As an online instructor, you might be undecided about whether you should use a membership plugin to sell your course or go for a learning management system (LMS) to teach your students.
Most people are unaware of what features to look for in an online learning tool for their website and how their decision can affect the user experience it delivers to learners.
A COMPLETE STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO CREATING, LAUNCHING & GROWING A SUCCESSFUL MEMBERSHIP WEBSITE
In this article, we’ll compare and contrast membership plugins and LMS solutions to help you decide which one is right for you.
Membership Plugin vs LMS Plugin: Key Differences
Let’s start by taking a look at the key differences between membership plugins vs LMS solutions.
Membership sites give people restricted access to exclusive content. There are many membership plugins out there that allow site owners to share content through a secure, password-protected area and create different membership levels or tiers, free or paid.
You’ll be able to protect content such as courses, webinars, e-books, and workbooks as well as site pages containing exclusive articles and blog posts. In addition to this, you can set up community forums to allow site users to interact with each other and offer useful feedback and support.
You can also choose to charge members a recurring fee in exchange for access to exclusive content or a one-off fee for your membership program
Many membership sites offer fresh, premium content to customers each month in exchange for a recurring fee whereas others use a drip content strategy where the course content is divided into smaller modules which makes it easier to digest course material. Similarly, membership sites also conduct quizzes before learners are granted access to new content.
On the other hand, an LMS solution allows site owners to extend existing WordPress functionality and start creating and selling online courses on their website. An LMS plugin comes with a number of useful features such as creating, managing, and selling courses, communicating with learners, handling subscriptions and payments, developing and grading quizzes, and offering certificates of completion.
A distinguishing factor between the two solutions is the ability to monitor the progress of students.
An LMS plugin lets you monitor student progress throughout the course in real-time. You’ll be able to quickly view how many lessons each student has taken, how many they have completed, and how long they took to do that.
This is especially useful if you’re teaching a large class of learners or training workforce in your organization as you’ll be able to ensure course completion along with the progress made by each student. Performance evaluation also tells you which students need assistance and gives you useful feedback about ways to improve your course content.
So, if tracking student progress is important to you, an LMS solution is certainly the right choice for you.
4 Questions You Should Ask Before Buying a Membership vs LMS Plugin
For many years, only membership plugins were used by small businesses to sell online courses. This is primarily because they weren’t able to afford robust LMS solutions or use them effectively.
As a result, most small businesses and entrepreneurs chose to use a membership plugin to restrict access to their site’s content. However, these days many online instructors have turned to LMS solutions including cloud LMS and WordPress LMS plugins.
For this reason, it’s important to spend some time figuring out which digital learning product is right for your specific needs. Here are some questions you should ask before buying a membership plugin or LMS plugin for your website:
#1: How Many Courses Do You Want to Sell?
When choosing between a membership plugin and LMS, you should start by considering how many courses you’ll be offering on your website now and in the future.
So, for example, if you’re going to offer a single course or maybe 2 to 3 courses with multiple levels of access, a membership plugin is the best option for you. Keep in mind that even though you can technically offer more courses using a membership plugin, you’ll have a hard time managing your course content as the number of courses continues to increase.
On the other hand, an LMS solution is geared to handle any number of courses you wish to offer. Moreover, you’ll also be able to connect it with other e-commerce plugins (such as WooCommerce) to add useful features on your website including dynamic pricing, course bundling, and coupons.
In addition to this, some LMS even let other teachers create and sell online courses on your site helping you set up your own online course marketplaces like Skillshare and Udemy.
#2: Do You Want to Restrict Access to Website Content?
Another factor that will decide whether you should use a membership plugin or an LMS plugin is the level of control you want.
If you wish to restrict user access to content (such as course material or blog posts), a membership plugin can help you do just that. Using a membership plugin, you can create different levels of access on your website in order to control who can view what content.
For example, if you create a Photoshop training course, you can set up a Bronze subscription that offers members access to 15 lessons, a Silver subscription offering 25 lessons, and a Gold subscription with access to all 40 lessons.
Of course, you’ll charge different membership rates depending on the membership tier. This lets you offer your product at different price points which means you can draw in people who are interested in the membership program and eventually convince them to move to higher-priced memberships.
#3: Are You Looking to Create an Online Community?
One of the standout features of membership sites is that they make it easy for members to communicate with one another, helping foster relationships and boosting brand loyalty.
Community forums enable you to add more value to your membership site and help lighten the load off your back as members are able to ask other community members questions and get a variety of answers. This way, you’re able to create an ongoing resource for both existing members and new members.
You can easily add a community feature to your website using a forum plugin such as bbPress or a social tool like BuddyPress.
#4: Do You Want to Sell Products Other Than Online Courses?
Another thing you should consider when deciding between a membership site and an LMS plugin is whether or not you’ll be charging for the site content? If the answer is yes then you’ll probably have to create premium memberships.
If you’re looking to create a community of learners on your website and charge for access to fresh content on a regular basis, you should go for a membership plugin. It can help you secure your site’s content by creating membership levels. You can choose to create different access levels (like Bronze, Silver, and Gold) and charge higher prices for high-end content.
However, you should know that different membership plugins offer different features. For instance, one membership plugin may not allow users to subscribe to multiple levels whereas another membership plugin might offer the same feature. This is why you need to make sure that your membership tool offers the features you’re looking for before purchasing.
Put simply, if you wish to secure premium site content behind a paywall, a membership plugin can help you do just that.
If you want, you can protect exclusive content behind a paywall while simultaneously selling digital products such as downloadables, videos, and e-books using a membership plugin.
A Hybrid Approach
Putting aside differences, there are some similarities between membership plugins and LMS plugins. For instance, you can use extensions and add-ons along with a membership plugin to integrate features that are normally offered by LMS plugins.
You may even consider using both a membership site plugin and an LMS plugin on your site. This way, you can avail the content restrictions features membership plugins offer and use the LMS plugin to improve the structure of your course content.
For example, if you have an existing membership site and you wish to add another course to it, you can use both plugins at the same time.
Using this hybrid approach, you’ll be able to restrict access to site content by creating multiple access tiers on your site such as free and paid content (including pricing tiers like Bronze, Silver, and Gold subscriptions) while being able to create and sell as many online courses as you’d like.
When deciding between membership plugins and LMS solutions, it’s a good idea to start by analyzing your own particular needs and figure out which of the two tools can help you meet them best. And, if need be, you can use both to get maximum benefits.
Let’s quickly recap the main points we covered in this article:
- You should use a membership plugin if you just want to restrict access to exclusive, members-only content.
- Go for a membership plugin if you want to secure site content and sell digital products (like downloadable workbooks, templates, or kits) to members.
- An LMS plugin is great for creating and selling different courses. It also offers student progress tracking features.
For more information, be sure to check out this article on the 7 Things You Need To Know When Choosing a Membership Plugin.
Between LMS plugins and membership plugins, which solution best fits your needs? Let us know by commenting below.