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AccessAlly vs. LearnDash: a comparison

Our fans tell us AccessAlly allows them to earn more from their online courses and membership sites. We think you’ll love AccessAlly’s power features, along with its sophisticated interface.

If you’re curious to see how AccessAlly really stacks up to LearnDash, read on!


We're really passionate about online courses...

Over the years we’ve tried a lot of different online course solutions.

When we couldn’t find a solution that would do what we needed, we dusted off our Software Engineering chops and developed AccessAlly. 

And to this day, we continue to test and review the options on the market so we can share that knowledge.

How do AccessAlly and LearnDash Differ?

AccessAlly and LearnDash both allow you to build courses through a Learning Management System, and fall under the WordPress LMS plugin category.

This is where the similarities end, and where the differences begin.

Flexible course creation & deep CRM integration for automation

LearnDash uses a proprietary Custom Post Type that allows you to designate modules and lessons. If you cancel your LearnDash license, your content isn’t usable anymore.

When you use AccessAlly’s Offerings Wizard, you get the best of both worlds: easy-to-use templates and ultimate customization options.

When you create your course, membership, or even team or affiliate centers, the wizard walks you through it step-by-step.

Your pages, tags, and menus will be created automatically. Then you can edit and customize until your hearts’ content.

You’ll have access to a powerful learning management system (LMS) features that take your courses to the next level. Use quizzes, tests, progress tracking, video bookmarking, and more.

All of this, combined with the integration to your CRM (like ActiveCampaign or Keap, among others), allows you to create a one-of-a-kind experience for each and every user. You’ll blow them away!

LearnDash has no CRM integration; it sends transaction emails from within the LMS itself, but you’ll need another CRM for things like newsletters and other email communications.

Memberium Alternative

How many plugins does it take to run a course using LearnDash vs AccessAlly

With LearnDash, focuses on the Learning Management System (LMS) functionality at the detriment of the big picture of what’s needed for running online courses on WordPress.

That means you’ll need to purchase and integrate additional plugins to handle:

  • payments and payment administration
  • membership levels to run cohesive membership sites
  • integration with your CRM for marketing automation
  • grades and report cards 
  • group management
  • upsells and cross-sells
  • affiliates
  • gamification
  • communities

and more. In fact, as of this writing, their integrations page lists more than 30 plugins you can add — some for free, and some for a fee — to extend LearnDash’s capabilities. 

It’s not unheard of for LearnDash users to have 6 or more different plugins to make sure everything works together to create a functional learning experience. And the more plugins you have to manage, the more opportunities there are for things to break. 

With AccessAlly, you sign up for one tool that seamlessly handles everything from payments, course creation, LMS functionality, deep integrations, group sales, and member management.

Take payments directly with abandoned cart follow-up, coupons, & 1-click upsells

LearnDash doesn’t come with its own built-in payment processor, you’ll need to set up an additional plugin. Many people end up spending an additional $99/month on a shopping cart solution like WooCommerce or ThriveCart to sell their courses.

AccessAlly has beautiful order forms that allow you to offer one-time payments, subscriptions, individually triggered time-sensitive coupons, trial offers, and 1-click upsells. Plus, you can have members manage their credit card on file and subscriptions right inside AccessAlly.

And unlike other platforms, AccessAlly doesn’t take a commission on any of your sales, and it integrates with Stripe and PayPal out the box.

The best part? Because AccessAlly has built-in payments and integrates directly with your CRM, you can segment your email marketing so your customers and prospects get the right communication.

Build Your Own Teaching Ecosystem, Customized to Reflect Your Teaching Style.

With AccessAlly, you’re creating your own platform to run courses, memberships, and communities on. 

Photo of two women customizing online coursesSee it in action

What AccessAlly Customers Are Saying...

Heidi Decoux

"We moved them over from Kajabi to Access Ally and every single member loves the new site!

I’m head over heels in love with AccessAlly! We saw an immediate increase in sales!

Access Ally is SO easy to use and integrates perfectly with Ontraport. We’ve had ZERO issues with it, which I don’t think I can say about any other software or tool or plugin we use. Plus the interface is beautiful.

We moved them over from Kajabi to Access Ally and every single member loves the new site. It’s extremely user friendly for our clients, and for us. AccessAlly is a brilliant, beautiful, user friendly platform that has had a direct positive impact on our bottom line.” – Heidi DeCoux,

Eden Fried

"AccessAlly is the better option, hands down

“Honestly, Teachable, Thinkific, or Kajabi would have been the *easier* option, but AccessAlly with my WordPress theme is hands down the *better* option. It’s going to grow and scale with me over time, and that’s unbeatable.

