LearnDash vs. LifterLMS vs. Sensei LMS: which is best for your online course website? (2023)

Updated on December 7, 2022

Are you having difficulty choosing between LearnDash or LifterLMS to build your eLearning website? If you are still weighing the pros and cons of LearnDash vs. LifterLMS or considering a completely different alternative, keep reading!

An online learning class being conducted

Both LearnDash and LifterLMS offer dozens of features for building eLearning sites on WordPress, but there’s another alternative to consider: Sensei LMS. This LMS plugin lets you create beautiful eLearning courses in WordPress using the Gutenberg block editor, unlike the other two which have a different interface you’ll need to get used to. 

In this article, we’ll compare LearnDash vs LifterLMS vs Sensei LMS in depth to help you make an educated decision about which plugin is best for your needs, and consider how each LMS helps you create, deliver, and sell online courses. We’ll also determine which one offers the best value. 

About LearnDash: A quick overview

The LearnDash landing page

LearnDash promises to be “The most powerful learning management system for WordPress.” It is very flexible and works with any modern theme without requiring any custom coding. It works really well with WordPress site page builders like Elementor, BeaverBuilder, and Divi This gives you lots of flexibility to design your eLearning site, and you can even customize LearnDash’s templates according to your brand colors. 

About LifterLMS: A quick overview

The LifterLMS landing page

LifterLMS promises to be “The most flexible WordPress LMS for your online learning website.” It works with most WordPress themes and popular page builders, including Elementor, Divi, and others. It’s also compatible with WordPress blocks.

About Sensei LMS: A quick overview

The Sensei LMS landing page

Sensei LMS is a powerful and user-friendly WordPress LMS plugin that lets you build an eLearning site. It was created by Automattic, the same team behind WordPress.com and Jetpack, so you can rest assured that the creators of this plugin know the WordPress ecosystem like no one else.

You can use Sensei to offer free courses on your WordPress site, and if you want to sell your courses, you can upgrade to Sensei Pro, which integrates seamlessly with WooCommerce and all of its extensions. Sensei works with all WordPress themes and page builders. 

Building courses

LearnDash comes with a Course Builder Tool that is very intuitive and easy to use. You can use this feature to add course content to a lesson, add a lesson to a section, or add a section to a course through a simple drag-and-drop course builder. There’s no real learning curve involved.

The LearnDash Course Builder tool

LearnDash also lets you add “topics” to your courses, which you might want to use to create a course hierarchy.

The easy-to-use drag-and-drop course builder is comparable to  LifterLMS’s Course Builder. Like with LearnDash, you can quickly create lessons and sections through drag-and-drop editors that can help you structure your online learning courses. 

The drag and drop course builder by Lifter LMS

Most course creators will find creating an online course with Sensei LMS very easy, especially if you have some experience with your own WordPress website. Sensei LMS works with WordPress’ Gutenberg block editor, so creating a course is similar to creating a blog post or any other kind of page. Simply navigate to your WordPress Dashboard, and click Courses > Add New. You can start immediately by naming your course, adding a featured image, and then adding modules and lessons. 

Building a course with Sensei LMS

Sensei has an outlining feature that automatically creates drafts for all of your lessons, including the outline. If you want to create your course outline using this functionality, just insert the Course Outline block into your page. This lets you add modules or lessons to your course. If you choose the “Create a lesson” option and name your lesson “Lesson 1,” and then add a second lesson, “Lesson 2,” Sensei will automatically create two placeholder drafts for your lessons inside your editor.

Creating course and lesson content

When it comes to creating course content on LearnDash or LifterLMS, the experience is pretty comparable. Both come with tools that enable interactive content, including the ability to add quizzes. 

The LearnDash questions feature

LearnDash quizzes let you ask your learners several types of questions, including single choice, multiple choice, free choice, sorting choice, matrix sorting choice, fill-in-the-blank, assessment (survey), and essay (open answer). We find that adding quizzes and points for evaluation is fairly intuitive and easy. 

LifterLMS also gives you the option to quiz your students using various question types. The free plugin is more limited, however, but you can unlock more question types with the Advanced Quizzes add-on. 

While there aren’t many differences between LearnDash vs. LifterLMS in this regard, Sensei LMS has several other tools that you can use to add engaging media to your lessons, and the main feature here is Sensei Blocks. These highly interactive blocks can be used in any WordPress post, page, lesson, or course.

Sensei Blocks

These are the Blocks that you can use to optimize the learning experience for your students:

  • Image Hotspot Block: The Image Hotspot Block lets you add blocks to images. This is a great way to create more learning opportunities through your images by adding descriptive text, links to helpful videos, audio samples, or anything that may supplement your content. 
Image Hotspots in Sensei LMS
The Interactive Video feature by Sensei LMS
  • Tasklist Block: The Tasklist block lets learners check items off the list as they go. You can require students to tick everything off a task list before they can move on to the next course, which helps them structure their learning.
  • Quiz Block: Add questions to any page, lesson, or post and show customized feedback based on the answers received from students. 
A sample quiz being created in Sensei LMS
  • Flashcard Block: These are not traditional flashcards! You can add text, videos, images, and other embeds to the other side of a flashcard to keep students engaged.  

Where can Sensei Blocks be used?

