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LearnDash vs AccessAlly Pro: Battle Of The Learning Management Systems

learndash vs accessally pro

One of the challenges of using a membership site to generate recurring revenue is that it can be really tough to keep your clients engaged.

The temptation is often to compile your content, add it to a membership site, and call it a day. But assuming that people will be able to make sense of it all and get the results you promised is risky.

Beyond adding course content to password-protected pages, you'll also want to create a structured learning path to engage and guide your paying members.

To do this, you can use a piece of software that will track progress, assesses your students' learning, and gives them rewards along the way… the Learning Management System.

Instead of just throwing another tech tool into the mix, we're going to take a look into two membership site/learning management system combos available for WordPress membership site users: AccessAlly Pro and LearnDash.

This side-by-side comparison looks at features, functionality, and user-friendliness to help you decide which is going to be the best fit for your online education needs.

Table of Contents:

Similar Features

Unique Features

Plugin Comparison Summary

LearnDash VS AccessAlly Pro: The Features

learndash vs accessally pro

Both systems use course objectives in order to track a user's progress. LearnDash takes these objectives from the hierarchy of lessons you establish when you create your course. AccessAlly Pro, on the other hand, offers a more dynamic solution that lets you choose what appears on your objective checklist.

AccessAlly Pro Objective List

The AccessAlly Pro checklist can include any element that's a part of your course: video, text, quiz, etc.

The LMS settings of AccessAlly can be found at the bottom of any WordPress post or page, making it easy to add LMS features to any bit of content you're creating.

Within the Objective setup, you decide what is included on your checklist.

learndash vs accessally pro

Once you've added the completed objective list to the page (via a shortcode), the user is then in control of checking off the text objectives as he or she makes their way through the course.

Any video or quiz objectives will auto-complete after the activity is completed.

The result looks like this:
 

1Complete Lesson 1
2Complete Lesson 2

 
The strength of the AccessAlly Pro objective list is that you can include a custom checklist on any page, carefully tailoring the learning experience to fit the students' needs.

Plus, AccessAlly Pro allows you to create video checklists (with YouTube, Wistia, and Vimeo) that autoplay videos based on the user's selection.

LearnDash Objective List

In order to understand how the objective list inside LearnDash works, it's important to understand their 3-tiered course format:

Courses – The Main Page/dashboard of a course.
Lessons – Each course is subdivided into a series of lessons. For progress tracking purposes, each lesson is its own objective.
Topics – Each lesson can also be divided into many different topics.

Once you've created your course through the proper categories of course, lesson, and topic, you can add the objective list to a page with a shortcode.

This will create a standard, styled table that will include an element for each of the lessons in your course.
learndash vs accessally pro

In order to complete objectives within a LearnDash course, the user must go to each of the course pages (with an optional “minimum time” spent on that page), then click the “complete” button in order to be taken to the next lesson.

Essentially it works the same as the AccessAlly Pro checklist, although there is less flexibility in what you can include for components.
 
learndash vs accessally pro
 
Progress tracking is a great way to help students stay motivated by giving them a visual representation of the amount of progress they're making in your online course. Both plugins rely on the objective checklists to accurately track the progress of your students.
 

LearnDash Progress Tracking

learndash vs accessally pro

A LearnDash Progress Bar

The LearnDash Course Progress Bar is available in a widget format, which must be added to the sidebar of your page.

The appearance of this widget is dependent on the theme of your website, and cannot be customized without additional css in the backend of your website.

AccessAlly Pro Progress Tracking

There are two types of progress tracking available with AccessAlly Pro: front-end tracking for the users, and back-end tracking for the course admin.

Front-End User Tracking: Percentage

The front-end progress tracking settings for AccessAlly Pro are set up a little differently than LearnDash. Instead of relying on widget areas, you can add this feature to any text area of your site with a simple shortcode.

It works in conjunction with your checklists so that users can see where they're at in terms of course completion.

The nice thing about progress tracking with this plugin is that you actually have three design settings: a pie chart, a progress bar, or a simple percentage text: 0%

learndash vs AccessAlly Pro
 

Front-End User Tracking: Objective Count

The percentage progress bar is based on the number of total objectives in relation to how many have been marked “complete.”

Sometimes, though, it's nice to just have a number to look at… so AccessAlly Pro includes shortcodes that will show an unstyled number of total objectives and/or completed objectives on any given page:
 
learndash vs AccessAlly Pro
 
Appearance

The overall appearance of AccessAlly Pro features can be customized in AccessAlly Pro's plugin settings, making it easy to change colors, fonts, and sizes.
 

Back-End User Tracking With AccessAlly Pro

In the backend of the website, AccessAlly Pro shows unique progress tracking stats so that the course admin can see at a glance how users are interacting with their course content.

The back-end user tracking has three parts:

  • The General Report
  • On-Page Report
  • User-Specific Stats

The General Report

This report reveals how many users have completed all objectives on each of your website pages or posts, versus how many have completed SOME objectives on the pages/posts.

learndash-vs-AccessAlly-Pro-general-report
 

On-Page Report

To dig a little deeper into the general report, simply click on the page title to be taken to that particular page in the website.

