LearnDash Review 2020

Learndash Logo

Our verdict

4.5/5

Learndash is a full featured LMS for WordPress, it went through a complete overhaul in 2019 and we have used it here at Authority Hacker with great success.

WordPress has always been a one-stop-shop for aspiring online businessmen.

You can use it to create a website from scratch, and if you spend some time reading about its plugins, you’ll be swimming in them before you realize what’s happening.

One of these plugins: Learndash.

It’s a Learning Management System (LMS) that lets you create, manage and sell online courses from your WordPress dashboard.

Like most paid WordPress plugins, Learndash adds some functionality to your CMS.

And it’s not the hardest software to use.

But is Learndash worth your money?

We went knee-deep into this WordPress LMS.

Read our Learndash review too see if it can help.

Getting started

The Learndash plugin doesn’t have a free version, so getting started means purchasing a plan and configuring WordPress to add this plugin.

It’s not that hard.

You start by downloading the plugin from the Purchase Confirmation page.

You’ll have to add Learndash yourself.

Learndash Installation

If you’ve never added a WordPress plugin, don’t worry, Learndash has a great tutorial for getting started.

Among the five usual welcome emails with billing and thank you’s, you’ll also get access to helpful links, including a “Getting Started Documentation”.

Learnash Getting Started Documentation

This guide takes a user through the whole process.

They even have gifs for the more complicated issues, like activating your plugin.

Once you’ve added that, Learndash is on your WordPress dashboard.

When you click on the Learndash LMS menu button in WordPress, you’ll be taken to the product activation page.

Learndash Bootcamp

After that, you have an entire set of tutorials and initial set-ups to go through, just to get up to speed.

Learndash Tutorials

It covers the basic stuff, like creating a course, editing a log-in page or selling your course and integrating with other add-ons.

The videos are great and we definitely recommend going through them.

Not only do they help a user hit the ground running, knowing exactly where to go for what, but it’s also good for knowing what you can do with the Learndash plugin.

They have some complex features, like customizing user registration or drip delivery for online courses.

Definitely a plus for an easy start, and that’s required since LearnDash is harder to use than your regular online course platform.

It’s not a doozie if you’re used to complex WordPress plug-ins.

But it can get overwhelming for a beginner since WordPress is not as user-friendly as your regular SaaS.

Better put – it’s easy to get into, hard to master.

So knowing the odd trick you can pull while editing your courses is a must.

Knowing how to navigate the plug-in is also important.

And the initial guide walks you through all of that.

It could be improved.

For example, after going through all of the initial videos, I didn’t have a clear picture of how to do the following:

  • Enabling and managing comments, which are fundamental for student engagement
  • Editing the user interface for your course, beyond a few minor tweaks
  • Using groups and managing students

Since this is a Learndash review, do take into account that there are resources for it.

And a user can always access Learndash’s Boot Camp in the top-left screen to search for more tutorials

Learndash Bootcamp Access

So for most people, getting started will be a breeze and you’ll be creating online courses in no time.

For the less experienced, they could change some stuff.

Ideally, you’d have an interactive walkthrough guiding you through Learndash’s navigation on-page.

But that’s really hard to pull off on WordPress, so we won’t blame them.

What they could do is create a longer video that gives users an overview of what each menu does in Learndash.

Right now, you get a great overview, but only for each individual functionality.

And they get very specific, very fast.

That’s great if you’re experienced with WordPress.

But not so great if you don’t know how to use Tags or how the Gutenberg blocks work.

All in all, there are platforms that give you a better head start.

But that doesn’t mean using the Learndash plugin will be tough.

They actually give you a pretty decent tutorial on how this WordPress LMS works.

Course Creation and Management

Now for the bread and butter – the Learndash course builder.

Once you click on the Courses dashboard, you’ll have to add a new course, which will immediately take you to a customization window.

You can do a lot to edit the preview of your course without adding lessons per se, like adding a lesson set or other blocks.

Learndash Course Dashboard

You have a lot of options on this screen, like adding shortcodes to your course, changing pagination for a flexible course progression or uploading materials.

However, you’ll mostly spend your time in the Settings tab of a course.

Learndash Course Settings

It’s where you edit most of what’s displayed to your users.

The lessons themselves have a very similar editing flow.

