WordPress LMS Survey Results

149209692As part of our work with WordPress LMS solutions, we tend to deal with the higher end of the market, which includes small and mid-sized businesses with the budget for robust learning platforms. Our  focus means we unfortunately aren’t as connected as we would like with the larger WordPress LMS market, so we decided to conduct a survey last week to see how other people use products like LearnDash, Sensei and WP Courseware. We had a fantastic response from the community and what we discovered surprised us.

We reached out to approximately 150 people by email. These people had visited the Uncanny Owl website over the last few months and provided their email address to us. None were clients. In fact, we had never communicated with any of the participants outside of the survey.

Of the 150 people we invited, 16 people from around the world chose to participate. We asked participants questions about how they used WordPress LMS plugins, their programs, their audience, their issues and more. Responses were candid and the people who participated seemed to appreciate the opportunity to be heard.

Here are the findings that we found most interesting:

Almost half (44%) of participants used, or planned to use, content that was SCORM or Tin Can compliant on their sites. Very few of Uncanny Owl’s clients create their programs with elearning authoring tools, so this was a very big surprise, especially given the low project budgets of survey participants.

People are using WordPress LMS plugins for more than just self-directed elearning. 38% offer facilitated programs online and 31% offer programs offline as well. Programs are reasonably complex, too. Almost everyone offers videos, file downloads, embedded documents, quizzes, certificates, ecommerce—even forums. Over 35% of participants also incorporate capabilities like marketing automation, gamification and end user support systems.

People rank ongoing support and available integrations low when shopping for an LMS, yet complaints in those areas are most common. We saw a lot of complaints about plugins not being able to do what people expected (and therefore having to rely on other plugins) and difficulty finding guidance, especially that went beyond individual plugins. Participants wanted guidance on how to create complete learning platforms and had trouble getting the advice they needed.

There were a lot of complaints. When we asked an open-ended question about surprises they experienced with LMS projects, 67% of comments were complaints, mostly about the LMS plugins. In fact, when we asked people to rank project challenges, adding customizations, making things work together and finding help were at the top of the list.

No-one had an LMS platform they considered complete. Our list of users went back over 6 months, so we were surprised that no-one was able to get a project across the finish line.

WordPress LMS projects cost more than people expect. Only 1 participant found costs lower than expected. Half of participants said costs met expectations, and 44% said costs exceeded expectations. We were actually surprised by budgets; 63% said implementation costs (including effort) were under $2,500, and 76% said monthly maintenance costs were under $250. Of course, since no participants had a completed platform, these estimates may end up being low.

Learning to use a WordPress LMS can be hard work. 44% of participants said they weren’t comfortable managing WordPress and their LMS yet. Another 13% said it took between 75 and 200 hours until they felt comfortable.

How do these findings compare with your own experiences using WordPress LMS plugins? We’d love to hear more about your experiences in the comments.

author avatar
Ryan Moore Director
Ryan Moore (MA, PMP, BCom) is the Cofounder and Director of Uncanny Owl, creators of Uncanny Automator and a suite of popular add-ons for LearnDash. Since 2013, Ryan has helped thousands of companies add elearning and automation capabilities to their WordPress websites.
6 replies
  1. Chris Badgett
    Chris Badgett says:

    Thanks for sharing the results of your survey. Sounds on par with our own WordPress LMS market research. One exception would be that In our research and conversations in the WP LMS community, there is a lower interest in SCORM / Tin Can; more like 10%-15%. I will say the people who are interested in that piece are very vocal about it and it’s a deal breaker if it’s not accommodated. On the support front, people who have purchased our WordPress LMS plugin, LifterLMS, seem to really value our support channels. We know LMS client needs tend to get pretty custom/pretty unique quickly so we put a lot of effort into our customer forums, direct email support, live webinars with customers, and our WordPress LMS podcast, called LMScast, which helps proactively answer questions and show what’s possible. We’re also building a referral network beyond our client capacity to refer customers to competent developers that can handle advanced customizations, so we’re working on that frustration point too.

  2. Ryan Moore
    Ryan Moore says:

    Thanks Chris, the SCORM comments really surprised me too. It could certainly be an anomaly; maybe those users are more vocal and they chose to participate in the survey to be heard. It hasn’t been our experience that that ratio of WordPress LMS users really needs SCORM or Tin Can either (perhaps about 25% start out that way, but then after discussions about what they really need, very few really do need an LRS). The small sample size also limits how representative the results are, but we were still happy to get that level of participation from people that we don’t know and that don’t know us.

    I hope work on Lifter LMS is coming along well. We look forward to checking out v1.0 soon!

    • Chris Badgett
      Chris Badgett says:

      That’s a good point about qualifying to make sure an LRS is in fact required. LifterLMS is going well. We’re opening it up to the public forever on Feb 17. You mentioned the sample size for the survey. Feel free to check out our forums: https://lifterlms.com/forums/ There’s some good WordPress LMS Market trends to spot in there especially in the feature requests forum.

    • Ed Lamaster
      Ed Lamaster says:

      One very important reason that users want SCORM or TinCan is that they want portability of their content. They don’t want to be locked into a solution that they chose perhaps unwisely or because they’ve outgrown their original plan. Ideally, the content creation tool should product SCORM or TinCan content packages that plug into the LMS, not just a bunch of WordPress pages that won’t map over to a new LMS plugin or theme.

      Those of us with content creation skills with Articulate or Adobe products want to design interactive courses that you’re not going to get with a WordPress plugin or theme. I only know of one plugin today (LearnDash) that works with TinCan.

  3. Roger
    Roger says:

    Hi Ryan

    Thanks for putting that survey together. I think it is very helpful for people like myself that are considering the different options on the market. In my case the main reason for considering a Word Press plugin was an assumption, maybe an erroneous one that the start up costs of implementing the launch would be more cost effective than other more elaborate LMS options. The upfront cost of most of the plugins is relatively inexpensive, most are under $200. However if you are like myself, not a web developer, just a person with an idea for an LMS startup then you need customization assistance. In my case I assumed I could get a nice customization solution and get going for under $3,000 (US) However when you reach out for customization assistance the costs are all over the place and some are very expensive. I found your pricing structure very straight forward and appealing because your LMS store sets forth the expected costs up front.

    If I had a larger budget I probably would not even consider Word Press at all. I would go with a cloud LMS system that would handle all the technical part for me and then I could focus on course development and marketing of the courses.

    As such I am not surprised by some of the findings in your survey regarding implementation costs and the steep learning curve to get going.

    Out of curiosity what percentage of the people that contact you are web developers who are working for clients interested in LMS vs educators, business startups that are looking for an LMS solution on their own. Also what percentage is coming from outside of the U.S. and Canada ?

    Once again much appreciated and keep up the great work

    • Ryan Moore
      Ryan Moore says:

      Roger, thanks for the feedback and questions about our client base. We tend to deal primarily with business owners that want to offer training, and very rarely web developers (it happens, but they represent maybe 5% of our inquiries). Most are in the US, fewer in Canada, some in the UK, a few in Australia, and then it’s quite random.

      I will also say that the vast majority of our work is quite customized. So where prices are mentioned, people who fit that profile and can use something as-is are more the exception than the norm.



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