Here, in the AccessAlly Pro settings, you can see a breakdown of each objective – and how many users have completed each one.

This can be super helpful to see where the dropoff begins to happen in your courses, so that you can add various resources to encourage your students to keep going.

learndash-vs-AccessAlly Pro-page-stats
 

Per User Stats

Lastly, if you click into any of the users' WordPress profiles, you can scroll down to find their unique AccessAlly Pro reports. These reports will tell you which courses have been completed – and which have only been dabbled in.

This report can be downloaded as a CSV file, so you can analyze it a little deeper if you'd like.
learndash vs accessally pro
 

accessally pro vs learndash

Quizzes form an integral part of any learning management system. Fortunately, for users of AccessAlly Pro and LearnDash, a variety of quiz types are available through both plugins.

LearnDash Quizzes

The LearnDash quiz setup is extremely elaborate, which can be really nice for users who have very specific needs for their quizzes.

The downside of the LearnDash quiz setup area is that each component of your quiz must be created separately. This can get tedious and repetitive, especially if you're working with a large number of quiz questions.

Fortunately, even though the options and process of quiz setup does get to be overwhelming, LearnDash allows users to create templates throughout the process. This makes it much easier to duplicate a quiz type once it's initially set up.

The completed quiz can be added to any lesson within a LearnDash Course.

learndash vs accessally pro quiz
 
Although it can get complicated (as noted above), the vast array of functions inside a LearnDash quiz setup area is probably the biggest strength of this plugin.

AccessAlly Pro Quizzes

Although it offers the same fundamental quiz types (personality quizzes with multiple outcomes, graded quizzes, and pass/fail quizzes), AccessAlly Pro requires a much less intensive setup.

The dropdown menu inside the AccessAlly Pro page settings reveals the three quiz types. When one is selected, additional options appear so that you can easily configure that type of quiz.

Learndash Vs AccessAlly Pro

Once the quiz has been created inside the plugin settings, you can add it to the page with a simple shortcode.

And – if you're using a tag-based CRM, you can tell AccessAlly Pro to automatically apply a tag to a user who has completed your quizzes. This feature gives you the freedom to do some pretty nifty things, like release new course content only after the student has received a passing grade on a test.

The quiz itself might end up looking a little something like this:

What season comes after Fall?
What is Nathalie Lussier's husband's name?
What country is known for its wine & pasta?

 

But you can also choose to limit the number of quiz questions that appear on your page…

For example, a 20-question quiz might look super overwhelming. With AccessAlly Pro, you can choose to reveal a specified number of questions at a time. This is also a great way to increase the focus on a question (or set of questions), effectively preventing the student from scanning ahead or getting distracted.

learndash vs AccessAlly Pro
 
LearnDash vs AccessAlly Pro
Both LMS plugins offer basically the same certificate functionality with the same results.  However, while neither plugin is extremely complicated in terms of certificate setup, AccessAlly Pro certificates are a little easier (and more fun) to design and customize than the LearnDash certificates. 

LearnDash Certificates

LearnDash provides a downloadable set of certificates for you to use in your website. Each certificate download comes with a particular code that must be added to the certificate page along with any shortcodes you'd like to use to customize the information on the certificate.

When done correctly, the content you type in the page setup will appear in the right area on the certificate.

LearnDash Vs AccessAlly Pro

Once these steps are completed, you can publish the certificate and add it to one of your course pages.

AccessAlly Pro Certificates

AccessAlly Pro's certificate builder is totally different and a bit more user-friendly than the one inside LearnDash.

Simply upload a certificate template (four versions are provided for free when you purchase the plugin), and use the settings to determine the size and appearance of the fields you'd like to appear on the certificate.

The certificate appearance will automatically update to help you envision what it will look – and you can download a test certificate to make sure that nothing is “lost in the translation” of the tech world.
 
LearnDash Vs AccessAlly Pro
 
The certificate you created can be added to the page with the AccessAlly Pro shortcode adder.

Oh, and there's a few different ways you can reveal this certificate to your users. You can use the regular styled button that links to the customized certificate…or you can opt to grab a plain text link if you want to customize the appearance of the certificate reveal (like linking an icon or an image of the certificate for your users to click on).

Sometimes it's nice just to have that extra bit of flexibility.

CRM Tagging Automation

LMS CRM Tagging Integration

One of the unique features that AccessAlly Pro offers is the ability to integrate directly with your Customer Relationship Management system.

Currently it integrates with these tag-based systems: Infusionsoft, Ontraport, ActiveCampaign, Drip, and ConvertKit.

That means that when someone completes module objectives and quizzes, you can tag them in your CRM. This enables you to kick-start sequences and campaigns to cheer people on, reward them, or even follow-up when they haven't taken action on your course in awhile.

Social Media Sharing

LMS Plugin WordPress

What's another way of building buzz about your courses and programs? Having people share when they've completed a course, module, or quiz is a powerful way to evangelize your students.

Plus, you can reward them by sending them a little something special via email once they share on social media through the CRM tagging automation.

