Course Building Software For Employee Training: The Essential Guide For Managers
With the relentless pace of technological and marketplace change, there is no let up for business leaders responsible for employee learning. HR decision makers, talent management professionals, recruiters and trainers all have to look for ways to to train ever large numbers of people without taking up lots of time or costing a small fortune.
The good news is that increased demand for corporate training has launched a growing market for course building software that enables companies to “roll their own” courses using their internal expertise or learning resources. These tools have a variety of use cases, including in-house continuing education, recruitment, talent mining and customer education.
While many of these course building products share quite a few of the same basic features, there are some important differences between them. In this article, we attempt to survey the advertised features of more than 10 different course building tools and to provide a basic taxonomy for decision makers.
White label platforms
Over the past few years, companies have been responding to the demand for white label platforms that provide a way for users to disseminate their information using a ready-made system while maintaining their own brand, style, and environment and reaping their own profits. (For further discussion on this topic, see this guest post, An Instructor’s Guide to Online Course Hosting Options, by Sandi Lin, founder of SkillJar, one of the products described below.)
These white label businesses typically charge flat rates and service fees in exchange for the use of their turnkey platforms for course building. These kinds of services are especially useful for corporate clients who don’t need marketing for classes like a smaller individual teacher pushing a class might; these platforms provide simple, workable course building solutions that are optimized for use and analytics.
All the platforms we saw were either SaaS or cloud-based, with many optimized for mobile use, in line with what we discussed earlier in How Course Creators are Following the Mobile Education Trend.
Platform and marketplace
We include in our discussion a brief note about course building software options that provide both the platform and the marketplace for selling courses, and the few that also provide curation of courses provided from outside the platform. This way we can establish the differences between the platforms and distinctions between the motivations of users.
Course building software platforms that also provide a marketplace, and sometimes curation, are for users who do not have the ability or need to brand or market their own content. In other words, they are for individual or organization who wish to offer a course, usually for sale, inside a marketplace of other courses. There are several variations on this model.
The biggest and best-known of these is Udemy, which allows users to create and and sell courses among a marketplace of millions of learners and tens of thousands of instructors so far. The course creator and Udemy share the revenue depending on who attracted the customer. (For more information on this aspect of the edtech ecosystem, check out A Novice’s Guide to Building and Selling Online Courses.)
In theory, a company could use Udemy to set up courses for internal employee training, setting the price at zero or distributing 100% off coupon codes to the intended users, but Udemy isn’t purposed designed for that use.
In your research, you may come across other course building platforms that provide more curated catalogues, allowing only some people to sell courses there.Skillshare is one of these course building platforms, as are CreativeLive, lynda.com, and Tuts+. We mention these in passing, but do not go any further with them for our purposes here, since they aren’t specifically applicable to the workplace training leader.
First, a general note about pricing
Many producers do not list some or all of their rates on their sites, requiring that serious buyers be in contact. However, the pricing models we saw included freemium, on a per-user basis, monthly subscriptions and one-time use. The costs we did identify range fairly significantly, so we have discussed them whenever possible.
- Talent LMS
This white label platform is in many ways similar to the others. The platform is customizable like the others, responsive to your branding needs. Like other platforms you can use your own domain name if you choose to.
However, Fedora has a number of unique features. For example, it connects users to a a sizable community of instructors for support.
Another is the analytics. For example, Fedora allows you to see what parts of your content are hot using a “heatmap” analytical tool that shows you how many views an item is getting and how many multiple views — insights that can help you adjust your approach. A third unique feature is the support in the platform for multi-language users.
Fedora is customizable, providing full access to the code in your site.
Fedora places more emphasis on marketing for course sellers than some other platforms, using Segment.io to plug into support tools like MailChimp, ZenDesk, Olark, Intercom and other marketing tools.
If offers have intra-course email capabilities. You can create discussion forums using Fedora and also integrate with Disqus to either start discussions within lectures or course-wide.
You can take payments through Stripe or PayPal, and international payments are fine. Fedora hosts content for you and boasts 99.94 percent uptime and 24/7 monitoring. It also provides instant, automatic upgrades, daily backups, and a 256-bit SSL certificate. Fedora is also level-1 PCI compliant.
Fedora is free to use in setting up your courses. They work by taking a cut of your sales, at a maximum of 10 percent plus $1; this rate drops as your school grows. Or you can negotiate a price based on your number of active students. With a premium package which costs up to $299 a month you have lower transaction fees on sales, along with advanced integration features and other customized features.
Kajabi was not created primarily for course building — it is for any business that needs to disseminate information. So it isn’t as specific as some of these course building platforms are in terms of skills assessments, for example. This means that Kajabi has some additional flexibility that the other platforms do not have in several ways.
You can publish content using Kajabi all right now, all later (as if you were revealing a new product for sale), gradually (as if it was a timed course), or in some other metered way. Kajabi offers a specific marketing page wizard tool that will be more useful for users who are trying to sell content.
