Looking for the best LMS plugins to help you create online courses with WordPress? Short for Learning Management System, LMS plugins make it easy to create and manage detailed courses, just like the courses you find on Udemy or other platforms.
This is definitely a decision you should spend some time researching because you’re going to invest a lot of time into whichever LMS plugin you eventually choose. And once you build out all your course content, you probably won’t want to switch later on.
To make your decision easier, I’ve collected eight of the best WordPress LMS plugins and compared them in detail.
Because LMS plugins have deep functionality and I don’t want to make this post a book, here’s how I’m going to set up this comparison. For each plugin I’ll:
- Give you a broad overview of its features
- Show you how you’ll actually build and structure your courses
- Share the different monetization options available, assuming you’d like to make some money from the courses you create
- Discuss the price for you to get up and running
Then, at the end, I’ll share my picks for the best WordPress LMS plugin for your specific needs.
Below, you can view a quick summary table of the eight plugins that I’ll be looking at:
|LMS Plugin||Free Version?||Starting Price For Pro||Visit|
LearnDash is one of the most popular WordPress LMS plugins and is used by both large institutions such as the University of Florida, as well as standalone WordPress sites.
It can help you create courses that are as detailed or simple as you want.
If you’d like to sell self-paced courses, you can just set up simple text and multimedia lessons. Or, you can also get more involved and include quizzes and assignments in your lessons.
If you want to learn about LearnDash in full detail, you can check out my lengthy LearnDash review — but I’ll just hit the high points in this roundup.
And if you want to see LearnDash in action on real sites, two good LearnDash examples are:
LearnDash Feature List
LearnDash has a deep feature list, so this is not a full list of everything that LearnDash lets you do. But here are the most important features you get access to:
- Create unlimited courses and lessons
- Use text and multimedia in your lessons
- Create special video lessons that automatically play and skip straight to the next topic once they’re finished (kind of like Udemy)
- Include quizzes and assignments
- Drip-feed course content on a schedule rather than making it all available at once
- Require students to complete prerequisite courses before they can take a course
- Offer certificates and badges after a user completes a course
- Create special course forums
- Send email notifications, including automation
- Connect to Zapier for more automation, including lots of built-in triggers (e.g. trigger a Zapier event when a user starts a course or completes a lesson)
A Deeper Look at the LearnDash Course Builder
Each course that you create with LearnDash contains two core elements: lessons and topics.
Lessons are the broad sections. And you can break up each lesson into different topics.
To help you organize this structure, LearnDash uses a drag-and-drop course builder, which makes it easy to visualize how everything comes together. You can see it in action below:
You can create new lessons and topics from the editor as needed. Then, you can go back and add the actual content later on.
To actually create the content for each lesson and topic, you’ll essentially use the normal WordPress editor, which means you’ll feel right at home.
And then to actually display your course content on the front-end of your site, you’ll use the included shortcode builder:
LearnDash Monetization Options
In the core plugin, LearnDash includes simple monetization options that let you sell courses as one-time payments or recurring subscriptions.
With that being said, if you’re serious about selling courses, you might want more depth.
To let you get even more creative, LearnDash also includes built-in integrations for WooCommerce, as well as popular membership plugins such as Restrict Content Pro, Paid Memberships Pro, and others.
LearnDash Pricing and Final Thoughts
LearnDash has no free version. The paid plan starts at $159 for a single site license.
I know that might seem like a lot in comparison to other WordPress plugins. But LearnDash’s pricing structure is actually very competitive in the LMS plugin market, especially when you consider all the features that you get.
All in all, LearnDash, along with the next option on this list, is a great first port of call if you want to sell courses with WordPress.
Along with LearnDash, LifterLMS is probably the other most well-known LMS plugin.
It sets you up with a similar level of depth, where you’re able to create both simple courses, as well as more complicated offerings with quizzes and assignments built in.
It also has a free core version listed at WordPress.org, which lets you play around with it for free.
