You're ready to create a structured learning path that tracks progress, assesses your students' learning, and gives them rewards along the way.
But to make sure that you’re not just throwing a bunch of content into a membership site (and assuming people will be able to make sense of it and get the results you promised), your next best friend is going to be the Learning Management System you choose.
This side-by-side comparison and review should help you decide which is going to be the best fit for your online education needs.
Table of Contents:
Plugin Comparison Summary
LearnDash VS ProgressAlly: The Features
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. ProgressAlly, on the other hand, offers a more dynamic solution that lets you choose what appears on your objective checklist.
ProgressAlly Objective List
The ProgressAlly checklist can include any element that's a part of your course: video, text, quiz, etc.
The ProgressAlly page settings 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.
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:
|1||Complete Lesson 1|
|2||Complete Lesson 2|
The strength of the ProgressAlly objective list is that you can include a custom checklist on any page, carefully tailoring the learning experience to fit the students' needs.
With the latest release of ProgressAlly, the objective list feature just got a little sweeter. The new release offers an amazing integration with PopupAlly Pro… which allows you to reveal a totally unique popup the moment the objective list is completed.
Plus, ProgressAlly 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.
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 ProgressAlly checklist, although there is less flexibility in what you can include for components.
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
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.
ProgressAlly Progress Tracking
There are two types of progress tracking available with ProgressAlly: 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 ProgressAlly 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%
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 ProgressAlly includes shortcodes that will show an unstyled number of total objectives and/or completed objectives on any given page:
The overall appearance of ProgressAlly features can be customized in ProgressAlly's plugin settings, making it easy to change colors, fonts, and sizes.
Back-End User Tracking With ProgressAlly
In the backend of the website, ProgressAlly 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.
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 ProgressAlly 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.
Per User Stats
Lastly, if you click into any of the users' WordPress profiles, you can scroll down to find their unique ProgressAlly 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.
Quizzes form an integral part of any learning management system. Fortunately, for users of ProgressAlly and LearnDash, a variety of quiz types are available through both plugins.
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.
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.
Although it offers the same fundamental quiz types (personality quizzes with multiple outcomes, graded quizzes, and pass/fail quizzes), ProgressAlly requires a much less intensive setup.
The dropdown menu inside the ProgressAlly page settings reveals the three quiz types. When one is selected, additional options appear so that you can easily configure that type of quiz.
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 ProgressAlly 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:
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 ProgressAlly, 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.
If you're using the PopupAlly Pro plugin, you can choose to reveal a new opt-in that's totally unique to the quiz results. It's a great way to build (or segment) your list and keep things focused!
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, ProgressAlly certificates are a little easier (and more fun) to design and customize than the 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.
Once these steps are completed, you can publish the certificate and add it to one of your course pages.
ProgressAlly'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.
The certificate you created can be added to the page with the ProgressAlly 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
One of the unique features that ProgressAlly 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
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!
Another important way for students to learn is through taking notes. With ProgressAlly, 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!
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, ProgressAlly 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 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.
- Very robust quiz setup options
- Can function as a basic membership site on its own
- 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
ProgressAlly, on the other hand, is designed to work as a LMS plugin that fits under the umbrella of your more robust membership site options out there. It's also designed to be integrate with the tagging systems of CRMs like Infusionsoft, Ontraport, ActiveCampaign, and ConvertKit and can auto-add tags when a user passes a quiz, for example, or completes the objectives in a course.
The plugin settings are 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.
- Integrates well with other membership site plugins
- Interface is extremely user-friendly
- There is a lot of design flexibility in each plugin feature
- Offers tag automation directly with your CRMs
- Not as many quiz options, although the fundamental tools are there (personality, graded, and scoring quizzes)
- Cannot function as a membership site on its own, since it is designed to work in conjunction with more robust membership plugins
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 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.