Web-based education or „e-learning‟ has become a critical component in higher education for the last decade, replacing other distance learning methods, such as traditional computer training or correspondence learning. The number of university students who take on-line courses is continuously increasing all over the world. In Spain, nearly a 90% of the universities have an institutional e-learning platform and over 60% of the traditional on-site courses use this technology as a supplement to the traditional face-to-face classes. This new form of learning allows the disappearance of geographical barriers and enables students to schedule their own learning process, among some other advantages. On-line education is developed through specific software called „e-learning platform‟ or „virtual learning environment‟ (VLE). A considerable number of web-based tools to deliver distance courses are currently available. Open source software packages such as Moodle, Sakai, dotLRN or Dokeos are the most commonly used in the virtual campuses of Spanish universities. This paper analyzes the possibilities that virtual learning environments provide university teachers and learners and offers a technical comparison among some of the most popular e-learning learning platforms.