Chris Badgett from Lifter LMS

In this post, Chris Badgett from Lifter LMS shares when to choose a LMS and when to choose a membership plugin.

Thanks, Chris, for this great contribution to our learning series!


The top 2 factors that make a learning management system (LMS) solution a better fit for a website project than a membership plugin are progress tracking and detailed learner reporting.

The confusion arises because people sometines use these terms interchangebly:

  • Online course
  • LMS
  • Membership site

They are, however, not the same. To help clarify, here’s how I would define the differences:

Online Course – Structured lesson content designed around a specific learning objective. Quizzes and assignments may accompany the content to reinforce and test learning retention.

Learning Management System (LMS) – A web platform that allows people to deploy and track online training initiatives.

Membership Site – A website that allows for the creation of user accounts that can be used to create content on the site and/or access certain pieces of content or parts of a website.

When Should You Use a LMS Plugin?

A LMS plugin should be used if the goal for website visitors is to enroll them in some kind of online course or training program.

Here are sone classic example use cases for using a LMS plugin:

  • Online course
  • Online school
  • Company internal training portal

Check out these case studies to see implementations of the various WordPress LMS use cases.

When Should You Use a Membership Plugin?

A membership plugin is a perfect fit when you just need to control access to something on your website that requires a user to become a member and possibly pay for that membership.

Here are some classic example use cases for using a membership plugin:

  • Associations websites
  • Directories
  • Members-only file sharing

What is the Best Free WordPress LMS Plugin?

LifterLMS is a feature rich WordPress LMS plugin with a very powerful free option.

LifterLMS is an all-in-one learning management system solution for WordPress that combines the necessary features for learning sites across LMS, ecommerce, membership, and engagement.

What is the Best Free Membership Plugin?

There are several high quality free membership plugins on the WordPress plugin repository.

If your membership site has no need for courses and other learning initiatives requiring user progress tracking with detailed reporting, check out these free membership plugins:

Getting Started with a WordPress LMS Website

The best way to get started with a WordPress LMS plugin is to download a free LMS plugin or test out the free core and paid add-ons on a trial demo site.

Also LifterLMS has a very active Facebook group of online learning website builders and entrepreneurs that you can join here.

In addition here is a list of WordPress LMS Experts, if you’d prefer to hire out a freelancer or agency to build out the website for you. If you yourself are a WordPress LMS website building professional, you can apply to join the experts program here so you can get more clients who need these services.

If you’re in research mode and need help deciding which plugin will be the best fit for your project, check out the WordPress LMS Buyer’s Guide.

Also be sure to select a professional managed WordPress host like Sentree for your project as LMS websites are dynamic and will require solid WordPress hosting with adequate power and quality support … primarily because the website is the business; not just a marketing site for a business.


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