LearnDash vs. LifterLMS:
An In-Depth LMS Comparison
Whether you’re just starting your search to find the perfect LMS for your business, or you’re drowning in options, spoiler alert: the marketplace is overwhelming.
It's hard to find an LMS that checks all the boxes on your list, and is built to flex and work with you and your business as you grow, and not limit your potential or scaling ability.
In this LearnDash vs. LifterLMS review we’re diving deep into some of the most popular features and considerations you should keep top of mind as you evaluate these potential learning management systems for your business.
Over the years we’ve used and tested a wide variety of WordPress LMS plugins and platforms to power our online courses.
After hitting roadblock after roadblock with other membership and LMS plugins, we put our software development expertise to work and developed AccessAlly to power our online courses and membership.
To this day, we continue to review and test membership plugins and LMS software to stay current on industry trends, and competitive in the marketplace. We’re here to share that knowledge and experience in hopes it helps you decide what the best tool is for your business.
Let’s dive into the features, pricing, as well as pros and cons of LearnDash and LifterLMS.
Table of Contents
How Do LearnDash And LifterLMS Differ?
- Online Course Builder Vs. All-In-One Membership And LMS Plugin
- Integration With Your Marketing Automation Platform
- Onboarding & Customer Support
- Design Flexibility
- Learning Reinforcements: Quizzes, Progress Tracking, Homework, & Certificates
- Bulk Course Enrollment
- E-Commerce & Affiliate Functionality
- Extensibility And Ownership
- See how LearnDash and LifterLMS Features Compare
- In Summary
How Do LearnDash And LifterLMS Differ?
LearnDash and LifterLMS are both WordPress LMS plugins developed to give you the functionality needed to build an online course. However, unlike LearnDash, LifterLMS also powers membership sites.
The core functionality and development philosophies of LearnDash and LifterLMS are rather similar, however, each one has its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to features and their approach to certain functionality. At times one will outshine the other but for the most part, they are pretty comparable.
Let’s take a closer look and break down their most popular LMS features.
Online Course Builder Vs. All-In-One Membership And LMS Plugin
LearnDash’s development philosophy is dedicated to online course creation and Learning Management System (LMS) functionality. While this could be advantageous for some business owners if you only want to create and sell online courses, it could be disadvantageous if you want to include membership functionality as well. It comes down to your requirements and desired functionality.
To help you deliver a positive user experience from end to end, you’ll likely need to expand on LearnDash's core functionality by installing additional plugins and add-ons to create a seamless user experience from purchase, to delivery, through completion.
You may be forced to purchase and integrate with additional plugins to handle things like:
- Recurring payments and payment administration
membership levels to run cohesive membership sites
- Third-party integrations for your CRM for marketing automation
- Assignments, quizzes, and grade books
On the contrary, LifterLMS is an all-in-one membership and LMS plugin, similar to AccessAlly. No additional plugins or add-ons are needed for your membership site and online courses if you invest in the Infinity Bundle. While it’s the most expensive option at $999/year if you invest in a lower-tier you’ll need to purchase and install many of the add-ons included in the Infinity Bundle to create a truly custom user experience.
Integration With Your Marketing Automation Platform
Both LearnDash and LifterLMS require the use of a third-party tool such as Zapier or WPFusion to connect your online courses built on your WordPress site to pass information back to your marketing automation system.
This is what we refer to as a one-way integration. Your plugin will use the third-party connection to send a zap or notification to your e-mail marketing system or CRM. The information from your plugin that you want to sync, for example, an enrollment in a specific course or the completion of a course is passed through this notification.
Here's how it works. Your third-party tool will apply a tag and pass this information into or sync with your CRM or marketing automation system to trigger an automation.
LifterLMS can receive information from another tool through a zap from Zapier to update users within your course on WordPress but content isn’t automatically synced. This is what we would consider a two-way integration, no third-party tools required.
Say goodbye to duct-taped solutions and take full control of your membership and online course setup with AccessAlly’s deep 2-way street integration. You get everything you need and no third-party plugins are necessary. It’s built to sell, teach, and engage.
Onboarding & Customer Support
As a business owner, you strive to deliver a great user experience with your customers, and when you invest in technology you expect the same in return. You’re looking for tools that you can depend on; knowing that you have resources at your disposal in the event something goes wrong is just as valuable as the technology itself.
LifterLMS provides some of the most comprehensive customer support on the market. If it's one of the frontrunners for you in the tools you’re comparing they offer presale phone consultations, presale Q&A webinars, and can also be contacted by chat and email to answer your pre-sale questions. You can also schedule a product demo tailored to your needs.
