WordPress LMS Plugin Comparison

Thrive Architect vs LearnDash VS LifterLMS VS Tutor LMS

Compare 4 of the top WordPress LMS plugins in 2023 and discover which is the best solution to build, protect and sell access to your online courses.

Explore and compare each LMS plugin against course creation, visual design, drip features, quizzes, completion certificates, integrations, pricing, support and more.

If you’re looking to offer online courses using WordPress, you’ll need a professional LMS plugin to help build, organize and manage access to your lessons. But with so many options available in 2023, which plugin should you choose? Use this guide to compare WordPress LMS plugins so you can make an informed choice for your online school.

We’re a bit biased of course, since we offer our own fantastic LMS plugin, but we’ve been fair and objective in our research and analysis – we believe every tool that helps you achieve your business goals is a great addition to the WordPress scene.

Which LMS plugins are we comparing? Let's meet them...

Thrive Apprentice
LearnDash
LifterLMS
Tutor LMS

Thrive Apprentice

VS

Other LMS Plugins

Course Creation Tools

LMS plugins are defined by their course creation and access restriction features. Let’s explore how each of these popular WordPress LMS plugins give you the ability to build and protect online courses and lessons to offer your students a professional learner-focused experience

01. School and Course Setup

  • Thrive Apprentice

  • LearnDash

  • LifterLMS

  • Tutor LMS

Thrive Apprentice

Thrive Apprentice includes a powerful School Setup Wizard that helps you quickly get started building an online course. It offers an easy-to-use dashboard for choosing your logo, brand colors, header, footer, lessons templates, sidebar and more.

This allows you to skip all the lengthy configuration that usually comes with setting up a new LMS plugin, safe in the knowledge your school and courses will look amazing. Of course, you can fully customize any part of your school setup later.

Building your first course is also easy... create a new course, give it a name, and start adding your lessons. You can optionally organize them into chapters and modules if you want, but it’s not essential if you have a short or very linear course syllabus.

Creating lessons is also easy... add a lesson title, choose the type of lesson (e.g. text, video, audio), add a short summary and an optional cover image. If you’re creating a video or audio lesson, you can quickly add your video or audio URL, such as YouTube, Vimeo, or Soundcloud, and Thrive Apprentice will do the rest of the work for you. Finally, it’s time to add your lesson text content and any additional learning resources your students might need.

Watch this quick video to help understand the process:

02. Access Restrictions

  • Thrive Apprentice

  • LearnDash

  • LifterLMS

  • Tutor LMS

Thrive Apprentice

Thrive Apprentice lets you control who can access your online courses (as well as other protected content... more on this soon) with flexible access rules based on a student’s status.

This means you can offer:

  • Free courses to general visitors
  • Free courses to logged in users
  • Premium courses to paying customers

And yes, you can offer free lessons within paid courses as a great way to generate sales.

If someone tries to access a course without the correct access permission, you can also choose what they see! For visitors without the correct permissions, you can:

  1. Display custom content for them
  2. Redirect them to a login or registration page
  3. Redirect them to a custom page (such as a sales page)
Even better, these access restrictions can be set at the school-level, or overridden with custom rules for each course if you need. This gives you total control over who can access your courses AND allows you to craft a compelling upsell experience to encourage new visitors to become registered users or paying customers

03. Lesson Formats & Learning Resources

  • Thrive Apprentice

  • LearnDash

  • LifterLMS

  • Tutor LMS

Thrive Apprentice

Out of the box, Thrive Apprentice offers 3 ready-to-go lesson formats: text, video and audio.

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t add video to text lessons, or text to audio lessons! You can add anything to your lessons.

The pre-set text, video and audio formats simply allow you to easily use Thrive Apprentice’s professionally designed lesson templates that are specifically built to showcase their respective formats. Lessons can include text, embedded videos, audio players, quizzes, images, tables, toggles, and anything else you want.

Each lesson in Thrive Apprentice can also feature optional Lesson Resources to help support your students’ learning goals. These can be downloadable files like PDFs, links to internal content, or links to external websites for further reading. Lesson Resources are easy to modify later without directly editing the lesson content, making them quick to maintain when older resources need updating.

