Do you want to create online courses without having to resort to an unpredictable course platform like Udemy?
With a learning management system (LMS) plugin, you can create and host courses directly on your WordPress site and maintain complete control over the process as well as your finances.
In this post, we have eight LMS plugins to share with you.
The best LMS plugins for WordPress
- LearnDash – A powerful, complete LMS solution with a simple pricing structure.
- LifterLMS – A direct competitor of LearnDash but with a more complex pricing structure.
- Thrive Apprentice – A simpler LMS solution and a great option if you also need a website and key marketing tools.
- Tutor LMS – Offers a free version plus four beautiful LMS WordPress themes.
- WP Courseware – Just the basics available. Great option if more sophisticated tools seem intimidating to learn.
- Good LMS – A suitable choice for those who want to offer simple courses and still need a theme.
- MasterStudy LMS – Most comparable to LearnDash and LifterLMS, except this solution offers a livestreaming component and a premium LMS theme.
- Sensei LMS – A simple option for those who’d prefer to use the default WordPress editor to create courses.
LearnDash is one of the most popular LMS plugins available for WordPress. This makes it one of the best options available as there are numerous direct integrations with the platform as well as themes and plugins made exclusively for it.
Even so, don’t worry if you already have a theme picked out or wish to create your course with the one you’re already using. LearnDash is designed to work with any theme and is compatible with page builder plugins like Elementor, Beaver Builder and Divi.
Let’s switch gears and talk about the courses themselves. You’ll create them with the plugin’s drag-and-drop course builder. This builder allows you to create a hierarchy with your course content. That is, you’ll organize your course into sections then organize sections into lessons. You can even break lessons down into “topics” if a particular lesson is too long.
Quizzes are also available if you want to give your students a way to see if they’ve properly learned what you’ve taught in each lesson or section.
Available content formats include video, text, images, audio files and PDFs. Videos are stored on your host’s server by default, but the plugin is also integrated with such video hosting platforms as YouTube, Vimeo Pro, Wistia and Brightcove.
As far as learning goes, students can either learn via drip-content format, in a linear progression or in a more open style where they jump around sections as they please.
- Create courses in a hierarchy of sections, lessons, topics and quizzes.
- Multiple content formats available.
- Restrict premium courses to keep free students from accessing them.
- Compatible with any theme and most page builders.
- Multiple ways to deliver content.
- Enforce prerequisites before allowing students to progress.
- Focus mode for students.
- Course-specific discussion forums. WordPress’ native comment system also available.
- Engage students with assignments, badges and leaderboards.
- Accept one-time purchases or charge subscriptions.
- Compatible with PayPal, Stripe, WooCommerce and more.
- Sell more courses with an affiliate program created with AffiliateWP or a similar plugin.
Pricing: LearnDash is exclusively a premium plugin available for as low as $199/year for a single site license.
LifterLMS is one of LearnDash’s biggest competitors. Its drag-and-drop course builder is just as intuitive, but it offers fewer hierarchy levels. You’ll create sections and organize those sections into lessons. Interactive quizzes can also be created.
Multiple content formats are available, and the plugin integrates with Vimeo, Wistia, YouTube, Vidalytics and VdoCipher for video hosting.
There are multiple ways to engage students, including the ability to drip content and add assignments. You can even reward certifications after a particular group of courses are completed.
Students will be able to engage with you and other students through comments, discussion forums and one-on-one coaching sessions with an instructor.
- Create courses in a sections and lessons hierarchy.
- Publish courses with video, audio, text and images as well as downloadable files.
- Restrict access to premium courses.
- Compatible with any WordPress theme + page builder plugins.
- Drip course content, and set up prerequisites.
- Discussions available via comments, forums and private coaching areas.
- Engage students with achievement badges, certifications and personalized emails based on behavior.
- Accept one-time payments, memberships and course bundles.
- Accept PayPal and credit card payments through integrations with Stripe, WooCommerce and more.
- Affiliate program-plugin ready.
Pricing: Plans start at $99/year, but some features must be purchased separately as add-ons for $120-$249. You’ll save by subscribing to higher-tiered plans, which bundle add-ons.
