The exponential growth in the e-learning industry continues to provide plenty of opportunities to schools, universities, corporations, and entrepreneurs.
However, the advent of learning management system (LMS) platforms has made it possible for schools, corporations, and small-time creators like us to create and sell unlimited courses online.
Because 43% of the web is built on WordPress, many of these LMSs are built to integrate well with your existing WordPress website.
This article will cover the most popular WordPress LMS plugins and their unique use cases so you can easily decide which one to use for your online courses.
How to Choose a WordPress LMS Plugin
Choosing the best online course platform or learning management system for your courses is not as easy as picking the least expensive or even one with the most reviews. Here are some of the essential features you should look out for in any LMS plugin.
- Course creation: This goes beyond the ability to add images, text, or even downloadable course content such as ebooks or PDFs for offline learning. For example, you may require your students to watch a video before proceeding to the next lesson.
- Content delivery: Now that you’ve created your course, how do you deliver courses to students? Drip it to your students over time? Offer only to a particular group or offer it buffet-style? These are questions you need to know before coming to one particular LMS plugin.
- Student assessment & engagement: Most LMS plugins offer quiz grading and assessment features, but there are few that support advanced features such as gamification, timed exams, or even certifications.
- Enrollment & groups: The ability to sell unlimited courses to organizations and assign group leaders to enroll the entire groups is one of the most important features if you want to sell your courses in bulk.
- Sales and marketing: For monetization, you want to make sure that your LMS plugin choice can integrate with payment gateways and perhaps email marketing tools.
- Continuous customer support: This is not a matter of if but when. As you work on your courses, you’ll need now and then to reach out to support for help.
- Integrations with other platforms: At any given time, you’ll most likely use more than a handful of tools when creating your courses, and as such, you’ll need them to play nice with each other.
- Data and analytics: This one can easily be forgotten. You want to be able to metrics beyond sales and revenue so you can make better business decisions.
With these essential features in mind, let’s look at our top picks for the best WordPress LMS plugins and their use cases.
Common Features Among LMS Plugins
In this section, we’ll look at a list of common features that are an inherent part of any LMS plugin worth its salt. These are essential for a good user experience and a better learning experience for students.
- Multimedia content: All of the LMS plugins in this list allow you to upload text, images, audio, and video to your courses. Often with video, you’ll host it somewhere else and embed it in your course.
- Quizzes & assessments: This is the staple of LMSs. While some course plugins offer all kinds of quizzes, it’s safe to say you can expect every plugin to have some sort of quizzing and assessment features.
- Student progress & tracking: Here, every student will be able to see their course progress and resume where they left off. You’re also able to view how students progress throughout the entire course.
- Content locking: Unless stated otherwise, plugins in this list allow you to set prerequisites. In other words, you can block access to other course material until a student completes preceding lessons.
- Content dripping: This is another basic feature where you can control how students get access to your course, i.e., in drips over time.
- PayPal & Stripe integration: While some offer additional payment gateways, they all offer integration with these two most popular payment gateways.
- Basic reporting: The number of enrolled students, student progress, and sales numbers are some of the more basic reporting metrics you can expect with every LMS plugin.
- Drag-and-drop course builder: Though not needed in every case, drag-and-drop functionality can make building attractive lessons and pages much easier.
- Templates: Templates can also help you hit the ground running instead of building every lesson from scratch.
What are the Best WordPress LMS Plugins?
While we’ve selected these based on extensive testing and our own experience with them, the most important metric is your individual needs. Understanding what you need to achieve with an LMS plugin is half a battle won. Another half is knowing what these plugins offer, and that’s what we’re about to uncover:
Course Platform Overview
Depending on what your students need, you might find that one content delivery method works better than others. Some sites give customers all-access to everything at once via a membership site, while other drip out content over time. But you may prefer something else entirely, like linear learning where students follow the course in a set order.
