To say that the Coronavirus pandemic has changed the face of eLearning would be an understatement.
There are 1.2 billion students across 186 countries who are now facing the prospect of studying from home. Everybody, from schools, to colleges, to private instructors, to public figures, is exploring failsafe options to set up and run online classes.
Since you are here, I take it that you have decided to go with WordPress and the LearnDash LMS plugin (good call, by the way), and are now looking for the best theme that fits your requirements.
So, without further ado, let’s get down to comparing the 3 most popular themes for LearnDash (chosen after extensively combing through recommendations)! And our contestants are –
- eLumine – the sleek, fast, dynamic eLearning theme that is power-packed with features
- Astra – the super-fast, multipurpose theme that is adored by hundreds of WordPress users
- BuddyBoss Theme- the student-friendly, theme-next-door with a focus on social networking
First things first.
We will be comparing these themes based on 3 factors – speed, user friendliness, and features.
eLumine vs. Astra vs. BuddyBoss – Need for Speed
According to research, website speed is critical for student interactivity and engagement. Today, as the means of eLearning have increased, so have the distractions.
There is a constant pressure on the course administrators to increase spatial presence and co-presence, i.e. simulate the classroom learning environment online and encourage two-way interaction within the virtual classroom, so that students stay continuously engaged.
This means – you’ve got to have a website that loads quickly and seamlessly, with minimum lag.
Taking a look at our three themes for speed, here’s how they stand.
To analyze which was the fastest theme, we set up a test website with the standard plugins an eLearning website would require and then tested out the premium licenses of all the three themes.
Here are the results.
|Page Tested||eLumine v2.6.0||Astra||BuddyBoss|
|Course Single Page||74||74||62|
|Blog Single Page||90||80||61|
As you can see, eLumine and Astra are neck to neck when it comes to page load speeds.
eLumine clocks a better Home Page and Lesson Page loading speed, while Astra trumps the Courses listing page.
Astra is one of the lightest WordPress themes that is fully compatible with LearnDash, so if a multipurpose theme is what you are looking for, it should fit the bill.
But if you see through an eLearning perspective, eLumine is the clear winner. It is a more LearnDash-focused theme, which means you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues with any other LearnDash extensions.
Interestingly, the older version of eLumine was quite slow to load (which was one of the biggest pet peeves of its users). However, eLumine has recently released a new update which boosts up the theme’s engine quite significantly and brings it on par with Astra, even with its upper hand in terms of eLearning features.
BuddyBoss is a relatively bad loader; it has decent Course Single Page and Blog Single Page load speeds, but overall, the theme is heavy and unwieldy in terms of load speeds.
So, if speedy websites matter to you, I would advise opting for eLumine.
eLumine vs. Astra vs. BuddyBoss – Design, Ease-of-Use, and Experience
Remember those days when our minds used to wander during a boring class, only to be brought to the ground with an unexpected thud when the teacher called out a question?
Unfortunately, studying online means teachers do not have that option of commanding the students’ attention, unless it is a live class. Which means, you have to make your course material and course presentation engaging enough to hold your students’ interest at all times.
I’m sure you’ve got the first part covered. The second part, i.e. making the course presentation excellent, is where your LearnDash theme comes in handy.
Clean layouts with easily customizable fonts and font sizes, distraction-free modes, easy navigation options to and from the main Course Menu are just some of the features that are expected in a good eLearning theme.
Here are the layouts for the three themes.
BuddyBoss Design and Layouts
BuddyBoss is a social-centric theme, which implies that it has a strong focus on enhancing the social learning experience.
Keeping in line with this thought, it has some great designs for the Student Profile pages and forum pages, with crisp icons and graphics that are retina-ready.
Its Course page and Lesson page layouts could be better though, and its eCommerce template is pretty standard.
Astra Design and Layouts
To be perfectly clear, Astra is not an eLearning theme. It is a multipurpose WordPress theme, with a starter template for LearnDash.
This means, you either have to build your LMS design from scratch or use one of the free/premium Starter Templates that can give you a headstart. These templates have a variety of customization options for the Courses page, the single lesson pages, etc., which help you build a website that reflects your voice and tone.
Now, if you are (or are planning to hire) a DIY WordPress developer who can design Course Pages, layouts, and customize them, this can be a good option for you, since you retain the freedom to build a website from the ground up.
However, if you are someone who knows WordPress basics but want a ready-to-implement site design where you can work on your courses and go live ASAP, Astra might not be the perfect fit for you.
This brings us to…
eLumine Design and Layouts
eLumine, as a LearnDash course-centric theme, has all the elements you need for your eLearning website in place. A clean LearnDash-only layout which highlights your courses and course content properly, full- and boxed-width display options, and reader-friendly page design help improve attention spans and engage your students.
