Why Trust This LearnDash Review?
To give you the best review possible, I bought a LearnDash license and installed it on a domain already running WordPress. I estimate I spent over 30 hours trying out the features available through the LearnDash plugin. I also created a very in-depth LearnDash Tutorial that will walk you through all the features of this plugin.
LearnDash was so impressive to me that I’m considering switching my main online course over to this platform. I’ve run this course since 2004 so in addition to being in the online course business myself, I know a lot about the features that will make your course better and your life easier when it comes to running an online course business.
I only review products that I believe are the best (after lots of careful research) and LearnDash definitely makes the cut.
In addition to trying out and using LearnDash, I also contacted their support (several times) to see how well they respond to questions. Plus it turned out I needed a little help!
Please note, I am a part of the LearnDash affiliate program. That means I’ll receive a small commission if you purchase LearnDash through the links on my site and this LearnDash review. There’s no cost to you and it helps me continue to write detailed reviews like this.
Table of Contents
What is LearnDash?
LearnDash is a learning management system (or LMS). If you’re not sure what an LMS is, briefly, it’s software designed to help you create an online course including management of users, progress tracking, and more. LearnDash is a self hosted LMS which means you host it on your own hosting account. Specifically, it’s a WordPress LMS plugin so you’ll need to install WordPress first, then install the LearnDash plugin through your WordPress admin.
Once you’ve installed the plugin, you’re ready to start setting up your online course. LearnDash will enable you to set-up your courses, lessons, topics, and even quizzes from within your WordPress admin. You’ll be able to customize and add-on to the core functionality of LearnDash with other plugins to create a highly interactive online course.
Who is LearnDash Best Suited For?
If you’re already familiar with WordPress and are comfortable running your own course platform on your hosting account, then LearnDash may be an excellent fit for you.
This plugin will give you the ultimate in flexibility for your course. With LearnDash, you will need to update your plugin over time and make sure integrations are working well. You may also need to contact your hosting company to make sure everything is running smoothly.
A WordPress LMS plugin is an alternative to a cloud LMS where the system is hosted for you. With a cloud LMS you won’t need to install plugins or maintain anything. However, you are limited by what the LMS offers as often you cannot customize much. Some cloud learning management systems take transaction fees and all require monthly payments which can increase over time (and/or features can be limited). With a WordPress LMS plugin you don’t have to worry about this as much, but maintenance is definitely a trade-off.
Type of LMS
LearnDash is a self hosted LMS which means you’ll host it on your hosting account (like Kinsta, Liquidweb, etc …). It is a WordPress LMS plugin which means you will need the WordPress content management system installed on your hosting account. LearnDash is a plugin that you install through WordPress.
LearnDash Customer Support
I sent LearnDash several emails both before I bought a license and as I was working through the plugin features. Each email was answered within 24 hours and by knowledgeable staff who were able to answer my questions. So I feel good about the support LearnDash offers.
There’s also a community on Facebook. You can join the Facebook group, share ideas, network, and get help there as well. There’s also a forum running within your LearnDash account (you’ll gain access to this once you purchase). It’s still active, but I think the Facebook group is the better way to go.
Another great sign is that the software is updated constantly.
Tech Knowledge Required
It’s best if you’re already familiar with WordPress. If so then you’ll understand the admin area (which is where LearnDash) is installed. You’ll also understand how to create posts and pages which is what you use to add in your content. Most of this is fairly intuitive. That’s what makes WordPress the top content management system online so even if you don’t know how to use WordPress, you can get started with LearnDash as you figure it out.
It’s best if you already know how to install WordPress. This can be done simply through Softaculous which is an autoinstaller available through most web hosting control panels. It’s also best if you already know how to install plugins and activate them as well as how to navigate through a WordPress admin area. If not, you can learn it as you uncover LearnDash.
Again, with any WordPress LMS plugin, you will have to update plugins and test them out to make sure your integrations and the plugins themselves are working over time.
Recommendations with LearnDash
If you’re using LearnDash, then there are a few additional tools you’ll need to run your online course business. These include:
- Domain name (get tips on how to choose a domain name for your online course business)
- WordPress installation (this is free and easy to do from within your hosting account)
- WordPress theme (free Astra theme or paid theme)
- Email marketing automation tool
- Video hosting if you’re offering video training videos.
Other plugins or add-ons may be necessary depending on what integrations you need and any additional features you want. Let’s start moving forward with this LearnDash review …
What I Like/Which Features Stand Out
If you’d like to offer a lesson as a sample, then all you have to do is mark off a checkbox. Once the sample lesson box is marked, visitors can take the sample lesson and all of its associated topics and quizzes. The rest of the content will not be available to them until they enroll in the course.
With LearnDash you’re not just limited to lessons within a course. You can also offer topics within each lesson. This creates a more robust hierarchy. It’s very useful if you’ve created a large course.
In addition, there’s support for most any type of content or media. You can add in videos, audio, text-based content, links to PDF files, etc …
You can change the text headings in one place and have it updated everywhere. You can change the text ‘lesson’ to ‘module’ if that suits your course better.
