Are you looking to create an online course or eLearning website using WordPress? One of the first decisions you’ll have to make is choosing a WordPress theme.
There are thousands of WordPress themes available, including Learning Management System (LMS) themes that are designed specifically for online course creators and educators. Your theme will be the basis of your website, so it’s important to get it right.
The good news is that you don’t have to spend money on a great theme, as plenty of free LMS themes are just as good as premium themes. In fact, we maintain that you can build a fantastic learning environment on your website with a free theme and a premium LMS plugin, which is the tool you’ll need to build your courses. Sticking to free themes means you can try out lots of different themes to see which one works best for your brand. However, you will want to make a decision before you launch.
Still, with so many options, choosing the right LMS theme can be daunting. In this article, we help you out by narrowing the choice down to the top 5 free LMS WordPress themes for your website.
What to Look for in an LMS WordPress Theme
Can you get by with any WordPress theme? The short answer is no, not really!
While all good WordPress themes will be fairly customizable, and you’ll be able to tweak things like colors, fonts, page templates, and so on, it’s worth bearing in mind that WordPress themes designed for a particular use case (in this case, Learning Management Systems) will be optimized to provide really specific page layouts (such as course pages or landing pages) that you can easily load into the backend and work with without any fuss. A WordPress theme is also built to have particular functionalities as well as compatibility with specific plugins which you may need for your particular set-up.
With that in mind, let’s see what you should look for in an education WordPress theme!
LMS WordPress themes are usually designed to integrate with LMS plugins. An LMS plugin gives you the tools and functionality to create and host online courses directly on your WordPress website. Examples of Learning Management System plugins include Sensei LMS, LearnDash, LifterLMS, LearnPress, Tutor LMS, and so on, but the one we recommend is Sensei as it has seamless integration with WordPress so you can create courses directly in Gutenberg, as well as WooCommerce, so you have a lot of flexibility when it comes to setting up pricing. For more information, discover the full breadth of features available with the Sensei Pro plan.
Your WordPress theme might be compatible with all LMS plugins, or it might be built to specifically work with one. We recommend researching which LMS plugin you want to use first and then making sure that any theme you’re interested in is compatible with it.
Some themes have built-in LMS functionality, negating the need for an LMS plugin in theory. They will include their own features for quizzes, assessments, grading systems, course outlines, and more. However, these are often slightly more limited compared to a dedicated plugin and will typically be quite expensive.
Your theme should be fully responsive, meaning it looks great on all devices and adjusts the layouts of your pages to different screen sizes, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. This is important because many students will access your online courses on mobile devices.
A responsive design also helps organize your content in a user-friendly and easy-to-navigate format, which makes it easier for students to find what they are looking for regardless of their device.
Course-Specific Templates and Layouts
A good LMS WordPress theme will include layouts that make it as easy as possible to create a seamless learning experience for your students. You’ll want layouts for course listings, lesson pages, dedicated landing pages for your courses, and so on.
Whether you only plan to have a few courses on your website or if your aim is to create a Udemy-like site that hosts thousands of courses, having the right page templates at hand will make the process much faster.
You should also be able to customize your page designs and layouts should you need to. For this purpose, you’ll ideally want an LMS theme that has full site editing capability. If your theme lacks this, you can also consider adding the Elementor page builder or a similar plugin, which lets you use a drag-and-drop editing tool for quick and code-free results. However, your theme will need to be compatible with that page builder. If you’re building your site on WordPress.com, you’ll have access to the WordPress Customizer, a default feature with every WordPress.com theme, which does a great job at letting you manage site titles, taglines, widgets, footer, menu, and more.
If you plan to sell courses or other products related to your courses, you’ll need eCommerce functionality. Most themes integrate with WooCommerce, the largest eCommerce plugin in the WordPress ecosystem, so this is not really a problem. Some LMS plugins, like Sensei, integrate with WooCommerce, while others will have their own payment gateways included.
Make it a priority to select an LMS WP theme that has good support from its developers. This will ensure you can get help if you run into any problems while installing it or using it on your site.
Top 5 LMS WordPress Themes
Let’s look at the top 5 free LMS WordPress themes that are available right now for WordPress users. We’ve chosen themes that are specifically designed for online educators, along with a couple of other multipurpose options that have importable online learning templates included.
