The main goal behind LearnDash is to let you transform your WordPress site into an online course platform and let you monetize it. The main advantage of this eLearning software is the ease of use, low price and integration with WordPress which allows you to fully customize it.
What is LearnDash?
LearnDash is an online learning management system (LMS). It's integrated into WordPress as a plugin and those who are familiar with WordPress will be able to install it in just a few minutes. It was founded by Justin Ferriman in 2013 and it has been used by thousands of people ever since.
With plenty of LMS on the market, it's not easy to choose one, so we'll break it down for you. It's rated by many as one of the most affordable LMS with excellent support out there. People also seem to love how every update brings something new to the table.
LearnDash Key Features
Some of the key features include are Course Builder, LMS Blocks, Quiz Builder, Certificates & Badges, Learner Focus Mode, Learner Profiles and plenty more. Most of these features such as LMS Blocks will save you a lot of time since they have everything you need already integrated into the tool.
Shortcodes and Blocks
LearnDash shortcodes are an easy way to hide content depending on your user role. If you are signed in as a student, you'll see one thing and visitors will see another. Simply put the shortcode "student" and everything inside of it will be displayed only to those who are enrolled in your course.
[student] This is what students see [/student]
On the other hand, if you wish to display something to visitors, you would do it this way:
[visitor] This text is what visitors see [/visitor]
One of the most important shortcodes is the payment one. If you are selling a course through a payment processor such as PayPal, you can use shortcode to place the "PURCHASE NOW" button anywhere on your site. Simply put the course ID in the payment shortcode and it will appear on that specific position.
Shortcodes are usually written, while blocks include pre-made options that you choose from the list. In order to use LMS Blocks, you need to have WordPress 5.0 installed. You can also use shortcodes through blocks instead of writing them manually. Blocks also let you insert and customize content through a very simple interface as you may see below.
If you are using the classic editor, you'll have to use shortcodes, but if you are on the newer editor (Gutenberg), welcome aboard. Right now you cannot use blocks in most page builders, but they'll surely make it possible in the future. To use blocks, simply press the "+" icon. Once you do that, you can either select the block from the list or search for it. Afterwards, you can change the options in the block options panel.
Probably the most loved feature of LearnDash is the Course Builder. It is used to create new lessons, sections, topics, quizzes and more. There are two ways you can use it, to update an existing course or to create a new one.
If you are making a new course, go to your LearnDash LMS and then open up "Courses". Once you are in there, select the "Add New" button at the top of the page. Press on the "Builder" tab on the top, and you are good to go. On the other hand, if you have already made a course and you want to edit it, do the following:
- Go into your Courses (LearnDash LMS and then Courses)
- Place your mouse cursor over the Course that you want to edit
- Select the “Builder” link as highlighted in the picture below
List of things you can create with Course Builder
Section Headings - This feature is used to organise your lessons and it doesn't include any content. It's similar to a heading in a blog article. It is typically used in-between lessons for better visible separation. You can add, move and remove them very easily.
Lessons - This is your content and the most important part of your courses. You can add existing lessons, or use the course builder to create new ones. To find your existing lessons, go to the "Lessons" box in the sidebar. Here you can add items such as images, videos, PDF, text, etc.
Topics - They are a part of the lessons. You can add them only when you have at least one lesson created. You can add the same items as in Lessons (Images, Videos, PDF...). The difference between topics and lessons is that you can't schedule topics or provide sample content. Although, if you schedule a parent Lesson, Topic will also be available only on the scheduled date.
Quizzes - They can be added to both Lessons and Topics. You can also add them as a final quiz for the course. It's possible to create new ones through the Course Builder or to import already existing ones.
Everything that you create with Course Builder can be easily edited, re-arranged or deleted. You can both drag & drop with your mouse or use the arrows to change the order as displayed on the picture down below.
They are one of the features that many other LMS lack, but LearnDash has successfully implemented. With LearnDash, you can tweak your online course functionality by using Add-Ons. You may find free and the premium Add-Ons on the official LearnDash marketplace. One good example that you may find useful is the LearnDash Course Review.
If you have ever enrolled in a course, then you know how important ratings are and this Add-On will enable it on your courses. You will gain more trust from your potential customers since they'll feel that someone has "tested the waters" for them. It's super simple to use Add-Ons on LearnDash, and that's a big plus for this LMS.
