Interested in launching your own online course? Tutor LMS is a freemium LMS (Learning Management System) plugin that helps you create and launch your own online courses with the best content management system in the world — WordPress.
In this Tutor LMS review, I'll give you a hands-on look at how this tool works to help you create and manage your courses.
Launched in March 2019, it's a newer entrant to the WordPress LMS plugin space, but it's quickly managed to rack up 1,000 active installs at WordPress.org and has a perfect 5-star rating so far on its 16 reviews.
After playing around with it, I can see why. The plugin has convenient features and a well-designed interface. Plus, the fact that you can get started for free is also quite attractive.
It's still not quite as feature-rich as some of the more established players yet, but there's plenty of room to grow and I think the core learning experience is great.
Keep reading my full Tutor LMS review for a look at the feature list and a hands-on tour of how everything works.
Tutor LMS Review: A Look at the Feature List
At a very high-level, Tutor LMS helps you create and sell online courses, complete with:
- A drag-and-drop course builder.
- Content restriction.
- Quizzes and a quiz creator.
- Special integration for videos in courses.
- Course certifications.
- Integrated monetization via WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads.
- Support for instructors, including an ability to pay instructors a commission and allow them to withdraw their earnings.
- Separate student and instructor dashboards for front-end management.
- Course reviews.
One of the most unique things about Tutor LMS is its focus on other instructors. Rather than only selling your own courses, you can create an online course marketplace, including course options from third-party instructors. Basically, it lets you create your own Udemy clone with WordPress.
Tutor LMS comes in both a free and premium version, so I'll break down the more specific features by whether they're free or premium.
The free version is pretty generous, setting you up with all the basics you'll need to run courses. Without paying a dime, you'll still get access to:
- The course builder, along with unlimited lessons and courses.
- Video player support.
- Most of the quiz functionality, including the ability to limit quiz attempts, set a passing grade, and add a time expiration.
- Monetization via WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads.
If you purchase the premium version, you'll also get access to other features like:
- A front-end course builder. For example, you could let instructors create their own courses without requiring them to use the WordPress dashboard.
- More quiz question types.
- Detailed reports to see how your courses are doing.
- Email notifications.
- Assignment submissions.
- The ability to require course prerequisites.
- Multimedia attachments.
- Course previews.
Let's go hands-on and I'll show you how everything works…
Hands-On with Tutor LMS
To start off this hands-on section, I'll stick with the free version at WordPress.org. Then, I'll install Tutor LMS Pro and show you some of the premium functionality.
Create a Course
Let's start at the beginning — creating your first course. When you go to create a new course, you'll see the regular WordPress editor at the top, where you can add the course title, description, categories, and tags:
Once you scroll down, though, you'll see a number of new meta boxes where you can configure the course.
Most notably, the drag-and-drop course builder, which functions similarly to some other popular WordPress LMS plugins. First, you can add topics which are the broadest categories. Then, you can add lessons and quizzes inside each topic:
One convenient feature here is that, when you click Add New Lesson, it will open a pop-up with the editor for that lesson:
I find this to be more convenient than some of the other LMS plugins that force you to open a new tab for every single lesson. I'll take a deeper look at the lesson builder and quiz creator in a second.
To rearrange any of the course modules, you can use a drag-and-drop interface:
Below the course builder, you can use the Additional Data box to:
- Set an estimate for the duration of the course.
- Add extra text for course benefits, requirements, target audience, included material.
Further down, you can define an introduction video, either by uploading your own video or embedding a video from an external source such as YouTube or Vimeo:
At the bottom, you can add course announcements, including an option to insert a variable to address each student by their name:
Edit a Lesson
Next, let me give you a little deeper look at the lesson editor because there's more than just the text editor that I showed you above.
If you scroll down in the pop-up, you'll also get an option to add a video (including from external sources) and specify the video run time.
A lot of courses use video content, so it's quite convenient to have a dedicated video lesson feature:
One thing that you may have noticed is missing (so far) is an option to set pricing and configure payment options for your course. Don't worry! Tutor LMS does indeed let you sell your courses – you just need to connect to WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads first. I'll show you how this works a little later on.
Create a Quiz
If you click the Add Topic Quiz button in the course builder, it will also open up a pop-up where you can configure your quiz questions without needing to go to a separate page.
Adding questions is simple. First, you enter the question text. Then, you can choose from a range of question types (some of which require the premium version):
You'll also be able to mark questions as required, randomize the order of the questions, and assign a mark:
On the next page, you can set a time limit, choose how many attempts the quiz-taker has, and set a passing grade. You can also set a max question limit which, when combined with randomization, lets you create a totally unique quiz for each course-taker:
Add an Instructor
If you want to add other instructors, Tutor LMS gives you a dedicated Instructor interface:
Instructors will then be able to create and manage their own courses from the back-end. With the premium version, they'll be able to do this from the front-end of your site, while the free version requires them to use the WordPress back-end.
Instructors can manage other things such as their earnings from their own front-end dashboard.
For other aspects of how your online courses function, you'll use the detailed Settings area. Here, you'll get a bunch of tabs to control important functionality:
You get a lot of options for configuring default course and instructor behaviour such as whether instructors can publish new courses live immediately or they need to wait for an admin to review the course.
However, what I'm most interested in here right now are the commission and payment options.
