning Management System,” according to Capterra. Whether you’re just getting started with eLearning in your company, or planning to change your LMS vendor, estimating the final cost of LMS implementation may seem like a full-scale investigation.

In this blog post, we’ll look at different LMS pricing models and LMS cost structures, and give you step-by-step instructions on how to make the best choice for your training goals. But first, let’s review what an LMS is.

What Is an LMS?

Here are some LMS features that make it your indispensable assistant:

  • User management. An LMS lets you add and edit users, organize them into groups, and assign them roles.
  • Content management. You can upload, manage, and deliver learning materials on a single platform.
  • Progress evaluation. An LMS helps you assess how a particular learner or a group of learners performs. It gathers stats on responses, attempts, time spent, and more, and provides you with detailed reports.
  • Training automation. In an LMS, invitations, enrollments, notifications, deadlines, etc. can be fully automated, so that you can get these tasks off your table.
  • Blended learning. You can plan live training sessions in a built-in calendar and notify participants about upcoming events. Some LMSs support hosting web meetings from their interface.

You can read about these and other LMS features in more detail in this article on LMS requirements . But now let’s move on to the five models of LMS pricing and learn what principles lie behind them.

Popular LMS Pricing Models

Learning Management System Pricing Models Comparison

1. Pay per learner

Pay-per-learner prices are tiered: as the number of users goes up, the rate goes down. The amount of learners is usually calculated per month or year.

Pay-per-learner pricing example

Here’s a typical example of this pricing model:


2. Pay per active users

The one thing you should know before committing to this model is that the price is usually bundled. For example, let’s say you expect to have 250 active users each month, so you choose the corresponding plan. Even if you don’t hit 250 but have, say, 200 users, you’ll still have to pay for 250.

Pay-per-active-users pricing example

The iSpring Learn pricing plan that fits that number costs $3.66 per user per month and $4,386 per year. This price also includes a 1-user subscription to an authoring toolkit, iSpring Suite, and technical support.


3. Pay as you go

In practice, pure pay-as-you-go isn’t a very popular pricing model among LMSs despite the fact that it lets you stay footloose and fancy free. eLearning isn’t typical SaaS, as launching it takes too many resources (in personal effort if not just money) to conduct it only occasionally.

Pay-as-you-go pricing example


4. License Fee/Subscription

However, flat rate pricing (single price, single set of features) is relatively uncommon, and most vendors offer two or three flat-fee plan types to choose from. The price depends on the number of features included in the package. With each upgrade, new functionality is unlocked. Plus, when dealing with this pricing model, you need to keep in mind that the variation in the prices of different LMSs at first sight can be really significant (if not terrifying).

Licensing fee example


5. (Free) Open source LMSs

If software is open source, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is free. Open source vendors declare: “Pay for service, not for code.” In fact, that means that the real cost of an open source LMS involves customization, integrations, and maintenance, as such LMSs require extensive configuration to suit a given organization. Craig Weiss described the main costly challenges of open source you’ll have to face, and the largest of them is that you need to have strong technical skills to work with such LMSs. Otherwise, you’ll have to hire someone who knows programming languages.

Open source LMS example


LMS price (may be free) + Hosting + Setup fee + Customization (or buying plugins) + dedicated IT specialist salary

How to Choose the LMS Best Pricing Model

Step 1: Tally up the users you plan to train

Step 2: Determine how long the LMS will be used by each user

Step 3: Estimate how many courses you’re going to upload

Step 4: Define essential features and integrations

Let’s look at how this works with a real-life example.

Situation: Oticon is a hearing healthcare company. It needs to maintain a high level of knowledge and skills among all 250+ employees across the country. It is crucial that all employees hear the same consistent messages related to the products sold by Oticon.

There is a 10-week onboarding training program for new account managers who join the company and a wide range of product training, totaling more than 300 e-courses.

The most essential features they need:

Estimating options: Billing for the number of users in the system isn’t cost effective for the case, as with that number of users they’d like to pay only for what they use and save some money.

