WordPress LMS, E-learning and online education

An article about creating E-learning, online education and course materials with WordPress. To provide clients with background information and to have an insight in the technical and branding options, this post examines a large amount of LMS options for WordPress.

To become a trustworthy teaching platform, easy in use and attractiveness, mainly to stay in focus, here’s an overview on tools and services available in WordPress. To get familliar in the LMS universe some of the most famous learning platforms can be our guide: Google Classroom, Lynda, Udemy, EDX, Docebo, WizIQ, Adobe Captivate, Elucidat, Articulate, Shift, Blackboard Learn.

In combination with modern media technologies demands have serious edges, reaching from a personal bedroom learning experience to multi-threated discussions around the globe in 1 mobile app. Should we join the large swarm of unified logic, or can we go our own way? This depends on what you like as an entrepeneur, what will be your strenght? With this post I hope WordPress will be able to help independend teams and freelancers to prepare professional courses online.

Reading info by Chriss Lema about top 3 LMS plugins and comparing Learndash with WP Courseware, a 50 top online learning sites, sell video tutorials and an overview at wpexplorer.com.
Some specific collections at wplearns.com/docs and lms.org/wordpress-lms and important to notice is the excistence of plugins like wpcomplete and restrictcontentpro that tells us all depends on demand.

The base part of a complete elearning solution should at least provide personalized learning, trusted content and tools to empower learners and teachers:

  • Course Building: you want to be able to create interactive, dynamic, and exciting content for your students. This includes PDFs, videos, and maybe direct video chat. If possible theme or design options to bring the online course in style on screen.
  • Content Dripping: this feature is VERY IMPORTANT for slowly and progressively releasing course materials to students as they should not get ahead in a course timeframe.
  • Course Progress Information: your students want to know where they’re at in your online courses at all times. So, make sure they can easily access this information.
  • Student Management: you’ll want to know how many students are enrolling in your courses. In addition, you’ll want to be able to manage things like memberships, payments, and account access.
  • Quizzes and Tests: this may seem obvious, but not all LMS plugins will give you the option to quiz and/or test your students. Evaluating how well they’ve learned and retained your content is a great way to congratulate top students. It’s also a good way to determine whether your content is effective or not.
  • Forum Integration: being able to integrate with forum plugins like BBPress or BuddyPress is helpful for boosting student engagement and interaction. You can even chat with students through these forums.
  • Payment Gateway Support: finding a payment gateway that integrates with your LMS plugin is important if you want to make money and not lose a lot of profit to excessive fees.
  • Incentives: being able to reward those doing well, especially in a public way, is a great incentive for your other students to do well too. Things like badges and certificates are better than simple email confirmations because people feel more accomplished with official recognition, especially when they can print it out.
  • Homework Options: make sure the LMS option you choose gives you a way to assign and grade homework submissions with ease. This will improve the learning experience without adding a lot of stress to you.

From an allround perspective to investment in a full LMS package a good start would be to look at the available WordPress themes that provide a complete suite of tools, and sometimes good support, to build a full blown LMS website. Some LMS plugins are best intergrated with a specific WordPress Theme and/or page builder.
At helpiewp.com/education-wordpress-themes and wpdean.com/lms-wordpress-themes we find a large variaty of themes to examine.

From a web developer perspective an all-in-one solution must be broken down a bit to separate theming options from functionality, safety and modulated control first, codewise and ensuring the programmer not to bother the designer, and the teacher not needing the programmer to present and rollout new courses.
Most LMS developer teams allready did that and made beautifull plugins availble to be used with any theme or layout.

Design and branding, payment, member levels, (lang) interaction and management options for teachers.

Different plugins have different payment options embedded, and might or might not have an option to be extended with other plugins to fit specific needs. The right LMS plugin should include or make good combination with memberships, payments, native languages, community profiles, api’s and many other layers in and outside the WordPress environment.

The costs vary heavely, again depending on demands for functionality almost nothing is free. Some plugins offer a lot of options but then the most wanted options like content dripping are only available with a commercial extension (on yearly basis).

