Creating and selling online courses is an increasingly popular form of online business, but the success of such a project very often depends on the LMS (Learning Management System) software used.

A high quality LMS solution will allow you to design engaging and diverse courses that will engage your learners and keep them coming back for more.

Table of contents

In this article we'll take a look at some, in my opinion, of the best LMS systems that you should try if running online courses is currently in your area of interest. We will look at the following solutions:

  • LearnDash
  • LifterLMS
  • LearnPress

By briefly describing them, including listing their advantages as well as disadvantages, I hope to help you make an informed decision on choosing the right LMS for your project. Here we go!

What is an LMS plugin for WordPress?

A learning management system plug-in is software that helps create, deliver and manage online courses. It usually also includes features to help document, track and report on learning progress to teachers, as well as to students themselves.

Install the plugin like any other. If you don't know how to do it, take a look at the article "How to install the plug-in". LMS plugins tend to be very complex, which can sometimes scare beginners. But rest assured. Everything is manageable 🙂 .

LMS plugins for WordPress offer eLearning site owners the ability to create content, make changes and updates to information and manage all administrative tasks from one convenient location. They also make online education very easy and enjoyable for students. All they have to do to access online courses is log in to their account. Immediately after that, they have access to all the learning materials they have in their possession.

What to look for when choosing an LMS plugin?

Well. Choosing, especially if you work with WordPress is not an easy task. And it's by no means that the plugins are of poor quality or there is a small selection of them. On the contrary. Not only there are quite a lot of such extensions, but also many of them are high quality and functional. 

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that what you ultimately decide on should largely depend on the needs of your business and/or niche in the online education industry, and of course, the needs of your learners. There are a few key features that everyone should consider when trying to find the right tool for the job:

Ease of use - Quality LMS software should include an intuitive interface for users and administrators, as well as an instructor-friendly course creation process. Fortunately, most tools offer either a form of free trial or a money-back guarantee so that we can see if this particular solution will meet our and our students' needs and expectations.

Course features - You need to engage and hold learners' attention. That's why your LMS software should offer the ability to run a wide range of courses and their lessons, including quizzes, tests, options to communicate e.g. via discussion forums, the ability to obtain certificates, etc.

Monetisation options - A top-notch LMS platform should offer multiple revenue-generating options to enable you to grow your business and increase revenue. The ability to implement many different payment methods, courses with one-time and/or subscription purchase options, the ability to organise promotional activities such as through discount coupons, are all foundations of a good e-learning platform that will generate revenue at a high level.

Support - It's not about the support you can offer your learners. It's about the support you can get from the LMS developers. Always check what you find in this area before you decide on one solution or another.

There is nothing worse than a rushed e-learning system that suddenly stops working and you are left alone with the problem. Check how the help documentation is designed and whether the content is clear and easy to understand. Also make sure that you can contact the support in case you have a question or need help with a problem.

Price - LMS systems differ not only in their capabilities, but also in their price. Calculate your budget and choose the optimal solution. If your courses are more expensive, e.g. they will cost several thousand PLN, you can easily invest in a more expensive solution. The sale of one course will return the cost of the system, and remember that the more expensive courses you offer, the more their participants will expect from them. Therefore, in such a situation, it is worth taking care of high-class software.

LMS plugins for WordPress

Let's get down to specifics. Here are a few LMS plugins that I think you should consider when looking for cost-effective solutions for WordPress, and that will quickly get your own online school up and running.

1. LearnDash

LearnDash - the look and feel of the manufacturer's website

This is a plugin that I would recommend with my eyes closed to most people who are trying to create their own e-learning platform.

LearnDash creators have experience in the education industrywhich is not insignificant. The plug-in was developed based on the experience and knowledge gained from working in this sector. This has simply contributed to the popularity of this software among professionals involved in online learning and teaching and explains why it is so often used by universities around the world.

Using LearnDash, you can easily create courses, lessons, quizzes and certifications, and those are just a few options. Of course, you can monetize your courses by selling subscriptions, memberships, course bundles or individual courses.

If you are looking for a high quality, robust LMS plugin for WordPress choosing this tool may be a good step.

The plugin, due to its immense popularity, has also lived up to its sizeable list of integrations. When you get started and want to use tools to support your processes, be it education or marketing, you will see that many external platforms, plugins and themes have their integrations with LearnDash. Anyway, what is there to look for. First example of my favourite theme Astra or CartFlows plugin, which I use passionately in many ecommerce projects.