Learndash Lesson Settings

You can add the same blocks for dynamic content, you can enable things like video progression or assignment uploads and you can use the same shortcodes to make quick edits.

Although for a quick tip:

Don’t create lessons separately, it’s much easier to create them from the courses tab and then edit them separately.

Learndash Course Builder

Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time adding lessons to topics and courses.

And it may not always work. When I tried assigning separately created lessons to a course, it didn’t work.

But that won’t hurt this Learndash review, it may have been a bug on my part.

What’s great about lesson editing is that you can separate them into topics.

If you want to enhance Learndash, you can also use WordPress tags to further categorize the content.

And it’s not a thin lesson editor either.

For example, you can choose when to display a video – after, or before students have gone through other course material.

It may not be groundbreaking.

But it shows that this WordPress LMS is versatile.

On top, whatever you’re editing, you can preview your lesson and see if what you’re changing looks good.

A live preview would’ve helped.

On the other hand, some people might like that they’re using WordPress’s infrastructure to implement certain features.

It makes it easier for experienced webmasters to get accustomed to Learndash.

The Drip feature is also complex.

You can click on lesson settings to set content release.

Not only can you choose to release content based on enrollment date, but you can also choose specific days to release content.

Learndash Drip Function

Couple that with student groups and you have a lot of control over how your customers receive your online courses.

However, don’t draw hasty conclusions.

The system is not a flawless home run, and there are some unnecessary features, like making video autoplay at a certain part of the lesson.

I can’t think of an instance in which starting a video automatically is better than letting the student learn at their own pace.

That’s one of the biggest benefits of online learning.

But it also doesn’t feel like the system is lacking anything.

Especially since you can make great use of quizzes.

Learndash Quiz Settings

The quiz settings are complex. You can modify associated courses, prerequisites to unlocking the quiz or even whether or not you want the results displayed at the end.

But you can also take care of the basics, like choosing a passing score, capping retakes, enforcing a time limit or enabling additional materials.

The editing system is also fully integrated with WordPress’s blocks.

And you can manage what data is collected and how it’s stored.

For the questions themselves, you have a special dashboard.

It’s really easy to edit. You just write the question and insert one or more correct answers.

Of course, it depends on the type of question you chose. The editing will work differently when choosing among:

  • Multiple answers
  • Single choice
  • Open answer
  • Assessment
  • Fill in the blank
  • Sorting

But the interface is intuitive and easy to navigate.

You can also check submitted essays if you enable that option, so those will have to be corrected by you.

Other than that, you can choose to display the score (and even the correct or incorrect answer) as soon as a student completes a quiz.

The quiz builder works the same way as the course builder.

Don’t create questions separately, go to the “add question” button under the quizzes tab.

It’s a pretty well-rounded system.

You have a lot of control over how your quizzes are delivered.

And you can even use created quizzes as shortcode content to insert anywhere you want.

If these features don’t keep you happy, you can also hand out assignments.

The assignments tab itself will only let you manage submitted work.

So if you want to hand out assignments, go to the lesson you want and enable assignment submission.

Learndash Assignment Upload Settings

If you want to avoid confusion, create a separate lesson for the assignment itself, don’t add it somewhere with already existing content.

What’s great is that you can choose to auto-approve assignments.

So if you’re teaching something more creative that couldn’t have an objective grading system, it’s easy to work with assignments.

If you’re happy with your students and you’d like to certify their efforts, you’d be better off using something else.

Learndash’s certificate system is not complex.

Learndash Certificate System

You can basically just edit the display page of their certificate.

Even then, you can’t use the block system, so there’s not a lot of design options to take into account.

You’d be better off sending them a certificate created with anything else, over email.

The same can’t be said about course registration.

If you have your WordPress theme up to date, you can easily create log-in pages to improve your customer service.

This isn’t a must, structurally speaking.

WordPress takes care of user data and registration.

If you want to give your customer service a bit of flavor, go to settings and choose login registration under the theme tab.

Unless it’s an open course and anyone can join, you’ll be able to customize the login screen that gives access to your course by modifying some colors and elements.

It’s not the Elementor of login pages.

But it’s enough to augment your branding

The Learndash course builder is not perfect.

The UI is not as intuitive as Thinkific’s or Kajabi’s.

So Learndash definitely loses some points when it comes to ease of use.

