8 Best WordPress LMS Plugins Compared (2019) - Online Course How

8 Best WordPress LMS Plugins Compared (2019)

If you’re thinking of creating your online course on WordPress then you’re faced with a baffling choice of LMS plugin options.

But lots of choice can lead to confusion, so in this article I’ll try and cut through the noise and help you work out which is the best choice for you.

I’ll review the 8 best WordPress LMS plugins and compare their features to help you understand which one you should use.

Why Use An LMS Plugin?

LMS (learning management system) plugins enable you to create a great learning experience for your students on your website.

They help you with the structure to create lessons, modules, quizzes, downloadable resources and other useful features for online learning.

Using a LMS creates a far superior online course than if you just use the standard WordPress system + a membership plugin.

If you’re looking to create and sell courses online, you need to make sure the experience you offer is immersive and of a high quality.

LMS plugins allow you to do just that.

You can also integrate instant feedback, grading systems, and certifications along with many other interesting features that attract potential students.

In short you need to use an LMS Plugin if you want to create an online course on WordPress.

In short you need to use an LMS Plugin if you want to create an online course on WordPress.

Here are the 8 best WordPress LMS plugins (each explored in more detail below):

  1. LearnDash
  2. Wp Courseware
  3. LifterLMS
  4. LearnPress
  5. Sensei
  6. CoursePress Pro
  7. Namaste! LMS
  8. MasterStudy LMS

 

My Top Recommendations

Most Complete WordPress LMS: LearnDash
Easiest WordPress LMS To Use: WpCourseware

 

What Are The Main LMS Features To Look For?

Before you dive in and read about each of the top LMS plugins, it’s important to know which features are most important to you.

There are so many different features that an LMS can offer, but the main ones to look out for are:

  1. Course Builder Template: this element dictates the layout and look of your course area. The menu and navigation is built into the template design – same as the video player position, lesson text, additional downloads etc. It also influences how easy it is to build your course with features like bulk uploading of files and module/lesson structure.
  2. Payment Gateway Integration: most LMS plugins need to integrate with a 3rd party payment processor like Stripe or PayPal to take payments. Some don’t integrate at all and need a separate membership plugin to provide this functionality.
  3. Email Integration: you’ll want to make sure whichever email provider you use integrates with your LMS plugin so that new member information can be passed to your email list. You also want to be able to automatically trigger an email to a student when they reach certain milestones or if they haven’t logged in for a while to help keep them engaged.
  4. Course Progress: having a way to track you students progress enables you to understand how your students are getting on and if they are getting stuck or skipping any sections of your course. It can also help your students to keep track of their progress and pick up where they left off last time they logged in.
  5. Content Dripping: this feature enables you to drip content out over time to help keep students engaged or to prevent overwhelm that can come if presented with too much information all at once. It can also help make learning more interactive as new sections of the course become available when a student reaches certain milestones.
  6. Quizzes: offering quizzes as part of your course can be a great way to help your students cement their learning, measure their success or just make your course more interactive. You can set it up so that the next lesson is only available once a quiz has been completed or use a quiz to trigger an end of course or module completion certificate.
  7. Gamification & Certificates: even though a lot of e-learning is done informally, many people still love to receive a certificate to show they have completed your course, or get assigned badges for hitting certain milestones and achievements. These can be made as a fun informal reward or if you are delivering a formal qualification you may want to deliver an official certificate.
  8. File Attachments: most online courses are delivered via video but being able to offer additional downloadable pdfs, spreadsheets, word docs etc can really add a lot to your course lessons.
  9. Assignments: depending on the type of course you’re teaching it may be important for you to create assignments. For this, you’ll need an easy way to assign the work, for students to upload it and then for you to mark and offer it back to your students too.
  10. Marketing Tools: building your course is just one half of the job – selling it is arguably even more important! Look out for landing page designs, coupon/discount creation and being able to offer an affiliate program. Many LMS plugins lack in this area and leave it up to a membership plugin to offer it, but make sure the features  you want are built into any integrations.

Hands using a laptop

 

Top WordPress LMS Plugin Reviews

Below we take a look at each of the top 8 WordPress LMS options in more detail.

1) LearnDash Review

LearnDash is one of the most popular and trusted WordPress LMS plugins.