AccessAlly allows me to provide a dashboard for all members, and it also allows me to create a member-directory (great for forming that community), an editable profile, plus lots of gamification features that can help members track their progress and reward them for their achievements.

AccessAlly integrates directly with my ESP, which gives me the functionality to track progress, send reminder emails. That’s priceless.” -Eden Fried,

Built-in bulk course licensing, teaching assistants, & homework submissions

If you want to offer “bulk licenses” or the ability to have umbrella parent/child accounts, where a group leader can assign sub-accounts, say for a corporate training team…

You can do it with both LearnDash and AccessAlly.

However, with LearnDash you’ll need to purchase an additional plugin that is developed by another company. With AccessAlly, you can offer Team management without any additional add-ons, it comes standard.

And AccessAlly allows you to design and customize the “member management” dashboard to your liking. You can have multiple team managers, and even show student progress to the different adminsitrators.

A team leader can see student progress and even quiz results.

AccessAlly also makes it easy for students to upload homework attachments, like PDFs, Word documents, or other files for the administrator.

Built-in membership, cross-selling dashboards, & gamification

With LearnDash, you can log people in for individual courses… but if you wanted to offer a recurring membership, or the ability to display all of your courses in an easy to unlock dashboard, you’ll need another plugin.

Often people will pair LearnDash with MemberPressMemberium, or another membership plugin (that adds up to another yearly cost!) to get the functionality that comes built-in with AccessAlly.

With AccessAlly you can easily create a member dashboard that shows members what they have access to and how they can purchase more, with 1-click.

With AccessAlly members can also earn points for completing quizzes or courses, or being paid members in good standing. They can then use points that they earned to unlock content, or other bonuses.

LearnDash also allows students to earn points, but you can’t tie these into your CRM or use them to unlock courses and bonuses.

Looking for something that integrates both ways?

Marketing automation tools are here to stay.

Use your marketing automation tool to power your course and membership program by taking advantage of AccessAlly’s deep 2-way street integration.

It’s built to help you sell more, teach better, and engage with your students longer.

Get a Free AccessAlly Demo
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Styled member directories & fully integrated member profiles in your CRM

LearnDash is a strictly learning platform, whereas AccessAlly started off as way to manage access to online courses… and quickly developed into a full fledged membership plugin for WordPress.

That means you can create beautiful searchable member directories, sorted by your marketing automation platform tags. This allows members to opt in or out of your member directory, and even to purchase a premium listing.

You decide what to include in your public or private member directory — like a biography, gamification points earned, and even course progress.

Plus, with AccessAlly’s profile editing functionality, a member can update their name, email, address, and password… or any other custom field inside of your marketing automation platform.

LearnDash does not offer a member directory feature.

Tablet with a member directory

LearnDash alternative that's beauitful out of the box

One thing we consistently hear from AccessAlly clients is that it looks good.

AccessAlly comes with a beautiful mobile-friendly interface that you can customize, which is great for:

  • Displaying progress tracking, pie charts, and checklists
  • On-brand cross-selling dashboards
  • Affiliate centers, complete with tracking and downloads

We’ve even heard of folks hiring designers and developers to knock off AccessAlly’s look and feel in LearnDash, because AccessAlly provides such a great user experience.

AccessAlly is not a theme, it’s a plugin — and it integrates with any WordPress theme seamlessly.

If you want full design flexibility, AccessAlly is for you

Because AccessAlly is a WordPress plugin, you can use any WordPress theme or builder you like.

Or start with AccessAlly’s theme, which comes with all of the progress tracking and navigation menus integrated out of the box.

Power, flexibility, and beauty all in one course platform.

Take a Tour of AccessAlly
Examples of AccessAlly websites

How do LearnDash and AccessAlly handle course objectives?

In order to understand how the objective list inside LearnDash works, it’s important to understand their 3-tiered course format:

Courses – The Main Page/dashboard of a course.
Lessons – Each course is subdivided into a series of lessons. For progress tracking purposes, each lesson is its own objective.
Topics – Each lesson can also be divided into many different topics.

Once you’ve created your course through the proper categories of course, lesson, and topic, you can add the objective list to a page with a shortcode.

This will create a standard, styled table that will include an element for each of the lessons in your course.