Following is a collection of WordPress LMS/elearning plugins selected to examine further:

Learndash, MemberPress, LifterLMS, Tutor, Learnpress, Evidently, WP Learn Manager, Sensei, WP-Courseware, TeachPress, WP Attest, Namaste! ..

If time permits other plugins like Premise, MasterStudy LMS will be added.

All these themes are build around 1 or a set of specific plugins that can provide a complete LMS environment. Those plugins define the functionalities of the LMS experience, and what design options these themes can offer. Only after testing the plugins reveal what is missing that we might on our demand list.

12 LMS Plugins basic specs

Learndash *
Type: WP Plugin (from $159,-)
Technical requirements info | Theme info
Payment options/integration: Woocommerce
Translation options: ..
Theme builder recommended: Unyson(Elumine), Pathshala, Elementor Pro, Visual Customizer, Design Upgrade Pro
PHP: v5.6.2 +
Database: MySQL v5.1.2

MemberPress *
Type: WP Plugin (from $149,-)
Technical requirements info | Works with any theme
Payment options/integration: Woocommerce
Translation options: native EN, WPML
Theme builder recommended: Any theme builder
PHP: v7.3 +, memory limit 128 MB +
Database: MySQL v5.6 or MariaDB v10.1+

LifterLMS *
Type: WP Plugin (from $99,- free light version)
Technical requirements info | Themes info
Payment options/integration: Woocommerce
Translation options: native EN, WPML
Theme builder recommended: Beaver builder (info), Divi builder
PHP: v7.4 +
Database: MySQL v5.6 or MariaDB v10.1+
Note: Addon for use with Divi theme.

Tutor LMS *
Type: WP Plugin (free light version – pro from $75,- -) demo
Technical requirements info | Themes info
Payment options/integration: Woocommerce
Translation options:
Theme builder recommended: Edumax, Skillate Gutenberg, Docent Pro
PHP: v7.0+ (mod_rewrite, cURL, fsockopen)
Database: MySQL v5.7+ or MariaDB v10.0+
Note: Good documentation, free version provides lots of functions.

Learnpress *
Type: WP Plugin (Free light version + premium extensions) demo
Technical requirements info | Themes info
Payment options/integration: Woocommerce
Translation options: native EN, WPML
Theme builder recommended: WPBakery, Gutenberg, Elementor
PHP: v7.0+ (mod_rewrite, cURL, fsockopen)
Database: MySQL v5.7+ or MariaDB v10.0+
Note: Eduma theme recommended (Envato/Thimpress crew)

Evidently *
Type: WP Plugin (free or from $9,-) demo
Technical requirements info | Themes info
Payment options/integration: Woocommerce
Translation options:native EN, WPML
Theme builder recommended: WPBakery, Gutenberg, Elementor
PHP: v7.0+
Database: MySQL v5.7+ or MariaDB v10.0+

WP Learn Manager * (WPLM from Joomsky) plugin demo | theme demo
Type: WP Plugin or Theme (Free light version + premium + extensions)
Technical requirements info | Themes info
Payment options/integration: Woocommerce
Translation options: native EN, WPML
Theme builder recommended: WPBakery, Gutenberg, Elementor
PHP: v7.0+
Database: MySQL v5.7+ or MariaDB v10.0+
Note: Open source, JS Learn Manager premium theme recommended

Sensei
Type: WP Plugin (free – WordPress, WooCommerce & Sensei)
Technical requirements Woocommerce | Woocommerce related themes
Payment options/integration: Woocommerce
Translation options: native EN, WPML
Theme builder recommended: Any theme builder for Woocommerce
PHP: v7.3 +
Database: MySQL v5.6 or MariaDB v10.0+
Note: no content drippin! + use a caching plugin with Woocommerce!