Because Kajabi is more geared toward sales, it is less interactive. Users can comment alongside content, but it is not geared for discussions, for example, although the seller/administrator can answer questions or comments. There is also a way to enable community discussion forums.
The Starter plan runs $99 per month and allows you to have three Kajabi projects (or courses), 1,000 portal members (or students), unlimited leads, three admin or teacher accounts and social media integration. The Pro plan for $199 per month bumps you to 20 courses, 5,000 students and 20 teachers, and the Ultra plan for $299 per month allows unlimited courses and teachers and 12,500 students.
Kunerango is almost exactly like the basic white label platforms in most ways. There are basic customization options for each course and tracking and analytic options. You have the ability to use various content types to create your courses such as audio, docs, video, PDF and other formats.
There are two main distinctions here. The first is the ability to lecture live through the live session feature. The second is the fee structure. Like Fedora it is free to use, but Kunerango takes a flat percentage — 10 percent of your sales, no matter what. Depending on what your situation is, that predictability might be a benefit.
LearnCore is designed to let you intuitively and rapidly fold your existing training content into new, custom courses. The system’s uploading and integration process is fast and seamless, and is made to handle multiple forms of content — you don’t need to worry about wrangling video, different kinds of source documents or whatever you may have.
LearnCore starts with producing “bite-sized” modules. This is useful for two reasons — your users remember small, easy to digest chunks of information more readily, and these are also more mobile device friendly. You can create different kinds of assessments including multiple choice or true/false; you can set time limits, baseline passing scores and the ability to take tests over again.
The platform is also geared for social use and lets your users create profiles and interact in forums and on message boards. The platform uses mild gamification techniques, allowing you to grant tangible rewards based on high team performance on assessments and training modules.
The analytics on the platform allow you to track users even individually down to daily activities as needed very easily. Pricing ranges from $3 per user per month to $37 per user per month, with a separate enterprise rate for higher-volume users that can be negotiated.
Mindflash is for businesses that need to create online training courses and measure their results. It allows companies to roll their existing training content in a variety of formats — video, audio, SCORM, documents and PowerPoint, for example — into their platform seamlessly.
Mindflash is set up so that companies can train employees on new procedures, compliance or new skillsets, as well as customers and partners on products and other branding related areas. In this way, the business focus of Mindflash and its interface will be useful to companies whose training needs are very specific.
This platform also has a feature that analyzes trainee facial expressions to assess course engagement for the plans above the basic level.
Mindflash had some of the highest dollar costs we spotted, probably because it is designed for business and provides a high degree of support. Each level of the platform is billed annually and provides unlimited courses and content. The basic plan is $149 per month for 50 students and one administrator. The next level is Advanced at $499 per month for 500 students, 10 administrators, and both duration tracking and engagement insight features. The Pro level is $999 per month for 1,000 students and 50 administrators, all Advanced features, and trainee language and SCORM import features. Finally, unlimited accounts are available at $4,999 per month.
Pathwright is a white label platform that has the same integrations, branding options, content features and other choices as most of its competitors. However, it emphasizes community and social interaction features more than other other platforms.
Pathwright allows users to create member profiles, activity feeds and interactive readings for each course and interactive discussions, which is an important distinguishing feature. Your users can even comment on each others’ answers and rank them.
This software allows users to pay monthly or choose the pay as you go plan with a one time set up fee of $99. Which works best depends in part on the size of the courses and their cost to users.
Proversity is a platform that employers can use to build their own MOOC-style open courses, with a particular emphasis on connecting talent and employers. Employers create “mini courses” that are relevant to open positions that they hope to fill and their ongoing talent needs.
For example, one of Proversity’s first customers is the national railway of Great Britain which published a basic engineering course with an eye to getting people interested in studying the field and applying for open positions.
The idea is that by creating these mini courses, they will attract a broad sampling of people who will take the courses and then end up with a percentage of people who do very well at them, leaving them with an interesting group of candidates.
SchoolKeep is another white label service allowing you to build directly through their platform using your own material. Their focus is on keeping the process easy and quick, both for the builder and the course user.
The course builder itself is designed to be intuitive and allows full native video capabilities (for most versions of the platform). Like others described here, you can either embed video, audio or other tools right into your lessons, or you can stream from Vimeo, Wistia or YouTube.
SchoolKeep is responsive and “user-friendly” for mobiles. The platform provides real-time analytics and access to organization-wide metrics. This means you should be able to see real-time enrollment and sales data at any time.
SchoolKeep uses the secure credit card payment processor Stripe, as well as PayPal, so that they avoid “floating” user money through the platform. This is intended to keep the platform and the sales distinct and reassures users that course sales are entirely theirs. SchoolKeep does offer a coupon creating tool, as well as social media sharing capabilities and integration to assist with marketing and enrollment.
