The 5 Best WordPress LMS Plugins 2018

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 5 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 five plugins that I'll be looking at:

LMS Plugin Free Version? Starting Price For Pro Visit
LearnDash No $159
LifterLMS Yes Individual extensions
LearnPress Yes Individual extensions
Sensei No $129
WP Courseware No $129

1. LearnDash

LearnDash

LearnDash is one of the most popular WordPress LMS plugins and is used by both large institutions like the University of Florida, as well as standalone WordPress sites.

LearnDash 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:

LearnDash course builder

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 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 like 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.

Demo More Info / Download

2. LifterLMS

LifterLMS

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:

LifterLMS course builder

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.

You can:

  • Offer courses for free
  • Sell courses for a one-time payment
  • Sell recurring subscriptions for course access

And you also get the ability to create course bundles and upsells for even more flexibility.

To accept payments, you can easily integrate with services like PayPal, Stripe, or 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 $99 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  – $299 per year. Includes everything except the advanced add-ons.
  • Infinity Bundle – $999 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 $99 payment gateway, which makes LifterLMS a great entry-level option.

Demo More Info / Download

3. LearnPress

LearnPress

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 Theme Forest 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:

LearnPress Course Builder

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, while they're $99 with LifterLMS.

You can also purchase bundles starting at $49 (if you use a 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 like notification triggers and automation.

Demo More Info / Download

4. Sensei

Sensei LMS

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.

For example, at the time that I'm writing this post, it hasn't received any updates in the past 3 months, whereas the other LMS plugins are constantly pushing out new features and improvements.

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:

  • Quizzes
  • Drip fed content
  • Certificates
  • 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 interface

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

The Sensei extension itself starts at $129 for use on a single site. Depending on the features that you need, you might also need some Sensei extensions. For example, getting access to content dripping is another $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.

Personally, I don't think Sensei offers good value for most users in comparison to the previous three plugins because it's pricey and doesn't receive much attention in the form of new features. But it does come from the WooCommerce/Automattic team and is a viable option if that's important to you.

Demo More Info / Download

5. WP Courseware

WP Courseware

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
  • Quizzes
  • 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):

WP Courseware builder

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

WP Courseware monetize

If you want more flexibility, WP Courseware also has integrations for WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads, as well as membership plugins like:

  • MemberPress
  • Paid Memberships Pro
  • MemberMouse

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 2 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.

Demo More Info / Download

Which Of These WordPress LMS Plugins Should You Use?

If you're looking for the absolute best LMS plugins, my two recommendations would be LearnDash or LifterLMS, which is why they're number one and two.

Both 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. But 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.

For those on a budget, LearnPress and WP Courseware are also viable options.

And finally, I think Sensei isn't a huge focus for the WooCommerce team and has thus fallen behind in usability and features. So while it is a viable LMS plugin, you have better options from both a price and feature perspective.

Now over to you – have you used any of these LMS plugins? Which would you recommend and why?

Colin Newcomer

Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer for hire with a background in SEO and affiliate marketing. He helps clients grow their web visibility by writing primarily about digital marketing and WordPress. You can hire him to write for your website.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that if you click on one of the links and purchase an item, we may receive a commission. All opinions however are our own and we do not accept payments for positive reviews.

1 comment

  1. Hey Colin, great write-up! I like the concise overview you provide while highlighting the pros/cons across the different options available. We are currently working on LearnDash 3.0 which is poised to raise the bar again in this space — stay tuned! 🙂

    Kindly,
    Justin

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