Their support desk is also available via email and they provide detailed help documentation, training courses, and webinars, as well as getting started guides and video tutorials. They also provide live onboarding calls and offer a weekly office hour mastermind for you to ask questions and get the answers you need.
You can also get support from fellow LifterLMS users in their slack and Facebook communities.
For implementers, LifterLMS offers developer office hours and provide and have a third-party expert program.
LearnDash also provides detailed documentation to help guide you in your setup process, and their email support hours are Monday-Friday from 7 am-4 pm EST. While their resources aren’t as plentiful as LifterLMS’s their documentation and email support are quite dependable. They just don’t offer as many opportunities to connect in real-time.
What matters most in online learning for 2021?
With the global pandemic in full swing, it's time to make the most of online learning in 2021.
It's important that any LMS software you choose gives you the ability to get started quickly and to be flexible enough to meet your needs as things continue to change.
There are also ongoing updates to privacy laws like CCPA, GDPR, CalOPPA, that are on every digital business owner's mind.
Finally, the best part: the focus needs to be on improving students' experience, so they can learn better and stay engaged longer.
LifterLMS is compatible with any WordPress theme, but also comes with their custom theme: LaunchPad. You can specify your course layout, main account layout, fonts, colors, and menus within the theme. This is a great option for those who want to get up and running quickly and aren’t in need of a truly custom design. It provides a lot of flexibility, but there are some limitations, and no custom coding is required.
In comparison, LearnDash integrates with any WordPress theme or page builder plugin. The choice is yours and you have the freedom to opt for a free or premium theme to control the overall look and design of your online course site. This is great news for brand conscious entrepreneurs, but unfortunately you don’t have complete design freedom when it comes to how you present and organize your course content.
The biggest limitation for both plugins is the flexibility you lack with the built-in course builder. You have access to a drag-and-drop editor that makes it easy to add your content and re-use lessons or topics from existing courses. However, when it comes to the look and feel of your course pages, both course builders lack flexibility in terms of customization of the course content. Aside from specifying a few colors, you won’t have full customization over the course layout and design.
If you’re looking for a course builder that allows full design flexibility, take a look at our showcase page to see what’s possible when you choose AccessAlly instead.
Learning Reinforcements: Quizzes, Progress Tracking, Homework, & Certificates
Both LearnDash and LifterLMS have done a great job incorporating learning reinforcements into their plugin.
LearnDash allows you to add a quiz or assessment at any level throughout a course, whether it’s at the end of a course, a specific lesson, or topic. With 8 question types to choose from, timed assessments, and the ability to submit any type of media as an input field, your options are endless.
The same holds true for LifterLMS.
You can also require homework submissions after lessons or topics, and issue report cards and track homework and assessments with both plugins.
LearnDash has even taken their progress-tracking to a new level in their most recent release, tracking course progress across all levels of the course, baked right into the layout.
LifterLMS also includes similar progress tracking features, but they have taken things a step further and includes sales reports and enrollment data.
Both plugins include a built-in certificate feature to issue your students as soon as they complete a course. With LifterLMS you can even award badges to students at varying stages throughout the course to gamify the experience a bit more and motivate your students.
Bulk Course Enrollment
Bulk course enrollment is a feature that makes it possible for you to sell "bulk licenses" or have the ability to create umbrella parent/child accounts, and sell your programs and courses to teams. Group leaders can assign sub-accounts, and group leaders can manage and track team members’ progress.
LifterLMS has an add-on called “Groups” available for their lower level and mid-tier users, but comes standard in the Infinity Bundle. This feature allows you to offer your courses and memberships at scale to corporations, small businesses, organizations, schools, families, and more.
In comparison, LearnDash integrates with a paid add-on developed by another company. This integration makes it possible for you to sell team accounts and offer buik course enrollment.
AccessAlly gives you the power to sell a package of licenses to your courses and content. This becomes a powerful selling tool for corporate training, schools, families, and other groups.
Design a member management dashboard so team leaders can add team members, see their progress, purchase more licenses, use custom operations to kick off automations, and more.
E-Commerce & Affiliate Functionality
LifterLMS has a Stripe integration, PayPal integration, and Authorize.net for one-time purchases, payment plans, and recurring subscriptions. You can also offer free trials and coupons using the native e-commerce features within LifterLMS.
LifterLMS also integrates with WooCommerce if you have more advanced pricing models or need to add additional fees or taxes for your offers.
If you’d like to incorporate affiliate marketing into your business and connect it to your LifterLMS setup, you will need to purchase and integrate with another plugin. They currently integrate with AffiliateWP, iDevAffiliate, and WP Affiliate Manager.