It is used by numerous enterprises, educational institutions, as well as small business websites and personal instructors.

Because of its high level of customisation, its course builder is one of the easiest to use and monetise on any scale.

The drag-and-drop course builder allows you to easily create the most comprehensive courses.

You can include features such as quizzes, lesson timers, badges, assignments, and videos. You are also able to structure your curriculum into different lessons and topics.

You may also be interested in using course forums, which LearnDash supports, to provide extra information and allow students to communicate with each other.

Exchanging ideas makes the experience a lot more immersive and stimulating.

LearnDash also makes monetising your course very simple.

It has PayPal integration and it also allows you to make use of other payment gateway and eCommerce platforms.

You can also add membership plugins if you want to offer students more flexibility on subscriptions and if you want to offer discounts.

But every LMS is only as good as its management potential.

LearnDash lets you generate detailed reports and create and manage user groups individually. You can also set up automatic email notifications for new lessons, discounts, tests, and other certifications or rewards.

The deep functionality of LearnDash is more than impressive.

The course customisation potential is limitless, especially when considering the video progression feature and the reward system.

The fact that the LMS doesn’t have an integrated membership plugin is not the end of the world either.

However, if there’s one thing that poses a problem for new users, it’s the learning curve.

Although the drag-and-drop visual course builder is easy to use, there are many small changes that you can make to each section to improve the flow of the lessons and tests.

There’s not much there in terms of a wizard or guide on how to build your courses and monetise them.

That being said, if you’re not the ultimate casual user, LearnDash is still one of the best plugins you can rely on.

 

2) WP Courseware Review

Screenshot of homepage of WP Courseware

WP Courseware is another solid plugin that lets you integrate online courses on your eCommerce platform.

It also works really well if you already have a membership plugin integrated.

The course builder is a simple visual drag-and-drop system.

You can create multiple courses and categorise them by topics, number of lessons, etc.

Another great feature is the content drip system, which enables you to:

  • drip out access to lessons over a predetermined time-frame
  • schedule the release of whole courses on specific dates
  • schedule the release of lessons or courses at certain intervals after the enrolment of your students
  • make certain lessons or courses only available once some prerequisite lessons or courses have been completed

Furthermore, to help manage all of this and to keep students engaged, you can use the integrated quiz system. This feature may seem somewhat complex at first, but that’s just because it is highly customisable.

For example, you can allow students to retake quizzes for as many times as you want. You may also limit the number of retakes including none.

You’re allowed to dictate every aspect of the learning experience.

You’re not just a content creator and course designer anymore – you’re also a digital tutor.

When your students are not meeting your requirements, the mandatory quizzes will automatically let you know if something’s wrong. Or if some students would benefit more from revisiting some courses.

But of course, this is not just for your benefit. Students will also find this useful as the feature acts as validation for their hard work and money spent.

WpCourseware has a great reputation and is used by some  big name online course creators like Joseph Michael, who has spoken about how easy he found it to build his course on WP Courseware with no previous experience.

If you’re looking for a simple solution which has all the core features that most people would need, but with less of a learning curve than LearnDash requires, I’d recommend WpCourseware as a high quality, easy to use LMS plugin.

For a more in-depth WpCourseware Review click here.

 

3) LifterLMS Review

Screenshot of LifterLMS homepage

Another tried-and-true LMS plugin is LifterLMS.

It allows you to create and customise your content, design courses, manage them, and of course sell them.

As one of the top LMS plugins, LifterLMS also allows you to integrate a progression bar for your students to follow.

This comes in handy for multiple reasons. Not only does it let the students be aware of their progress and achievements, but it can also be set up with badges and certificates.

This is most helpful when the users and students want to share their progress on social media.

It gives them an opportunity to boast to friends and co-workers and also to let potential recruiters or employers see that they mean business.

The plugin is also mobile responsive.

Although it’s not ideal for most to start learning on a mobile platform, if a student can manage to avoid distraction, the mobile compatibility is quite convenient.

It might even be less tiring on the eyes and allow for easy testing.

When it comes to payment integration, LifterLMS is superior to many similar platforms.

You can integrate PayPal, Stripe, WooCommerce, as well as a membership feature. Of course, none of these are free, which is why many instructors see it as a drawback.