In the Earning tab, you can choose whether or not to pay instructors a commission for their courses, including plenty of options for setting up how that works:
Then, the Withdraw tab lets you set up the minimum withdrawal amount, as well as which payment methods people can use. The options are:
- Bank transfer
Beyond that, the WooCommerce and EDD tabs let you control how you sell the actual courses. I like that it supports both options because that means you can choose your preferred solution (I went with EDD for this example).
With Easy Digital Downloads or WooCommerce installed, you'll be able to enable your preferred payment solution.
Once you enable one of these eCommerce plugins, you'll get a new option in the course builder interface that lets you link a course to an EDD or WooCommerce product. You can also specify whether the course is free or paid:
So, that's how you handle selling paid courses with Tutor LMS.
And, in general, that's a high-level look at the various configuration options that you get with the free version of Tutor LMS.
As you can see, you get pretty generous functionality in the free version, and you can certainly create working courses without the need to pay for the premium version of the plugin.
Next, let's dig into how your visitors and students will experience the course content that you created.
How Your Courses Work on the Front-end
Here's what a Tutor LMS course page looks like out of the box with the free Airi theme.
You get a nice look at the course details and outlines, information about the instructor, and an Enroll Now call-to-action button.
If you want, you can also replace the featured image with an introduction video (remember – I showed you that option):
I like that it looks good right out of the box. While you do get style options, I don't think you'll need to rely on a lot of custom CSS just to make things look nice.
When someone clicks Enroll Now, they'll get a modal prompt to log in or create a new account:
Then, they'll be in the course dashboard. Here, they can use the same interface, except now they'll see the course status, view announcements and other details, too.
Here's an example of what an individual lesson looks like with an embedded video. Course-takers can also see the course outline on the left:
Overall, I see a lot of similarities to the Udemy course interface, which I think is a positive, as I've always found the Udemy interface to be nice to use.
Another feature that I like is the Q&A tab, which lets course takers submit questions to the instructor and other course participants and/or browse questions that other people have submitted. This adds some nice interactivity to your course (though you can also disable the Q&A feature if you don't want to use it):
Students also get their own dashboard where they can manage their courses and reviews, and instructors also get new options in the dashboard that let them see their earnings:
All in all, I think Tutor LMS has a really polished design from a user experience perspective. Without any custom styling on your own part, you'll be able to create courses that offer your students a great learning experience that's reminiscent of Udemy.
Now, let's jump back into the admin dashboard and I'll show you a few management features.
In your WordPress dashboard, you'll get a few separate areas to manage students, Q&A questions, quiz attempts, and withdrawal requests from instructors:
The management options aren't super detailed in the free version, but you get more in the premium version, so let's dig into that next.
Explore Some of the Premium Features
Everything that you saw above was done with the free version of Tutor LMS available at WordPress.org. Now, though, let's dig into some of the new features that you get when you pay for Tutor LMS Pro.
First off, you'll get a modular Add-ons area where you can enable or disable the new functionality according to your preferences:
Here are some of my favourite new features…
Front-end Course Builder
With the Pro version, you, or other instructors at your site, can build courses from the front-end, rather than needing to use the WordPress dashboard.
The actual course options are exactly the same — you just get to do everything from the front-end.
Another nice feature is that the front-end editor will automatically save your work every 30 seconds so that you never accidentally lose your course data.
You'll get a new Reports tab that lets you view key metrics for your website and individual courses:
This one is super important — you'll be able to set up automatic emails for key events, for instance, when someone completes a quiz or course:
I would still like to see a little more depth with the email functionality, though.
I think email automation is super important for online courses, so I think being able to use more triggers to send emails to students would be helpful.
For example, sending an email to someone who failed a quiz or who has been inactive for a certain amount of time.
You'll be able to select a certificate template for course completion and add information about the authorizing company:
Beyond what I showed you, you'll also get access to other premium features like:
- All the quiz question types that I showed you earlier.
- The ability to add unlimited attachments to a course.
- An option for guest visitors to preview some course content without needing to enroll in the course.
- The ability to set course prerequisites to limit who can enroll in certain courses.
- The option to start courses with multiple instructors, rather than just a single instructor.
Tutor LMS Pro Pricing
There are a few different pricing plans for Tutor Pro LMS, all of which are full-featured. The only difference is the license and number of sites you can use it on.
First, you can pay for an annual license, which gets you one year of support and updates:
- 1 site — $149.00
- 5 sites — $199.00
- Unlimited sites — $299.00
Or, you can pay for lifetime support and updates:
- 1 site — $399.00
- 5 sites — $599.00
- Unlimited sites — $999.00
Final Thoughts on Tutor LMS
I think Themeum, the developer, has built a really polished plugin. The back-end interface is convenient and makes it easy to create course content without opening a million tabs like some other plugins force you to.
Additionally, I think the front-end experience for course-takers is really nice, right out of the box. I especially like the Udemy-style lesson viewer, complete with that great Q&A feature.
Speaking of Udemy, I also like that you can open up your site to courses from other instructors and collect a commission from them. This gives you another way to monetize your site.
With that being said, I think Tutor LMS is lacking in some of the more nitty-gritty features that other LMS plugins have such as the ability to get more detailed with email automation. However, Tutor LMS is still less than six months old at the time that I'm writing this review, and I'm comparing them to plugins that have been around for years. Essentially, I think Tutor LMS will shrink this gap as it becomes more established and builds on its foundation.
With such a generous free version available at WordPress.org, I'd encourage you to give it a test spin and see if it's right for your online courses.