Plugins to go with Sensei:
Sensei LMS, WooCommerce, Sensei LMS Certificates, Sensei LMS Course Progress, AutomatorWP, AutomatorWP – GamiPress integration, AutomatorWP – Sensei LMS integration, AutomatorWP – Ultimate Member integration, AutomatorWP – WooCommerce integration, Code Snippets, Collapsible Content for Sensei LMS, Conditional Menus, Cookie Notice & Compliance for GDPR / CCPA, Course Session For Sensei, Course Wizard For Sensei, Duplicator (backups), Email Encoder – Protect Email Addresses, GamiPress, Lesson Timer for Sensei, Mollie Payments for WooCommerce, Multi-Step Checkout for WooCommerce, Prevent Concurrent Logins, Really Simple SSL, Sensei LMS Divi (for Divi theme), Sensei LMS Media Attachments, Single Product Checkout For WooCommerce, Sticky Menu (or Anything!) on Scroll, Theme My Login, WooCommerce PayPal Checkout Gateway, WooCommerce Stripe Gateway, WP Fastest Cache.

WP-Courseware
Type: WP Plugin (from $99,-) demo
Technical requirements info | Themes info
Payment options/integration:
Translation options:
Theme builder recommended: Genesis Framework, Dynamik Builder
PHP: v7.1 +
Database: MySQL v5.6 or MariaDB v10.0+
Note: partial content drippin, has many integration options to use with third-party membership plugins like Paid Membership Pro.

TeachPress
Type: WP Plugin (free) opensource project
Technical requirements info | Themes info
Payment options/integration:
Translation options:
Theme builder recommended: see theme options info
PHP: v6.4+ (WordPress v3.9+)
Database: MySQL v5.6 or MariaDB v10.0+
Note: No content drippin! Open source project with many development options available from Github.com.

WP Attest
Type: WP Plugin (€60,- incl. elementor extension, free light version)
Technical requirements info | Themes info
Payment options/integration: Woocommerce
Translation options:
Theme builder recommended: Elementor, Gutenberg
PHP: v5.4+
Database: MySQL v5.7+ or MariaDB v10.0+
Note: looks very customisable with specific builders

Namaste!
Type: WP Plugin (Free light version + premium) demo
Technical requirements info | Themes info
Payment options/integration: Woocommerce
Translation options: native EN, WPML
Theme builder recommended: WPBakery, Gutenberg, Elementor
PHP: v7.0+
Database: MySQL v5.7+ or MariaDB v10.0+
Note: Paid version is a complete learning tool



Testing some of the plugins (while working on a shop prototype with Divi Theme and Woocommerce plugin, a member website tryout with WP-Member plugin or Ultimate Member plugin and 2 Academy websites, one with Sensei LMS plugin and one in full Thimpress style with the LearnPress plugin) resulted in some powerfull combo’s;

Set I: Powerup

Learnpress + Coaching theme (Thim Core) (or Divi Theme) + Paid Memberships Pro

For non-dev wordpress owners who like to get busy right away with basic functions to sell courses. Besides the core functions that will help you a long way, Learnpress provides a lot of lowcost extensions to extend the options of students and teachers, clients and creators.

Set II: Infinite

Sensei LMS + Divi Theme + WP Members (or Ultimate Members + AutomatorWP)+ Theme my login + Woocommerce

A complete setup with free plugins, a pro theme and a pro plugin to glue Woocommerce and WP-Members. Instead of the pro glue for 40 bucks a creative combination of Ultimate Members and automatorWP can keep you free from charge. This setup, with a little Woocommerce knowledge and additional (free) extensions, provides almost every type of option needed for an innovative online academy. This stack of WordPress products is build up from the member-customer perspective, a good base to learn and expand!

The setups above are just the beginning, as last i might build a set like Divi + Woocommerce + automatorWP + Sensei LMS + Ultimate Member, just so much great options to start learning!


Related topics:

  • Member sign up, profiles etc.
  • Course material and acces
  • Lessons, module and course structures, quizzes, conditional course progression, gradebooks, gamification (points/rules/milestones)
  • Student data and follow ups