Unlike other plugins, LifterLMS has a higher pricing structure.

This makes it more suitable for businesses and enterprises than small-time authors and instructors.

LifterLMS comes as a pretty basic canvas if you don’t buy a bundle.

You can still opt to purchase just a few add-ons if you think that they would suffice for the purpose of your course.

Still, the end result probably won’t have the professional-looking design you hoped for.

However, the easy-to-integrate membership feature does have plenty of benefits too, besides a structured payment plan.

It also allows you to differentiate users between teachers and students.

This makes managing user groups and scheduled lessons a lot easier, especially if you want to offer one-on-one lessons on your website.

At the end of the day, LifterLMS can be an amazing platform for you to build and monetise online courses on your website.

You have many choices in terms of customisation, rewards, and payment methods.

The management aspect is simple to follow as is the ability to track progress from the student’s point of view.

The only true downside is the cost. Without stepping up to LifterLMS Pro, you will be very limited in what you can create.

But if you are really serious about creating a world-renowned online course, this one might just be worth the money.

Besides, you’ll be eligible for 24/7 support which is already something that most LMS plugins don’t offer.

This can help even the most inexperienced course designers overcome the learning curve in record time.

 

4) LearnPress Review

Screenshot of LearnPress homepage

LearnPress is another great example of getting what you pay for.

The plugin offers the ability to integrate eCommerce, Stripe, collections, other instructors and certificates.

However, you’re only able to do this after buying the specific add-ons. The stripped-down version of the plugin is rather simplistic and not very useful if you want to monetise a course.

If you’re serious about implementing a training programme on your website and you don’t plan on making it your only income stream, then the free version of LearnPress can still do the trick.

You can even use free add-ons to better structure your course.

For example, the LearnPress Prerequisites Courses add-on allows you to regulate user access to specific courses and topics.

If you want to give your students a sense of progression, this feature will allow you to restrict certain topics until other sections are completed.

The good news is that prices are low compared to other platforms.

Whether you get a bundle or individual add-ons, you won’t have to spend too much to integrate new features.

And you can allow students to rate and review your course at no cost to you or them.

WishList integration is another interesting add-on.

It allows you to open a channel of communication with your students, helping you stay on top of the game.

You’ll be able to easily track student tendencies and check specific requests for new courses or testing features.

As for support, LearnPress is limited in this regard.

Though it uses a basic drag-and-drop builder and limited shortcodes, it would still be nice to see some sort of guidance.

New course designers might still need help, even if it’s in the form of examples and templates.

Although the level of customisation is not as deep as that of other plugins, LearnPress does hold its own in a competitive market.

The fact that the plugin and its add-ons are very affordable makes this plugin an interesting choice for individual instructors, blog owners, and small websites.

However, large enterprises or educational institutions may not benefit too much from these limited features.

 

5) Sensei Review

Screenshot of Sensei homepage

One advantage that the Sensei LMS plugin clearly has is tracking and reporting.

The admin interface is better structured. It allows you to instantly switch to reporting at the top of the app instead of waiting for CSV exports.

The information offered is quite extensive too.

You can check everything from course content to user feedback and progress in great detail.

Sensei also has built-in instant messaging, which is one less add-on you’ll have to pay for.

It’s a simple feature but useful nonetheless, especially if you want to maintain a hands-on approach with your students.

Notifications for lessons, quizzes, and many more events are also enabled.

Creating certificates is also simple. Unlike other LMS plugins, Sensei doesn’t need you to mess with CSS and HTML code to fine-tune things.

Although it’s not a good idea to rush through certificate creation, it is nice to see that it doesn’t eat up too much of your time for no reason.

The plugin may be easy to use in some areas but not everything comes easily to a first-time user.

What about support? Sensei doesn’t come with much documentation.

The forum is quite small and the information is either limited or poorly updated. Buying expensive bundles won’t improve this either.

If you really have no idea what you’re doing, Sensei may not be your cup of tea.

There’s another aspect worth consideration: Sensei is expensive.

The plugin has a set price for integration with one website. But, unlike other LMS plugins, you have to pay extra if you want to implement your course on other sites simultaneously.