In order to complete objectives within a LearnDash course, the user must go to each of the course pages (with an optional “minimum time” spent on that page), then click the “complete” button in order to be taken to the next lesson.

Essentially it works the same as the AccessAlly Pro checklist, although there is less flexibility in what you can include for components.

The AccessAlly object checklist can include any element that’s a part of your course: video, text, quiz, or homework submission.

The LMS settings of AccessAlly can be found at the bottom of any WordPress post or page, making it easy to add LMS features to any bit of content you’re creating.

Within the Objective setup, you decide what is included on your checklist.

Once you’ve added the completed objective list to the page (via a shortcode), the user is then in control of checking off the text objectives as he or she makes their way through the course.

Any video or quiz objectives will auto-complete after the activity is completed.

The strength of the AccessAlly objective list is that you can include a custom checklist on any page, carefully tailoring the learning experience to fit the students’ needs.

Plus, AccessAlly allows you to create video checklists (with YouTube, Wistia, and Vimeo) that autoplay videos based on the user’s selection.

Progress display

Progress tracking in LearnDash vs AccessAlly

The LearnDash Course Progress Bar is available in a widget format, which must be added to the sidebar of your page. The tracking is also based on the lessons as explained in the above section.

The appearance of this widget is dependent on the theme of your website, and cannot be customized without additional CSS in the backend of your website.

There are two types of progress tracking available with AccessAlly: front-end tracking for the users, and back-end tracking for the course admin.


The front-end progress tracking settings for AccessAlly are set up a little differently than LearnDash. Instead of relying on widget areas, you can add this feature to any text area of your site with a simple shortcode.

It works in conjunction with your checklists so that users can see where they’re at in terms of course completion.

The nice thing about progress tracking with this plugin is that you actually have three design settings: a pie chart, a progress bar, or a simple percentage text: 100%


The percentage progress bar is based on the number of total objectives in relation to how many have been marked “complete.”

Sometimes, though, it’s nice to just have a number to look at… so AccessAlly includes shortcodes that will show an unstyled number of total objectives and/or completed objectives on any given page.

The overall appearance of AccessAlly features can be customized in AccessAlly’s plugin settings, making it easy to change colors, fonts, and sizes.


In the backend of the website, AccessAlly Pro shows unique progress tracking stats so that the course admin can see at a glance how users are interacting with their course content.

The back-end user tracking has three parts:

  • The General Report
  • On-Page Report
  • User-Specific Stats


This report reveals how many users have completed all objectives on each of your website pages or posts, versus how many have completed SOME objectives on the pages/posts.


To dig a little deeper into the general report, simply click on the page title to be taken to that particular page in the website.

Here, in the AccessAlly settings, you can see a breakdown of each objective – and how many users have completed each one.

This can be super helpful to see where the dropoff begins to happen in your courses, so that you can add various resources to encourage your students to keep going.


Lastly, if you click into any of the users’ WordPress profiles, you can scroll down to find their unique AccessAlly reports. These reports will tell you which courses have been completed – and which have only been dabbled in.

This report can be downloaded as a CSV file, so you can analyze it a little deeper if you’d like.

Your workflow on AccessAlly vs. LearnDash:

AccessAlly Logo
  1. Set up your WordPress site with your favorite customizable theme
  2. Install the AccessAlly plugin on your WordPress membership site
  3. Run through the AccessAlly onboarding wizard to integrate with your CRM and select payment settings
  4. Create your first offering with the Offerings Wizard and add your content
  5. Create emails in your CRM or in AccessAlly
LearnDash logo
  1. Install the plugin on your WordPress membership site
  2. Install a payment plugin or purchase an additional shopping cart tool (and possibly an additional affiliate plugin)
  3. Install a membership plugin, and configure it
  4. Install or set-up CRM integration plugin, team licensing add-ons, member directory add-ons, etc.
  5. Dig into your site’s CSS and hack the LearnDash design to match your branding
  6. Use the LearnDash course builder to design your course structure
  7. Set up your quizzes, link them to lessons

See How AccessAlly and LearnDash Features Compare

We’re a digital marketing software company built by marketers and software engineers. With our particular background and expertise, we’ve designed AccessAlly to give you everything you need in an easy to use, powerful package.