Key opportunities

  • Advanced course builder
  • Advanced test/quiz building system
  • Dosage of course content
  • Many opportunities to join courses
  • Certificates
  • Forums
  • Detailed reports
  • Student profiles
  • Option to purchase courses including integration with WooCommerce (you can connect our payment systems)

Learn Dash advantages

  • A powerful course builder including numerous configuration options means you can create courses to your specific requirements.
  • LearnDash integrates with many add-ons (as I have already mentioned), allowing you to add more features to your eLearning platform. Examples: WooCommerce, Stripe, BuddyPress, MemberPress, Slack, ConvertKit, Zapier and many more.

Learn Dash disadvantages

There is no perfect software that will satisfy everyone's needs and tastes. I always say this to my trainees at PoznajWP.plThey are surprised that the recommended solution does not fully meet their expectations. In the case of LearnDash, there are not many drawbacks, but I would undoubtedly include them:

  • Relatively low intuitiveness. Unfortunately LearnDash takes some time to get used to its methodology and the course creation process itself is not as intuitive as we would expect. More than once, I've encountered feedback from beginners that they felt very disappointed after purchasing. When asked: why? The answer is usually similar. After all, you can't do much with this tool. This is often the first impression. However, if you delve into the documentation, you will discover possibilities that you did not notice the first time around. It quickly becomes clear that our first impression was wrong.

Learn Dash license cost

It is not one of the cheapest plug-ins, but it is not particularly expensive either. Considering the fact that well-prepared courses packaged in good, functional software can also sell well, the cost starting at $159 per year is not overwhelming. Selling one or two courses can cover this cost for us in 100%.

A free trial won't test you, but LearnDash offers a 30-day refund if, after purchase, you decide it's not for you.

2. LifterLMS

LifterLMS - manufacturer's website

LifterLMS is a powerful plugin for WordPress that comes with a ton of useful features. It is easy to set up, even on existing WordPress sites, and offers a convenient way to create engaging online courses.

It features a drag-and-drop wizard with the ability to create courses with audio, video, image and text files.

With LifterLMS, you can create homework assignments for students, create timed tests/quizzes, and offer materials for download and offline work. You can even assign multiple instructors to a single course so students can interact with them via forums, comments or private coaching areas.

LifterLMS integrates seamlessly with WooCommerce or AffiliateWP (a big plus). This means you can easily launch an online shop with courses and even other products, or implement an affiliate program to generate more sales from referrals.

You can monetize your LMS platform in many ways. For example, you can sell memberships that provide access to all courses for a set period of time, create course bundles to increase revenue, or even implement a members-only offering model so students can purchase on individual terms.

Advantages of LifterLMS

  • built-in course builder,
  • the opportunity to do homework,
  • Integration with popular scripts or services, such as WooCommerce, MailChimp,
  • plenty of monetisation methods and options for you to generate revenue,
  • the ability to sell rates in multiple currencies,
  • one-off, subscription or package payments,
  • you can create a membership site - restricting access to content until you register,
  • private discussion groups and members-only forums.

Disadvantages of LifterLMS

  • To access most of the features, you need to buy separate add-ons or a not-so-expensive plan,
  • The plug-in interface looks a bit archaic,
  • Because of the way LifterLMS is marketed, it may cost you more than you initially think. To make sure the eLearning platform has all the features you need for your idea, you may need to install additional extensions.

LifterLMS licence costs

The plugin is available in the wordpress repository. However, it is quite limited. The cheapest license, on the other hand, costs $99 per year. This is a small amount, and the price includes the base WordPress LifterLMS plugin and one payment gateway or one selected add-on for use on one website. Other add-ons can be purchased separately.

If you want to have all the LifterLMS extensions at your disposal, you have to expect to spend $999 per year. This, however, allows you to run any number of learning platforms with the full set of add-ons.

3. LearnPress

learnpress

LearnPress is the easiest and most common choice for new eLearning platform owners.

Why? Simple answer. The plugin is completely free, and the cost you incur will probably be the cost of the theme that LearnPress uses, which is the one you ultimately decide on.