The add-ons also add quite a bit of cost too. If you want to integrate a subscription system, you have to pay for it.

You won’t be able to use free membership plugins.

So far, Sensei seems well-balanced. It has some amazing features and a couple of drawbacks in regard to pricing.

However, there’s another aspect that some people might take issue with. The course design is a bit confusing, at least for students.

If you plan on creating comprehensive courses with over a dozen lessons and quizzes, this may not be the plugin for you.

Sensei seems best suited for a handful of courses with fewer lessons and a small number of quizzes.

Score tracking is also a bit weird. Whenever a student completes a quiz, the passing mark is 100%.

Sensei doesn’t seem to track, record, and display exact scores. Whether that’s really important or not depends on what you and your target audience want.

If the course is intended to be easy to go through then perhaps this feature may turn out to be useful.

On the other hand, requiring users to use their real full name for their certificates may not be ideal.

All in all, Sensei may have fewer pros than cons, but that’s why it’s important to have variety with these LMS plugins.

With some, think-out-of-the-box Sensei may just work for small websites and freelance instructors without a major investment.

 

6) CoursePress Pro Review

Screenshot of CoursePressPro homepage

Put aside the fact that CoursePress is free, the increased popularity and downloads of CoursePress Pro should paint a proper picture about this course management plugin.

Most instructors choose the Pro version because it comes with all the add-ons and extension one needs to create comprehensive courses, lessons, courses, and more.

This plugin also comes with a very nice multimedia marketing feature.

You can share completed course video to raise awareness and generate interest. Once you promote a free course in detail, users are more likely to opt for a membership.

To help you sell your courses even further, CoursePress Pro offers over a dozen payment gateways. This should allow you to make courses available on a global scale.

Because of these nuances, CoursePress Pro has the potential to become one of the best plugins for educational institutions, industry gurus, and even enterprises.

The lesson customisation is vast but not always easy to handle.

As an instructor, you should have some basic knowledge on how to use shortcodes as CoursePress Pro puts a lot of emphasis on this.

It doesn’t exactly speed up the process but it does help with the accuracy of the end result.

You may also choose to use the content drip system. Most plugins offer this these days, and for good reason.

It forces users to keep tabs on your website and go through all the courses before earning the final certificate.

You can use CoursePress Pro to release certain important courses only to those students that have completed specific tasks or enrolled for a minimum amount of time.

Making too much available up front will diminish the value of the course and in turn the value of your website.

If students don’t have a reason to visit for more than two weeks in a row, you’ll be losing traffic way too fast to generate a decent income.

Quizzes are a lot easier to deal with and there are plenty of options to boot.

You can make them as difficult and as interactive as you want. If you don’t want to bore students with classic multiple-choice answers, you can ask them to explain and answer in longer paragraphs.

You can also ask for file uploads for certain topics that require more in-depth explanations.

While doing so may make the experience similar to that of going to school, it does make the course more realistic. Breezing through tests shouldn’t be your primary focus.

If students don’t feel like they’re actually learning anything useful, your course might drop in popularity and cost you money.

In this regard, social media is as big of a threat as it is a top-notch marketing tool.

 

7) Namaste! LMS Review

Screenshot of Namaste! homepage

At its core, Namaste! LMS is just another WordPress course management plugin.

However, it does offer some interesting subtle features which make it a very appealing choice for freelance instructors.

It is also a flexible plugin in terms of pricing. There’s a free version of Namaste! as well as a pro version.

If you choose to test out the plugin, you can use the free version for as long as you want.

You can then upgrade to the pro version at any point with a one-time payment.

This would give you access to upgraded add-ons, new extensions, and premium support for one year.

With this plugin, you can design courses with unlimited lessons. This is always a nice option to have.

If you wish to monetise your course over a long period of time, having the ability to add new content without having to rebuild an entire course is very cool. It also saves time and money.

You can also choose to release lessons at your leisure or by using an automated drip content system.

Of course, to keep students engaged you have to implement assignments and quizzes too.

With Namaste! LMS, you can take things one step further.

Using the Namaste! Connect plugin, you can integrate discussions into your assignments.

This will allow students to discuss among themselves certain problematic requests, and you or your instructors will also be able to interact and solve disputes.

What’s even better is that you get to customise lesson completion.