LearnDash has limited built-in e-commerce functionality. If you only sell courses with one-time payments, no additional e-commerce tools or plugins are needed. LearnDash natively integrates with PayPal, Stripe and 2checkout to process these one-time payments.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking for a fully-functional, completely integrated affiliate system, consider using AccessAlly.
Register affiliates, and create a beautifully designed dashboard where affiliates can find their links, commissions, conversation rates, and assets to promote your brand.
Extensibility And Ownership
Unlike platform-as-a-service options, you establish more ownership over your course setup when you choose a WordPress plugin, such as LearnDash or LifterLMS.
For starters, you’re not building your site on rented land so you're not at the mercy of a platform-as-a-service solution. If they make changes to how their platform works, you have to adapt.
One hurdle we've seen with LearnDash though is that they use a proprietary Custom Post Type that allows you to designate modules and lessons for your courses. This works well if you have no intention of switching plugins in the future. However, if you cancel your LearnDash license, your content isn't usable anymore without manually migrating your content. Fortunately, some plugins, like AccessAlly, can help you retrieve your content and migrate it if you decide to move away from this plugin, converting it into a more usable format.
Both LifterLMS and LearnDash provide you with an extensive library of integrations to extend on its core functionality so you’re not completely restricted when you want to build out or add new features to your course setup.
It's not unheard of for LearnDash users to install 6 or more different plugins or add-ons to create a fully functional, engaging learning experience. LifterLMS's Infinity Bundle includes most of the add-ons you'd need if you chose LearnDash, but you'll need to integrate with other plugins for features such as affiliate management, member directories, and forums though.
You’ll just want to be mindful of the size of your tech stack when you use these plugins; the more plugins you add, the more there is for you to maintain. Your risk for things to go wrong also increases with each new addition and integration.
Your workflow on LearnDash vs. LifterLMS:
- Install the LearnDash plugin on your WordPress membership site
- Install your theme
- Install a payment plugin or purchase an additional shopping cart tool (and possibly an additional affiliate plugin)
- Install a membership plugin, and configure it
- Install or set-up CRM integration plugin, team licensing add-ons, member directory add-ons, etc.
- Dig into your site's CSS and hack the LearnDash design to match your branding
- Use the LearnDash course builder to design your course structure
- Set up your quizzes, link them to lessons
- Download, install and activate the LifterLMS plugin on your WordPress website
- Download the LifterLMS helper, install and activate
- Set up the design of your website using a WordPress theme
- Create your course catalog to show visitors your available courses
- Create your membership catalog where visitors can see your available memberships
- Connect your payment processor
- Set up your student dashboard
- Integrate with your payment processor
- Design your order forms
- Add additional learning reinforcements like quizzes, assignments, create certificates, and more
See how LearnDash and LifterLMS Features Compare
We’re a digital marketing software company built by marketers and software engineers. With our particular background and expertise, we’ve designed our membership and LMS plugin AccessAlly, to give you everything you need in an easy to use, powerful package, you’ll see where LearnDash and LifterLMS fall short or shine in comparison:
|Protected course content|
|Built-in Recurring Stripe and PayPal payments|
|Course builder for modules, lessons, and topics|
|Automatically creates tags, pages, and menus|
|Deep 2-Way Integration with Infusionsoft, Ontraport, ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, and Drip|
|Multiple currencies, automated expiring coupons, and order bumps|
|Cart abandonment automation|
|Progress tracking, and progress-based unlocking content|
|Multiple types of quizzes, and auto generated certificates of completion|
|Course Licensing with Teams or Umbrella Accounts|
|Searchable member directories and editable custom fields through profiles|
|Gamification where members can earn points, and activity-based automation, login tracking|
|Media player, video bookmarks, tagging automation on quizzes|
|Cross-selling dashboards, with 1-click upsells|
|Built-in affiliate tracking with multiple tiers, links, and reporting|
The True Cost of LearnDash vs. LifterLMS
These pricing models will give you an idea of what you can expect, when comparing the cost of LifterLMS vs. LearnDash but it's not the whole picture.
If you plan to use LearnDash or LifterLMS be sure to budget for additional plugins and add-ons, as well as additional software tools you may need to create a seamless learning experience for your students and customers.
You should consider expanding your budget to account for a payment processor, order forms plugin, membership plugin, website hosting, video hosting, and other add-ons - like groups for forums.
Keep the cost of these add-ons and tools in mind as you’re comparing pricing so you’re being mindful of your true investment.
LearnDash might be right for you if…
- You are open to a larger tech stack, 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
LifterLMS might be right for you if…
- You’re looking for a membership and LMS plugin all-in-one
- You're already using a WordPress website and looking for a WordPress plugin
- You don’t mind using a third-party tool to connect your course with your CRM
- You have a need for more advanced quiz functionality
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