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LearnDash + BuddyBoss: The Ultimate Online Course Community Platform

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Are you looking to build an online course community with WordPress?

If so, there’s no better combination than LearnDash & BuddyBoss. Using these two products, you can create and sell online courses, create groups and discussions, and provide an entire social network for your students, all without leaving your website.

I’ve built dozens of LearnDash sites, and consulted with over 100 online course creators, and BuddyBoss is hands down the best tool for creating a community-based online learning platform. I’ll show you exactly what you get with this killer combination through screenshots, short videos, and tons of links to discover if LearnDash + BuddyBoss is the winning combination for your next project.

Table of Contents

LearnDash for Online Courses

LearnDash logo

This powerful combination starts with LearnDash, one of the most popular LMS plugins for WordPress.

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LearnDash provides the capabilities to build online courses on your WordPress-powered site. You can create courses, add lessons, collect student essays, administer quizzes, award certificates, and more. If all you need is a simple online learning site, LearnDash might be all you need.

This premium-only plugin starts at $199/yr. There are also some premium add-ons you might want to consider. To see a price breakdown and learn more about the add-ons, read our article on LearnDash pricing.

And don’t sleep on hosting. Managing an online learning platform on WordPress requires decent server resources. Learn more about the things to look out for in our LearnDash hosting breakdown.

BuddyBoss for Social Network & Community

BuddyBoss logo

If you’re building a learning community around your courses, or want the social networking of a Facebook Group without using Facebook, add BuddyBoss to your stack.

BuddyBoss comes with tons of community features of its own, and then integrates beautifully with LearnDash to create the ultimate social-powered, community learning platform. BuddyBoss unlocks discussion forums, one-to-one messaging, group communication, social profiles, comments, likes, and mentions, post interactions, activity feeds, notifications, and more.

Unlike LearnDash, which is a single plugin, BuddyBoss is comprised of multiple components:

  • BuddyBoss Platform: a free plugin that adds social networking & community features to your site
  • BuddyBoss Platform Pro: a paid plugin that adds premium-only features in addition to what the free Platform plugin provides (included with the purchase of BuddyBoss Theme)
  • BuddyBoss Theme: a premium theme that adds design & customization to the BuddyBoss Platform plugin
  • BuddyBoss App: a custom, branded mobile app solution for the Apple App Store & Google Play
Is BuddyBoss an LMS?

No. BuddyBoss does not provide LMS features. However, it integrates with several of the most popular LMS plugins for WordPress, including LearnDash, Tutor LMS, and LifterLMS.

You can use BuddyBoss in conjunction with an LMS plugin to create a more feature-rich online learning experience.

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What is the BuddyBoss Platform?

BuddyBoss Platform logo

The BuddyBoss Platform is a free plugin that converts WordPress into a powerful & customizable community platform. The team at BuddyBoss forked both the BuddyPress & bbPress plugins, merged their features, improved upon them, and gave us this incredible plugin for free.

The free Platform plugin includes most of the features you’ll need to create an online community. However, they also offer the BuddyBoss Platform Pro ($99/yr.), which adds the following features that are not included with the free version.

  • Zoom integration
  • Member access controls
  • Premium layout options
  • 24/7 premium customer support

You might find the design & layout a bit underwhelming. The Platform is designed to only provide functionality. You can style it however you’d like, assuming you have the time & knowledge to do so. Or…

You can let BuddyBoss supply you with a beautiful design with their companion theme. 👇

What is the BuddyBoss Theme?

BuddyBoss Theme UI examples

The BuddyBoss Theme is a premium add-on to the BuddyBoss Platform plugin. It provides the design & layout for all of the Platform’s features.

You can add your brand controls and control many design aspects throughout all the BuddyBoss components on your site.

The BuddyBoss Theme costs $299/yr. for one site, and includes the BuddyBoss Platform Pro plugin.

NOTE
Unless you are an experienced WordPress developer, you’ll want to use the BuddyBoss Theme alongside the BuddyBoss Platform.

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What is the BuddyBoss App?