Protected course content Included checkmark Included checkmark
Built-in Recurring Stripe and PayPal payments Included checkmark With add-ons
Course builder for modules, lessons, and topics Included checkmark Included checkmark
Automatically creates tags, pages, and menus Included checkmark No tags
Deep 2-Way Integration with Infusionsoft, Ontraport, ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, and Drip Included checkmark  
Multiple currencies, automated expiring coupons, and order bumps Included checkmark With 3rd-party add-ons 
Cart abandonment automation Included checkmark  
Progress tracking, and progress-based unlocking content Included checkmark Included checkmark
Multiple types of quizzes, and auto generated certificates of completion Included checkmark Included checkmark
Course Licensing with Teams or Umbrella Accounts Included checkmark With add-ons
Searchable member directories and editable custom fields through profiles Included checkmark  
Gamification where members can earn points, and activity-based automation, login tracking Included checkmark With 3rd-party add-ons  
Media player, video bookmarks, tagging automation on quizzes Included checkmark Included checkmark
Cross-selling dashboards, with 1-click upsells Included checkmark Included checkmark
Built-in affiliate tracking with multiple tiers, links, and reporting Included checkmark  
Software FeatureAccessAllyLearnDash
Protected course contentIncluded checkmarkIncluded checkmark
Built-in Recurring Stripe and PayPal paymentsIncluded checkmarkWith add-ons
Course builder for modules, lessons, and topicsIncluded checkmarkIncluded checkmark
Automatically creates tags, pages, and menusIncluded checkmarkNo tags
Deep 2-Way Integration with Infusionsoft, Ontraport, ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, and DripIncluded checkmark
Multiple currencies, automated expiring coupons, and order bumpsIncluded checkmarkWith 3rd-party add-ons
Cart abandonment automationIncluded checkmark
Progress tracking, and progress-based unlocking contentIncluded checkmarkIncluded checkmark
Multiple types of quizzes, and auto generated certificates of completionIncluded checkmarkIncluded checkmark
Course Licensing with Teams or Umbrella AccountsIncluded checkmarkWith add-ons
Searchable member directories and editable custom fields through profilesIncluded checkmark
Gamification where members can earn points, and activity-based automation, login trackingIncluded checkmarkWith 3rd-party add-ons
Media player, video bookmarks, tagging automation on quizzesIncluded checkmarkIncluded checkmark
Cross-selling dashboards, with 1-click upsellsIncluded checkmarkIncluded checkmark
Built-in affiliate tracking with multiple tiers, links, and reportingIncluded checkmark

Researching course platforms on your own is great, but if you want to talk to someone, we're here to help!

If you’re wondering whether you’re on the right track or not, we can help you sort out all of the different options.

We’ll let you know if AccessAlly is a good fit or not, too. Not sure what AccessAlly is? Watch the video to find out now, then book a call to discuss further:

Book a free discovery call

The true cost of AccessAlly vs LearnDash

When choosing a course or membership platform, looking at LearnDash vs. AccessAlly pricing boxes can be deceiving.

With LearnDash, which only handles your Learning Management System (LMS), you’ll also need to add a payment processor, order forms, membership plugin, and other add-ons like groups.

AccessAlly Pro comes in at a fraction of the price, with no add-ons required.

In Summary

AccessAlly might be right for you if...

  • You want everything to work seamlessly from one end to the other (payments, courses, and memberships) with as few plugins as possible
  • You’re looking to create an amazing customer experience, that’s functional, profitable, and helps you stand out in the marketplace
  • You understand the power of your marketing automation platform, and having it integrated with your LMS

LearnDash might be right for you if...

  • You enjoy duct-taping solutions together, and using a lot of different plugins to achieve your goals
  • You absolutely need SCORM or Tin-Can LMS integration
  • You’re not picky about the look-and-feel of your course
  • You don’t need deep CRM integration to create more personalized customer experiences, but you do need a lot of quizzing options

Take AccessAlly for a test drive

Get your own free demo sandbox account so you can experience the flexibility AccessAlly has to offer.

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Find answers

Didn’t find an answer to your question? Just reach out to us, we’re happy to help!

Can I see examples of AccessAlly sites?

You can find videos and case studies with screenshots and descriptions of how people are using AccessAlly on our showcase page here.

Can I talk to someone about my project?

Researching course platforms on your own is great, but if you want to talk to someone, we’re here to help!

We can help you sort out all of the different options. We’ll let you know if AccessAlly is a good fit or not, too.

Book a free discovery call

Planning to develop an enterprise level program?

We’d love to find out more about your project and find out if AccessAlly is a good fit.

Book a discovery call to start the process, or tell us about your project and select “Enterprise” on our contact form.

Book a free discovery call