When you build out your course, lessons, topics, and quizzes, you can enable progressive learning which means the learner will need to go through them all in the order you presented them. Otherwise they won’t be able access the next piece of content or take the next quiz. They will need to click on the Mark as Complete button to keep going.
You can easily disable this on a course-by-course basis if you need to, but it’s a nice feature to have as an option.
The full list of payment options are; Buy Now, Open, Closed, Free, Recurring. So you can easily decide the best way to offer your course right through LearnDash. Alternately, LearnDash works well with many other plugins if you need a more sophisticated system for running your courses.
Forced Lesson Timers
With LearnDash, you can drip the content and set timers so people can’t mark a lesson as complete until they’ve spent a certain length of time on it.
There’s also a Forced Topic Timer too. This sets a minimum amount of time a learner must spend on the topic page before it can be marked off as complete. That’s a very handy feature.
LearnDash Quiz Features are Phenomenal
I can’t really say enough about the possibilities with quizzes and LearnDash. I was blown away by all the features you have to choose from. I’ll start going through a few of the top features, but this only barely scratches the surface of the quiz features available to you.
Here you can optionally associate a quiz with a certificate.
This way when a learner passes a quiz (and only when the quiz is passed), they will get a certificate. This helps keep learners engaged with your course and if you include quizzes throughout your course, they don’t have to wait until the very end to get a certificate.
Display Question Randomly
This feature allows you to randomize your quiz questions which is great if you’re allowing learners to retake quizzes. Anytime they retake the quiz it will seem like a new experience for them.
Show Only Specific Number of Questions
This feature allows you to set a quiz to display a maximum number of questions. This is very useful if you want to have a large question bank that pools only a certain number of random questions from within the bank of questions.
Enabling this allows the admin to see the quiz statistics after each completed quiz.
This feature allows you to protect the statistics from spam. LearnDash has a recommendation of 1440 minutes. That means the result will only be saved every 1440 minutes from the same IP address.
View Profile Statistics
This setting allows you to enable the learner to view statistics for this particular quiz on their profile.
If you activate prerequisites then you can choose the quiz which must be finished before the learner can take the current quiz.
This allows you to add a quiz question over at the top of a quiz allowing for easy navigation. The learner can mark questions ‘to review’ later on.
Profile Area is Impressive
You can create a profile page by simply dropping a shortcode on a designated post or page. Then the user goes to this page:
If you click on that text icon next to a quiz score, you can get an expanded view of all your quiz attempts:
PayPal Integration Built-in
Areas for Improvement
One thing you’re probably going to need is a login and registration form. LearnDash doesn’t really support this out-of-the-box, which I found strange and it took me a while to figure out since I just assumed it would.
LearnDash taps into the login and registration native to WordPress so technically you can get it to work without installing anything else.
To do that you need to enable Memberships on your WordPress install. Just go to Settings (not the LearnDash settings, but the overall Settings link on the main menu). From there, you need to go to General.
Then find Membership. Right next to that is a checkbox that says ‘Anyone can register’. You need to have that marked off.
Then underneath that is the text New User Default Role. You want that set to Subscriber.
So you’ll have it set up like the screenshot above.
This seems simple, but my expectations were different (especially after trying out other WordPress LMS plugins).
Once you’ve got that all set up, when you go to a course you’ve set up as free and you’ll see an option to register.
Next, your user will need to click on ‘Register’ at the bottom. From there, they go to this page:
Then they enter a username and their email address and click on the Register button.
From there, they should be sent an email generated from WordPress where they can click on a link and select their own password. Here’s the page they are sent to after clicking the link in the email:
They can pick a password, confirm it, and then click the ‘Reset Password’ button.
Then they can login!
Obviously, that’s not seamless at all. You’ll lose a lot of users with this so if you’re offering free courses to build your email list (which is a great business method to use), this is no good! Offering a paid course doesn’t really turn this into a seamless process either. There are still hoops your customers will need to go through.
I was very surprised LearnDash doesn’t come with a better solution right out of the box. But they don’t.
So you need a plugin to help you have a better registration process. Unfortunately, you will need to try different plugins.
LearnDash really works best with another solution like a membership plugin which would provide support for this, but for those who don’t want to add that in, you’re kind of on your own. I use Infusionsoft so the best choices for me would be Memberium or WP Fusion. Alternately, you could use WooCommerce.
There are limitless options, but the point is, LearnDash on its own is probably not going to be enough to support complex payment integrations.
If you’re just trying to make this work without a membership plugin then you could try the free plugin
This free Profile Builder plugin. It looks like it could work.
Here’s a simple registration page I’ve got set-up using that plugin …
Then they can login.
User Taken to WordPress Admin by Default
However, when a user follows the process above, they are taken to the default WordPress admin area!! I thought I was solving all my problems, but here’s what I saw after registering for my course:
I had to go back to the site, go through the list of courses, find the one I registered for and then I was able to view it. So I was added to the course, but this process is not good. It looks like the profile builder plugin does have support for this even at the free level.
Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit
There are a lot of plugins and add-ons created for LearnDash and the Uncanny LearnDash Toolkit is a good one that can sort out a lot of your problems. They have a free and a premium (paid) option. The free option is pretty good.