Anywhere on your site!

Content delivery

All three solutions support content dripping, which comes in handy when you are selling subscriptions to your online learning site and don’t want students to unlock the entire course immediately. 

The LearnDash drip settings dashboard

LearnDash’s content drip feature lets you deliver your course content automatically according to a predefined schedule. You can notify students via email whenever new course content becomes available.

LifterLMS drip settings

LifterLMS’s content drip feature works in a similar way, so you can make your lessons available gradually over time. 

Sensei LMS also lets you deliver your course lesson by lesson. For example, you may want to post new lessons every Wednesday or on predefined dates. You can choose when lessons become available to your learners through Sensei LMS’s Schedule and Drip Content features

Sensei's Content Drip feature

You can use this functionality to release lessons to learners as soon as the course is started, on a specific date, or at special intervals after the course start date. 

At other times, you may decide not to unlock specific lessons until a student completes a previous important lesson. This is where Sensei LMS’s Lesson Prerequisites feature comes in. If you want learners to first complete another lesson before taking on the next, you can just set a Prerequisite that will prevent them from moving on without completing the required lesson. If learners try to view a lesson without completing the prerequisite lesson, they’ll receive a short message instructing them to go back and complete the requirements first. 

Most course creators don’t want to give learners indefinite access to courses either, so you can use Sensei LMS’s course expiration feature to revoke access to course content after a certain period of time has elapsed or on a set date. 

Selling your courses

LearnDash gives you several options for monetizing your courses. You can use PayPal, Stripe, 2Checkout, and Razorpay to sell your course for a simple one-time fee. You also have the option of unlocking even more payment gateways via third-party add-ons.

LearnDash gives you the option to charge recurring payments, charge subscriptions, and set your own payment schedule. You can create course bundles to sell to increase your revenue, provide learners with the option of buying licenses in bulk and granting employees access to courses as required, or create memberships with access to multiple courses instead of selling individual courses. 

LifterLMS also comes with multiple payment options. You can charge one-time payments via PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.net, get recurring revenue by selling subscriptions, create and sell bundles, or use their powerful voucher system to sell courses in bulk to businesses or institutions. You can also create a members-only eLearning site using LifterLMS. 

Sensei LMS has excellent course selling features through its seamless integration with WooCommerce, a leading eCommerce plugin. Sensei Pro integrates with WooCommerce Payments, which brings all the popular payment gateways and methods to your eLearning website.

Assignments, grading, and certification features

With LearnDash, you can require your students to submit assignments before they can continue to the next lesson. LearnDash lets you approve, comment, and award points on submitted assignments, but you can also make use of manual grading via the premium Gradebook add-on (that has to be purchased separately). You can award official certificates based on quiz performance, course completion, or both. 

LifterLMS gives you similar assignment features with its paid assignments add-on, which is part of its Infinity plan (which we’ll cover shortly). Manual grading is available through the Infinity plan, and certification is available on all plans. 

Sensei LMS offers both manual and automatic grading. You can set various question types using the Quizzes feature, along with different media options in each quiz, including images and videos. You can choose to grade questions in different ways, e.g., by assigning higher grades for harder questions. You can also add custom answer feedback for auto-graded questions, so learners will have more insight into why their answer was right or wrong. You can award certificates of completion to students who complete their courses as well. 

Pricing and value

Now that we have looked at the many different features of each product, it’s time to look at pricing.

LearnDash’s pricing is very straightforward. You can unlock the entire plugin and all of its core functionality for a simple annual fee of $199. This includes many of the features we’ve discussed, including advanced quizzes. Depending on your needs, you may want to consider buying a few of its premium add-ons, but the $199 should suffice for most course creators. 

LifterLMS can be downloaded for free from the WordPress.org repository, but you’ll only be able to create a very basic eLearning site this way. If you want advanced features then there are different pricing tiers that can get quite expensive. The next tier up is the Earth Bundle, which sells for $180 per year. This gives you the ability to charge learners via Stripe, PayPal, and Authorize.net (which will give you access to additional payment gateways). This version will also unlock the WooCommerce addon, so you can set up your courses on an eCommerce-style website. 

The free version of the plugin allows manual payments, so technically, you can use it to sell courses, but that doesn’t work for all eLearning sites. 

The Earth Bundle is still pretty basic, so if you want to add features like Advanced Quizzes, you either need to purchase the addon separately (at $240 per year) or buy the Infinity Bundle. This is pricey at $1200 per year but unlocks all of LifterLMS for you. 

If you are considering Sensei, you’ll probably want to purchase Sensei Pro. Sensei Pro gives you access to all of the plugin’s premium features, including Sensei Blocks and WooCommerce integration, and gives you the ability to build unlimited courses on a single site. 

Sensei Pro is available for just $149 per year, making it the best value out of all the plugins we’ve discussed here. 

Get Started with Our Winning LMS: Sensei!

LearnDash and LifterLMS are popular choices for creating and selling online courses on your WordPress website. But if you want the most value for money, consider Sensei LMS. It has extremely powerful and engaging content features, along with full integration with both WordPress and WooCommerce. 

To access all of Sensei LMS’s premium features and to sell your courses using WooCommerce, buy the highly-rated Sensei Pro plan. You can create courses and get started right away!


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