Pricing and Value
Not sure which platform to choose? Prices can play a big role in decision-making, especially when all other offerings are pretty similar. And sometimes we just want to test out the software before fully committing. Here’s a helpful breakdown of how these platforms match up:
Payment & Billing
Probably the most important factor when choosing a WordPress LMS plugin is whether it integrates with your payment processor of choice and allows you to offer flexible payment options, such as one-time payments, subscription-based payments, or even installments.
Marketing And Sales
If you’re building a membership site, sometimes you might want to add some gamification, quizzes and gradebook features to keep people engaged and help them learn. Some of the plugins on this list have these features built-in, while others require an additional purchase.
Though membership plugins have many similarities, the differences between them can make or break your choice of which plugin to use for your business. Here’s a helpful rundown of how they match up:
Marketing & Sales
The ability to market and sell your courses is an essential feature for any WordPress LMS plugin. You want to be able to offer coupons, discounts, and upsells so you can increase your conversion rate and AOV.
Marketing And Sales
Even the best membership plugins will encounter the occasional issue. And when that happens, you want to know that customer support is available to help resolve any issues as quickly as possible.
Ease of Use
- For professionals looking for a feature-rich, “All-in-one” LMS and membership plugin.
- Pricing plans start at $99 per month for a single site.
- Free demo available.
As you create online courses, it is almost inevitable that you will soon realize that you’ll need more than one plugin to fit your needs. With some plugins, that realization comes early, while with others, like AccessAlly, you can create, grow and scale all within one solution.
AccessAlly’s strength lies in its depth of both LMS features and membership management features. At its core, AccessAlly is both an LMS and an all-in-one membership plugin, and it does that super well. However, AccessAlly goes beyond just creating online courses and comes with powerful ecommerce features for marketing and selling your products.
Who Uses AccessAlly?
If you’re looking for an LMS and own private membership site plugin that makes everything work seamlessly from one end to the other (payments, courses, and memberships) with as few plugins as possible, AccessAlly may be the ticket.
- Course creation: One of the unique features for course creators here is the ability to add bookmarks to videos and audio, where students can skip to the right point in a long video. Your students can also resume their lessons midway through the video where they left off with the resume button.
- Student assessment & engagement: This is AccessAlly’s bread and butter. While most plugins in this list rely on integration with other plugins for advanced course creation features, AccessAlly offers most of these additional features out of the box. In addition to the expected features like quizzes and assignments, AccessAlly allows you to gamify your content and also assign homework assignments. Want to award certifications upon course completion? That’s also possible with their auto-generated certificates you can customize.
- Bulk course enrollment: If you want to sell bulk courses or bulk enroll students, you’ll need an LMS plugin that allows for umbrella accounts. With AccessAlly, you have various options. You can restrict licenses based on the number of students, control what courses are included and give different levels of control for admins.
- Sales and Marketing: AccessAlly requires you to subscribe to one of these customer relation management (CRM) software. If you’re currently not using any of the above CRM, this requirement may seem like a big ask. And it may be if you’re just starting out. However, this is required for more advanced automation capabilities, such as sending personalized emails based on user actions, whether that’s a new user subscription or course completion, or even failed payments.
- Integrations with other platforms: While AccessAlly does integrate with most WordPress themes and shopping carts, integrations with similar tools are not one of AccessAlly’s strongest suites. Because it’s built to stand on its own, AccessAlly doesn’t integrate well with other add-ons that may add additional features to the platform.
- Reporting & Analytics: Reporting on student progress, whether you have one or a hundred, is a fairly basic feature. What is not common is the ability to track and see progress for a group of students, and AccessAlly allows you to do that. In addition to student and assessment metrics, you also have plenty of advanced sales metrics such as churn rate, cart abandonment rate, lifetime customer value, and more.
- Customer support: Getting stuck is unavoidable. What options are available to get in touch with the support? If their in-depth knowledge base does not provide enough answers, you can reach out via email to ask your question or book a call with one of their in-house experts. Alternatively, you can ask your question during one of their weekly tune-up calls dedicated to that. Another way you can get help (or share ideas) is through their Facebook group.