I was able to add in a Login/Logout link to my main header. When a user is not logged in, it’ll show a Login link up there. When the user is logged in, it’ll show a Logout link up there. It’ll also help you send the user to the right course after logging in. So you need this plugin pretty much by default if you’re using LearnDash.
Need a Theme
Again, you cannot use LearnDash right out of the box. You will need a WordPress theme. There are many that even work well with LearnDash and offer extra features. These include the Astra theme, Social Learner (which offers social learning and gamification options right within the theme), eLumine, University, Education, and LearnPlus.
In addition, you can use just about any WordPress theme for building your course. I experimented with the Ocean Theme and the free version of that theme worked great for my needs.
The LearnDash payment system does allow you to connect with PayPal and there’s even a Stripe upgrade. However, you’re only going to get a very basic experience with the native functionality.
You really need to consider LearnDash as the online course builder and management tool and use another plugin to handle the login as well as payments. Fortunately, most plugins will handle both.
I use Infusionsoft for my email marketing, affiliate program management, ecommerce solution, and more.
Combining LearnDash with Infusionsoft is the perfect solution. With a monthly membership plugin you can get the two to integrate on a crazy level where as your learners go through your course, you can send out an email to help motivate them and keep them going.
I experimented with using Memberium with LearnDash and was very impressed with how they really complement one another. This is a $49 a month fee, but if you’re using Infusionsoft, Memberium will help you maximize that tool as well. Memberium also has a less expensive version for ActiveCampaign so that’s an option too.
Again, then there are many other membership site options you can choose from. PaidMembershipsPro and MemberPress are both popular options.
When you buy LearnDash you’ll get access to an account area which could have more direction. It’s not an out-of-the-box solution. You have to put some work into it. They could offer more guides and even just FAQs in the help area.
I had to search around (outside the account area) to figure out what add-on I needed. Not every beginner is going to know that the course grid add-on helps make your course list look nice.
Once I figured out the right add-on I needed (sometimes I had to write in and ask them), then I would type into Google search to find out how it worked.
Summary of Pros and Cons
So those are the major shortcomings.
Overall LearnDash wasn’t meant to be an all in one solution, but rather just handle your course which it does extremely well.
You can overcome all of it’s downsides pretty easily by getting a good theme and then a membership site solution to wrap that over LearnDash.
Another plus with LearnDash is the number of add-ons available.
LearnDash is so popular many companies have sprung up just offering plugins for this LMS.
There are a ton of plugins to add functionality to LearnDash. You only add what you want so you don’t slow down your site.
One thing I noticed is that LearnDash pricing is too cheap! Even with the shortcomings, Justin and his team should be charging more.
The Basic plan is usually $199/year. They were running a sale (which seems to run frequently) for $159/year.
You get everything in this plan with a license to use LearnDash on 1 site. The next plan up is the PLUS Package and the only difference is you can use LearnDash on up to 10 sites. It also includes ProPanel which is a nice reporting tool.
Lastly is the PRO Package which just allows you to have a license for up to 25 sites.
Judging by the pricing alone, there are a lot of developers who buy bulk packages and help website owners set their LearnDash site up.
The prices increase by license.
All the features you need are in the Basic plan so unless you have more than one site you want to install LearnDash on or you’re planning on helping others get their LearnDash site set-up you don’t need to pay more than the $159/year (or $199/year if there’s no sale going on).
There is a LearnDash demo all set up on their site. You can login and see what it’s like. But this isn’t what LearnDash will look like when you install the plugin on your site. They’ve customized it a bit and it also doesn’t allow you to see the admin features.
The only way to really try it out is to buy it and then install it on your site. You’ll have 30 days from the date of install to try it out. You can get a refund within 30 days.
Check out our LearnDash tutorial to see all the features available in LearnDash before you buy.
Alternatives to LearnDash
The other top WordPress LMS plugin is LifterLMS. LifterLMS does offer support for login and registration as well as integrations with payment processors right out of the box. Depending on your needs, it may make more sense for you. I’ve put together a LifterLMS tutorial as well as a LifterLMS review that you may want to take a look at.
If the idea of running a WordPress LMS plugin seems too intimidating or the idea of maintenance is not your style, then you should consider a cloud LMS. The top two cloud learning management systems are Thinkific and Teachable. I’ve done a ton of research on them as well.
You can take a look at my Teachable tutorial and Teachable review. I’ve also got a Thinkific tutorial and Thinkific review too. I’ve spent dozens of hours trying each of these tools out, creating tutorials and writing reviews. I think it’ll be helpful for you. In addition, there’s also a Thinkific vs Teachable comparison article if you’re thinking a cloud LMS will work better for you.
|Course content protection||✔|
|Drip course content||✔|
|Intelligent course builder||✔|
LearnDash Review: Overall Grade
'At a Glance' LearnDash Review
Ease of Use
Course Design & Engagement
Marketing & Sales Features
- Highly Advanced Quiz Options
- Progressive Learning
- No LearnDash Transaction Fees
- User Profile for Quiz Tracking
- Multi-Tier Courses
- LMS Only, No Membership Module
- Will Need to Customize Design
- Ongoing Maintenance