WordpPress LMS theme vs. LMS plugin
LMS Plugins are great, but a really focused theme developer can actually create a theme that includes a lot of the functionality required for something like a LMS system. The developer of Academy executed this concept beautifully by including the membership aspects, LMS custom post types (courses and lessons), and the shopping cart payment gateway elements (which does require a basic set up and integration of the free WooCommerce plugin). For security and compatibility reasons I like to take a minimalist approach when it comes to WordPress plugins.
The Academy theme is also a responsive WordPress LMS theme so that’s great too. Making your online course content display well on smart phones and especially tablets is key.
I can’t tell you how nice it is to not have to use LMS plugins (like Woo Sensei or Learn Dash), membership plugins (like WishList Member), and built out a payment gateway from scratch. These plugins are all great in their own right, but add a lot of extra steps, complexity, and possible compatibility issues to building a website.
In my opinion WordPress theme developers should try and build more complete solutions like the Academy LMS theme does instead of more generic multi-purpose WordPress themes. There’s a place in the market for general themes, but there’s a lot of opportunity out there for more niche focused WordPress themes from a design and functionality perspective.
What is a WordPress LMS theme?
If you’re still trying to figure out what a LMS theme does, just think of it as an online education platform where you can deliver online courses for free or for profit. Online course content can be multimedia including video, audio, text, and other downloadables. You can still blog with the theme and build pages as usual, but there are also courses and lessons as their own “custom post type.”
Take a look at this course on Improving Soil for Organic Gardening:
* Zoom in to see the notes on the image.
Here’s an image of what a lesson looks like for a subscribed or paying user:
Notice how the main course content is a video lesson followed by a short course description. There is a downloadable supplemental PDF. You can navigate to a new lesson from the sidebar. And a student can ask a question below the lesson content (This theme uses the WordPress commenting system beautifully to allow this question-answer functionality).
Build your Own WordPress LMS Website or Publish your Online Course to a 3rd Party Platform?
In my opinion: Both! You’ll notice I also published this organic gardening course on Udemy. The simple reason for this is that Udemy has a massive audience … 1,000,000 visitors a month as of this writing. But I don’t own Udemy and there’s a lot of competition there, so I created my own LMS platform with WordPress which gives me control and security. I will say I’m more than happy to give Udemy 30% of my profit when they bring a customer to my course. They also have a built in affiliate program which is great for getting visitors and incentivizing others to share my course.
Online education is on the rise. Check out this article about that in the New York Times.
Udemy and WordPress LMS solutions aren’t just about income. Teaching online is also about impact. When you create online courses for free, you can give a gift to your audience, build your authority, and even get new customers for your other offerings by demonstrating your knowledge (content marketing).
I got over 1,500 students enrolled in my Build a WordPress Website in a Weekend course on Udemy in under 2 weeks.
How to Build a WordPress LMS website
Option 1: Purchase the Academy theme and build it! I give this WordPress LMS theme my highest recommendation.
Option 2: Contact me and we can see if we’re a good fit, and I can build it out for you or offer the guidance you need.
Special WordPress LMS Update to this Post …
Since originally writing this post for you, I’ve taken everything I’ve learned from working on my own WordPress LMS projects and countless others and have created what I believe to be the best WordPress learning management system solution on the market. I did not do this alone. I’ve partnered with the talented team at codeBOX.
We’ve created a WordPress LMS plugin that will work with any theme. The lifterLMS plugin includes:
- Complete eLearning functionality (Courses, Modules, Lessons, Quizzes, Assignments Certificates, etc.)
- Stand alone eCommerce solution so you can sell your courses and lessons online. (Works out of the box with these payment gateways: Paypal, Infusionsoft, and can be integrated with WooCommerce if you want. Recurring subscription payments option included if you want recurring revenue from your courses).
- Built in membership site functionality so you don’t have to install third party membership site plugins.
- Advanced engagement functionality (gamification, infusionsoft style event triggered automated campaign functionality, and much much more).
Click here to watch the video and explore the full feature set: http://lifterlms.com
If enough people want me to create a detailed online video course about how to build a WordPress LMS site from scratch I will …
Good luck with your course creation and WordPress LMS web business! To see if I’m available to help with your LMS project, you can contact me here. Sometimes you need a guide like me through the jungle of web business development.
P.S. Want to add an affiliate program to your WordPress LMS web business? I have. I wrote about how to do it here.
P.P.S. I’ve got more free WordPress LMS articles for you here.