BuddyBoss app screens example
Example of the BuddyBoss App screens for Courses & Activity Feeds

I want to briefly mention the BuddyBoss App, although I won’t cover it in detail in this article.

The BuddyBoss App uses all the same content, courses, students, etc. from your website, and makes it available as a native app on both an iPhone & Android. BuddyBoss uses React Native, along with their companion plugin that you install on your site, to provide a seamless app experience for your users across both desktop & mobile.

This article just focuses on the web experience in the browser, but if you’re interested in providing your students with a native app experience…

Learn more about the BuddyBoss App →

LearnDash + BuddyBoss Together

What’s the difference between LearnDash & BuddyBoss?

LearnDash is a WordPress plugin that converts your site into an LMS. It allows you to create courses, lessons, quizzes, certificates, track student progress, and more.

BuddyBoss is a combination of a WordPress plugin & theme that adds community & social networking features to your site. Create groups, discussion forums, private messaging, detailed student profile pages, and more.

BuddyBoss has a deep integration with LearnDash. You can use them together or separately.

LearnDash provides the following LMS features:

  • Create courses & lessons
  • Create quizzes & collect uploaded assignments
  • Award certificates
  • Track user progress in courses
  • Manage user enrollment status
  • Collect payments (LearnDash or third-party plugin)
  • Send student email notifications (free LearnDash add-on)

BuddyBoss provides the following community-based features:

  • Discussion forums
  • Student messaging (group and one-to-one)
  • Student posting & activity feeds (UGC)
  • Comments, reactions, and mentions in activity feeds
  • Member profiles
  • Private & public groups
  • On-site notifications (and additional email notifications)
  • Enhanced design for all elearning pages
  • Zoom integration for live classes

🎉 Get Started Today!
Build an online learning community with the LearnDash-BuddyBoss combination.

Now let’s take a look at the various sections that will make up your online learning community when using BuddyBoss with LearnDash, and how the two products combine to create the ultimate online learning community.

“All Courses” Page

Sorting & filtering the BuddyBoss All Courses page (0:11)

This page lists all available LearnDash courses on your site. You have options to:

  • Show all courses or only the logged in user’s courses
  • Sort the course list 1) alphabetically by course name, 2) from newest to older, or 3) by completion percentage (most to least complete)
  • Filter courses by category and/or instructor
  • Display the courses in a grid or list format
  • Search courses by name
BuddyBoss All Courses page
BuddyBoss “All Courses” page

Course Page

A typical LearnDash course page is very basic in design. The BuddyBoss Theme gives it a much needed face lift.

BuddyBoss even provides additional information that LearnDash doesn’t display, such as:

  • # of enrolled students
  • # of lessons
  • # of topics
  • # of quizzes
  • whether or not a certificate is awarded
  • profile images of enrolled students
  • a brief description of the course, under it’s name
  • a large cover photo
  • instructor’s name, profile photo, and bio

See below for an example of a LearnDash course page using BuddyBoss.

BuddyBoss LearnDash course page
BuddyBoss LearnDash course page

Lesson/Topic Page

The BuddyBoss Theme enhances the design of all LearnDash pages. If the basic LearnDash focus mode styles don’t do it for you, use the BuddyBoss Theme to provide students with a more polished learning environment.

BuddyBoss LearnDash lesson page
BuddyBoss LearnDash lesson page

Dark Mode

Dark mode is built into BuddyBoss for all LearnDash learning pages. These includes lessons, topics, and quizzes. When viewing any LearnDash page, simply look for the moon icon in the top-right corner. Click this icon to toggle between dark mode & light mode.

BuddyBoss dark mode in action (0:05)

Activity Feed

BuddyBoss’ built-in activity feed brings social networking to your LearnDash site. Students can post content just like on Facebook—use emojis, upload images & video, insert GIFs, comment & reply to each other’s posts, send reactions, and more.

Activity feeds are available for the entire site, as well as for individual groups that you create. See who’s currently online and get notifications at the top of your site on every page.

BuddyBoss activity feed
BuddyBoss activity feed

Group Page

LearnDash has a groups feature but it’s very limited with what it can do. BuddyBoss Groups takes social learning to a new level with member connections, messaging, group-specific activity feeds, group documents, images, and videos, group forums, and more.

