online learning and course platforms

Online Course or Membership – which is Best for Your Business?

You’ve decided to deliver content or a program through your website as a ‘home study’ or ‘DIY’ option. Now you’re probably wondering what’s best – an online course using a Learning Management System (LMS) plugin, or a Membership plugin.

What’s the difference? Both options offer you an automated option to deliver and protect your content online (paid or free), can be integrated with your email marketing, allow your content to be shared slowly over time (drip-feed), and give you the ability to reach a wide audience with your expertise. But which model and technology is best for your business?

When to choose a Learning Management System (LMS)

When your content consists of the following, you should consider an online course platform:

  • Structured content with multiple modules
  • Progress tracking for students
  • Quizzes, tests, or assessments that effect a participants progress
  • Prerequisites for assessing additional information or continuing
  • Grading on assignments,
  • CONS: an LMS may be more costly, and they are limited to course delivery

Example of LMS Plugins for WordPress:
LifterLMS, WP Courseware

Examples of LMS outside hosting sites (which may even help you promote your course):
Udemy, Moodle, Course Sites, Pathwrite

When to choose a Membership Plugin

When your content consists of the following you might be better suited to a membership plugin:

  • Files, videos, links, etc.
  • Materials that each participant is responsible to complete without input
  • The ability to initiate discussion in a forum setting
  • CONS: Does not (easily) allow for integrated testing or prerequisites

Membership Site Plugins for WordPress:
Paid Memberships Pro, MemberPress, iMember360

Still wondering if it’s better to use an LMS or membership plugin?

Here’s how we help our clients answer this very question: we ask the following to help them determine their needs and future plans.

  1. What kind of content are you delivering? – Describe the course.
  2. How do you envision delivering your content? – Describe the user experience.
  3. What do you envision for future content and courses? – Describe your plans and long-term goals.
  4. What other programs are you using that will need to integrate with this process? – Describe your current payment processing, calendar, email marketing, etc… and any possible future upgrades.

If you’re planning to deliver content such as videos, articles, and instructional tips in smaller batches over the course of weeks/months, a membership plugin is probably best for you. Delivering through a membership plugin is often the best choice if your content is limited to sharing information with an audience – and a membership plugin does have the option of various membership levels, add-ons, and integrations.

On the other hand, if your delivery consists of a progressive course with prerequisite assignments to complete before moving on, or if your course requires interaction through assignments, you may want to consider going with a LMS.

There are no set rules for any business. Call us today to discuss your online course, and see which fit is best for you.

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