If you want to see the plugin in action, here are some good live examples of LifterLMS:
LifterLMS Feature List
Across the free core version and the premium add-ons, LifterLMS lets you:
- Create unlimited courses with a drag-and-drop course builder
- Include multimedia content like video and audio
- Include assignments and quizzes as part of your courses
- Require users to complete prerequisite courses and/or create course tracks to offer certifications
- Drip-feed course content on a set schedule
- Assign instructors to courses
- Include course discussion areas like lesson comments, forums, and more
- Sell courses on either a one-time or subscription basis, including flexible bundles
- Offer private coaching upsells (this is a neat feature)
- Trigger email notifications based on users’ actions
Again, this is by no means the complete feature list.
A Deeper Look at the LifterLMS Course Builder
Like LearnDash, LifterLMS gives you a drag-and-drop course builder to help you structure your course content. You can build your courses with sections and lessons. Lessons go inside sections:
One neat thing that you can do is insert existing lessons into multiple courses, which helps if you have some overlap between topics.
I actually prefer LifterLMS’ builder because it’s full-screen, which I think makes it easier to interact with.
Then, to actually create the content for individual lessons, you’ll use the normal WordPress editor, as well as a special video/audio embed option for multimedia content.
LifterLMS Monetization Options
Compared to LearnDash, LifterLMS includes more robust built-in monetization options, which eliminates the need for a third-party plugin.
- Offer courses for free
- Sell courses for a one-time payment
- Sell recurring subscriptions for course access
You also get the ability to create course bundles and upsells for even more flexibility.
To accept payments, you can easily integrate with services such as PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.net.
LifterLMS Pricing and Final Thoughts
You can add functionality to the free core version of LifterLMS in two ways.
First, you can purchase individual add-ons for $120+ each. Depending on your needs, you might just need to purchase a single premium payment gateway, which makes LifterLMS potentially quite affordable.
On the other hand, if you want more than one add-on, you might do better with a bundle, in which case LifterLMS can quickly get a lot pricier than something like LearnDash. There are two bundle options:
- Universe Bundle – $360 per year. Includes everything except the advanced add-ons.
- Infinity Bundle – $1200 per year. Yes, this is super pricey.
Overall, if you don’t need stuff like quizzes and assignments, you can do some pretty neat things with just the free version and a $120 payment gateway, which makes LifterLMS a great entry-level option.
Tutor LMS is a fairly new WordPress LMS plugin from Themeum that has a great, modern interface and a free version at WordPress.org. Though it was only launched in early 2019, it’s already become active on over 30,000 sites while maintaining an almost perfect 4.7-star rating on 300 reviews, according to WordPress.org.
To build your courses, it gives you a convenient drag-and-drop course builder, and the front-end interfaces look great right out of the box, which ensures good UX for your course-takers.
One unique thing about Tutor LMS is that it can also help you create a marketplace of courses from different instructors — kind of like Udemy. You can sell all those courses through your site and automatically give each instructor a commission based on the sales.
If you want to see Tutor LMS in more depth, check out my full Tutor LMS review.
Tutor LMS Feature List
Though it’s young in comparison to some of the other LMS plugins, Tutor LMS has already built up a stellar feature list:
- Simple drag-and-drop course builder for lesson content and quizzes
- Modern, well-designed front-end course interfaces for your students
- Content restriction
- Lots of quiz options in the quiz creator
- Content dripping
- Course certificates
- Course prerequisites
- Integrated monetization options via WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, or Paid Membership Pro
- Front-end course creation, which is great if you want to allow third-party instructors
- Pay third-party instructors a commission based on their course sales (like Udemy)
- Easy withdrawal methods for instructors
- Reports and analytics
- Email notifications
A Deeper Look at the Tutor LMS Course Builder
Tutor LMS has an easy-to-use drag-and-drop course builder that lets you work from a single interface.
You can divide your courses into different “topics” and then create “lessons” and “quizzes” inside each topic. You can also re-arrange everything as needed:
What’s convenient about this interface is that, when you go to create a new lesson or quiz, you can add your content in a pop-up, rather than having to open a new tab for every single lesson:
To add your lesson content, you’ll use the classic WordPress editor. One nice thing, though, is that you get a dedicated option to embed a video, which is great if you use videos for each lesson:
Tutor LMS Monetization Options
If you want to monetize your courses, Tutor LMS is built to integrate with WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads (EDD).
Once you install one of those plugins, you can link a course to a WooCommerce or EDD product. This is nice because it lets you take advantage of eCommerce functionality such as discounts and subscriptions.