But that’s the nature of WordPress plugins.

And if you’re used to the WordPress interface, you’ll get a lot of control over your course content, and how it’s displayed.

Student Engagement

Keeping your customers happy is not always easy.

But with some customer service tools that let you engage students and help them make the best out of your courses, you stand a better chance at delighting your audience.

And you should start with the user interface.

Like anything WordPress, there are a lot of ways to modify User Interface.

One of them is going to settings and choosing a different theme for your Learndash courses.

Learndash Design & Content Elements

Based on the chosen theme, you can edit colors, typography and branding content. We recommend going for Learndash 3.0 since it’s up to date with everything you can customize.

Besides that, you can change some more stuff with specific lessons or courses, like the background color.

Anything more complex will require using the WordPress block system.

We didn’t try using a visual editor with Learndash since it’s not optimized for that, so we don’t recommend you trying anything else either.

You can’t know what compatibility issues might arise.

I know this seems a bit thin, but Learndash has other ways to let you edit the way your courses are displayed.

For example, you can use the Course Grid Add-on.

This will let you create a listing of all your courses. You’ll get a shortcode for it, so you can paste it anywhere you’d like on your site.

However, that might not be the best choice.

If you create a set of courses, you can add it as a WordPress block, which will let you preview how it looks on-page in real-time, and make some additional changes to have it fit with other blocks.

Other than that, we definitely recommend using it.

You can’t customize it all that much, but the template looks good and fits anywhere.

You can also create a user profile page. Just go to settings, enable a user profile page and use the same block system.

It’s not revolutionary, but it’s good to give the membership area some flavor, and there’s virtually no set-up needed.

Overall, user interface customization is a bit thin.

This is a WordPress plugin, so there are workarounds. But those are WordPress features, not Learndash features per se.

Moreover, most LMSs allow for deeper design changes, so Learndash falls a bit short.

What could help are more design options in the course menu.

Or more blocks to choose from.

But for the moment, you’re limited.

Besides how you display your magic, you can also interact with your students to keep them engaged.

And the most common tool for that is comments.

Unfortunately, there is no dedicated Learndash screen for comments.

That’s common for most LMSs, but with Learndash you’re going to need to check and respond to comments individually.

You just have to enable comments for each particular lesson from the settings on the right tab.

Learndash Allow Comments Option

Comments are fundamental to engaging your students.

And it’s great that there is a way to enable them.

Another way to engage students is through the Groups feature.

You can create them for segmentation, better tracking of how your users are managing, and even for serving content separately.

All you have to do is go to Groups and assign users to newly created ones.

You can also assign group leaders to better interact with your students, and everything is easy to set-up.

Since you can also get data based on the groups you have, it’s also easier to download reports on segmented audiences.

For example, you could separate students by performance, or enrollment date and draw better conclusions from more targeted statistics.

Speaking of which – if you upgrade to the Plus plan or above, you get access to the ProPanel, which lets you see real-time statistics related to your users.

All in all, student engagement could do with some improvements.

But as an LMS for WordPress, it’s good enough.

Selling Your Course

Learndash has very few features dedicated to helping you sell your online courses.

But it’s not barebone.

First of all, it’s got built-in payment support.

To get started, you set-up your payment details with Paypal or Stripe.

You just install an official add-on from the integrations tab, fill in your details and you can start selling.

At the moment, you can choose between a one-time payment or recurring fee.

Other LMSs have more complex pricing schemes, which include tiers dedicated to a membership.

But you can make Learndash work.

For some extra marketing and analytics features, you can integrate with WooCommerce.

Learndash actually has a guide on linking your courses with an e-commerce platform created in Woocommerce.

Just make sure you set the course to “Closed” if you want to sell with LMS plugins, otherwise, people can access it from the regular Learndash page.

It’s not a lot, but remember that this is WordPress.

You can tie your platform with a lot of other tools, from Google Analytics to Salesforce or Zapier.

It’s not something to praise Learndash for – this is just how good a platform WordPress is.

But it’s understandable that they wouldn’t create any other sales features when you have access to a ton of other add-ons, plug-ins and a community that guides you through the whole process.

When it comes to marketing, there aren’t any specific guides as with Woocommerce.