Each LearnPress course can be built around lessons and quizzes. Depending on your needs and the complexity of your course platform, you may need to activate several add-ons. For example, there are add-ons for bbPress, BuddyPress, course reviews, import/export or prerequisites.

LearnPress advantages

  • The basic version of the plugin is free, so you have the opportunity to run an interesting online course. You will probably spend around $50 for the theme and around $30 for integration with, for example, WooCommerce to offer Polish payment gateways. The plugin also has the advantage that you are not bound by an annual recurring fee,
  • LearnPress supports a large collection of payment gateways, including 2 Checkout, Authorize.net and Stripe,
  • LearnPress allows you to register instructors, two or three of whom can manage a single course,
  • a system of badges and points for gamification,
  • Drip Content content, random quizzes, paid memberships, and an add-on for WooCommerce.

LearnPress disadvantages

  • Unfortunately, LearnPress is a little problematic in some areas of support. Which is partly due to the fact that it's a plugin available for free. Yes there is support, there is a forum and there is documentation, but the knowledge base only contains three articles on LearnPress. It is better when you purchase a paid plugin or premium theme for LearnPress, but as with most free WordPress plugins, when it comes to support, you have to be largely self-reliant and self-sufficient.
  • It is not easy to create packages consisting of many different courses.

LearnPress license cost

The basic extension is available for free from the WordPress repository. You can find it by clicking here. So the cost is zero, but provided you don't opt for additional extensions that you already have to pay for.

For example, the add-on that integrates LearnPress with WooCommerce costs just under $50. The problem is that if you want to buy extensions individually, you may find that you have spent quite a lot. That's why it's worth directing your attention to add-on packages or even premium themes, which are usually equipped with everything we might need.

For example, buying a set: a premium theme with access to most of the key extensions will pay from $49 upwards. So the cost is very attractive. You can find the themes on ThemeForest, which is even more tempting because the purchase will not have to be renewed periodically. In most cases, the cost does not exceed $69. For this price, you get an attractive theme and any extensions you may additionally need.

Summary

If we are talking about educational websites and I were to advise you on which of the above to choose. I would point to LearnDash. However, this is my personal choice and does not at all mean that it will coincide with your preferences. Ideally, you should test each one, so if you have the funds to buy, invest in all of them and ultimately stay with the one that best fits your needs. If you lose, apply for a refund within the period allowed for such a move, which is usually up to 30 days after purchase.

At PoznajWP.pl I use yet another solution. In this case, I have opted for WPLMS with ThemeForest, although before that there was LearnPress, which was eventually abandoned due to the lack of ability to create course sets. WPLMS performs decently, albeit when I launched an independent service for internal conversations with learners at https://hellowp.pl I use only part of its capabilities.

I've been thinking more and more about switching to LearnDash, but I get goosebumps just thinking about migrating my courses. Eventually the day will come when I will have to do it 🙂 .

E-learning platforms are evolving, which means changes need to be made to them. This is why the first choice you make is so important. Either it will give you everything you need now and may need in the future, or you will, like me, migrate the service to another solution from time to time. The latter is definitely the less comfortable version 🙂 .

There is also another important aspect related to the cost and comfort of you and the course participants. Few people write about this, but hosting is not insignificant. An e-learning platform is not just a shop where someone buys a product and perhaps never looks at it again. Here, the purchase itself is just the beginning of a sometimes intensive work with the service.

That's why if you don't invest in a good, efficient hosting you may quickly find that you will lose students and the conversion rate will be significantly lower than what it could be and what you expect. For a shop or LMS I recommend WP Plus account. You can find information about it on WordPress hosting. In the case of complex eLearning systems, it will be necessary to move to even more powerful solutions such as VPS servers or dedicated solutions.

Keep this in mind when planning the pricing of your courses to include not only the cost of the LMS, but also the costs associated with the server infrastructure.

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4 Comments

  1. The topic of plugins for online courses nicely elaborated, and how does Wpidea compare to the solutions presented?

    1. Michał some time ago I was helping a client who was using this script. As far as I was able to look at it at the time, it did not impress me much. But these are impressions of the first contact not supported by wider experience. So don't take this as an opinion maker 🙂 I don't think it's an opinion maker.

      1. Thanks for your reply

  2. Like Christopher I recommend Learn Dash. I use on two sites and have everything I need. The help could be more responsive, but maybe that's just my fad 🙂 I don't know.

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