Top 5 WordPress LMS Plugins to Start Your Own Online Courses in 2021

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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 courses found on Udemy or other platforms.

This is definitely a decision you should spend some time researching because you will be spending a lot of time on any LMS plugin you choose. And once you develop all of your course content, you probably won't want to change later.

To make your decision easier, we've rounded up five 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 will do the following:

  • Give you a broad overview of its features.
  • Show you how you will create and structure your courses
  • Share the different monetization options available, assuming you'd like to earn some money from the courses you create.
  • Discuss the price so you can start working

Then, at the end, I'll share my picks for the best WordPress LMS plugin for your specific needs.

Here's a quick summary table of all five plugins:

1.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 as simple as you want.

If you want to sell courses at your own pace, you can set up simple text and multimedia lessons. Or you can also get more involved and include quizzes and assignments in your lessons.

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 complete list of everything LearnDash allows you to do. But here are the most important features you have access to:

  • Create unlimited courses and lessons
  • Use text and multimedia in your lessons
  • Create special video lessons that autoplay and skip straight to the next topic once they're done ( something like Udemy )
  • Include quizzes and assignments
  • Drip feed course content on a schedule instead of 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

A deeper look at the LearnDash course builder

Every course you create with LearnDash contains two main elements: Lessons and Topics.

Lessons are the broad sections. And you can divide each lesson into different topics .

To help you organize this structure, LearnDash uses a drag-and-drop course builder, which makes it easy to see how it all comes together.

You can see it in action below:

You can create new lessons and topics from the editor as needed. You can then go back and add the actual content later.

To actually create the content for each lesson and topic, you'll essentially be using the regular WordPress editor, which means you'll feel right at home.

And then to display your course content on the front end of your site, you'll use the included shortcode builder:

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LearnDash Monetization Options

In the main plugin, LearnDash includes simple monetization options that allow you to sell courses as one-time payments or recurring subscriptions.

That said, if you're serious about selling courses, you may 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 does not have a free version.

The paid plan starts at $159 (133€) for a single site license.

I know that may seem like a lot compared 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 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.

2. LMS Mentor

Tutor LMS is a fairly new WordPress LMS plugin from Themeum that has a great, modern interface and a generous free version on WordPress.org.

Although it only launched in early 2019, it has already gone live on over 4,000 sites while maintaining a near-perfect 4.9-star rating from 83 reviews, according to WordPress.org.

To create your courses, it gives you a convenient drag-and-drop course builder, and the front-end interfaces look great right out of the box, ensuring a good UX for 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 of those courses through your site and automatically give each instructor a commission based on the sales.

Tutor LMS Feature List

Although it is young compared to some of the other LMS plugins, Tutor LMS has already created a list of stellar features:

  • Simple drag and drop course builder for lesson and quiz content
  • Modern and well-designed front-end course interfaces for your students
  • content restriction
  • Lots of quiz options in the quiz maker
  • content drip
  • 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 external 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 allows you to work from a single interface.

You can divide your courses into different "topics" and then create "lessons" and "quizzes" within each topic. You can also rearrange everything as needed:

The convenience of this interface is that when you create a new lesson or quiz, you can add its content in a pop-up window, instead of having to open a new tab for each lesson:

To add your lesson content, you will 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 every lesson:

Tutor LMS monetization options

If you want to monetize your courses, Tutor LMS is designed to integrate with WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads.

Once you install one of those plugins, you can link a course to a WooCommerce or EDD product. This is good because it allows you to take advantage of eCommerce functionality such as discounts and subscriptions.

Again, what's unique about Tutor LMS is that it also includes features to help you create a marketplace for courses from third-party instructors, just like Udemy.

You can set commissions and fees, calculate everything automatically and dispense withdrawals:

Tutor LMS Pricing and Final Thoughts

Tutor LMS has a generous free version on WordPress.org that can help you get started with courses that work on their own. In fact, some sites may only need the free version; it's definitely viable on its own.

Then there is also a premium version that adds support for:

  • content drip
  • Delivery of the work
  • More quiz question types and options
  • Reports
  • Course Certification Templates
  • Course Prerequisites
  • Course Previews
  • Email Notifications
  • WooCommerce subscription support (free version supports one-time payments - you only need Pro for recurring subscriptions)
  • …plus

You can see a detailed breakdown of free vs. premium features on this page .

To purchase the premium version, you can choose between annual and lifetime billing:

  • 1 site - $149 (125€) for one year of support and updates or $399 (333€) for life
  • 5 sites - $199 (166€) for one year of support and updates or $599 (500€) for life
  • Unlimited Sites - $299 (250€) for one year of support and updates or $999 (835€) for life

All plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

3.LearnPress

By the numbers, LearnPress is the most popular LMS plugin on WordPress.org.

