Selling Courses v/s Selling Memberships: How to Monetize your LearnDash LMS

Listen to this article


learndash group registration

A client of ours – let’s call him John – an educator, was looking to monetize his e-learning website. We had helped him set up his LMS on WordPress and LearnDash, and he had all his course content ready.

The next logical step for John was to add an e-commerce module. But John was unsure of adopting a per course pricing strategy or a paid membership approach.

Several e-teachers, like John, face the same dilemma.

They create their course content, update the content on their e-learning website, and then look forward to making some money from their venture. What many do not realize, however, is that setting up course content is closely linked to the approach they choose to charge interested students.

In e-learning, there are primarily two approaches that can be chosen – you can choose to sell courses or sell memberships.

Approach #1: Selling Courses on LearnDash

[su_note note_color=”#EDEDED”]


Courses or lessons are paid. A student has to purchase a course or lesson in order to gain access to it. This approach is highly suitable when you have fewer courses.


woocommerce-product pricing-tab

With a per course or lesson pricing strategy courses or lessons are paid. So essentially course access is managed at a user level. Now, to employ this approach course content has to be divided into purchasable blocks.

For example, say you teach three languages – Spanish, French, and German. If you want to sell each language as a course, you will have to create and price three courses (for the three languages).

If you want to sell lessons, lesson content should be created accordingly. For example, the course Spanish could have three lessons – Spanish Level I, Spanish Level II and Spanish Level III.

Mind you, several popular LMS plugins on WordPress do not allow the creation of paid lessons. So, you will need to create paid content as courses only. In continuation with our above example, instead of creating lessons, you’d have to create courses for the three levels in Spanish.

This approach works well when you have a few courses. Since each course needs a price to be set.

Pricing Strategy

  • Courses are paid.
  • You can create and sell course bundles for a discounted price.
  • Allow students to create their own bundles.

Course purchases could provide students unlimited access to the course or could be time-bound.

There could be course purchase conditions as well. For example, courses that have no prerequisites could be available for purchase. While courses that have prerequisites would need the prerequisite courses to be purchased prior to gaining access for the needed course.

Implementation Method

Leading LMS plugins on WordPress either provide an e-commerce module that allows courses to be made purchasable or provide integrations with e-commerce plugins such as WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads.

Based on your requirements, you could pick either of these methods to add paid courses.

Pro Tip:

Each of the following integration add-ons will help onboard the plugin of choice onto your LearnDash website.

Approach #2: Selling Memberships on LearnDash 

[su_note note_color=”#EDEDED”]


There are paid membership levels. A student has to register as a member to gain access to several courses at once. This approach is highly suitable when you have a lot of courses.



As opposed to selling courses, selling memberships involves creating multiple paid membership levels. Based on the membership level a student chooses, he/she gains access to linked courses on your LearnDash site. Hence, with this approach, member access has to be managed across the LMS.

There could be

  • membership levels based on course category: For example, all courses categorized under Science could belong to a specific membership level; all courses belonging to History could belong to another membership level.
  • membership levels based on course complexity levels: For example, beginner level courses could be linked to a particular membership level, while intermediate-level courses could be linked to another level.
  • membership levels based on the number of courses that can be accessed: For example, a basic level would allow a student to access 10 courses, while advanced level would allow a student to access 20 courses.
  • membership for the entire e-learning website: Here, the student has to pay a registration fee, (or a timely membership fee) to access all courses on your LearnDash LMS.

As you can imagine, when you have a lot of courses on your LMS, setting and maintaining a price for each course is rather difficult. Instead, you could employ a paid membership approach.

Pricing Strategy

  • Membership levels are paid.
  • Memberships could be subscription-based and have auto-renewals
  • You could offer discounts on upgrades

With the membership approach, you can drip feed courses to students.

Implementation Method

To add paid memberships to your e-learning website, the popular approach is to integrate it with a membership plugin. Paid Membership Pro or WooCommerce Subscriptions can be used to implement this approach.

[su_note note_color=”#EDEDED”]

More on ‘Implementing a Payments Module on Your LearnDash LMS’



When considering monetizing your LearnDash site, two approaches are heavily discussed and debated – the paid courses approach, and the paid membership approach.

Both have their own advantages and disadvantages, for example, the paid courses approach could be considered when you have fewer courses to manage, while with the membership approach you have to manage membership levels to control member access.

Neither is preferred over the other, but now that you have a clear understanding of how the two approaches work, I’m certain you’ll be in a better position to decide which approach works for you! And you still have trouble figuring out, you can always write back to us. We’d love to help you out in any way possible.

[su_note note_color=”#EDEDED”]

Further Reading on ‘ Growth Hacking with Your LearnDash LMS’





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to our Newsletter

A key to unlock the world of open-source. We promise not to spam your inbox.

Suggested Reads

How to Make Responsive Tables using CSS without Tag
Join our 55,000+ Subscribers

    The Wisdm Digest delivers all the latest news, and resources from the world of open-source businesses to your inbox.

    Suggested Reads

    Craft the perfect eLearning experience on your LearnDash LMS

    Want to make your LearnDash LMS stand out from the rest? Customize the eLearning experience for your learners without spending $1. Use our easy-to-follow 44 LearnDash Tips and Tricks to get maximum ROI. Download your free guide now