Again, the unique thing about Tutor LMS is that it also includes features to help you create a marketplace of courses from third-party instructors, much like Udemy.
You can set up commissions and fees, automatically calculate everything, and dispense withdrawals:
Tutor LMS Pricing and Final Thoughts
Tutor LMS has a generous free version at WordPress.org that can help you get up and running with functioning courses all by itself. In fact, some sites might just need the free version — it’s definitely viable by itself.
Then, there’s also a premium version that adds support for:
- Content dripping
- Assignment submission
- More quiz question types and options
- Course certification templates
- Course prerequisites
- Course previews
- Email notifications
- WooCommerce subscription support (the free version supports one-time payments; you just need Pro for recurring subscriptions)
You can view a detailed breakdown of the free vs premium features on Tutor LMS’s website.
To purchase the premium version, you can choose between annual and lifetime billing:
- 1 site – $149 for one year of support and updates or $399 for lifetime
- 5 sites – $199 for one year of support and updates or $599 for lifetime
- Unlimited sites – $299 for one year of support and updates or $999 for lifetime
All plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
By the numbers, LearnPress is the most popular LMS plugin at WordPress.org. There’s a reason for that, too — it’s pretty generous with its free features.
Beyond selling paid add-ons, one of LearnPress’ primary monetization methods is selling its own WordPress LMS themes on ThemeForest with LearnPress bundled in, which helps explain why the LearnPress team can be so generous with the free plugin (and also why LearnPress’ WordPress.org popularity numbers are so high).
You can check out the popular Education WP theme for an example.
LearnPress Feature List
LearnPress lets you create unlimited courses, complete with:
- Assignments and quizzes
- Drip-fed content
- Certificates for completing courses
- Prerequisite courses
- BuddyPress/bbPress integrations for course forums
- Co-instructors to include multiple course instructors
- Integrations with WooCommerce and membership plugins
A Deeper Look at the LearnPress Course Builder
Like LifterLMS and LearnDash, LearnPress offers a drag-and-drop course builder to help you lay out your course content.
LearnPress’ builder follows LearnDash’s approach, where it sits inside the WordPress editor as a sort of meta box:
It’s pretty intuitive, and the design is nice and clean. You can either create new sections and lessons or select from your existing lessons.
To actually add your lesson content, you’ll use the normal WordPress editor. You’ll need to add your multimedia content directly to the editor as well, as there’s no dedicated video embed option like you get with LearnDash or LifterLMS.
LearnPress Monetization Options
LearnPress gives you basic monetization options in the core plugin. You can give each course a one-time price and then purchase affordable payment gateway add-ons to process payments.
Or, if you want to get more creative with your pricing, you can also integrate with WooCommerce or popular membership plugins to handle payments that way.
LearnPress Pricing and Final Thoughts
LearnPress is pretty generous with its free functionality. And even the paid add-ons are significantly more affordable than something like LifterLMS.
For example, individual payment gateways are just $29.99 with LearnPress (and PayPal is included in the free version), while they’re $120 with LifterLMS.
You can also purchase bundles starting at $49 (if you use one LearnPress theme) or $249 (to use LearnPress with any theme).
Overall, this is a solid option if you’re on a budget, especially if you’re willing to use a LearnPress theme. But I don’t think it’s quite as polished as LearnDash or LifterLMS, especially when you get into nitty-gritty details such as notification triggers and automation.
Sensei has a unique twist in that it’s an add-on for WooCommerce, rather than a standalone LMS plugin.
It’s also developed by the WooCommerce team, which gives it the backing of Automattic’s resources (never a bad thing). With that being said, it doesn’t seem to receive quite as much attention as the dedicated LMS plugins above.
Sensei Feature List
Sensei’s feature list is a little shorter than the other options. But it still lets you create unlimited courses, complete with:
- Drip fed content
- Course progress
That should still be enough functionality for most users.
A Deeper Look at the Sensei Course Builder
Like the other plugins, Sensei gives you two additional content hierarchy levels for your courses: modules and lessons.
Modules are basically like sections. Each course can contain multiple modules, and each module can contain multiple lessons.