There is also a reason for that: it is quite generous with its free features.

Beyond selling paid plugins, one of LearnPress's main monetization methods is to sell their own WordPress LMS themes on the Theme Forest with LearnPress included, 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) .

LearnPress Feature List

LearnPress allows you to 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 design your course content.

The LearnPress builder follows the LearnDash approach, where it sits within the WordPress editor as a kind of meta box:

It's pretty intuitive and the design is nice and clean. You can create new sections and lessons or select from your existing lessons.

To add your lesson content, you will use the normal WordPress editor. You'll also need to add your media directly to the editor, as there's no dedicated video embedding option like you get with LearnDash or LifterLMS.

LearnPress Monetization Options

LearnPress gives you basic monetization options in the main plugin.

You can give each course a unique price and then buy affordable payment gateway plugins to process payments.

Or, if you want to get more creative with your pricing, you can also integrate with WooCommerce or popular membership plugins (from $199~166€) to handle payments that way.

LearnPress Pricing and Final Thoughts

LearnPress is quite generous with its free functionality. And even the paid plugins are significantly more affordable than something like LifterLMS.

For example, individual payment gateways are only $29.99 with LearnPress, while they are $99 with LifterLMS.

You can also buy packages 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 as polished as LearnDash or LifterLMS, especially when you get into nitty-gritty details like notification triggers and automation.

4.Sensei

Sensei has a unique twist in that it is a plugin for WooCommerce, rather than a standalone LMS plugin.

It's also developed by the WooCommerce team, which is backed by Automattic resources ( never a bad thing ). That said, it doesn't seem to get as much attention as previous dedicated LMS plugins.

Sensei Role List

Sensei's feature list is a bit shorter than the other options. But it still allows you to create unlimited courses, complete with:

  • Questionnaires
  • Drip fed content
  • Certificates
  • course progress

That should be enough functionality for most users.

A deeper look at the Sensei course builder

Just like the other plugins, Sensei gives you two additional content hierarchy levels for your courses: Modules and Lessons .

Modules are basically similar sections. Each course can contain multiple modules, and each module can contain multiple lessons.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a drag and drop course builder. Instead, you'll need to rely on dropdowns 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 great flexibility for monetization options.

With just the Sensei and WooCommerce plugin, 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 add 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. But both plugins are premium and each of them will cost you $199 (166€).

Sensei prices and final thoughts

Sensei itself is free, however you may also need some sensei Extensions , depending on what features you need. For example, getting access to drip content costs $29 for a single site license.

And as you saw above, you may also need other WooCommerce extensions to get the exact functionality you need.

Since you can get access to Sensei for free and it comes from the WooCommerce / Automattic team, it's a viable option worth checking out.

6.WP Courseware

WP Courses 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 nice paid options from the main plugin, which eliminates the need to integrate with a third-party plugin ( although you can do that too ).

WP Courseware Feature List

WP Courseware gives you a drag and drop editor to create unlimited courses with:

  • drip content
  • Questionnaires
  • grade books
  • Course Completion Certificates
  • Prerequisite Courses
  • Email notifications for specific events

WP Courseware now also has payment support built in, which I think 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 as easy to use 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 cannot create new modules or units from the drag and drop interface. Instead, you must first add all of your modules and units through your WordPress dashboard. Then, you can organize those existing modules and units through 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 come back and add the content later ), which is what all the other plugins allow you to 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 directly from the main plugin.

For each course, you can:

  • offer it for free
  • Sell it for a lump sum
  • Charge a recurring subscription to access the course

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

  • MemberPress
  • Pro Paid Memberships
  • MemberMouse

WP Courseware Pricing and Final Thoughts

WP Courseware is quite affordable, especially if you plan to use it on multiple sites.

Full-featured plans start at just $129 (107€) to use on 2 sites. Or you can pay a little more ($149 ~ 125€) to use it on 10 sites.

While I don't think WP Courseware goes as deep as LearnDash or TutorLMS, its price makes it a solid and affordable option for people just looking for something simple and easy to use.

Which of these WordPress LMS plugins should you use?

If you're looking for the best LMS plugins, my two recommendations would be LearnDash or Tutor LMS (which is my personal favourite).

Both plugins have good teams behind them and are constantly releasing useful new features, both have a great interface, and Tutor LMS has a really big list of features, along with a generous free version.

Carmen Marín
Editor

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