The free plan includes a number of features — one administrator has the ability to create two courses, track them and use the email and chat support for them. This would probably be fine for a user who just wanted a couple of courses to explain how to use a product or train one kind of employee.
The “Instructor” plan is $30 per month and lets unlimited instructors created unlimited numbers of courses. You can also directly upload unlimited videos and insert discussion boards. You can pay extra if you want more support on developing your courses, designing your site or promoting your classes; the “Academy” plan is $95 a month and includes analytics and marketing assistance.
SkillJar is another easy-to-use platform designed for the rapid “folding in” of your existing content, which can then be customized as needed. It is able to handle video, audio, SCORM and HTML5. It also lets you stream video lessons directly from Vimeo, Wistia or YouTube. If you wish, you can embed your own cloud-based applications into your training module.
The SkillJar platform allows you to customize your assessment tools and also allows for reward systems. In addition, SkillJar requires that modules be completed sequentially, which may be a bonus or a minus depending on your needs. The platform offers private forums for interactions between users and between users and the administrator. There is also an internal email system.
SkillJar emphasizes their e-commerce solutions and offers you the ability to sell your courses or offer them free, which may be important depending on what your purpose is. For example, you may need the software both for employee training and to offer product usage guides to customers.
Bitcoin, credit, debit, international currencies and PayPal are all options through SkillJar, which provides an SSL certificate and payment processors that are Certified PCI Level 1. And SkillJar analytics offer a way to configure reports based on dates and allow it to be easily integrated with Salesforce and Mailchimp, and you are able to connect with other apps through Zapier.
The free “starter” package provides a single domain with the simplest analytics and support via email only. Premium packages run as much as $500 per month and come with their own private class capabilities, dedicated account managers and other bells and whistles.
Talent LMS is designed to be a very simple, user-friendly white label option with notable scalability. No frills and no extreme customization options, although the basics are there. No technical knowledge is needed and if you’re a techie this isn’t going to be your favorite — it’s easy and basic intentionally.
The upside to this is that it is integrated with more than 190 services and applications and it literally takes just minutes to get something up and running. Talent LMS supports notifications, SCORM, TinCa, and video-conferencing.
The free plan supports up to five users and up to 10 courses and has a 20 MB per file upload limit. The small plan is the next in scale, and it and every plan larger than it supports unlimited courses. The small plan supports up to 25 users and has a 100 MB per file upload limit for $29 per month.
The next plan, basic, supports up to 100 users for $99 per month; it also has a 300 MB per file upload limit and adds single sign on support, both of which apply to all remaining categories. The next plan, plus, supports up to 500 users and adds custom reports for $199 per month. The largest plan, premium, supports up to 1,000 users for $349 per month.
Thinkific is another white label option with many of the same options as the rest mentioned here. Thinkific platform can also be administered easily from a mobile device. It also includes native support for HTML, PDF documents, text, videos and other formats. Marketing tool integration is deep and goes beyond Google Analytics and Mailchimp (although of course those work); you can use Mixpanel, Aweber and others.
The pricing platforms work so that even the free version includes unlimited courses, students and bandwidth. What changes is the transaction fee percentage and the access to the affiliate program. However, the platform does handle discounts, payment processing and promotions for all users.
And for the next tier of users at $49 per month (and all other users except free users) the platform handles affiliate programs and subscriptions as well. This allows the user to give up these administrative tasks and focus on their courses and other issues.
WizIQ is a white label platform that can be useful for training employees or teaching customers how to use products. (The founder, Harman Singh, once shared his thoughts on best practices with us in “What WizIQ Has Learned About Effective Online Courses.”) It’s quick and easy to use, just like its competitors. It is cloud-based so it does not need installation, and will upgrade backup itself just like the others.
The primary way that WizIQ is distinguishable from its competitors is that it is a large company, and that size helps it stand out in a couple of ways. First, it can offer 24/7 support via chat, email and phone. And it can do that in 19 languages, and help you teach internationally, too. Students are offered support in English, Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Farsi, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Malaysian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Turkish.
Second, it is able to allow you to offer things like streaming video — it has the space. You can also host synchronous MOOCs using WizIQ with real-time, online, live classrooms complete with live, multi-way audio streaming and real-time video streaming that all participants can use. You can also use the virtual classroom to chat and interact with students in real time.
WizIQ pricing is rather complicated, but is comparable to the other prices noted here, and free plans work for many needs.
The Bottom Line
For the typical business decision makers, trainers and entrepreneurs who need to provide support for products, obviously white label platforms are the software products to use. There are actually quite a few choices out there, and while this discussion is by no means exhaustive, it provides a healthy sampling of what’s out there and what features are available.
With this many options out there, businesses have many choices for creating effective training modules, attracting talent and disseminating information about their products. These all require some investment of financial and staff resources to get up and running, but many businesses may find the “roll-your-own” approach to online courses to be well worth it.