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Using Free E-Learning Software To Build An E-Learning Course

Updated on October 30, 2011

Whenever something glitzy appears before me, I remind myself of the adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover!” The same is true when I face something so ordinary that it doesn’t deserve a second look.

People’s experience however does not get barred by something that is either mundane or extraordinary. They go on to gather knowledge from what they experience and then apply them for their benefits.

I take recourse to the elaboration above to create some space in this essay to introduce to you a couple of free “e-learning software” that you can use to build your e-learning course. There indeed is a lot of fun and satisfaction when you can take advantage of a product in a special way, for I believe, as Khalil Gibran once said, “A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.”

Okay, enough of quotes and metaphors! Let me delve directly into the 2 e-learning software that are not only free, but also quite easy to use.

Before I proceed, there is a small work to be done. If you are wondering about the veracity and sustainability of e-learning, let me take you to what the reputed Sloan Consortium found in a study sometime back:

  • Almost two-thirds of for-profit institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long term strategy.

  • The 21%growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 2% growth in the overall higher education student population.

  • Nearly one-half of institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for face-to-face courses and programs.

  • Three-quarters of institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for online courses and programs.

There you are. The scope of e-learning has increased manifold. And, by owning and operating e-learning courses for more than 2 years, I can certainly vouch for their increase in demand.

But I also know that many eager teachers/coaches feel deterred venturing out because, among other reasons, they are not sure about what e-learning software to use to build up their courses.

As an e-learning coach I am a fan of PowerPoint, especially the 2010 edition. But PowerPoint costs money, so let me point you to the free presentation software from LibreOffice productivity suite.

LibreOffice Impress

LibreOffice is developed by The Document Foundation, whose members broke out of Oracle Corporation’s OpenOffice.Org project in 2010. LibreOffice is a free, open source office suite for both Windows and Mac, and is compatible with Microsoft’s Office.

LibreOffice Impress is the presentation software (see picture below), much like the OpenOffice Impress. So if you have used the latter, there is no problem in using the former.

LibreOffice Impress (a free software from The Document Foundation)
LibreOffice Impress (a free software from The Document Foundation)

Many people feel that between the two open-source software, LibreOffice is definitely the one to watch.

LibreOffice allows video and audio to be embedded, and several exciting animations to make your presentation lively and enjoyable. The trick to create a good e-learning course is to match the audio narration with the slides that must be automated. For newbies this will take time, and the only advice to do well is to keep on trying till the whole thing looks perfect for presenting.

I am not going into the details of making a presentation in LibreOffice, but I will mention a crucial point. After you have created your presentation, save it in PPTX format. This is important and you will shortly see why.

Free PowerPoint Viewer

There are 2 parts of building an e-learning course. The first is of course creating the course. The second is to have the e-learning lessons in a format that is universally available and doesn’t cost the viewer any money.

For example, if you create an e-book in PDF format, it is easily viewable in any computer with the free Adobe Reader or online in Google Docs. This doesn’t require the viewer to pay for it.

Similarly, to view a PPTX presentation, Microsoft provides the free PowerPoint Viewer (picture below). This I refer to as the second essential e-learning software.

PowerPoint Viewer (a free software from Microsoft Corporation)
PowerPoint Viewer (a free software from Microsoft Corporation)

What happens is like this:

  1. You create your e-learning lessons with the free LibreOffice Impress, complete with background narration. You then save the lessons in PPTX format, and send them along with the audio/video media files to your learners.

  2. The learners in turn will be able to watch the lessons on the free PowerPoint Viewer in the same way as watching a video. If the e-learning presentation is set on the auto-mode, it will run unscathed in the PowerPoint Viewer without intervention.

I have covered the steps in more detail in my article on using PowerPoint Viewer to build e-learning video. The same is also explained in the following video.


For someone who just debuts as an online tutor, it becomes as a huge relief that it is possible to build up an e-learning course using freely available e-learning software.

However, to properly run the e-learning course, 2 more conditions need to be addressed. One is a reliable payment acceptance system, and the other, ability to deliver the lessons to the paying students.

I will cover the other 2 aspects in a future article. Meanwhile, take a look at the top 5 ways to sell your video tutorials online.


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