Do you want to build and sell online courses but feel a little lost when it comes to picking a learning management system (LMS)? Learning management systems are used all around the world to create online courses for all sorts of industries. They help you create engaging course content, manage student enrollment and attendance, and offer secure payment options.
Picking the right LMS can make or break the success of your project! Choose the right one, and you will be rewarded with a steady stream of happy students. Go for the wrong one, and you may have to start over, switch systems, or invest in more plugins to get the functionality you need.
There are several LMS platforms out there that will do the work you require – but how can you find the one that is perfect for your topic and business model? In this article, we will show you what you should consider when choosing a great tool and share our top seven tips for selecting the perfect learning management system for your online courses.
What are the Main Factors to Consider When Choosing an LMS?
One of the first things to keep in mind when looking at LMS options is the fact that some of them are WordPress plugins that make it possible for you to set up courses on your website, while others are external platforms that host your courses for a monthly fee. If you have experience with WordPress, then you’ll find it quite easy to build an LMS site on the platform.
Each learning management system will vary slightly in terms of what it offers, how straightforward it is to install and use (especially for beginners), and its different support options. Another thing to consider when choosing an LMS platform is the time and effort you plan on putting into the creation, set-up, and distribution of your course. It’s always a good idea to map out the resources you have and how you intend to use your LMS to generate and sell your content.
Before we start booking into specific LMS platforms, let’s take a quick look at what type of functionality you should look for in a good system. We recommend you mainly focus on the following:
- Ease of use: If you’re new to creating online courses using an LMS, it’s always best to pick a solution that doesn’t have a steep learning curve – so you can spend less time on onboarding and more actually working on your content.
- Interactive elements: The best LMS software helps you create and edit courses, and fill them with interactive components, such as multimedia lessons, quizzes, and certificates.
- Content drip and scheduling: You probably also want your LMS to support customizable content drip, so you can feed the course content to your learners when and how you want.
- Grading and feedback: A good LMS will also include features to grade and provide feedback to your attendees. You will also want to look into tools for instructor-student communication, so you provide a more personalized feel for your course.
- Selling: Some LMSs also include ways to sell your courses directly to customers and support multiple secure payment gateways.
Our 7 Tips for Selecting an LMS
We have gone through the main functionality that we consider desirable in a learning management system. You might not need all of these features, but keeping them in mind will help you compare the different LMS products available. Now, let’s look at some tips to create and sell the best online courses.
1. Define your Goals for the Course
The first thing you should ask yourself is: what do you want to achieve with this course? For example, do you want to replace your income or supplement it? Are you looking to share your knowledge and skills for free, perhaps to generate leads for another product? Or do you want to create a space for other course creators to share their expertise?
Whatever the case, knowing your goals will help you choose an LMS that has the functionalities you need. And, an important decision: Whether you want to host your courses on your website or use an external platform.
For instance, if you’re familiar with WordPress, you could use an LMS plugin like Sensei LMS, which allows you to offer free or paid online courses and add them to your existing site (on which you may already be selling products). You don’t get to do this on a platform like Teachable, which hosts your courses on its own system. While existing third-party eLearning platforms are accessible and easy to use, your users will never get to see your other site pages or products.
Some other important questions to consider when defining your goals include:
- Type of content: Do you want to include video, text, audio, or photo content in your lessons? If so, you’ll need an LMS that supports multimedia. Sensei, for example, has really tight video integration with VideoPress so that you can upload high-quality videos that are only accessible to your learners.
- Audience size: Some LMS options, like Teachable, charge a transaction fee per student depending on your monthly membership – which means that the more successful your course, the more you will have to pay, too!
This is another reason why using WordPress and Sensei is preferable. Because you are hosting your own courses, you can have unlimited students and won’t have to pay any transaction fees for growing your audience.
A plugin like Sensei also allows you to offer your students a wide variety of payment gateways. Sensei Pro integrates with numerous payment methods and with WooCommerce and its extensions, such as WooCommerce Payments. If you use a third-party platform, you will be restricted to their supported payment methods alone.
2. Understand the LMS Features you Need
The second tip we want to share about creating an outstanding online course is to plan your functionalities carefully. What are your must-haves and your nice-to-have features? One way to sketch them is to use a platform like Miro, which is perfect for turning your ideas into workable plans.
With Miro, you can map out the student journey from start to finish, and figure out what features are essential for your LMS of choice.
Think about how students will sign up and pay for your lessons, and then add steps like when and how they will be notified of their course starting and what their experience will be like eLearning with you. As you’re conducting this exercise, list the must-have features you will require to create that experience. Here are some examples:
- The ability to host on your website, as opposed to uploading to a platform that will host (but also own) your content.
- Mobile-responsive design for students to access course content on mobile devices, and easy and cost-effective scalability to grow your course as you grow your audience.
- A detailed dashboard for admins to control every aspect of your LMS provider, including student management, so you can keep track of enrollment rates, active users, performance, dropout rates, and more.
