LMS Plugin, Membership Plugin, or Both?

When people look into creating an online course using WordPress they often find themselves trying to decide between a variety of solutions.

Perhaps you are currently in this situation.

Assuming you are going to self-host your WordPress site, you will ultimately face the following decision:

  1. Use a WordPress LMS like LearnDash
  2. Use a membership plugin
  3. Use both

The answer to this question really depends on the specifics of your project, so unfortunately I cannot give you a hard-set rule as to when to use each. However, let’s explore some common scenarios.

Using an LMS Plugin (Only)

If you’re just starting your investigation into solutions, you might be surprised to know that you actually don’t need a membership plugin with solutions like LearnDash. Our LMS will protect your content without the need of a membership plugin.

For example, if you are selling three different courses, each course has its own protection rules. Only people who are registered for the course (either by purchasing or self-enrollment) can view the content.

An added bonus is that someone can have access to multiple courses at once (essentially, multiple “membership” levels), which isn’t always as easy to accomplish with a traditional membership plugin.

You can take this one step further by using a shopping cart to sell your courses. Using LearnDash, a shopping cart product can be associated with many courses which allows you to create various bundles.

People who choose the LMS only approach appreciate the streamlined process for creating their course offering. It also cuts back on having to learn another solution.

Using a Membership Plugin (Only)

There are some situations when using an LMS plugin isn’t necessary.

If your project just requires that you protect a couple pages, posts, or a assets on your WordPress site, then a membership plugin like PaidMembershipsPro is all you really need. Using a learning management plugin in this case would be overkill.

Another possible scenario is if you don’t require a structured course offering.

One example would be if you have a site that includes a community forum and perhaps some valuable downloads for the members. In this case, you don’t need an LMS because there isn’t a need for course enrollment and tracking.

Using Both

Sometimes there are advantages to using both solutions.

If you want to have additional metrics on your members, then using a membership plugin is a nice value-add. Many membership platforms come with their own reporting capabilities. Used in conjunction with an LMS like LearnDash, this gives you more insight into your users.

One common scenario for using both is if you have a membership site already and just want to add some course capabilities in a more formal, organized fashion. Inserting an LMS plugin makes it easy to add value to your membership site by creating courses for your members to take.

In Conclusion

This is a rather high-level overview of when to use a learning management system versus a membership plugin.

In some cases we tell people to use LearnDash only, and other times we encourage them to use both. There are also pre-sales situations where we advise people to use just a membership plugin. Again, the right solution for you varies on your project’s needs and goals.

If you are interested to know which is best for you, do not hesitate to write us with details about your project.


About the Author:

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by the world's leading organizations, such as the University of Michigan, Digital Marketer, WPEngine, and Infusionsoft. Justin has made a career as an elearning consultant where he has implemented large-scale training programs for Fortune 500 companies. Twitter | LinkedIn

    • Hi Sönke-
      Thanks for the comment. I suppose we would need a bit more context. By default, any lesson/topic/quiz URL associated with your course is going to be access protected. If you send us a note with more details I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for it and provide a more pointed response relevant to what you had in mind.

  1. Dave

    Does Learndash integrate with Infusionsoft and wishlist? I am already using these two platforms for our business so changing is not an option. I would very much like to see and IS integration for the e-mail automation and tagging functionality.

    • Hi Dave-
      Yes and yes. Infusionsoft integrations can be found with the Memberium extension as well as Zapier. Wishlist Member can protect custom post types which means it can be used to protect LearnDash content. Just activate protection under “SETTINGS > CUSTOM POST TYPES” in WLM.

  2. Francis

    Great tnx that was just what I needed. Just one question. How can I add a Learndash page to the WLM level. Or do I have to make a normal startpage and add a course to that startpage. I hope you know what I am saying.

  3. I’ve been a user of DAP (Digital Access Pass) for over 5 years and know how it works very well. However, I just purchased LearnDash and I’m curious as to why there are no comments about DAP. Can I use or integrate DAP with LearnDash successfully? I also have DAP working successfully with Infusionsoft. So will they both work or play well with LearnDash.

    • Hi Voss-
      I believe there are DAP users also using LearnDash. DAP can protect custom post types and therefore can protect LearnDash content. The DAP support team will be able to speak to any additional integration that may exist.

  4. Hi Justin, thanks for your article. I’m still a little confused about my options with LearnDash. I can see how LearnDash can help me to track members’ experiences, drip content to them and deliver emails that are responsive to where they’re at in my program. So that’s all good.

    I also want to to offer folks who complete my program the next offering in my product suite. So it seems LearnDash might help me with that.

    How would a product like Memberium add to this mix? I’m not quite sure I understand how it would fit in.

    Currently I’m using Wishlist and am looking at other options that provides what LearnDash does.

    Thanks for your help!

  5. hello, are videos on both membership pro or learndash completely safe when self hosted or one needs to buy additional hosting services from amazon, vimeo pro or wistia?

  6. Hi Justin, not being the most technically minded person, how does Learndash work with a website. If I have a section on my website that sells my programmes, once someone has purchased one of them, does a link simply take them through to the course? If my website isn’t WordPress compatible, is it still possible to use Learndash?
    Thank you.

  7. Grace

    Hi Justin,
    1) Will LearnDash be compatible with SamCart in the near future?
    2) Does LearnDash have a Zapier app?
    Thanks in advance.

  8. airbetty

    I know you have an addon to integrate WooCommerce with LearnDash, but will it work with the Membership component of WooCommerce, as well?

  9. Jack Gordon

    Is there a way to create an additional layer of user in between us and the student? We currently use Moodle with amember pro and WordPress.. Our clients are companies that typically buy multiple courses, then assign those courses to their employees. In addition to purchasing and assigning courses, they can review their employees’ exams and earned certificates. Is all of this functionality something that can be replicated on LearnDash?

  10. Hi Justin,

    I have installed S2 member and have changed the course to closed and put a custom page with a membership purchase button. After the customer goes through the transaction, they are not added to the course. How do I get them added to the course when they buy the membership?

  11. I would like to have the option like Digital Marketer Labs. Where I can sell individual access to trainings, and I can also give access to all my trainings if they are in my monthly subscription.

    Is this possible with only LearnDash?

    Thanks you

  12. Adrian

    Hi. I have integrated course access with Learndash to set up a membership (Register) page. I was wondering if there was a sign up form for Course Access. I didn’t see when I tested. There was just a simple log in page but not a register form so that a person can enter their details to log in. Thanks


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