Unfortunately, there’s no drag-and-drop course builder. Instead, you’ll need to rely on drop-downs to associate modules with courses and lessons with modules, which isn’t ideal:
Sensei Monetization Options
Because Sensei is an extension for WooCommerce, you get a good deal of flexibility for monetization options.
With just the Sensei plugin and WooCommerce, you can make your courses free or sell them for a one-time payment using any of the WooCommerce payment gateways.
If you want more flexibility, you can tack on the WooCommerce Memberships plugin to create tiered membership levels and/or restrict content. Or, you can use the WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin to create recurring payments.
Sensei Pricing and Final Thoughts
Sensei itself comes for free, however you might also need some Sensei extensions, depending on the features that you need. For example, getting access to content dripping is $29 for a single-site license.
And like you saw above, you might also need some other WooCommerce extensions to get the exact functionality that you need.
As you can get access to Sensei for free and it does come from the WooCommerce/Automattic team, it is a viable option that’s worth checking out.
WP Courseware is one of the oldest WordPress LMS plugins out there.
It does a great job of keeping things simple. And it also gives you some good payment options from the core plugin, which eliminates the need to integrate it with a third-party plugin (though it can do that too).
WP Courseware Feature List
WP Courseware gives you a drag-and-drop editor to build unlimited courses complete with:
- Drip content
- Grade books
- Course completion certificates
- Prerequisite courses
- Email notifications for specific events
WP Courseware also now has built-in payment support, which I believe is a new feature.
A Deeper Look at the WP Courseware Course Builder
To help you build your courses, WP Courseware includes a drag-and-drop course builder, though it’s not quite as user-friendly as the other LMS plugins on this list (excluding Sensei, which doesn’t have one):
Here’s why I find it less user-friendly:
You can’t create new modules or units from the drag-and-drop interface. Instead, you have to first add all your modules and units via your WordPress dashboard. Then, you can organize those existing modules and units via the drag-and-drop course builder.
I think it’s more intuitive to do it the other way around (organize your course first and then go back and add the content later), which is what all the other plugins let you do.
Beyond that, the rest of the interface is pretty simple, and adding course content is as simple as creating a WordPress post.
WP Courseware Monetization Options
WP Courseware now gives you a good amount of control over monetization right from the core plugin.
For each course, you can:
- Offer it for free
- Sell it for a one-time payment
- Charge a recurring subscription for access to the course
If you want more flexibility, WP Courseware also has integrations for WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads, as well as membership plugins like:
- Paid Memberships Pro
WP Courseware Pricing and Final Thoughts
WP Courseware is pretty affordable, especially if you’re planning to use it on multiple sites.
Full-featured plans start at just $129 for use on two sites. Or, you can pay a little more ($149) to use it on 10 sites.
While I don’t think WP Courseware goes as deep as something like LearnDash or LifterLMS, its pricing makes it a solid affordable option for people who are just looking for something straightforward and easy to use.
MemberPress is a popular WordPress membership plugin, rather than a standalone LMS plugin like all the other options in this collection. However, unlike most other membership plugins, MemberPress launched its own MemberPress Courses add-on in February 2021 that gives you full LMS functionality within the MemberPress plugin.
This makes it pretty unique in the LMS space and gives you more heavy-duty built-in membership features than most other LMS plugins offer. Other LMS plugins typically get around this by integrating with membership plugins — MemberPress is just cutting out the need to integrate two third-party plugins.
MemberPress Feature List
- Full WordPress membership plugin with a dedicated LMS add-on
- Drag-and-drop course builder
- Design courses using the native WordPress block editor
- Flexible content restriction, including content dripping
- Support for most major payment gateways
- Flexible membership levels and member management
A Deeper Look at the MemberPress Course Builder
When you create a course in MemberPress, you’ll use the native WordPress block editor, divided into a few different tabs.
You’ll first add your course title and description using the regular block editor:
Then, you can jump to the Curriculum tab to set up your course content. You can quickly add lesson titles and sections and use drag-and-drop to rearrange them:
To actually add lesson content, you’ll need to click the pencil icon to open a new tab with the editor for that lesson. There, again, you’ll use the native WordPress block editor.
All in all, the course builder isn’t anything fancy, but it is pretty easy to use and the fact that it uses the WordPress block editor means you can take advantage of all the flexibility and extensibility of the block editor. For example, you could use blocks from third-party block plugins in your lesson designs.