3. Thrive Apprentice
Thrive Apprentice is a much simpler LMS plugin in comparison to the first two options on our list. This isn’t out of a lack of capability or carelessness, however. Thrive Themes set out to make an LMS solution that’s easy to use and stripped of features many course creators don’t need, and that’s exactly what they’ve done.
You’ll still organize course content into a hierarchy with a drag-and-drop course builder. Multiple content formats are also available, except quizzes, and the plugin even integrates seamlessly with the developer’s own page builder plugin Thrive Architect.
You can also accept lump-sum payments, charge regular subscriptions and set up an affiliate program.
While you can still enable comments for courses, which will be improved with the Thrive Comments plugin, you can’t set up forums, drip content, set up prerequisites, reward students with badges and certificates, or set up a gradebook to keep track of student performance.
- Organize course curriculum into lessons, chapters and modules.
- Build courses with video, text, audio, images and various design elements made possible by Thrive Architect.
- Content restriction.
- Compatible with all WordPress themes.
- Sell courses as one-time payments or as membership subscriptions.
- Accept payments via PayPal and Stripe.
- Affiliate program available via SendOwl.
Pricing: Thrive Apprentice is part of Thrive Suite that bundles all of the developer’s plugins for one price: $90/quarter or $228/year.
4. Tutor LMS
Tutor LMS is most comparable to LearnDash and LifterLMS, except it has a fairly robust, albeit simple, free version. You’ll create courses with a drag-and-drop interface and fill them with lessons, topics and quizzes. All content formats are available, but this plugin only supports YouTube and Vimeo.
The developers of this plugin, Themeum, offer a variety of different products, including themes. In fact, four of the premium themes they offer are designed to be integrated directly with Tutor LMS. They feature well-designed product pages and optimized styles for the course interface.
Something Tutor LMS doesn’t offer is complex content restriction. Rest assured, non-students won’t be able to access your courses, and students will only be able to access the courses they’ve purchased.
Still, you’ll need to integrate your site with a content restriction or membership plugin to implement more sophisticated restriction strategies.
You also can’t sell courses as subscriptions natively. This means if you want to restrict content or sell subscriptions, you’ll need to integrate your site with premium third-party plugins like Restrict Content Pro, WooCommerce Subscriptions and Paid Memberships Pro, which aren’t cheap (PMP does have a limited free plan, fortunately).
- Organize courses into lessons, topics and quizzes.
- Create courses with text, video and other attachments.
- Four premium LMS themes available from developer. The plugin is also compatible with third-party themes.
- Drip course content, and set up prerequisites.
- Monitor student performance with assignments, certificates and a gradebook.
- Help students with a Q&A section integrated in the course interface.
- One-time payments available natively.
- Accept payments via PayPal and Stripe through integrations with WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads.
- Integrates with affiliate program plugins.
Pricing: A free version is available. Premium plans start at $149/year or $399 for lifetime access.
5. WP Courseware
You can create courses with video, text, audio and all of the other formats you need by breaking courses down into modules, units and quizzes.
You can’t offer subscriptions or proper content restriction through membership levels natively, but you can accept payments through PayPal and Stripe without utilizing an ecommerce plugin.
Plus, while you can enable WordPress’ comment system beneath course content, you won’t be able to set up a forum or even a dedicated Q&A section. You’ll need to use third-party solutions instead.
- Break courses down into modules, units and quizzes.
- Publish courses with multiple content formats.
- Compatible with all WordPress themes and page builder plugins.
- Basic content restriction.
- Control student progression by dripping content and enforcing prerequisites.
- Enable comments for courses.
- Certificates and gradebooks included.
- One-time payments available natively.
- Accept Paypal and Stripe, or integrate your site with an ecommerce plugin.
- Integrates with Affiliate Manager for affiliate programs.
Pricing: Available for as low as $258/year.
6. Good LMS
It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles the other plugins on this list offers. Nevertheless, it will allow you to create well-designed courses with multiple content types and quizzes.