- Limited customization on checkout forms
- The price point is higher compared to others on this list
- It may be a bit technical for beginners, and documentation could be better
- Pricing starts at $199 per year for a single-site license.
- Free demo available.
LearnDash is used by both fortune 500 companies and small-time creators alike. Its beauty lies in its simplicity and flexibility. It’s simple enough with its out-of-the-box features but also allows for integrations with other add-ons/plugins that unleash increased functionality.
Part of why LearnDash is so popular is because it doesn’t break the bank.
LearnDash is also scalable by virtue since it’s easy to marry with other plugins because of its popularity. Lastly, there are plenty of themes that are compatible with LearnDash.
Who Uses LearnDash?
LearnDash is popular among schools, corporations, universities, and other professional training organizations. Because it is so easy to use, LearnDash is popular among bloggers and other creators looking for a simple LMS solution to integrate with their existing WordPress site.
If you have an existing WordPress site, whether you’re a Fortune 500 company for employee training or an average Joe looking to monetize their blogs, LearnDash works so well for everyone on both ends of the spectrum and everyone else in between.
- Course creation: In addition to the essential features discussed above, LearnDash has some pretty cool features, including requiring video completion and controlling progression through the course, either via linear or free-form progression.
- Advanced quizzing: Yes, quizzes are pretty basic features you can expect in any LMS plugin. But LearnDash has taken this to a whole new level. Beyond the 8 question types you can set, LearnDash also allows you to set attempt limits and time limits, provide hints, require that a user pass quiz grading before they can continue, and many more!
- Content delivery: Besides the normal drip feeding, LearnDash allows you to create groups and choose how you deliver content for each group.
- Learner assessment and engagement: LearnDash has come a long way in this category. From badges, completion certificates, course points, leadership boards, and even until recently, gamification features.
- Bulk course enrollment: Not natively available, but there is a 3rd-party add-on called WISDMLABS that LearnDash recommends, which handles group registrations and management.
- Sales & marketing: Whether you want to sell courses individually, bundle them together, sell access to individual courses, or create memberships that provide access to multiple courses – LearnDash has you covered! You can also offer coupons and apply tax rules.
- Integrations: This is one of LearnDash’s strengths. LearnDash offers extra add-ons (free and paid) for added functionality but also integrates with tens of other 3rd-party plugins.
- Reporting & analytics: Included with LearnDash’s Plus and Pro packages is what they called Propanel, which offers enhanced reporting. Something worth mentioning here is the data filtering option that allows you to email a selected group of users.
- Customer support: In addition to startup guides and documentation, another way to get help is through community forums and email. There is no live chat, telephone, or in-person support.
- Enrolling students in bulk and understanding how they progress as a “group” is somewhat limited, even with their Propanel add-on, which is supposed to offer detailed reports capabilities.
- To get the most out of LearnDash, you will most likely have to do some tweaks and add a few add-ons.
- Membership features are less than impressive, and you’ll need to use third-party WordPress plugins for added membership functionality.
LearnDash is popular for a reason. Its out-of-the-box features are packed with everything you need to start your online courses. It doesn’t end there, however. LearnDash integrates beautifully with other plugins/add-ons for added capability when and if you need more. Yes, it will cost you an extra couple of hundred bucks, but considering how affordable LearnDash is, you’d probably still be better off than with other pricier alternatives.
- Best for course marketplace.
- Pricing starts at $149 per year for a single license.
- Free plan available.
Tutor LMS is one of the more recent competitors in this space. Their recent version, 2.0, is more polished and optimized for user interface with some powerful features, making it a worthy contender in this list.
If you’d like to create a course marketplace with multiple instructors, Tutor LMS may be the ticket for you. The level of detailed customization you can achieve without a theme or page builder, from their front-end course catalog page to certification builder, is impressive.
Who Uses Tutor LMS?