04. Protecting Non-Course Content (Membership Features)

  • Thrive Apprentice

  • LearnDash

  • LifterLMS

  • Tutor LMS

Thrive Apprentice

Unlike most LMS plugins, Thrive Apprentice allows you to protect and grant access to both online courses AND any other content on your website. This includes blog posts, pages, category pages, guides, premium resources, or exclusive videos.

Better yet, you can bundle and sell access to online courses and content together, allowing you to build membership sites or hybrid online course and membership site businesses. This opens up HUGE possibilities for your online business growth and revenue.

 As with courses, you can offer members-only content to registered users for free, or to paying customers. With Thrive Apprentice, you don’t have to choose between online courses or memberships... you can mix and match both to create the perfect product for your audience.

Thrive Apprentice

VS

Other LMS Plugins

Visual Design & Customization

The best LMS plugins in 2023 understand that students demand a professional and visually enjoyable learning experience. Remember, your students are not just buying an online course, they’re investing financially and emotionally into the promise of real results... and your course needs to communicate this value with a professional brand and design.

So how do the top WordPress LMS plugins stack up in terms of design templates, customization and advanced features? Let’s find out...

01. Ready-Made Design Templates

  • Thrive Apprentice

  • LearnDash

  • LifterLMS

  • Tutor LMS

Thrive Apprentice

Thrive Apprentice comes with professionally designed templates for all the important pages of your online course:

  • School homepage
  • Course overview
  • Module overview
  • Lessons (text, video and audio)
  • Sidebars
  • Login and registration pages
  • Course completion page

Each of these templates are ready to use from the start – you can simply add your course content and you’ll already have a professional and branded online school, but you’re also free to customize them in any way you want to match your audience, content and personality.

You can also add pre-designed elements to your templates, such as lesson resources, buttons, progress bar indicators and more.

Thrive Apprentice templates are independent from the rest of your WordPress website, meaning you can add a professional online school to your existing WordPress theme and customize it the way you want.

02. Full Visual Editing

  • Thrive Apprentice

  • LearnDash

  • LifterLMS

  • Tutor LMS

Thrive Apprentice

Thrive Apprentice includes the Thrive Visual Editor, a powerful what-you-see-is-what-you-publish tool that lets you build the exact layout and content designs your course needs.

Columns, interactive toggles and tabs, buttons, content boxes, icons... they’re all easy to add to your course templates or lesson content without any coding or design skills. This means you can quickly add rich media on specific lessons, or embed a video on your module pages.

The Thrive Visual Editor does a great job of letting you customize your live website, instead of hiding away the finished result under layers of abstraction. Everything you build looks and feels exactly like what your students will see as they navigate through your courses.

The Thrive Visual Editor also lets you toggle between desktop, tablet and mobile views so you can see exactly how your course looks across different devices. This is a great feature as modern students expect learning content to be easily consumable on their tablets and smartphones too.

03. Sidebar Customization

  • Thrive Apprentice

  • LearnDash

  • LifterLMS

  • Tutor LMS

Thrive Apprentice

Given the organized structure of online courses, it’s important that LMS plugins offer intuitive navigation tools to help students find their way around the syllabus. One mainstay of this is a course sidebar.

Thrive Apprentice lets you completely customize your sidebar to include teacher information, a progress indicator bar, your course title, interactive toggles for modules and chapters, and links to each lesson... including icons to show students which lessons have been completed!

All of these sidebar features are completely optional and come with great looking – and 100% customizable – templates, so your students experience a professional learning environment that keeps them moving forward.

04. Conditional & Dynamic Content

  • Thrive Apprentice

  • LearnDash

  • LifterLMS

  • Tutor LMS

Thrive Apprentice

This is a feature that really makes Thrive Apprentice stand apart from other LMS plugins...

Conditional Display lets you show entirely different content on the same page to different people, simply based on their status as a visitor, logged-in subscriber or paying customer.

This lets you show the right course or membership offer to the right person at the right time, helping to convert more of your visitors into subscribers, and more of your subscribers into paying customers.

Thrive Apprentice also allows you to show different labels on your courses depending on their status... so customers will see a ‘Not Started Yet’ or ‘In Progress’ button that takes them to the start or most recent uncompleted lesson in a course, while people without access with see a ‘Members Only’ or ‘Buy Now’ button that takes them to a sales page.

Thrive Apprentice includes many other conditional and dynamic design elements, such as buttons that only allow confirmed graduates to access their course completion page, or download their completion certificates.