And when pitted against other LMSs, like Thinkific or Teachable, Learndash definitely loses some ground on paper.

You’ll only be counting on the regular WordPress plugins.

Which can always make you run into compatibility issues, especially if you’re rolling with over 30 plugins on a site.

But we do have a word of advice.

Try and stick to the official, supported add-ons.

Or at least add-ons known for the great support.

If you search for “Learndash” on the plugin marketplace in WordPress, you’ll come up with a lot of free tools that promise a lot.

From great, free blocks to analytics integrations.

But for this Learndash review, we didn’t try any of them.

Neither should you, because it may lead to compatibility issues.

All in all, Learndash won’t help you sell all that much.

It just takes care of the basics.

And you’ve got WordPress to figure out the rest.

So is Learndash still worth its price?

Pricing

It may be, for a lot of users.

Learndash’s pricing scheme is not very complicated. Regardless of what you pay for, you get unlimited students, content protection, a drip feature, certificates, email notifications and the core functionalities of an LMS that let you create and manage courses.

Learndash Pricing

But there are differences.

For the Basic plan, which usually costs $199/year, you only get 1 Site license.

If you’re running multiple online businesses, Learndash may not be the right choice. Other than that, there is only one difference between the Basic plan and the other plans.

For the Plus package, you’ll get access to the ProPanel, which is an advanced analytics tool that shows real-time reports on how your students are doing.

If you’re willing to pay $229/year, you’ll get that and up to 10 site licenses, which means that you’re no longer limited if you have multiple online platforms.

Lastly, the Pro Package is a bit more pricey, jumping to $369/year.

And the only added benefit is support for up to 25 sites.

So should you go for it?

Well, if you like Learndash, definitely give it a shot. Remember that the amounts you pay are yearly costs, so when you run that against most other LMSs, you’re getting a good monthly deal.

But should you upgrade to a more expensive plan?

In short, only if you need licenses for more sites. Other than that, while the Pro Panel is a good tool, you can manage without it.

Now for the disadvantages – Learndash doesn’t have a free trial or a free plan.

And it’s not because of the platform. Renown paid plugins, like the Elementor visual builder, for example, have a free version.

Even if they wanted to do a free trial, they’d just have to deactivate your license after a few days.

This means that you can’t try Learndash and see if it’ll work for your business without any commitment.

But they do have a money-back guarantee, so you can give Learndash a shot that way. You will get your money back in 30 days, no questions asked.

Chances are, if you’re experienced with WordPress and you need a learning management system, Learndash will be worth the price.

Even if that’s not the case, considering the features Learndash offers to its users, the course building options and how easily you can get accustomed to the LMS, it’s got fair pricing.

Support

Getting started with Learndash is easy, thanks to the Bootcamp, initial checklist and helpful guides.

Their knowledge base is well organized and you can quickly navigate it, or search for a specific problem in the search bar.

Learndash Knowledge Base

The guides themselves are well written, helpful and most have videos to support the points made.

Learndash Knowledge Base Guide

Besides these official options, the Learndash blog and the Bootcamp try to help you with general course-related stuff, such as customer service and marketing strategies to sell your online courses.

While it’s great that they took that into account, they don’t feature the best resources out there, so you’d be better off following someone like Amy Porterfield to find out how to sell your online courses.

If you run into some technical issues and you need to get in touch with someone from Learndash, you’ll need to sign in on their website.

Just remember that your auto-generated password is in the welcome emails.

Once you’re in, you can either send them an email or fill out a questionnaire.

Learndash Contact Form

While that’s not very bothersome, it’s a bummer that you have no live support.

You don’t have a hotline, you don’t have a chat.

Some people can do without that.

But it may be tough to coordinate over email if your course just won’t upload.

Conclusion

Learndash is a webmaster’s learning management system.

If you need a user-friendly interface, a seamless design and easy to customize frontend, you may be better off trying something else.

But just remember that you’ll be digging deeper into your pocket for other learning management systems.

The Learndash course builder is inexpensive, even if you have to pay for a whole year before ever trying the software.

And it’s a flexible tool in terms of course building and student management.

We’d like more officially supported add-ons.

But if you have experience using WordPress and with any LMS plugins, you’ll find Learndash will help.

Do you agree with our Learndash review? Did you have a different experience with the Learndash course builder?

Let us know below!

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