Tutor LMS has a free version packed with its core course creation features but lacks more advanced features, such as reporting and analytics, which are reserved for the premium version.
Want to create your own Khan Academy online school? Tutor LMS is ideal for a course marketplace where you can create a single or multiple-instructor course marketplace.
- Course creation: As typically expected, here you have options to upload multimedia content (text, images, videos, and easy digital downloads) and all kinds of assessments (quizzes, assignments, & tests). You can also set prerequisites and drip content according to a schedule of your choice.
- Student assessment & engagement: 10 types of quizzes in which you can set attempt limits and a timer. Students can submit homework assignments and see their progress with a student grade book setup. Something I haven’t seen anywhere else? Student calendar, which allows students to easily keep track of assignments.
- Bulk course enrollment: Ability to assign multiple instructors per course, who in turn can enroll students in the course. You can also manage class sizes, set prerequisites, define enrollment durations, allocate commissions, and distribute revenue to your instructors.
- Sales and marketing: Tutor LMS integrate well with Woocommerce for selling your online courses and Woocommerce subscriptions if you want to sell them on a subscription basis. Because you can integrate with Woocommerce add-ons, you can create coupons and bundle courses.
- Integrations: For memberships, Tutor LMS integrates with Paid Membership Pro and Restrict Content Pro, which are both free plugins. For social/community sites, it integrates with BuddyPress, another free plugin. Then for a shopping cart, you can use Woocommerce, which is also free. Here is a link to all other integrations with 3rd party add-ons.
- Reporting & analytics: Both instructor and student dashboards are replete with all kinds of personalized courses, students, and review data, to name a few.
- Support: Although their documentation could be better in terms of detailed walkthrough step-by-step explanations or videos, they do offer live chat and email support for customers with the premium version. For customers on their free version, they offer only email support.
Tutor LMS has struck a nice balance between functionality and usability. Most student and instructor dashboards I have come across are bare-bones and boring. Unlike most of the plugins in this list, They have deliberately made an effort to create meaningful dashboards for both students and instructors.
Building an online school/training center with you as the sole instructor is much different from having multiple instructors. There are a host of additional features you’d want to have, and Tutor LMS is the only online learning platform in this list that emphasizes catering to multiple instructors and has strong features to back that.
- Integrations are limited
- Is not compliant with SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model)
- The pro version is only slightly better than the free version
LifterLMS is another powerful and scalable “all-in-one” LMS plugin. With LifterLMS, you can start out with their generous free plan and progressively grow with more powerful features over time as your business needs them.
LifterLMS’s core version is free and allows you to create online courses and memberships with student engagement features such as quizzes, completion certificates, automated emails, and email notifications. The downside of the free version is the absence of support for payment options. To accept online payments, you’d need a premium online payment gateway extension which costs $99 per year.
Who Uses LifterLMS?
LifterLMS can be the right solution for both developers and starters alike. You can download a free version and play around with it. If you like what you see, you can pair the free version with one of the premium payment gateways for $120 per year in order to accept online payments.
- Course creation: Even with their free version, LifterLMS has all of the key features most people will ever need.
- Student assessment & engagement: When it comes to student assessments with LifterLMS, you’d never go wrong. The free version comes with three types of quizzes, while the advanced quizzes add-on comes with additional nine advanced quiz types. With premium add-ons, you also have access to advanced videos, assignments, groups, and more.
- Bulk course enrollment: This is only available with their group’s add-on, which you can either buy individually or as a bundle. Individual add-ons are $120+, and the cheapest bundle is $360 per year.
- Sales and marketing: LifterLMS’ Access plans are much more flexible with native selling features. You can see a lot more without needing to integrate with Woocommerce, for example. Besides the expected features, such as recurring or one-time payment options, you can also set payment plans, set access expiration dates, and offers sales and course trial periods.
- Integrations: While LifterLMS sells itself, and rightly so, as an all-in-one solution, when it does make sense to integrate with other tools to make the best possible online training platform, they have a laundry list of 3rd-party integrations.