You can input certain requirements such as course completion, assignment completion, exam completion, etc. Or, you can take a different route.

You’re also able to set the completion progress to manual approval which gives you and your instructors more control.

Another interesting feature is the group signup integration. You can set specific courses to start only after it’s been bought by a group of users.

You can also choose to implement group discounts to make your courses more appealing.

Namaste! LMS is a very well-balanced plugin. Like many others, it has a limited free version.

But for this one, paying for extra features doesn’t cost much in comparison.

The reports available in the admin interface are accurate and detailed.

The course builder has a minor learning curve because it does use shortcodes to some extent.

However, the one-year premium support should guide you through the process.

 

8) MasterStudy LMS Review

Screenshot of MasterStudy homepage

MasterStudy doesn’t bask in the popularity of LifterLMS and Sensei, for example.

It is a viable plugin that has a way to go towards becoming a respectable name in the industry.

MasterStudy may be enticing with its pricing and 24/7 support, but you may find it lacking even in those areas.

While there is always someone available to lend a hand, the documentation is very limited so there’s not a lot anyone can do if you overload your website.

Changing simple texts or button locations may also be difficult at times as they require decent coding knowledge.

On the other hand, MasterStudy allows in-depth course customisation.

You can use images, slides, videos, and anything else to create very engaging lessons.

You can also ensure that the important aspects of each lesson are well emphasised so that the students don’t feel cheated when taking a quiz or exam.

MasterStudy also lets you integrate PayPal and Stripe as well as choose between monthly, annual, or one-time subscriptions.

It’s up to you to figure out what your target audience prefers the most.

You can also implement a messaging board to create an internal social network. This makes interactions between instructors and students a lot smoother.

The quiz integration is also very interesting.

Apart from the usual quizzes with countdown timers, you can implement quizzes in lessons too. That’s one of the ways to emphasise key points on the topic or answer the most frequently asked questions.

Note that there are few customisation options for in-lesson quizzes.

The certificate generation process is not too impressive but it is customisable enough to please a wide range of students.

You may also be interested to know that you can create a course WishList to further nurture the relationship between instructors and students.

If you want to monetise online courses for a long time, this WishList should help give you the perfect template straight from your audience.

Whether this plugin is right for you is hard to say.

It is promising and quite cheap for what it can do. However, there are still plenty of technical difficulties to overcome and the lack of documentation doesn’t help.

MasterStudy may need some more time before it warrants serious consideration from educational institutions and large businesses.

That being said, it’s worth following its progress and trying out the basic version at the very least.

If you’re not committed to selling your courses then you won’t need the MasterStudy Pro membership.

 

Conclusion: Which Is The Best WordPress LMS Plugin?

woman sitting on brown wooden chair while using silver laptop computer

There is never a single best option for everyone – the best wordpress LMS plugin for you depends on your exact needs.
Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What kind of course are you creating?
  2. What are the most important features to you?
  3. What email or payment service do you need to integrate with?

Premium LMS plugins offer better themes, more extensions, and more detailed information on the progress of your students. They also support the integration of multiple payment platforms.

Each of the LMS plugins in this article is well-equipped for the creation of multi-lesson courses and quizzes.

After reading through these reviews of the best LMS options out there you should now have a better idea of which might be suitable for your needs.

My Top Recommendations

Most Complete WordPress LMS: LearnDash
Easiest WordPress LMS To Use: WpCourseware

The most comprehensive option is undoubtedly LearnDash so if you want to build something with fully functionality then this is the way to go.

If you’re just looking for simplicity, then perhaps consider WpCourseare which is probably the simplest option.

Don’t spend too long deciding – just go for one and focus on actually creating your online course!

Don’t spend too long deciding – just go for one and focus on actually creating your online course!

Other Online Course Platform Options

If the thought of installing and setting up a WordPress LMS plugin on your sight has got your head spinning then you may want to consider a 3rd party online course creation platform like Teachable or Kajabi.

These platforms are built with the sole focus of making it easier to create and sell online courses.

They are not based on your WordPress site and you don’t need to install, configure and update any plugins.

Read my article on the best online course platforms for an overview of how these platforms differ to WordPress LMS plugins and which of them is best suited for beginners or more advanced users.

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