The reason why Oticon didn’t go for LMSs with a license fee model is that the features they need weren’t present in the basic plans, and all plans like “Business” or “Professional” also include excessive features and integrations. There wasn’t any point paying a monthly/yearly fee and missing out on some of their functionality.

The reason why Oticon refused an open source solution is the lack of user-friendliness and the time- and resource-consuming processes.

Solution: LMS with pay-per-active-users pricing model with unlimited space for data storage, mobile app for offline use, and learning path feature.

10 Popular LMSs: Price Highlights

  • $3.00 per user/month (200 users)
  • $2.82 per user/month (500 users)

We explained above how various LMS pricing models function and mentioned several examples. Next, we’re going to present the prices of ten popular LMSs in a single list. We hope it will make the search for a proper solution easier for you.

1. iSpring Learn

Also, you can request a custom plan to match your needs more closely.

2. Adobe Captivate Prime

  • Business Owl $50/month or $499/year
  • Corporate Owl $99/month or $990/year
  • Enterprise Owl $250/month or $2,500/year.

3. Blackboard

EasyLMS pricing is a tiered pay-as-you-go model and is dependent upon the number of features you purchase. In EasyLMS, packages are called ‘owls,’ and the cost for a package starts at $50 per month or $499 per year.

  • 1 site license $199 (with an unlimited number of users and courses, 1-year support, etc.)
  • 2–10 site licenses $229 (same features + ProPanel)
  • 11–25 site licenses $369 (same features + ProPanel)

The Academy extension contains learning paths, various access levels, results overview, and other additional options. It is already included in the Enterprise Owl plan, but will add $600 to the Business Owl and Corporate Owl plans ($1,099/year and $1,590/year in total respectively).

5. LearnDash

  • Starter $110/year (50 users)
  • Mini $210/year (100 users)
  • Small $370/year (200 users)
  • Medium $830/year (500 users)
  • Large $1,470/ year (1,000 users)

6. Absorb

  • $3 per user/month (150–500 users)
  • $2 per user/month (501–1,000 users).

Moodle is an open source LMS and provides ‘freemium’ pricing. A basic package is free, but extra expenses can be estimated to be $10,000.

  • $5 per user/month (150–500 active users)
  • $4 per user/month (501–1,000 active users).

Totara is an open source LMS, a ‘corporate version’ of Moodle. It uses a subscription pricing model, starting at $3,500 per year.

Litmos has two pricing plans, both of them based on the number of active users. The pricing for the first PRO plan is:

  • Learning: $3 per user/month
  • Learning + Performance: $9 per user/month
  • Learning + Performance + Engagement: $12 per user/month

The pricing for the Salesforce-integrated special plan is as follows:

10. Bridge

4 More Questions to Estimate LMS Cost

1. What features are included in each pricing plan?

As we already discussed, some LMSs are sold in packages that include different features: the higher the price, the more robust the system. If you’ve done your homework and defined the features that are crucial for your project, you’ll be able to estimate the relative value of each plan offered by a vendor.

2. Are there any extra expenses I’ll encounter after purchasing the LMS?

See if there are any hidden payments. Sometimes vendors additionally charge for the LMS’s setup, training, technical support, hosting, upgrades, and add-ons.

3. How can I upgrade or downgrade my pricing plan? Are there any special conditions?

As for upgrading per-user plans, you have to purchase an upgrade when you exceed the number of users included in your current plan. What will happen to users who register after the limit has been reached? Will they be able to log in to the system, and if not, will it save their contact details? As for downgrading, you’ll need to know how often this is possible, and if there are penalties for doing so.

4. What is your cancellation and refund policy?

Don’t hesitate to ask if there are any exit costs, just to make sure that you won’t fall into a trap of an LMS that may no longer meet your needs in the future.

To Sum Up

Originally published at https://www.ispringsolutions.com on July 29, 2021.

Digital Marketing Specialist at iSpring Solutions www.ispringsolutions.com

Digital Marketing Specialist at iSpring Solutions www.ispringsolutions.com