- A course expiration feature to keep students on a timeline and the ability to content-drip or schedule lessons.
- The option to give group assignments and have students work with and interact with each other.
- If you’re going to host courses on your site via WordPress, you’ll need to decide how much control you want over your design. This will let you know if you need a WordPress theme that enables Full Site Editing, and an LMS that is compatible with this feature.
3. Set a Vision for the Future of your Courses
If your online course is successful, you might find you need to scale your business as it grows. Your active users could be few in the beginning, so it can be tempting to just choose a low-cost LMS solution that charges transaction fees per student, like Teachable. However, this can become very expensive down the line if you start to get hundreds of students.
This is another reason why using an LMS plugin for WordPress may be the better option, as it makes it much easier to scale your course without having to pay additional fees. And because all Sensei pricing plans offer users unlimited students and courses, you can continue to grow your sites for years, and without needing to upgrade.
Another important consideration is whether you think you might, at some point in the future, want to migrate your courses to another site. For example, if you realize your current site is not powerful enough or you enter an agreement with another site to host your courses there. It’s essential to think about these long-term possibilities to ensure you pick a solution that allows for data portability.
Using WordPress and a plugin like Sensei is the best approach to this because you can easily export your course content and import it to another WordPress site without the risk of losing any of your materials or students.
4. Take into Account your Background and Skills
If you’re not very tech-savvy and your goal is to start fast and learn how to create courses quickly, you might consider using an external course platform as this is technically the quickest and easiest way to get started. You just need to upload your content and the platform will do the rest.
However, if you’ve worked with WordPress before, you’ll know that the learning curve is not that steep! Most WordPress themes have lots of templates you can use to build your site quickly and easily. A good LMS plugin will be compatible with your WordPress theme, so you can quickly build courses using your theme templates. With just a little bit more effort, you get much more flexibility and control over your course content.
Whether you’re an experienced WordPress user or a beginner, the easiest LMS plugin to use is Sensei LMS, as it uses the Gutenberg block editor to create courses!
5. Remember that a Good Student Learning Experience is Essential
While you’re probably looking for an LMS that can help you achieve your personal and business goals, your customers should still be at the center of your course design project. After all, they are the ones who will be following your lessons and enjoying those features that can make your courses unique. So, as you look for functionalities that can help you generate leads and retain students, keep in mind that if you’re not providing a good user experience, none of these things are likely to happen.
If you want to keep your students happy, you will need features like the following:
- Advanced quizzes for which you can set manual and automatic grading.
- A good course backend that students can use to see their progress and the ability to complement online learning with cloud-based education and authoring.
- Efficient options for student-instructor communication and great technical support and customer support.
- Gamification online training, different content formats, the ability to automate certain common processes, and other learning features.
- An attractive design and user experience architecture for your webinars or courses.
6. Select your Top Two or Three LMS options
Now that you’ve defined what you want and what your students need, it’s time to go through the best LMS services and shortlist the ones that most fit your list of features. In order to make it easy to compare them, you could write a pros and cons list.
Getting feedback from your followers is also an excellent idea when doing this. If you already have an audience that likes your services or products, you can talk to them and ask them which features they would prioritize when choosing an online course. This can help you decide on the best platform and also plan how you will deliver your content.
7. Try an LMS Demo
There’s only so much planning you can do using a list of features and a little feedback. That’s why, if the LMS tools you like the most allow it, you should always try a demo to see how the platform feels first-hand. By testing different ones, you can quickly figure out which features best apply to your circumstances and business goals.
Most tools we have covered in this article will offer some sort of demo or trial, but if you want to see all the things you can do with your own LMS plugin, you should definitely try the Sensei demo course.
Why Users Choose Sensei as Their WordPress LMS
Although LMS platforms have become fairly popular in the last few years, when it comes to offering online courses, many creators favor WordPress. The reason is that a plugin can be more cost-effective than a hosted platform and give them extensive control over their courses.
Although it might take some more time to set up your site and design it exactly the way you want, the payoff is greater as not only will you own all your course content but also pay fewer fees in the long run!
If you’re looking for an LMS plugin that offers advanced functionality but is also easy to use, Sensei LMS is a great option for course creators that want to take full advantage of WordPress. Solopreneurs, educators, training instructors, and many other creators use Sensei to share their knowledge with their communities.
Here’s why Sensei is the ideal tool for WordPress users looking for an LMS solution:
- You can easily create courses using the familiar Gutenberg block editor.
- You have all the features you need to create great courses, from Sensei Blocks to multimedia attachments. The plugin’s quiz options are also widely customizable and you get manual and automatic grading right out of the box.
- You can establish groups and cohorts to simulate a more academic experience.
- You can distribute drip-feed content to your students so they can learn and progress at a steady pace and set course access periods to ensure they get through the material before they expire.
- Sensei Pro, Sensei’s premium plan, integrates with WooCommerce so you can sell your courses and accept multiple payment options easily.