In addition, it has 3 ready-to-import eLearning website demos, along with sample courses, which makes it easy for you to set up your LMS in a short amount of time.
For those of you who also want to sell your courses, eLumine integrates perfectly with WooCommerce, and even has WooCommerce-ready layouts that help display your course and all course-related information clearly.
All three themes are highly responsive and mobile-ready, which is crucial as students study across multiple devices these days.
eLumine and BuddyBoss have the upper hand here, as they have better, student-friendly design and navigation, with minimum hassle. Astra is more skeletal in its approach, making it a build your way up module, which might not be suitable for everyone.
eLumine vs. Astra vs. BuddyBoss – Who’s the Feature Creature?
What’s a learning management system without some cutting-edge features that make life easy for your teachers, am I right? LearnDash scores pretty well in this area, bringing a powerful course builder, advanced quizzing options, and sweet gamification to the table.
So, while selecting a theme for LearnDash, you’ve got to select one that is not only compatible with all these features, but also brings additional value to your LMS.
Let’s take a look at the advanced features our three contestants offer, out of the box.
eLumine – Powerful features, nifty add-ons
eLumine is quite the powerhouse of features when it comes to building an LMS. Not only does it have pre-built demos that can be imported instantaneously, it also lets you customize your content in real-time, so you know exactly how it will look at the students’ end.
The theme is translation-ready and has dedicated RTL layouts, which ensures that your website does not get glitchy if your students switch to a RTL display.
For styling and customization, it has 7 different styling palettes, and colours, fonts, font icons that are further customizable, empowering you to create a website that is uniquely yours, without even touching code.
eLumine is SEO-friendly, has an inbuilt child theme, and Night/Read modes for better readability. Also, it integrates seamlessly with popular plugins like BuddyPress, bbPress, WooCommerce, Unyson, LearnDash Course Grid, Elementor, BadgeOS, Contact Form 7, and others.
Note – With other related add-ons you can further add features like group registration, setting up multiple instructors, course duplication, Zoom integration, ratings and reviews, quiz reports, etc. to your LearnDash-eLumine combination.
BuddyBoss – Good features, complex packages
BuddyBoss keeps social networking front and center, and not just over these past 3 months of social distancing. To enhance easy connection to social apps, it has WordPress social login for your LMS, connects with all BuddyBoss plugins, and bbPress extensions.
One of its core features is the BuddyBoss Wall, a Facebook-esque timeline that displays all student activity, where other students can ‘Like’ each other’s posts. There are also features like the BuddyBoss Media option where students can upload photos and media and tag their friends.
Coming to the other admin-focused elements of the LMS though, BuddyBoss covers just the basics. In a nutshell, it is a theme that will help increase student interaction quite a bit, but won’t make life easier for you as the website owner.
Also, the pricing packages for BuddyBoss can be confusing.
There is a BuddyBoss theme which is for LearnDash and has all the eLearning-specific features you need. Then there is the Boss theme which is powered by the BuddyPress tool, but is more of a WordPress theme, which can be used for LearnDash with the Social Learner add-on. So, make sure that you know everything that your theme package includes, before buying the theme.
Astra – Least features, full freedom of development
As mentioned previously, Astra has eLearning templates that support LearnDash. There are a variety of templates you can choose from that suit your requirements. It also comes with advanced styling options that let you customize your site the way you want.
From the learner’s perspective, Astra has a distraction-free mode and a Customer Dashboard where your students can see and manage all the courses they have purchased. It also has quick checkout options and progress bars that notify a student about where they are in a course.
However, when it comes to core eLearning features, Astra falls way short as compared to eLumine and BuddyBoss.
It does not have native eLearning features, like advanced student management options, quiz reporting, instructor management settings, etc., so you will need to install LearnDash extensions for all the functionalities you need. This can not only scale up costs, but also make your website slow, if you have too many extensions.
The Final Verdict?
eLumine, Astra, and BuddyBoss Theme – all three are dependable themes for building your LearnDash LMS. So, which theme you choose depends a lot on your requirement from your LMS.
Want to build a full-fledged LMS with lots of instructors and students and a variety of courses? – Go for eLumine.
Want a fast but basic LMS where you create and sell your own courses and are happy with the native features of LearnDash? – Go for Astra.
Need a user-friendly LMS where you want to encourage student interaction and discussions? Go for BuddyBoss.
If you are in a dilemma even after this entire comparison, we’d recommend eLumine. It is a fast, dynamic, and powerful eLearning theme that comes with beautiful layouts and user-friendly features out of the box.
Happy eLearning and don’t forget to let us know which one you choose!