Although it can come as a major surprise to some of the people out there, the Internet actually can provide much more then cat videos, memes, tutorials on how to properly eat a watermelon or endless videos of people doing stupid things and injuring themselves in the process. We are talking, of course, about the real democratic value of the Internet – the universal availability of knowledge.
As modern society advances and almost any information is publicly available from the comfort of your own home, the opportunities for learning new skills and traits have become ever so accessible. Now you can enlist in millions of online courses, educate yourself and acquire all kinds of profitable skills without ever stepping inside a college. Not that we discourage the traditional educational system, mind you.
The real scope of the online educational system can be grasped when you look at one of the most successful sites for online courses in the world, Coursera. This company has more than 24 million users around the world who are attending some of its 2,000 courses.
Now to the matter in hand. If you have found yourself on the other side of the learning process and seek to develop an online platform and a personal site for teaching others, you will need the necessary tools for this job. If you have decided to use WordPress for building your educational site, you will need a LMS (Learning Management System) plugin to create the environment for your classes.
What a good LMS does is provide you with a platform which will help you build a virtual, online classroom with all its properties such as creating classes, tests, quizzes and, of course, charging money for your services. What follows is a list of some of the best WordPress LMS plugins on the market today that will help you start your business. As you will instantly notice, the majority of these plugins are not free which is understandable since it is expected that you have financial gain by using them.
LearnDash - $159
LearnDash is an easy to use management system for your online courses with loads of interesting features that can be useful when you seek to distinguish your product from the competition. This platform is in the premium segment, and is used by some serious institutions such as the University of Michigan, Bionic Turtle and Infusionsoft.
One of the features that can distinguish LearnDash from similar plugins is all the versatile options it offers for payment methods. This will, for example provide you with the possibility to make custom memberships or develop discounts in particular cases. Or you can make special packages with multiple different courses and offer custom prices for those.
As far as the actual content is concerned, LearnDash offers all kinds of options. For one, this plugin offers multi-layered courses, which gives you the ability to sort out your lessons, tests and other materials as you wish. One great feature allows you to make groups of students and simultaneously give them the content so that they all progress at the same time. This is known as drip-feeding the content and is a very useful tool to keep groups of students on a schedule that suits you.
LearnDash offers you a vast array of quizzes you can challenge your students with. You can choose how you want to ask the questions in these quizzes, using video, audio or text format. This is a great way to breathe life into the sometimes-monotonous environment of an online classroom.
And the results of all these tests and quizzes can be easily monitored and examined by the teachers with very precise analytic and statistic charts. What is also impressive with this service is the fact that the developers keep producing extensions for additional features that users suggest. It is nice to know that your voice can actually be heard.
Sensei - $149
First of all, the name of this service sounds really nice and as you maybe know it is a word Japanese martial arts student use when referring to their teacher. Apart from that, it has actually been developed by WooThemes, but is compatible with almost any WordPress theme.
With Sensei, your material is simply divided in lessons and has less freedom than LearnDash for presenting your content. You can also add videos to your lessons and mark their rating or level of complexity. When students want to mark a certain lesson as passed they have to solve a quiz for the required level. For every level you can choose the number of questions and, of course, the number of right answers that are needed to pass the test.
Sensei did pay special attention to the teachers and has provided a pretty good analytic tool to track student progress. From here, you can examine all the details of a student’s work from grades, courses and tests taken and devise an individual plan or a program for improvement if needed.
However, some users will be put off with the payment method. In order to collect your money you will have to go through WooCommerce which is nothing complicated and out of the ordinary but can present a significant detail when considering which plugin to use for your growing business. On the other hand, this connection with WooCommerce can be used creatively to promote your online school. For instance, when a customer purchases material for painting or an actual picture, they can get an opportunity to enroll in your online painting class.
LearnPress - Free
It is not that common for Learning Management Services to be free, but LearnPress is one of those, which helps it attract many new customers. Of course, LearnPress offers more options as premium add-ons and many users will argue that it is a genuinely good platform when you are starting a low-budget business with big ambitions. Since you don’t need any budget to start with, any leftover profit can be used for the add-ons.
When starting to create new lessons in LearnPress you may feel that you are stuck in the basic WordPress visual editor, but you will soon see that all the important information is easily accessible and visible. And once you publish any lesson it will be presented in a light box, which is very intuitive and easy to use.
On the main page you can find all the necessary tools such as settings for passing marks, maximum number of students allowed and the prices for each course available. And, as many will greatly appreciate, the payments can be done via PayPal among other services.
