Online Learning Consortium’s report indicate over 70% of the academic leaders acknowledge online learning platforms are critical for education, and 75% believe e-learning to be at least as effective as traditional, face-to-face teaching.
However, only 8% of the higher education institutions provide an online learning platform for their students – which is unfortunate for teachers who believe in online education as a facilitator for traditional courses, and for students who do not have the time or cannot commute to a university campus.
Luckily, online learning platforms are here to help. We gathered the best online higher education learning platforms that can be used by teachers and students worldwide, and which are linked at the end of this article:
Online Learning Platforms for Higher Education
E-learning started off as a tool for individuals who want to learn a new skill but was quickly integrated by educational institutions worldwide. Here are the most effective online learning tools for university teachers and students:
Moodle truly is an open source online learning platform, and it will stay this way. Created for education, it is one of the most complex e-learning platforms and the best thing about it is that it’s open source. Student dashboards, multimedia classes, mobile support, or progress tracking are some of the possibilities Moodle offers to its students.
There are certain features that can cost money, but every one of them is supported by third-parties – like teachers that want to sell their classes using PayPal. Its 88 million users have to choose among 10 million courses and can test their knowledge quizzes and interactive tests summing up to an astonishing 460 million questions.
Sakai is a one-of-a-kind open source e-learning software that is very selective about its contributors and aims to provide additional learning materials to academic institutions, as opposed to most e-learning software or platform creators who extended their target audience to companies, as well. Sakai integrates third-parties like Dropbox or Google Docs to improve user experience and comfort.
Although a serious investment, Sakai has a moderately small user base – which translates to limited community support for students. In addition, when compared to giants of online training platforms, Sakai also has fewer features like plugins or add-ons.
However, as soon as you enter their website one thing becomes obvious: Sakai is a user-friendly online learning software that was specifically made for teachers and students.
3. Google Classroom
When talking about online learning platforms, we need to give Google Classroom the recognition it deserves. Free for students and teacher, the Google learning platform is one of the most user-friendly alternatives to traditional teaching. With a clean and intuitive layout, this little-known product makes every Gmail and Google Drive user feel at home.
However, Google Classroom has some missing features: automatic test paths, support for other tools and software like Microsoft Word, or automated test grading. Teachers have to manually check and grade each of their students’ tests.
A requirement that can be considered an advantage is Google Classroom’s demand for a separate Google Apps for Education account. Even though managing multiple accounts can be a bit of a strain for inexperienced web users, this learning management system shows a lot of promise.
The Greek project eFront steadily became a world-known provider for courses and learning tools. Initially an open source elearning software, the only option available at the moment of writing was their paid version, for $85 per month. However, users who are keen on using this tool without paying can find the courses on SourceForge.
Even though many might consider the price a disadvantage, being for-profit actually means users enjoy more support from the eFront staff than from any other open source online learning platforms. Forums are actually helpful and there are no technical issues that persist beyond a few hours or a few days, at most.
With 15 million users worldwide, Canvas is used by academic institutions like Michigan Tech University, Clover Park Technical College, or the University of Mary Washington. Canvas is free for an unlimited number of students as long as teachers host their own courses, which can be considered a downside; However, there are plenty of free content hosting tools on the web.
The upsides, however, are plenty: third party apps in a never-seen-before variety, mobile support, or an intuitive tool for creating video lectures are just some of the features Canvas offers to their subscribers.
Bottom line is, Canvas’ construction is extremely well-thought and raised the bar for online learning platforms with great design, functionality, and simplicity.
The cloud-based e-learning platform is aimed at teachers and students at all levels of education. It is a smart tool that makes use of e-learning software without having to actually download anything and allows creating, sharing, and managing courses and other academic materials.
User-friendly and very easy to use, the layout of Schoology is very similar to Facebook – which makes it accessible to young students and teachers who are less technologically-savvy.
However, what impresses the most about Schoology is its functionality and analytics – a smart tool that uses parameters to evaluate the level of comprehension and provides information on what areas need improvement to teachers.
What impressed us the most about Myicourse was the ability to create online COLLEGES – not courses, but entire course collections. The learning platform is mainly ad-financed; Teachers can create and run public courses with an unlimited number of enrolled students. Those who prefer to keep their courses private can do so, providing a maximum of 100 assignments to 100 students.
Private courses with over 100 enrolled students and more than 100 assignments will require a certain payment based on their number. In addition, teachers who choose to charge students for taking their courses will need to provide 10% of their earnings to Myicourse – which seems pretty fair to us.
Apart from the amplitude of Myicourse’s organizational features, this LMS tracks traffic, sales, and performance in real-time – which is a huge advantage to faculty members or freelance teachers.
Neo LMS makes learning fun. With a multitude of features derived from games, this tool is free for schools with less than 400 students and offers grade books, various types of assignments, playful quizzes and rewards, and unlimited teacher accounts.
The paid version features deluxe options like teacher branding, video recording, customizable URLs, gamification for a friendlier interaction, and much more. The simplicity of its interface, smart integration of eCommerce features, or mobile apps support make Neo a great choice for faculty members in need of a tool for higher online education.
Full disclosure: Neo does have its downsides. Only accredited academic institutions can use it for free. However, we don’t feel this lessens its value or popularity.
The cloud-based education management platform makes core services in online education available free of charge. Accessible from the browser or through mobile apps, Kornukopia is a multi-platform system that integrates student information, reporting tools, and secure messaging to deliver a straightforward tool exclusively for academic organizations.
There are some hints their free services might not stay free for long, or that some other changes might intervene in their current plans. However, Kornukopia is presently free – which is enough of a reason to at least try it out.
10. Open edX
This online learning platform is endorsed by Google, MIT, and Stanford and enables teachers to create online training content – MOOCS, classes, and presentations – through its Open edX Studio. Being built by resounding names in American education, Open edX LMS is one of the most well-thought online learning platforms for higher online education. The LMS features guides, a progress tracking report, and a huge active user base.
However, a great number of users also means focusing on quantity and quality of their content, but less on advanced functionality. After all, Open edX LMS is an open source learning platform, so whims like gamified quizzes or courses might be out of place.
In a nutshell, Open edX LMS is a reliable e-learning platform and learning management system with a vast course collection, which is more than enough for teachers in need of a basic tool with flawless basic functionalities.
All in All…
According to the Online Learning Survey, more than 44% of the active professors believe teaching an online course requires more effort and time than a face-to-face one. While this might be right for elderly teachers who are on the brim of retirement, online learning platforms become more user-friendly and intuitive as days go by. In addition, generations to come and technology grew up side by side – which will make online teaching a piece of cake.
Links to Courses Mentioned in this Article
- Google Classroom
- eFront’s SourceForge courses and Official Website
- Neo LMS
- Open edX