Pro Tip
If you want more groups functionality without using BuddyBoss, consider the official LearnDash Groups Plus add-on, or the even more powerful Uncanny Groups plugin.

BuddyBoss group page activity feed
BuddyBoss group page activity feed

Messaging

BuddyBoss messaging interface
BuddyBoss messaging interface

BuddyBoss messaging is a replica of Facebook Messenger. Your messages inbox lists all current conversations, which can be one-to-one or group messages.

Click on any message to open it up and respond. Use emojis and GIFs or upload photos and videos.

BuddyBoss messaging in action (0:16)

Notifications (on-site)

Similar to notifications on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn, BuddyBoss provides a bell icon in the top-right corner of every page on your site. You’ll see a list of all the activity that pertains to you, your courses, and your groups.

Mark individual notifications as read, or mark everything read with a single click. These notifications can also be sent via email using BuddyBoss’ email notification system.

BuddyBoss notifications on-site
BuddyBoss on-site notifications bar

Profile Page

With BuddyBoss, every LearnDash students gets their own profile page. You can add custom fields so students can add additional information to their profile. Users can also view profile completeness, access discussions, their courses, their uploaded photos & videos, and more.

BuddyBoss student profile page
BuddyBoss student profile page

Member Directory

BuddyBoss’ member directory lists all members in your community. You can sort:

  • alphabetically
  • by recently active members
  • by new members

View members as a list or a grid, quickly send them a message, and view only those whom you are following. You can even filter members by first and/or last name, and see who’s currently active on the site.

BuddyBoss member directory page
BuddyBoss member directory page

Blog Post

For those creating additional content via blog posts, here’s how BuddyBoss displays all blog content on your site.

BuddyBoss blog post
BuddyBoss blog post design

🎉 Get Started Today!
Build an online learning community with the LearnDash-BuddyBoss combination.

BuddyBoss + Page Builders

In addition to the BuddyBoss blocks you can use in the WordPress block editor, BuddyBoss is also compatible with the following page builders:

You can also insert any of the BuddyBoss shortcodes into your page builder of choice.

NOTE
Technically, BuddyBoss should be compatible with most page builders, even those not listed here. These are the ones they have tested and confirmed, or built direct integrations with.

BuddyBoss & Elementor

Does BuddyBoss work with Elementor?

Yes. BuddyBoss has a deep integration with Elementor, including several BuddyBoss & LearnDash Elementor widgets you can use when designing your online learning platform.

All aspects of the BuddyBoss Platform can be edited with Elementor, including courses, lessons, forums, discussions, and more.

You can use the following two LearnDash widgets when editing any page with Elementor:

  • Course Grid
  • Course Activity Carousel

Here’s a brief overview of them in action.

LearnDash Elementor widgets from BuddyBoss (3:42)

Learn more about the specific LearnDash Elementor widgets that BuddyBoss provides.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more LearnDash tutorials.

Custom Dashboard

You can even use Elementor to build your own custom dashboard for BuddyBoss. Here’s an example that includes the student’s name & avatar, CTA sections, a profile completion widget, most recent courses, discussions, and posts from their activity feed.

BuddyBoss custom dashboard with Elementor
BuddyBoss custom dashboard built with Elementor

BuddyBoss & LearnDash Integrations

Both LearnDash & BuddyBoss have a long list of official integrations.

In addition, they also work with two of our favorite automation apps:

Uncanny Automator logo
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 • Supports LearnDash, Tutor LMS, LifterLMS, and most membership plugins
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If you aren’t sure if your site will integrate with a specific plugin or app, ask us down in the comments and we’ll help you out.

BuddyPress & bbPress Plugins

Another great thing about BuddyBoss is that any plugin that was created for BuddyPress or bbPress will also work on the BuddyBoss platform. Since BuddyBoss is a fork of these plugins, they took extra care to make sure those using third-party plugins could still use them if they switched to BuddyBoss.