If you are just starting with your project, you can add a lot of free extensions for a more diverse experience and better contact with students. For instance, there is the option of creating forums and sub-forums, in which you can contact students or let them socialize among themselves. This is a great way to get feedback and suggestions for further content the users would love to see on your site.
As it stands at the moment, LearnPress is really doing very well in challenging the concept of a free LMS plugin, so it wouldn’t come with a surprise that more of similar services appear on the market.
WP Courseware - $99
WP Courseware is one of the most famous and diverse old-school online learning systems, and, though it has been around for some time, it certainly continues to leave its mark on the market.
You will have many different ways of creating and organizing your content with WP Courseware. One of the unique features of this service is that you can create courses just by dragging and dropping the content. This doesn’t mean that you will be restricted to the basic forms. This system will let you organize your courses into units, parts that can act like individual lessons. This means that you can make each lesson with whatever number of modules, units and quizzes you wish. However complex the lesson you can imagine and need, with WP Courseware’s interface you will be able to make it without many problems.
When you create your quizzes and tests you can also use the WP Courseware’s huge bank of presets that will help you arrange your content quickly and effectively. Once you have created all the content for one lesson, with the intuitive drag and drop function, you can rearrange it to make your desired tempo and structure of the class.
The obvious downside to this premium plug in service is the lack of options for the payment method. It is not completely clear why such a big name in this sector hasn’t solved this problem. In order to sort out your finances you will have to connect it with a WordPress account, membership plugin that accepts payments, or eCommerce plugin, which is an unnecessary hassle when using a good service like this. But, this is a minor issue when all the positives are taken into account.
The most important features of this plugin is the vast number of different types of lessons and quizzes you can create to provide knowledge to your users, and they are all presented in premium quality. When creating quizzes, you will have endless options and settings that will make your content both fun and challenging to use. You can choose your questions to be multiple-choice, or open-ended, or you can ask your student to upload files in order to fulfill the assignments.
This interactive process of learning is something none of the other platforms uses in this capacity. In order to make an even flow to the classes the drip-feed option is available. This will restrict some lessons and modules until you judge that all the students in a particular group are ready for them.
WP Courseware also pays a lot of attention to the students so they can get the best possible feedback on their progress. They can always check how well they are doing overall or simply see how much more material they have left to finish the lesson they are working on. Also, as a teacher you can award different kinds of certificates to your students. These can be completely personalized and given out for all kinds of achievements. These kinds of special touches are exactly what separate big time players in LMS plugin systems from lower-quality systems.
LifterLMS - Free
As we mentioned before, there are more and more services that are completely free but are actually putting up a good fight with the competition. This is one more example of this new trend in the industry, which shows no signs of stopping.
Similar to LearnPress, LifterLMS will also provide diverse features and options, and will also give you an opportunity to manage your finances with PayPal or even by checks. Just as in other free systems, some content is premium and you can purchase it to make better materials. The bottom line is that you have a chance to start your online school for free and then upgrade it to almost the same features that some more expensive services have to offer.
The whole system works like this – students pay for the course and they get a membership level required to access the content in hand. This way they can only take the courses they have paid for and will progress one by one. The interface has nothing special to offer but is very nicely laid out and easy to use.
From the point of view of the teacher, you can create all LifterLMS kinds of lessons with multiple modules. Keep in mind that text and audio materials are cheaper and the video content is mostly seen as premium and the lessons with videos are going to cost students more.
One of the uncommon and unique features of this service is an automated email system, which will make it very easy for the teachers to track the progress of their students. Whenever a student fails to complete a lesson or a module, an automatic email will be sent in order to address the issue. Also, there is a system of rewarding student’s performances called gamification. Students will receive badges for every major achievement they make.
These are just five of the most often recommended plugins to help you set up your LMS from a much broader field.
Whether you choose one of these or another, begin your journey by determining your budget and needs and choose a plugin that suits you. You want to be able to pour your time and energy into your students, not into a system that is not appropriate for you. Once you have made your choice, you are well on your way to impacting the world by sharing your knowledge with others.
WP-Tonic offers extensive development and customization services connected to making your WordPress LMS plugin perfect for your needs.
At WP-Tonic we have extensive experience in all the leading WordPress LMS plugins on the market plus we can also give you extensive pre launch consultation and training. Go to our LMS customization and development page and learn more connected to how we can help you with your LMS project.