MemberPress Monetization Options
MemberPress is quite flexible when it comes to payments. You’ll get dedicated integrations for the following popular payment gateways and methods:
- PayPal Express
- PayPal Standard
- Offline payments
- Manual transactions
You also get full support for coupons and other discounting strategies.
And if that’s not enough, you can find third-party add-ons that let you integrate MemberPress with WooCommerce.
MemberPress Pricing and Final Thoughts
MemberPress is a premium plugin. There are three different pricing tiers, but the Courses add-on is available on the entry-level Basic tier.
The Basic plan costs $179 for your first year and use on a single site. That $179 price is a special promo price, though. After the first year, your license will renew at $279, which is something to keep in mind.
Overall, MemberPress is a solid option if you want flexibility when it comes to membership content and are only creating basic course content. However, it lacks advanced course features such as quizzes, so it’s probably not a great option for serious educational institutions.
It has a bit of a different focus than other LMS plugins as it’s more focused on enabling marketers to set up simple courses than helping serious educational institutions create more complex courses with quizzes, assignments, and other advanced educational features.
As an example of that limited focus, Thrive Apprentice does not have features such as quizzes, course certificates, or drip-fed content (though adding support for content dripping is on the roadmap). However, it does offer an easy way to create simple courses and includes built-in monetization via WooCommerce, ThriveCart, and SendOwl (all of which can also help you create an affiliate program).
Thrive Apprentice Feature List
- Drag-and-drop course builder to organize modules, chapters, and lessons
- Support for payment gateways: WooCommerce, SendOwl, and ThriveCart
- Dedicated landing page designs for front-end sales pages
- Integrations with most popular membership plugins
- Upcoming feature – drag-and-drop content builder for your front-end classroom. This feature wasn’t released when we updated this post, but it will be there soon (~June 2021)
A Deeper Look at the Thrive Apprentice Course Builder
As I mentioned above, Thrive Apprentice includes a built-in drag-and-drop course builder. When you create a new course, you can set up high-level details such as the course overview and teacher biography:
When you create a new lesson, you can add lesson content in a popup (no page reloads required) — including support for text, audio, and video lessons:
You can organize your content using modules and chapters. Then, you can use the simple interface to rearrange things as needed using drag-and-drop:
All in all, it’s quite easy to use and you can quickly set up courses because there are no page reloads required.
Thrive Apprentice Monetization Options
Thrive Apprentice has built-in integrations with three payment gateways/processors:
WooCommerce is the most popular WordPress eCommerce plugin, while ThriveCart and SendOwl are third-party shopping cart software providers.
Thrive Apprentice Pricing and Final Thoughts
Thrive Apprentice is only available as part of the full Thrive Suite membership, which gets you access to every single plugin and theme that Thrive Themes makes (including Thrive Architect, Thrive Leads, Thrive Theme Builder, and more).
This makes it expensive if you just want the LMS plugin. However, if you’ll use those other tools, you can get a lot of value from the membership because one price gets you access to everything.
Thrive Suite costs $228 billed annually ($19 per month) or $90 billed quarterly ($30 per month).
For some reviews of Thrive Themes’ other products, check out our following posts:
Overall, Thrive Apprentice is a solid option for marketers who are looking to create and monetize course content. Even though it lacks advanced LMS plugin features such as quizzes and drip-fed content, you can add quiz building functionality with Thrive Quiz Builder which is also included in the Thrive Suite membership.
Which Is the Best WordPress LMS Plugin for You?
Both of these plugins have good teams behind them and are constantly pushing out helpful new features. LifterLMS might be the cheapest option of the two, depending on your needs. However, if you want all the bells and whistles, it can also be a lot more expensive — so make sure you do the math on the specific features that you need.
Tutor LMS is also quickly making a name for itself. Though it doesn’t have the track record of those two plugins yet, it’s got a great interface and feature list, along with a generous free version.
On the other hand, if you’re more focused on the marketing and monetization angle, you might be happier with MemberPress Courses or Thrive Apprentice. They don’t match the educational features of LearnDash or LifterLMS, but they do have everything most solopreneurs need to offer simple online text or video courses.
Now over to you — have you used any of these LMS plugins? Which would you recommend and why?
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