It is worth noting as well that large educational institutions also use some of the WordPress themes described below to optimize the eLearning experience and engagement for their learners. So whether you have only a handful of online courses or you want to set up a full-time business with your online education website, these solutions are ideal for any LMS website.
Course is a free LMS WordPress theme designed by the same team that built Sensei LMS. Although you can use Course without Sensei, we recommend pairing these two tools together as you will be able to create the best student learning experience this way. Sensei always comes out on top when we compare it to other LMS platforms, and Course is designed to bring out the best of Sensei’s functionality for creating and managing courses.
Course is a block theme, which means it comes pre-loaded with various patterns that you can use to build lesson pages, course landing pages, home pages, or any other type of content on your such. You have block patterns available for buttons, headers, footers, galleries, text, columns, and so on. You also get a couple of Sensei LMS-specific patterns: the Mailing List and Testimonial patterns. Course is also a Full Site Editing theme, which also means you can make changes on the front end of your website without the need for a page builder plugin.
There are four main style variations to choose from, but these are just a starting point, as you can select your own fonts and colors to create your own unique LMS website.
The Education Zone is a free and open-source theme that provides a range of customization options, including custom menus and custom widgets, to help you create a unique and professional-looking website. It is fully responsive and includes a customizable slider that allows you to showcase important information directly on the homepage, such as new course announcements.
Education Zone includes custom post types for courses, events, and testimonials, making it easy to organize and display your content. It also includes a range of custom page templates, such as a full-width page template, a contact page template, and a blog page template.
This theme is built for ease of use and rapid deployment and can integrate with most common LMS solutions. However, as it’s not built specifically for an LMS plugin, integration may not be optimal for all plugins.
Support is available for all users, but those who have bought the pro version will be given priority.
Astra is a lightweight and customizable WordPress theme, ideal for all types of websites. Astra is available for free, though there is also a Pro version available. This theme comes with over 240 starter templates, and many of these are a good fit for online educators and course creators. Some of these will be premium, but there are quite a few free templates, such as the LearnDash Academy Template, which is naturally built to be used with LearnDash. There are no other LMS-specific templates, which may be a con if you were hoping to use a theme built around another LMS plugin that you prefer, like Sensei.
Astra is a fast open-source theme that maximizes website performance by minimizing server requests. It integrates with various drag-and-drop page builders such as Gutenberg, Elementor, and Beaver Builder.
Zakra is a multipurpose WordPress theme that can be used for a variety of websites, including businesses, portfolios, blogs, and more. It comes with 80+ demos, including an EduSkill demo that can be directly imported into your website. This makes it a good candidate for LMS websites, though it won’t be as specialized for online education as a theme like Course is.
Zakra has a responsive design and is compatible with popular page builders such as Elementor, Beaver Builder, and Visual Composer, allowing you to easily create custom pages and layouts. It includes a drag-and-drop interface that allows you to customize the header and footer of your website.
LMS Education is a well-designed WordPress theme for online education institutions. By browsing the LMS Education demo site, you’ll see that you get plenty of layouts to showcase all your available courses, and you can also create landing pages for each course and include info about the curriculum and instructor. The theme comes with registration features, so your students can log in to access their learning materials and track their progress.
What’s the Best Free LMS Theme for WordPress Sites?
In this article, we looked at the top 5 free LMS themes for WordPress users. We haven’t included premium themes such as Masterstudy, Guru, and Eduma in our list for a specific reason – as an online course creator, you will need to invest in a powerful LMS plugin, and this is a better use of your budget than a WordPress theme. There are plenty of free WordPress themes that are powerful enough for any course creator, but to us, the one that stands out is Course. This is because:
- Course is compatible with Sensei LMS, the best WordPress LMS plugin. Sensei gives you all the functionality you need to create courses and integrates with WooCommerce so you can set up various pricing options for your courses. They’re both built by the same team, so you could expect the two tools to develop around each other’s features.
- Course comes with all the page layouts and block patterns you need to create compelling course content. These patterns also display Sensei’s features, such as Sensei Blocks, wonderfully.
- Course is a Full Site Editing theme, which makes it easy for you to edit your website on the front end.