- Reporting & analytics: LifterLMS has more than a dozen reports and charts which can be reviewed in the LifterLMS Reporting area, and they’re divided into students, courses, memberships, quizzes, sales, and enrollments sections.
- Support: Different ways to find help with any technical issues. You can use their official startup course, frequently asked questions, or submit a ticket via email.
- Some of the settings were in different navigation nodes, which made it a little confusing initially.
- It can quickly get expensive really quick.
- No cross-selling dashboards with 1-click upsells
LifterLMS’ core plugin can be the cheapest option for the most basic online course but can also get expensive quickly as you need additional features and premium plugins.
Pricing for Sensei starts at $149/year, with their core plugin and a decent amount of features free.
Sensei LMS was created by the makers of Woocommerce, and as you can appreciate, it works flawlessly well with the Woocommerce shopping cart.
Who Uses Sensei LMS?
Sensei LMS is targeted at starters and advanced users; whether you want to share your knowledge or provide formal education, they have something for everyone. Sensei strikes a nice balance between functionality and simplicity.
- Course creation: Not as powerful in terms of extra features, but easy and useful enough for beginners who’re just looking for a simple and affordable course solution
- Student assessment & engagement: You can send and receive assignments, automate quiz grading, and even offer badges and completion certificates to your students.
- Bulk course enrollment: Sensei LMS allows you to enroll students annually but not possible with bulk student enrollment, where you can also assign group leaders. You’d need an extra ecommerce plugin like Groups for Woocommerce for that.
- Sales and marketing: Because of its deep integration with Woocommerce, Sensei LMS comes with all the selling features that come with Woocommerce. However, you’d still need a payment gateway add-on to accept online payment options.
- Integrations: Sensei seamlessly integrates with Woocommerce plugins such as Woocommerce memberships, Woocommer subscriptions, and more. It also integrates well with most well-coded themes, whether Woocommerce themes or not.
- Reporting & analytics: The course analytics dashboard provides basic reporting on metrics such as grading, course completion, and students registered.
- Customer support: Not a whole lot of documentation here. The paid pro comes with an option to reach out to support though they do also offer support to free plugin users; the ticket response time will be a little longer.
- The quiz models that come with Tutor LMS Pro are very limited compared to other platforms in this list
- The plugin is still early in its development; sometimes, it can get a little buggy
- Although the LMS is quite new in the market, they’re still missing a few essential features like the content drip
If the above plugins seem a little expensive or intimidating, Sensei LMS is free and built to feel and look like your WordPress dashboard. Creating courses with a Sensei LMS website is not much different from creating pages and blog posts.
While Woocommerce and Sensei LMS’ core plugins are free, you’d still have to pay for a payment gateway subscription if you’re planning to accept online payment options, which most start at $99 per year.
WP Courseware (Free)
Pricing plans for WP Courseware start at $129/year for two-course websites, and their free demo is the closest thing to a free trial.
While not as popular as other LMS plugins in this list, WP Courseware has an impressive set of features and a far less complicated pricing structure.
Course creation in WP Courseware is robust and comes with tons of additional features to create large or small online courses with ease. When you combine their expansive course creation features with their student engagement tools, you’ve truly got a winner.
Who Uses WP Courseware?
WP Courseware counts, among 20,000+ other customers, some top universities and companies from around the world, such as Verizon and the University of Illinois.
- Course creation: The drag-and-drop visual editor makes it easy to create and organize your courses into units and modules. You can also duplicate any section, whether quizzes or modules, making it easy to fast-track your course creation.
- Student assessment & engagement: Every single month, WP Courseware adds a new feature, and there is no other place where that is more evident than their student assessment features. The only quiz type I haven’t seen is the fill-in-the-blank type quiz, but otherwise, they punch in the same weight as LeanDash in this category.
- Bulk student enrollment: There are plenty of enrollment options with WP Courseware. Potential students can enroll themselves, or you can enroll them manually or automatically. Lastly, you can bulk-enroll students and assign them to specific online classrooms. You can also allow instructors to create, edit, and manage their own courses without allowing access to all training courses.
