LMS or Learning Management System plugins help you to run an online course from your WordPress website.
An LMS makes it straightforward for you to create course modules, run tests and quizzes, enroll students, take payments, and anything else you might want to do to get a course up and running online.
Some LMSs like Moodle or Blackboard are standalone content management systems, but you can also get plugins for WordPress that adjust the setup of your site so it’s easy to launch an online course alongside the normal pages and posts of your website.
Already have a WordPress website and you want to create and run an online course? The following plugins will provide everything you need to get started.
LearnDash offers pretty much everything you could want in an LMS and is currently in use by some pretty big names including Infusionsoft, Yoast Academy, WPElevation, and the University of Michigan.
It integrates with pretty much any theme you’re already using on your site and is also mobile compatible. Its flexibility makes it a great choice for any type of course including higher education, professional training and any type of WordPress project.
Some of the features included in LearnDash include:
- Easy course builder
- Quiz creation
- Drip-feed content on a schedule
- Lesson timers
- User forums
- Automatic and manual grading
- Course points
- Certificates and badges for completing activities
LearnDash has also put a lot of thought into course monetization and is flexible enough to support various different models including:
- One-time purchase
- Shopping cart
- Course bundles
- Course licenses
The backend administration panel of LearnDash is easy to use and powerful so you can easily control your course users including:
- Sending automatic email notifications
- Group management of users
- Run reports on user enrollment and progress
- Approve, comment on, and grade assignments
- Remove user access.
LearnDash works by creating four custom post types: courses, lessons, quizzes, and certificates, in which you can create content. As everything is integrated into the main WordPress dashboard it’s all very familiar and easy to use.
As well as the core functionality of LearnDash, there are also a number of “add-ons”, which can be used to extend the functionality of the software. Some of these are free and some are premium add-ons and you’ll have to buy a license to use them.
Add-on functionality includes:
- Integration for WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, Stripe, and others
- Create membership access levels
- Restrict content to premium membership levels
- Clone courses
- Allow learners to take notes as they go
- Manage and administer student grades
- Allow for multiple course instructors
- Sell group licenses for courses
Price: $159 for single site license
LearnPress is a free WordPress plugin that has premium add-ons such as special themes and advanced features that can be purchased separately.
The free version comes with support for:
- Unlimited courses
- Unlimited users
- PayPal or offline payment
- Sell individual courses
- 3 Basic quiz types
- Unlimited lessons
- Automatic email system
- Course results stored in user profile
- Free add-ons to add support for bbPress, BuddyPress, and others
- Compatible with any theme.
If you upgrade to one of the premium bundles you’ll have more payment gateways and integration with WooCommerce, the ability to sell multiple courses and memberships, additional quiz types, content-drip functionality, additional add-ons, and premium themes.
The premium themes for LearnPress are pretty slick and worth the upgrade if you’re hoping to make money from your courses, as some users report it not integrating well with some themes.
Don’t be put off by the less than perfect English on the LearnPress site and plugin descriptions. The developers have an excellent support rating and the documentation is clear to follow. The plugin is very easy to use, with a drag and drop course builder.
Price: FREE ($49 – $249 for premium theme bundle and multiple site license)
WP Courseware offers an easy drag and drop course builder and flexible course creation made up of modules, units, and quizzes.
Some of the features include:
- Drip-feed content
- Grade books and progress reports for each student
- Course certificates
- Content restriction to logged in students
- Various quiz types with timers
- Student management console
- Email notifications
- Course prerequisites
- Built-in shopping cart
- Recurring subscriptions
- Integration with any theme.
WP Courseware doesn’t come with any payment gateway integration of its own so if you want to sell courses you’ll need to use a separate membership or ecommerce plugin.
While it’s a little disappointing for a premium plugin that it doesn’t accept payments out of the box, there is integration for the main membership and ecommerce plugins and the pricing structure makes it particularly attractive for those developing multiple course sites.
Price: $129 for 2-site license, $149 for 10-site license, $199 for 25-site license
Sensei is the premium LMS plugin developed by the WooCommerce team so if you’re already using WooCommerce and want something that integrates seamlessly, it’s the obvious choice.
Sensei offers easy content creation for courses, lessons, and quizzes, and allows you to set up prerequisites for lesson and course progression. Other features include:
- Quick user registration
- Default styling and compatible with most themes (not just WooThemes)
- Course analytics
- Variety of test types
- Question bank
- Quiz grading
As well as the core functionality, there are a number of extensions that provide functions such as:
- Content drip
- Media attachments
- Course progress
- Share grade on social media.
This plugin certainly has the functionality to compete with other premium LMS plugins and as it’s produced by WooCommerce, you know you’ll also get regular upgrades and great support.
Price: $129 for single site license, $179 for 5-site license, $279 for 25-site license
LifterLMS is a powerful plugin that offers lots of functionality to anyone wanting to build an online course. They’ve thought of what various different target markets want (health & fitness, business, technologists, artists & musicians, and entrepreneurs) and offer all you need to create courses, offer memberships, engage students, and make money.
- Drag and drop course builder with multimedia lessons
- Quizzes with timer
- Drip content
- Student dashboard
- Multi-instructor platform
- Lesson downloads
- Course import and export
- Payment with credit card or PayPal
- Recurring or one time payment with payment plan option
- Social learning, certificates, and badges
- Personalized emails and text messages
- Variety of membership options
- Detailed reporting and student management
LifterLMS has good documentation and a great support team behind it who are very responsive to requests and make frequent updates.
The basic LifterLMS plugin is free so you can build a simple online course for nothing, but you’ll need some the premium add-ons to take payments or create a more professional course. As the add-ons are priced separately, it can end up being quite a bit more expensive than the other plugins.
Price: FREE plus $99 per add-on (add-on bundles available from $299 – $999)
6. Namaste! LMS
Namaste! LMS is another free plugin that comes with pro upgrades and a premium theme. It’s not as popular as the other LMS plugins but it has great reviews for both functionality and customer support.
The plugin offers all the basic features you need when you’re creating an online course. It’s not as fancy looking as some other options, but it does the job:
- Manage unlimited courses
- Integration with PayPal and Stripe
- Create assignments
- Manage students
- Create certificates
- Grade and points system for scoring
- Run reports
For more advanced functionality, you can upgrade for the pro modules. This adds functions including:
- Limit courses by class
- Assign teachers to classes
- Delayed access to course material
- Award badges
- Create discount coupons for courses and classes
- Shopping cart compatible with WooCommerce and WP Simple Shopping Cart
- Course progression bar
- Advanced reporting and analytics
- Advanced communication and notifications
Price: FREE, $47 for the matching theme and $127 for the full bundle including theme and pro modules
Which LMS Plugin Should You Choose?
As always when it comes to plugins, there is a lot of overlapping functionality and it comes down to your personal needs and preferences.
LearnDash is probably the best all-rounder for most users who are happy to pay for a premium plugin. LifterLMS also offers a lot of functionality, but will work out more expensive for most users. For those looking for a free option, LearnPress is a good alternative.
If you’re already using WooCommerce and want advanced integration (such as offering a free course with purchase of a physical product) Sensei makes this easy.
In order to get a better idea of which plugin will be the best fit for you, it’s a good idea to try a few of the free versions first, or try out the demo sites to see how the courses they create look and work.