If you are looking for a way to deliver an online course, complete with all the traditional tools and features of an eLearning system then some of the learning management plugins available for WordPress might be able to provide all the functionality you need.
By installing the free WordPress content management system, and then one of these online course delivery plugins, you can have your own eLearning platform for a fraction of the price of an enterprise system like Blackboard, albeit on a much smaller scale.
Membership Plugins vs. LMS Plugins
If you are new to online learning, then it might seem like a membership plugin such as WishList Member could handle the functionality required, such as registering users and restricting access to content on your site. However, eLearning plugins have learning specific features at their disposal that make them ideal for delivering learning and teaching online. These LMS-specific features including things like quizzes, conditional course progression, student gradebooks, lessons, module and course structures, and many others.
So while there is some overlap between the two, and many people choose to integrate a membership plugin with their eLearning WordPress site, they do offer distinctly different functionality.
This eLearning plugin for WordPress has been developed by Fly Plugins who have a small selection of premium plugins available for WordPress that cover a range of topics. WP Courseware is their eLearning offering and like LearnDash it’s a popular choice with some high profile users.
The plugin is well known for its quiz functionality and these quizzes can be used to allow students to progress through your courses. Although it is possible to make progression independent from quiz completion, should you require this. WP Courseware also supports modules so your courses can be broken down into smaller parts which follow on from each other. The interface for organising modules and courses and their orders is all drag and drop which makes structuring your learning resources very easy.
Other features of WP Courseware include the ability to publish unlimited courses, modules and lessons, as well as multimedia lessons. Like LearnDash, WP Courseware can also issue competition certificates to students and participants. The user management side of things is well taken care of thanks to bulk student enrolment, a gradebook and grade tracking, as well as student and instructor notifications.
The big advantage WP Courseware has over some of the other eLearning plugins out there is that it integrates with a wide range of other plugins, especially WordPress membership plugins. This means whatever your preferred method for managing membership access and working with restricting content, there is a good chance WP Courseware will integrate with it.
WP Courseware is available for a slightly lower price than LearnDash with a single site license coming in at $67, while use on an unlimited number of sites will set you back $137. Although LearnDash offers unlimited site usage on all of its licenses. Again, this plugin comes with lifetime support and unlimited upgrades.
Pros: integrates with most of the best membership plugins, create unlimited courses, modules and lessons, slightly cheaper than LearnDash, onetime payment.
Cons: no support for Tin Can API, will lifetime support really last for a lifetime?
The developers of LearnDash have a background in the learning industry. This means that this plugin has been developed based on the experiences and the knowledge that has been gained from working in that sector. This has contributed to the uptake of LearnDash amongst learning and teaching professional, and explains why you are likely to see it in use at many universities.
So if you are looking for a high quality and robust eLearning or Learning Management System plugin for WordPress for use in higher education then this is a pedigree option that has been built with industry standards in mind. However, even if you are looking for a solution to enable you to deliver less formal educational or training courses online, then LearnDash should still be on your list of options.
The features of the plugin allow you to create an unlimited number of lessons, course, and lesson topics within your WordPress site. You can also create powerful quizzes and award downloadable certificates once a quiz is passed. Lessons can be made available on a drip-feed basis so you can set it and forget it, allowing new students to get access to the course content in relation to the date they signed up. There are many more learning and teaching focussed features for LearnDash and they can be viewed in more detail here.
If you are planning to use WordPress to offer private and premium courses, LearnDash is a great choice as it is able to accept payments and then grant access to paid up ‘students’. The plugin can also now accept recurring payments and allows you to set a custom billing cycle.
For those who are coming from an educational eLearning background, you might be interested to know that LearnDash supports the legacy versions of SCORM in the sense that they can be launched, but not recorded using this plugin. For launching and recording the newest version of SCORM, Tin Can API is required and supported.
For all this functionality you might be surprised to learn that LearnDash is currently available for a onetime payment of $79, with an advanced package available for $99. Both include unlimited licenses, lifetime support and updates.
Pros: developed from an industry background, supports unlimited courses and portable learning resources via Tin Can API, accepts recurring payments and drip-fed content, integrates with Paid Memberships Pro for handling membership functionality, onetime payment.
Cons: might be too feature packed for those seeking a basic quiz and course delivery solution, are unlimited lifetime support and updates sustainable in the long-term?
Sensei is an eLearning solution from the WooThemes team who are well known for their WooCommerce eCommerce toolkit for WordPress. As WooCommerce and Sensei comes from the same stable they can easily be used together to offer an online course or training and also manage the payment process for registering new participants.
This integration between the two plugins makes it easy for you to offer a range of courses and have them available via an online store front. Potential students can then shop for the course they want and make the purchase directly on your site using the shopping cart and checkout functionality of WooCommerce. It’s also worth pointing out that the WooCommerce plugin is free, so it won’t cost you any extra to add the shop front to your site.
As for the eLearning capabilities of Sensei, it features all you would expect, such as courses, lessons and quizzes. Course progression can be tied to success in the quizzes or not, it’s up to you. If you don’t want to sell access to your courses, you can simply enable user self-registration with the Sensei learning management plugin for WordPress. This functionality uses the existing WordPress user registration process so it’s not another system you need to learn.
There is also course analytics on offer so you can track the progress of your students and see how users are interacting with your learning material. While Sensei will work with most WordPress themes out there, there is a theme from WooThemes, Definition, which has been built especially to handle online course developer with WordPress.
When it comes to pricing, Sensei is a premium plugin, unlike their free eCommerce offering. A single site license can be purchased for $149, while use on five sites will cost you $199 and up to 25 sites is $299. Unlike WP Courseware and LearnDash, this price only includes one year of updates and support, although you can go on using the plugin unsupported once the year is up. If you renew your license within 60 days of its expiry you will get a 50% discount. While only offering one year of support might seem a bit meagre compared to the other options, it’s a more sustainable pricing model that allows the developers to fund support adequately as the user base grows.
Pros: seamlessly integrates with WooCommerce for selling access to courses, sustainable support model, uses native WordPress UI, extensions available for adding extra functionality.
Cons: no support for SCORM, more expensive than other options, support only lasts for one year.
If you are building an eLearning website or learning management system then there are plenty of options for using WordPress as the base-platform. While the above are the most well-known solutions, there are of course other free and premium eLearning plugins available for WordPress that offer less in the way of features and support.
Like most software and applications, it’s not possible to declare an outright winner in the WordPress eLearning category and it all depends on which features are most important to you and what kind of learning you wish to deliver via your website. While these are all premium plugins, the prices are all pretty low considering the features you get access to and what they enable to you do online. If you have been tasked with setting up an online course delivery system then you will pleased to know WordPress and the assorted plugins can help you achieve your goals.
Have you built or used an online course and which platform was it based on?