- Sales and marketing: WP Courseware boosts its own shopping cart where you can sell and process your course purchases without needing Woocommerce or other shopping carts plugins. Selling options include one-time pricing, payment plans, recurring subscriptions, course bundles, coupons, and more.
- Integrations: Dozens of integrations with 3rd party tools are also available to help you automate how you sell and manage your courses. From GamiPress, and Memberpress to MailChimp, or Woocommerce, there is plenty of options for everyone. WP Courseware can be used with any WordPress theme or page builder.
- Reporting & analytics: Whether it’s student progress reporting or sales reporting, WP Courseware gives you enough to know where your students and business are at any point in time and what next steps you can take to grow further.
- Customer support: Through the member portal, you can submit a support ticket there, and the response is usually fast. Their knowledge base is not as well documented, though.
- Without customization with the course theme or code, the look is bare-bones
- Lack of in-depth tutorials or documentation
- Multi-language support is limited
WP Courseware is generally used by small-time creators and big universities. It’s also the most affordable out of the plugins in this list and, arguably, the most cost-effective considering the wide range of features packed into it.
For a nice balance between pricing and additional features, WP Courseware beats the most, if not all, plugins in this list.
Bonus: Membership Plugins
Are LMS and membership any different? While there are some overlaps, yes, there are some major differences.
One such difference is that LMS plugins offer more advanced learner assessment and engagement tools such as quizzes, assignments, tests, and gamification features. Separate membership plugins, on the other hand, often offer advanced access control features that don’t typically come with LMS plugins. In some cases, you find plugins like AccessAlly and LifterLMS cater well to both LMS and membership management needs.
In some situations, you might even want to pair them together. In others, you might actually need more member features than LMS ones.
So, here are some best WordPress membership plugins we recommend, which you can pair, if needed, with many of the LMS plugins in this list.
- Pricing plans start at $279/year for unlimited members and courses for one site.
- No free trial.
Memberpress is first a membership plugin, but they have recently added LMS features called Memberpress courses. Because it’s still in its early development, Memberpress courses are not as developed as other LMS plugins in this list.
Their course builder is built on top of the WordPress block editor, which makes it super easy to build your course modules.
Memberpress’ premium version offers membership features like none-other and advanced access to control multi-tier courses. It also integrates with LearnDash, WP Courseware, and TutorLMS.
Which of the WordPress LMS Plugins are Right for You?
Choosing the right LMS plugins begins with assessing your needs and ending with what essential features the plugins have to offer. Then, finally, make the most informed decision. As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of key features you can expect any of the plugins in this list to have. But it’s the unique features, useability, and pricing that make influence your final decision.
So here are some recommendations base on where you are in your journey or your individual use case.
- LearnDash, Sensei LMS, and Tutor LMS: LMS plugins best for beginners. Any of these plugins are super easy for beginners to get started, and both Sensei LMS and Tutor LMS offer free core plugins but do expect to pay for extra add-ons if you’re planning to sell your online courses. Otherwise, LearnDash would also be a good start at $199 per year.
- LearnDash, WP Courseware: The WordPress LMS plugins with the best values. Considering the LMS features these plugins offer and the pricing point, no doubt they offer tons of value compared to others.
- AccessAlly, LifterLMS: LMS plugins ideal for advanced users with the need for advanced features and scalability. These plugins are not cheap but offer “all-in-one” online course solutions where you can combine your LMS with memberships should you need them.
- Memberpress: Best for membership first online course solution. If creating a membership site is going to be an integral part of your courses, with minimum LMS features, then Memberpress may be for you.
So, there it is. You can’t go wrong with any of the WordPress LMS plugins on this list. Any number of them could be more than enough for your needs. Once you’ve honed down on the essential features you need, you can assess that against the key features these LMS plugins offer and then choose your best LMS plugin.