LMS have taken over the world by storm - especially in 2020 when the worldwide lockdown has given us more time to spare than possibly ever, yet most in-person learning had to be canceled. Learning Management Systems work wonders for all sorts of educational institutions, let it be schools, colleges, corporations in need of elaborate training, language schools, or course centers. In this article, I’ll compare 5 top tools to see which one is the best LMS out there.
What Is LMS?
Before we sail into deep waters together, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. LMS, or Learning Management System, is a platform for digital learning that combines online courses and training materials with management tools and an automation system. It’s everything you might need to move your classes online, streamline your workflow, and win back the time you’d spent on mundane tasks like grading or preparing reports.
By introducing LMS to your business, you’re not only cutting your losses by having an alternative to your standard, in-person classes. What’s more important, you’re maximizing your profits by opening yourself to more users and allowing them to access your knowledge anytime and anywhere. Looking for more reasons? The best LMS feature is, in my opinion, automated measurement tools for grading, student performance, and statistics that really cut off the time!
The Best LMS: A Comparison
Now that we have the basics sorted out, let’s move to the LMS comparison! I’ll cover the 5 most popular and most versatile solutions to see which one works best. Ready for round one?
LearnDash is a multifaceted WordPress plugin aiming to create an entire learning experience rather than the same old course structure we’ve all grown to hate by now. It should work with any modern theme and supports third-party extensions, and with tons of addons available, no wonder giants like the University of Florida, University of Michigan, or the University of Washington have trusted LearnDash.
This plugin is a mighty tool that includes features such as:
- customizable quizzes with 8 question types, a question bank, media insertion, randomization, attempts limit, progression block, time limits, and hints,
- scheduled content release,
- prerequisites (determine which courses need to be taken and in what order),
- user profiles with activity tracking & group management,
- file upload for assignments.
Tech-wise, LearnDash can be integrated with over 15 extensions, both free and premium, including WooCommerce, WooCommerce Subscriptions, MemberPress, PaidMembershipsPro. It’s also supported by Latex for nice math formulas.
That being said, LearnDash has no free core and doesn’t offer a free trial. However, the team offers refunds for up to 30 days, which gives you some time to consider. Also, bear in mind that this plugin’s learning curve is relatively high and might be overwhelming at first.
Currently, LearnDash stands at $199 annually for one site license.
Lifter LMS claims to be the most flexible LMS created with a variety of users in mind, both newbies and experts in the field. With a free core and a nearly-free monthly trial (just $1 for a 30-day demo site), this solution is an interesting choice for those who put emphasis on code quality and documentation.
The product features:
- multimedia lessons and quizzes (with an optional timer),
- scheduled content release,
- multiple discussion areas, including comments, forums, private coaching areas, and timelines,
- multiple instructors,
- group management & assignments (included in separate add-ons, both $199 a year),
- and more.
Tech-wise, Lifter LMS can be integrated with WooCommerce, PayPal, Stripe, Gravity Forms, and Ninja Forms, however, all these options are extra-paid ($99 a year per each one).
In fact, the premium add-ons might be Lifter’s biggest drawback. Equipping your website with a bunch of extra features can quickly add up, especially since you’ll already pay $99 a year for one site license at the start. On the other hand, if you’re after a potent solution that’ll support multiple websites, five sites license comes with a bundle of Design, Ecommerce, Marketing, and Form add-ons for the price of $299.
Complete with an extensive course builder and different themes to choose from, Tutor LMS is yet another interesting solution for professionals across many fields. It seems well-coded, has a free core available, and includes WooCommerce payments in the free version.
Among other features, Tutor LMS includes:
- YouTube, Vimeo, and native video support,
- Quiz creator with time & attempts limits and a passing grade. However, not all question types are included in the basic version,
- Course reviews,
- Security measures to prevent non-registered students from accessing course videos.
Aside from WooCommerce payments integration in the basic option, Tutor can be integrated with Easy Digital Downloads. WooCommerce Subscription and BuddyPress integration require the premium plan.
A lot of this tool’s functionalities are closed behind a paywall though ($149 a year), including course prerequisites, multimedia attachments, scheduled content release, and grading system. When compared to similar plugins, the basic, non-paid version of Tutor seems limited. The good news is that you can still use the premium version after your license expires - but you miss the updates and priority support.
Developed by the creators of WooCommerce & WordPress.com, Sensei is a great tool that offers smooth integration. As it comes from a reliable source, it’s no wonder that its code looks impeccable, topped with tests and docker configuration, extensive documentation, and free core.
Sensei is equipped with a lot of features, like:
- Course creator & prerequisites,
- Embedded videos from YouTube, Vimeo, and other platforms,
- Private messages system,
- Quizzes based on banks with multiple types of questions, including file upload, custom grading for each task and media display,
- Scheduled content release (premium extension; $29 annually)
This tool also has Latex support with Jetpack for nice math formulas, and easily integrated with WooCommerce, WooCommerce Subscriptions, and WooCommerce Memberships. However, all of these integrations are exclusive to premium users ($129 a year for WooCommerce and $199 for any of the following).
Also, Sensei has no built-in content protection, which can compromise your courses.
Claiming to be used by 21,000 schools and bearing an overall 4.5/5 rating, LearnPress sounds impressive, doesn’t it? With just between $49 and $69 for a theme bundle that comes with a dedicated theme, valuable add-ons pack, and 6 months of support, this solution certainly looks like a bargain. Yet, the premium addons you purchase supposedly can’t be used with other themes, and the documentation provided is of questionable quality.
LearnPress comes with a number of features, but most of them are only available to premium users. The free version, however, supports PayPal, basic quizzes with different question types, and course prerequisites. The premium add-ons include:
- Scheduled content release.
LearnPress can be integrated with BuddyPress and bbPress with no extra charges, and with the following for a price: WooCommerce, 2Checkout, Authorize.net, Stripe, Paid Memberships Pro, myCRED.
Still, the Pro Bundle, coming with all add-ons and 6 months of support, is valued at $500, which is the highest fee among the five plugins mentioned in this article. This, combined with the fact that LearnPress’s code quality can be called into question, may bring some doubts.
Which Is The Best LMS?
Now that we’ve compared five different LMS plugins, listed their features, cons, and overall cost, let’s see which one can be called the best LMS.
As always, before choosing the tool you’ll work with, think of your needs and goals. What do you want to achieve with your LMS? How many employees do you have and how many students do you expect to teach? What’s the nature of your courses, what’s their audience? Are you going to need sophisticated features such as multimedia questions, attachments, course prerequisites, and gradebook? Answering these questions will already tell you a lot about the best LMS for you.
Also, determine your budget and create different scenarios for your business development. Even the best LMS won’t work for you if you can’t afford it. If you’re just starting out and don’t need fancy features, consider sticking with the free tools - at least until you don’t stand on both feet.
The best LMS out there is basically the one that works best for you and responds to your current needs. Large-scale businesses will probably benefit from LearnDash or Lifter, while smaller users may find Sensei, Tutor, or LearnPress enough for their expectations.
Struggling to find a perfect tool for all your wishes? Send us a word! At WP Kraken, we deliver custom solutions every day, so we’ll be happy to help you out!
Co-author: Maciej Rozbicki