05. School Branding

  • Thrive Apprentice

  • LearnDash

  • LifterLMS

  • Tutor LMS

Thrive Apprentice

Thrive Apprentice lets you customize your online school either in line with, or completely separate from, the rest of your WordPress theme design. This means you can choose a separate online school logo and color scheme if you so desire to let your students know they’re in the right place on your site to learn.

This approach has the added advantage of letting you build a professional online school that works in parallel to any WordPress theme your business needs... Thrive Apprentice doesn’t take over your current theme or force you to inherit styles from elsewhere on your website.

Thrive Apprentice also gives you the choice of adding a custom header, so your school area can feature an entirely different navigation menu that’s better suited to your students’ needs.

And any courses you build with Thrive Apprentice are shown entirely under your brand — there’s no sneaky Thrive Apprentice branding or links included. As far as your students or members are concerned, it’s your website that is providing the learning experience, not Thrive Apprentice.

Thrive Apprentice

VS

Other LMS Plugins

Course & Lesson DRIP Features

By unlocking modules and lessons at just the right time for your students, you can keep them motivated, reduce information overwhelm, and ultimately improve course completion rates. Drip is an essential feature for any serious WordPress LMS plugin in 2023.

But which of these LMS plugins offer the best drip features? And what tools are available to easily schedule lesson unlocking for BOTH individuals and entire cohort intakes?

01. Drip Unlock Options

  • Thrive Apprentice

  • LearnDash

  • LifterLMS

  • Tutor LMS

Thrive Apprentice

The key to great drip functionality is flexibility... the ability to unlock lessons based on criteria that make sense for your courses, students and business. This is where Thrive Apprentice really shines!

Thrive Apprentice’s Drip feature offers the following content unlock options:

  1. Evergreen Repeating - e.g. Unlock content at consistent intervals for each individual student.
  2. Schedule Repeating - e.g. Unlock content at consistent intervals after a scheduled start date.
  3. Day of the Week or Month - e.g. Unlock a new module every first Monday of the month.
  4. Specific Dates - e.g. Unlock a new lesson on the 10th, 17th and 24th of July then skip 1 week for implementation then continue on the 7th of August.
  5. Thrive Automator Triggers - e.g. When a tag gets added to a subscriber and a webhook is received from your email marketing service, unlock a new lesson.
  6. Thrive Quiz Builder Results - e.g. Only unlock the next course lesson or module if your students get an 80% or higher on a quiz.

These drip unlock conditions can be applied to any lesson in your course, and can be mixed and matched to create a powerful path for your students’ learning.

 From a business perspective, this allows you to gradually unlock your course content to ensure your customers are achieving real results before progressing (which is very important for positive testimonials and word of mouth advertising).

02. Cohort Based Courses & Group Learning

  • Thrive Apprentice

  • LearnDash

  • LifterLMS

  • Tutor LMS

Thrive Apprentice

Sometimes, course creators want a group of students to progress through modules and lessons at the same time based on when they started as a cohort. Traditionally, many LMS plugins have tried to achieve this by forcing you to duplicate entire courses to run in parallel.

Thrive Apprentice achieves cohort learning in a much simpler and flexible way, with Decoupled Drip. Decoupled Drip lets you create as many drip schedules as you like for the same course.

This is a game changing LMS feature for cohort based courses, as you can give different intakes of students access to lessons and modules without negatively affecting anyone else at a different stage in their drip schedule.

This transforms your WordPress website into a real online school that can handle thousands of students progressing through your courses in different, staggered groups.

03. Quiz Result Lesson Unlocking

  • Thrive Apprentice

  • LearnDash

  • LifterLMS

  • Tutor LMS

Thrive Apprentice

Thrive Apprentice works seamlessly with Thrive Quiz Builder, to securely lock course content until a student proves they understand the earlier material by achieving a specified quiz result.

This could be a score, percentage, or a category result based on their quiz answers. In practical terms, this feature lets you prevent students from accessing advanced content until prerequisite content understanding has been achieved.

When placed at the very end of your course, Thrive Apprentice quizzes also prevent students from marking a course as complete or accessing their completion certificate, until they have passed a final quiz.

Both Thrive Apprentice and Thrive Quiz Builder are included inside Thrive Suite, along with many other conversion-focused WordPress tools.

04. Advanced Drip Features

  • Thrive Apprentice