You decide what image you'd like people to share, give them a starter social media message and link, and they're off to the races!

Private Notes

Course Notes Feature

Another important way for students to learn is through taking notes. With AccessAlly Pro, you can create a few different variations of “Private Notes”.

You can add a note-taking area on any page or course module, that's totally private and individual for each student.

You can also do a “2-way communication” note, where you as the course administrator can reply to a student's note. Think of this as a way to do private coaching or submit homework and get feedback on it. The best part is that no other student will see the notes, since they're linked to each individual student's login!

This is an example of the "Private Notes" functionality in ProgressAlly. Your notes won't be saved, but you can see what this feature looks like it for a student.
Click here to enter your note

Oh, and there's even a cool note type that requires admin approval before the corresponding “checklist” item can be completed!

Plugin Comparison Summary

Realistically, AccessAlly Pro and LearnDash are both really strong options for your LMS WordPress plugin needs. But each plugin does have its own set of unique strengths for you to base your final decision on:

LearnDash

LearnDash is designed to work as a membership site, complete with password-protected pages. And although it can be used with another more robust membership platform, some of the setup remains geared towards its role as a standalone plugin.

Strengths:

  • Very robust quiz setup options
  • Can function as a basic membership site on its own

Weaknesses:

  • Setup is not very user-friendly and can be complicated at times
  • All plugin settings are located in a separate place than the posts & pages, making it impossible to merge the two
  • Not a lot of opportunity in terms of design customization

AccessAlly Pro

AccessAlly Pro, on the other hand, is designed to work with the tagging automation of CRMs like Infusionsoft, Ontraport, ActiveCampaign, Drip and ConvertKit. Its LMS strengths can be fine-tuned to auto-add tags when a user passes a quiz, for example, or completes the objectives in a course.

The plugin settings are also available on any WordPress post or page, making it very easy to add the features you need to any and all of your website content.

Strengths:

  • Interface is extremely user-friendly
  • There is a lot of design flexibility in each plugin feature
  • Offers tag automation directly with your CRMs

Weaknesses:

  • Not as many quiz options, although the fundamental tools are there (personality, graded, and scoring quizzes)
  • Comes at a higher price point
  • Must be used in tandem with a tag-based CRM (see possible options here)

 

What Are The Deciding Factors For You?

Now … the ball is totally in your court! We're really interested to hear your perspective on the most important features that you're basing your LMS WordPress plugin decisions on.

Share your thoughts and experiences below!


About The Author

Maria MyreMaria Myre is the word person at AmbitionAlly, where she spends her days sipping on espresso and exploring new, intuitive ways to connect entrepreneurs with the tech tools and training that will best fit their business needs. When she’s not writing tech-y business stuff, Maria enjoys art, horseback riding, and adventuring in the Great Outdoors.

10 Comments

  1. Shayna on September 28, 2016 at 8:21 am

    This is phenomenally helpful!

    Question – I use MailChimp; can AccessAlly Pro be hooked up to tagging in MailChimp as well? (Or alternatively – can it be hooked to Zapier, which would then tell MailChimp to tag a person?)



    • ambitionally on September 30, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      Hi Shayna! Unfortunately Mailchimp doesn’t have a “Tag” functionality at the moment, so this wouldn’t be possible. But we are always building out new integrations, and whether Mailchimp adds tags or we find a way to make it work with Zapier, we’ll definitely be making that addition! :)



  2. Lorraine on October 5, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    This is a very timely post for me. Can you help me to understand what else I would need as a membership site option? I’m a little unclear about how the pieces fit together, but would love to offer my students a course with a similar look and feel to my website, but with the gamification and quiz features of an LMS.



    • ambitionally on October 5, 2016 at 11:07 pm

      Absolutely Lorraine! The main thing you’ll need is a membership plugin (this controls who has access to what, and depending on what email platform you’re using, that could be our AccessAlly plugin or something like WishList member), and then the LMS plugin will “sit on top” of the membership site one. Then the theme or design is separate and these usually work with any membership site plugin out there. Hope that helps! Feel free to email us if you have any other questions.



      • Lorraine on October 28, 2016 at 4:07 am

        This is great, thank you! And as a Convertkit user, I’m very excited to hear that there are plans for a compatible version of AccessAlly.



  3. Stephanie on October 5, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    Your articles and personality make me want to switch from ConvertKit to ActiveCampaign and build my membership with Ambition Ally products ;-) Great sharing, advice and info . … plus incredible features!



    • ambitionally on October 5, 2016 at 11:05 pm

      Hey Stephanie! Well you’re in luck because we’re working on a ConvertKit version of AccessAlly, which should be out by the end of the year if all goes to plan. :)



  4. sarah winterbine on October 9, 2016 at 10:28 pm

    Hello. Can this work on a Wix website?



    • ambitionally on October 10, 2016 at 4:21 pm

      Unfortunately, these are both WordPress-specific plugins.



  5. […] are a lot of options in the WordPress LMS plugin space, and we compared LearnDash and AccessAlly Pro here. There are also some free options to get started with like […]