Membership Setup & Plugins

Both LearnDash & BuddyBoss integrate with popular membership plugins like MemberPress and Paid Memberships Pro. BuddyBoss will actually pull the membership status into the member profile pages so members can easily switch their membership level.

Use the links below to learn more about each platform’s integration with the respective membership plugin.

LearnDash also integrates with Restrict Content Pro, and they have even developed their own membership offering called MemberDash.

BuddyBoss also integrates with WishList Member, Restrict Content Pro, Memberium, and Digital Access Pass.

Gamification

LearnDash has very basic gamification with their official Achievements add-on, however, it’s very limited in features. Most course authors will want to add a third-party gamification plugin to their site. For that, we recommend GamiPress.

Both LearnDash & BuddyBoss integrate nicely with GamiPress.


That’s a great feature overview of what LearnDash & BuddyBoss can do for you. Now let’s take a look at how you can get your hands on a copy of each of these powerful online learning plugins.

BuddyBoss + LearnDash Demo

Does BuddyBoss have a demo?

Yes. BuddyBoss offers a free demo site that includes the LearnDash plugin, along with the BuddyBoss Theme & BuddyBoss Platform Pro. The demo includes several LearnDash courses and an entire community site already set up for you.

You can try out BuddyBoss as a site administrator. The demo resets after 30 minutes. BuddyBoss + LearnDash demo →

Pricing & Licenses

Are LearnDash & BuddyBoss free?

No. Both LearnDash & BuddyBoss are premium plugins. LearnDash costs $199/yr. and BuddyBoss costs $299/yr.

How much does LearnDash & BuddyBoss cost?

To use LearnDash & BuddyBoss together, it costs $498/yr. This includes a single-site license for both plugins.

You will also want to consider hosting costs, as well as any other premium plugins you might want to use.

Does BuddyBoss include LearnDash?

No. Purchasing BuddyBoss does not give you access to LearnDash.

Can I buy LearnDash & BuddyBoss together?

No. LearnDash & BuddyBoss are built by different companies and need to be purchased & downloaded separately from their respective websites.

Can I use LearnDash & BuddyBoss on multiple sites?

Yes, but you’ll need to upgrade your licenses for each plugin. LearnDash offers 10-site and unlimited site licenses, while BuddyBoss offers 5-site and 10-site licenses.

See also: Our complete breakdown of BuddyBoss pricing →

LearnDash + BuddyBoss Hosting

What’s the best hosting for BuddyBoss?

Rapyd is our recommended hosting for any site using the LearnDash + BuddyBoss combination.

Kinsta would probably be our second choice. Read my Kinsta review →

BuddyBoss customers kept complaining that even the best LearnDash hosting couldn’t handle the extra load that a BuddyBoss site demands. So they created their own hosting platform called Rapyd.

Rapyd WordPress Hosting
Rapyd just launched the fastest BuddyBoss, LearnDash & WordPress LMS hosting on the planet. Get 25% OFF with their early bird discount and lock-in up to 2 years of discounted pricing. From the creators of BuddyBoss.

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For building a community-focused online learning platform, there really is no other combination that delivers the features & design like LearnDash & BuddyBoss. From established brands with tens of thousands of paying students, to the small school with a few hundred members, BuddyBoss & LearnDash deliver an exceptional experience for students of all kinds.

🎉 Get Started Today!
Build an online learning community with the LearnDash-BuddyBoss combination.

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2 Comments

  1. Shayna

    Stellar post! I have LD/BB and it works great out of the box – I wasn’t aware of some of these other options, so thanks for describing them.

    Question on the course grid – for logged-in users, do you know of any way to make it display all courses, but have the user’s enrolled courses display FIRST in the grid?

    • Thanks Shayna 🙂

      Unfortunately, the LearnDash course grid doesn’t provide an option to sort by enrollment status. You can only use the default WordPress orderby parameters, which don’t include any info on enrollment status.

      My best advice is to insert two instances of the course grid. For the first one, set the Enrollment Status parameter to “Enrolled” and for the second one, set it to “Not Enrolled.” It’s not as clean as having them all appear in one grid, but it’s as close as you can get with the tools LearnDash provides for its course grid.

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

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