You can even reward students with certificates and badges upon lesson and course completion.
One unique feature this LMS offers natively rather than through an add-on is the ability to apply commissions to instructors if you want to create your own course platform similar to Udemy or SkillShare.
- Organize curriculum into sections, lectures and quizzes.
- Add videos, text, audio, downloadable files and more to courses.
- Basic content restriction prevents free students from accessing premium courses.
- CleverCourse theme available separately from developer.
- Engage students with certificates and badges.
- Accept one-time payments via PayPal, Stripe, Paymill, Authorize.net and bank transfer.
- Assign commission rates to instructors.
Pricing: Purchase this plugin on CodeCanyon for a one-time fee of $32. Six months of support is included. Extended support available at a cheaper price.
7. MasterStudy LMS
MasterStudy LMS is a powerful LMS plugin. It offers all of the same features as some of the other powerful plugins on this list.
However, it doesn’t offer a way for students to receive public support, such as a comment section available directly on the lesson page. This is unfortunate as these types of forums give students a way to answer their own questions without needing to contact the instructor. Forum support is only available via a bbPress integration.
One unique feature this plugin offers is a livestreaming component where instructors can teach in real time with live video and comments.
- Organize courses into sections, lessons and quizzes with a drag-and-drop course builder.
- Add video, text, images, downloadable files and slides to courses.
- Basic content restriction to keep free and premium students separate.
- Masterstudy Education theme available from developer, but the plugin is also compatible with most themes and page builders.
- Pace students by dripping course content and enforcing prerequisites.
- Engage students with assignments and a point system.
- Private messaging.
- Built-in livestreaming function.
- One-time payments and subscriptions.
- PayPal, Stripe and WooCommerce available.
- Built-in affiliate program.
Pricing: Purchase this plugin for as low as $54.99/year or $149 for lifetime access. A limited free version is also available.
8. Sensei LMS
Sensei by WooCommerce is a simple LMS solution. It was originally developed by WooThemes, the original developers of WooCommerce, and hasn’t received much innovation since Automattic purchased the company in 2015.
Fortunately, it’s been updated well enough to be compatible with the new block editor, but it’s a much simpler solution overall despite its expensive pricing structure.
You can still create courses with quizzes, content dripping and certificates, but the setup process is far less intuitive than the other simple solutions on this list.
Plus, features like paid courses, certificates, content drip, course progress, participants, show your grade and more need to be added via separate extensions, giving you multiple plugins to manage for a single plugin.
- Create courses with lessons and quizzes.
- All content types available.
- WooCommerce Paid Courses extension blocks access to premium courses.
- Compatible with all WordPress themes.
- Drip content with a free extension.
- Engage students with certificates with a free extension.
- Multiple payment gateways via WooCommerce integration.
Pricing: Sensei LMS, despite being free itself, is an expensive solution as you’ll need to purchase the WooCommerce Paid Courses extension for $129/year if you want to sell courses. The WooCommerce Subscriptions and WooCommerce Memberships extensions are another $199/year each.
What is an LMS?
A learning management system is software that enables you to build an online education platform. How you implement that platform and the features available to you are dependent on the LMS solution you choose.
In WordPress, an LMS plugin creates post types that enable you to create courses and quizzes with WordPress’ editor. More sophisticated LMS solutions, such as some of the options on this list, override the default editor in favor of their own drag-and-drop course builder, making it even easier for you to build courses without needing to use code.
The LMS solutions on this list offer much of the same features but in different ways and at different price points. The best way to choose between them is to determine which features you need most and how easy they are to implement.
For instance, if you’re a blogger working without a team, you’ll probably want an LMS solution like LearnDash, LifterLMS or Thrive Apprentice as they offer comment sections directly on lesson pages. This allows students to see answers to common questions, which will decrease the number of questions you’ll receive privately.
Once you narrow your options down based on features, try each solution’s demo and choose the one that seems the most intuitive and offers a pricing structure that works with your budget.
Finally, if you’d like a simpler way to start selling courses, you could opt for dedicated course software instead. To learn more, check out our roundup of online course platforms.