Pros And Cons
- Course Builder is very easy to use
- You can decide if you want to drip-feed course lessons.
- Fully customizable
- Content can be reused for any course
- Focus mode makes the courses look more professional
- Awesome quiz builder with plenty of options
- Low price compared to what you get out of it
- Compatible with over 99% WordPress themes
- If you are not familiar with WordPress, it might seem too complicated at first
- You might need an experienced developer to set everything up
- Too many options if you are trying to create a simple quiz
- You have to find a hosting
There are certainly more pros than cons, but most of the negative reviews came from customers who are not familiar with WordPress. You should take this into consideration if you plan on using LearnDash LMS since it requires some WordPress setup knowledge.
What about the competition?
So, how does LearnDash perform versus other similar LMS?
There are plenty of other similar learning management systems such as Absorb LMS, LearnUpon, 360Learning, SAP Litmos and Lessonly. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, but the one that separates LearnDash from others in most cases is the pricing of it.
LearnDash vs. LearnUpon
You will pay a fraction of price for LearnDash compared to LearnUpon since the price of LearnUpon starts at 699$/MONTH compared to 159$/YEAR. If you do the math here, you would save more than 7000$ a year, but that's not all. The starting price for LearnUpon is just for their basic package which allows only up to 50 active users with a maximum of one website per license. On the other hand, LearnDash doesn't have a user limit and for 30 extra dollars, you can have up to 10 websites with the same license.
LearnUpon has a free trial, while LearnDash doesn't have one. However, with LearnDash you are under a 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee and you may cancel the service in that period.
LearnDash vs. Absorb LMS
Another popular LMS choice that people use on their website is Absorb LMS. Once again, the price difference is huge. Absorb LMS has a start price of 800$/MONTH which might be too much if you are just starting out. One thing that Absorb does better is live training component. You can schedule a live training session in person and via video conferencing. Zoom is successfully integrated into this LMS and it can be used to do live training with enrolled students.
Another key difference between these two is hosting. With LearnDash you have to decide where you'll host your website, while Absorb LMS has hosting already included in the price. If you are unsure which one to choose, LearnDash has an awesome article that recommends hosts. There are three categories they have included in the article: Budget-friendly, Mid-tier and Premium. Depending on your audience size, you can use it as a reference.
The conclusion is that each LMS has its advantages and disadvantages. You should make the decision based on several factors such as price, audience size, ease of use, support availability, platforms covered, etc. If you are on the budget-friendly side, LearnDash should definitely be in your top choices.
There are three packages to choose from:
Most people select the basic package as it is the most affordable one. However, it doesn't have LearnDash Pro Panel and you only get one site license. It costs 159$/YEAR and contains almost every feature of the other two packages. This is ideal for someone who is just starting out and has a small audience across one website.
Plus package has the ProPanel feature and you can have it on up to 10 different websites. This package is ideal for people with several different websites that need the Pro Panel to monitor live activity on their courses. The price is only a small difference from the basic package, 189$/YEAR.
Pro package is your best choice if you plan on running a lot of different websites. This package supports up to 25 different websites, it has the LearnDash ProPanel and every possible feature. It is made mostly for business organisations that handle a lot of different learning categories. With the price of 329$/YEAR, You'll get the best out of LearnDash.
Each package has a 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee. You can have an unlimited number of users on as many courses as you want. There is also 1-year support and updates included with each package. Deciding between these three packages comes down to how big your organisation is and how many websites do you plan to operate.
You don't have to worry about renewing the license, it will renew automatically after one calendar year. There are no hidden costs and you can cancel it at any time you want.
LearnDash works with almost any WordPress theme that was coded by the standards.
You can create an unlimited number of courses!
Yes! LearnDash provides a 30-Day Money Back Guarantee that has you covered.
Every package has a Certificates & Badges module that will make the enrolled users feel awesome when they complete it.
Once you install ProPanel plugin, you can access it through your admin panel and widgets. Only Admins and Group leaders can see it by default, you can change that in the settings.
No, but having someone experienced with WordPress will help. Installation of LearnDash is very simple and fast, but WordPress has to be set up initially. Some web hostings have cPanel that includes automatic WordPress installation.