Best Online Course Platforms (LMS) For Your Membership Site in 2019

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What is a Learning Management System (LMS)?

Design matters.

And for the members going through your membership site and courses, your design could be the difference between them remaining a loyal customer or quitting in frustration.

But design isn’t just the way that things look…

Design is the experience that your members have from the very first interaction with your brand to the very last.

learndash user profile - Best online course platforms (LMS) for your membership site

This especially applies to membership sites and courses.

1 – You want to present your content beautifully and intuitively…

2 – You want your members to feel EXCITED about their progress…

3 – And perhaps most importantly, you want to structure your site in such a way that it supports real learning and gets your customers the results for which they pay you their hard earned money…

Luckily, there are plenty of apps available for WordPress that help you to create this “wow” learning experience for your members, right out of the box.

This type of software is called a Learning Management System or, LMS for short.

So what does an LMS do, exactly…?

If you’ve ever taken an online course that tracks your progress, serves you quizzes, gives out homework and certificates—and generally makes you feel like you’re going through a bona fide learning experience akin to an online university class—then the software that does all of those things is the Learning Management System, or LMS

learndash quiz - Best online course platforms (LMS) for your membership site

Note: for the purposes of this article, I’ll refer to “LMS” and “Course Platform” interchangeably.

While there are countless course platforms out there, we’re going to look at a handful of the best picks based on our experience working with them for our MemberFix customers every day.

Best WordPress LMS Plugins in 2019

Most of our readers are WordPress users…

 

Image result for wordpress

So for that reason we’re gong to focus primarily on WordPress-based LMS solutions.

However, at the end of this article we’ll also look at some standalone course platforms that we have experience with which don’t rely on WordPress.

For now, let’s focus our attention on the best WordPress LMS plugins we’ve worked with.

(And in case I haven’t hammered this point enough…

YES, we really do work, or have worked, with all of these apps extensively enough to know what the heck we’re talking about.

So if you’re expecting one of those generic, all-fluff, regurgitated product reviews written passionlessly for the sole reason of indiscriminately pimping affiliate links, prepare to be disappointed!)

LearnDash

LearnDash is, in my opinion, the king of LMS plugins for WordPress.

LearnDash has been around for many years.

And while age isn’t a virtue per se, LearnDash has done a good job of adapting to changing times and building innovations for its users.

I consider every major piece of tech you use to be a partner in your business.

So I consider LearnDash’s adaptability over the years to be an encouraging sign; especially when some tech companies get complacent and leave their hundreds (or thousands!) of customers locked into subpar, obsolete-ish software. 

Learn Dash is fully-featured, relatively easy to set up and work with, but perhaps most importantly—it looks and feels clean and professional to your members.

In fact, with the arrival of LearnDash 3.0 in 2019, you can give your courses a super clean, distraction-free makeover with the LearnDash “focus mode”.

LearnDash allows you to build courses with lessons.

And it features all of the tools you’ll need to teach your courses well, including:

  • Quizzes
  • Certificates
  • Progress bar
  • Course requirements (can’t proceed to next course until you complete certain reqs)
  • Gradebook
  • Points
  • Drip feeding of content
  • Email notices for your members
  • Analytics to see how your members interact with your courses

…and lots of other useful features. 

But LearnDash isn’t without its drawbacks.

For one thing, it can totally hammer your server resources (given enough concurrent users and posts). 

So much so, that there are companies who provide LearnDash-specific hosting to accommodate its inefficiencies and ravenous appetite for resources. 

We’ve also seen some issues with the way that LearnDash modifies your permalinks so that you can’t give out a direct URL to your member lest they get redirected to an error page.

I’m also personally not a huge fan of the course builder which I find unintuitive.

But all things considered, I like LearnDash the most out of all the LMS plugins for WordPress.

In fact, we use it in our MemberFix Training Portal.

Our portal serves both internal trainings for our team as well as our paid trainings that we sell to the public. 

LearnDash isn’t perfect.

But you can whip together a professional course experience quickly and easily, which makes it my top pick for WordPress LMS plugins. 

Memberoni

Memberoni actually isn’t a plugin; it’s a WordPress theme.

But I would be remiss not to include it in this lofty list.

That’s because Memberoni is a simple, yet powerful WordPress theme specifically designed for membership sites and which has LMS functionality baked right into it!

Many of our customers use Memberoni so we’ve had the chance to work with it a fair amount. 

We think it’s great. 🙂

The main value proposition of Memberoni as I see it is that you can install the theme on a new membership site, and it gives you a great looking “Member Dashboard” where you can also create courses and perform various functions that would usually require a separate LMS plugin—and all of this comes right out of the box.

Memberoni is only available to members of the Membership Academy (where I myself am also a member). 

Sidebar: if you’re building, planning, or improving a current membership site and you’re NOT in the Membership Academy, you are doing yourself a serious disservice because it will slash your learning curve in half!

The major downside of Memberoni is that if you want any additional features that aren’t currently built into it, you’d either need to wait until the dev team releases them, or have them custom coded.

Don’t expect Memberoni to have all of the bells and whistles that you’d get with a dedicated LMS plugin like LearnDash.

Instead, expect a solid theme with the core Learning Management features you need to deliver a decent membership experience built in—PLUS support from two of the keenest membership minds in the business, Mike and Callie from the Membership Guys (also the founders of the Membership Academy).  

LifterLMS

LifterLMS is a sophisticated and comprehensive Learning Management System for WordPress that comes in plugin form.

eLearnCommerce (Formerly GrowLearnTeach; and even more formerly WPeP)

eLearnCommerce is relatively new on the scene of LMS plugins but it’s making waves.

In fact, we use it ourselves to present our free mini-courses. 🙂

Zippy Courses

One of our customers used Zippy Courses for her membership site, so we racked up a good bit of experience with it.

 

Thrive Apprentice

One of our customers used Zippy Courses for her membership site, so we racked up a good bit of experience with it.

WP Courseware

LearnDash is the king of LMS plugins for WordPress.

Sensei

LearnDash is the king of LMS plugins for WordPress.

Non-WordPress Course Platforms

In addition to all of the WordPress-based LMS solutions, there are also many standalone course platforms available. 

Teachable

Of the non-WordPress course platforms perhaps the best one—and the one we have the most experience working with—is Teachable.

 

Kajabi

We became aware of Kajabi when one of our customers asked us to help him migrate his WordPress membership site to Kajabi.

This was an unusual request since most of the time customers ask us to migrate from a standalone course platform to a WordPress based setup.

While WordPress definitely provides more flexibility, I learned that not everybody is after flexibility.

In the case of this customer, for example, he was after simplicity and a frictionless, template-based course design and course delivery system that required no tech chops. 

He was willing to sacrifice the flexibility that WordPress gave him so he could focus on his unique ability, teaching his members.

 

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