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So you’ve chosen to build your Learning Management System (LMS) on WordPress. Congratulations!

You may have even picked an LMS plugin to go with, which is more than half the battle.

Now it’s time to figure out which WordPress LMS theme to pair with your plugin.

I’ll explain the difference between between LMS themes & plugins so you have an idea what to look for. I’ll then provide the best themes to use for each of the most popular WordPress LMS plugins on the market. Whether you’re just starting out with your LMS build, or you’ve been at it for years and are looking for a new solution, we’ve got you covered.

I’ve been building sites with LearnDash for 5+ years and using WordPress for over 12. I’ve worked with clients using many different themes, and even developed a few plugins for LearnDash, WordPress’ most popular LMS platform. I’ve done the research so you don’t have to.

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Let’s dive into the world of WordPress LMS themes, exploring the top contenders for popular LMS plugins like LearnDash, Tutor LMS, LifterLMS, LearnPress, and more.

TL;DR…

❌ We do not recommend using a WordPress LMS theme that bundles its features in the theme. We recommend using one of the popular LMS plugins (LearnDash, Tutor LMS, LifterLMS, Sensei LMS, LearnPress), and pairing it with an appropriate theme.

Table of Contents

Introduction to WordPress LMS

Before I give you guys the best LMS themes to use with WordPress, let’s go over what an LMS is, and how we turn WordPress into a fully functioning LMS platform.

What is an LMS?

LMS stands for learning management system. An LMS is used to deliver online courses to a student. WordPress themes can be used to build an LMS, along with other third-party LMS plugins.

Can I build an LMS with WordPress?

Yes, WordPress can be used to build an LMS. By default, WordPress does not include LMS features. However, there are about a dozen plugins that will convert WordPress into an LMS.

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How to install an LMS on WordPress?

Most LMS functionality is added to WordPress via a WordPress plugin. You can install free WordPress plugins from your site’s admin area by going to Plugins > Add New and searching for an LMS plugin. Then simply click install, followed by activate.

Premium WordPress LMS plugins first need to be downloaded from their developer. Then you go to Plugins > Add New, click Upload, select your plugin, and then activate it.

If you’re using a WordPress LMS theme, you’ll go to Appearance > Themes, click Add New Theme, then Upload Theme, select your .zip file, and then activate it.

WordPress LMS Themes vs. Plugins

IMPORTANT
For 99% of use cases, we recommend using a plugin and not a theme to convert WordPress into an LMS.

WordPress has many things that make it the most popular CMS in the world, but the two main components that most users need to understand are themes and plugins.

  • Themes typically control the design & layout of your site
  • Plugins add functionality & features to your site
What is a WordPress LMS theme?

With WordPress, themes typically control the design & layout of a site, whereas plugins control additional functionality. Creating an LMS with WordPress is usually done with plugins, not themes.

However, some developers have created WordPress LMS themes that include the LMS functionality. We do not recommend using these themes.

An LMS platform obviously needs both functionality and features, as well as a beautiful and usable design. Thus, when creating an LMS with WordPress, you need to consider both themes and plugins.

NOTE: BuddyBoss is a bit unique in that they have a free plugin that adds functionality, and a premium theme that optimizes the design. However, BuddyBoss still requires you to use an LMS plugin like LearnDash, Tutor LMS, or LifterLMS because it doesn’t provide LMS features on its own.

Most LMS plugins also include all of the necessary design components that a site needs to function and look good, but how those plugins interact with the theme you’re using is where things get tricky.

I’m writing this article to help you better understand how LMS themes & plugins work together, and decide which WordPress LMS theme to choose for your online learning site.

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The Best WordPress LMS Themes

Let’s get into the best WordPress themes to build an LMS platform on your site. I’ll separate this section into three parts:

  • The best WordPress LMS themes to use alongside the most popular LMS plugins. These are general themes that you can use to build any type of site, and also work really well for LMS platforms.
  • Themes to use with specific LMS plugins (LearnDash, Tutor LMS, LifterLMS, etc.)
  • Standalone LMS WordPress themes that include all the functionality in their theme, and don’t require any additional plugins (not recommended)

Still deciding on which plugin to use? Read the best free WordPress LMS plugins if you’re on a tight budget.

LMS Themes to Use w/ Popular LMS Plugins

I’ve hand-picked these themes because of how well they integrate with the most popular WordPress LMS plugins. The following 3 themes will work well with all of the most used LMS plugins for WordPress (LearnDash, Tutor LMS, LifterLMS, Sensei).

All of the top 3 themes include:

  • Clean code & fast page load speeds
  • Excellent documentation & support
  • Pre-built templates & sections to speed up design time
  • Backed by legitimate companies that have been in the WordPress space for a long time

🥇 GeneratePress

GeneratePress theme logo

GeneratePress is not only my favorite WordPress theme, but it’s my top choice for building an LMS site.

  • The UI is easy to use and understand
  • The features & options are incredibly well thought out
  • The code is clean, which leads to fast page load speeds
  • The documentation & support is excellent
  • There are free & premium versions, along with a companion plugin, GenerateBlocks, to add even more features

Maybe my favorite thing about GeneratePress is its default styling. The font sizing, overall spacing between elements, simple & clean look… I realize this is subjective but I just think it’s 🤩.

GeneratePress Site Library screenshots
Examples of pre-built templates from GeneratePress’ Site Library

🥈 Astra

Astra logo

Astra from Brainstorm Force would be the next theme I’d look to when building a WordPress LMS site. It’s been around the longest of our top 3 choices, and has a history of consistent development.

It offers most of the same major features as GeneratePress, but I prefer the GeneratePress interface a little more. I also think the styling that GeneratePress uses is a bit more polished than Astra.

LearnDash Academy Astra template for Elementor
The “LearnDash Academy” starter template for Astra

🥈 Kadence

Kadence theme logo

Kadence is really on par with Astra. They haven’t been around as long, but they were acquired by StellarWP (Liquid Web) a few years ago, and that added money and developer resources behind the project. It has continued to improve since the acquisition.

Kadence also makes Kadence Blocks, which can be incredibly powerful, especially if you’re building a dynamic site with custom post types, custom fields, etc.

This is very similar to GeneratePress’ approach with how they also have GenerateBlocks. I’m a big fan of one company building a theme AND a companion plugin to supplement it’s features.

Using LearnDash?
Since Kadence & LearnDash are owned by the same company, they are more compatible with each other than any other theme is with LearnDash. I expect this integration to continue improving in the coming years, thus making Kadence the best WordPress LMS theme for LearnDash.

Edubin

Edubin is a popular LMS theme on ThemeForest with over 3,000 sales and a 4.97/5.0 rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. I haven’t tested this theme yet, but it boasts integrations with:

  • LearnDash
  • Tutor LMS
  • LearnPress
  • Sensei LMS

…and has demos for MasterStudy and LifterLMS coming soon.

This is one of the few LMS themes on ThemeForest that I recommend taking a look at. I can’t officially recommend it until I’ve had a chance to play around with it, but it’s definitely worth a mention.

Edubin WordPress LMS theme

BuddyBoss Theme

BuddyBoss logo

BuddyBoss is the most unique WordPress LMS theme on the market. The big thing you need to understand about BuddyBoss is that it is both a theme AND a plugin.

The BuddyBoss Platform plugin is free to download. It adds deep integrations for those using LearnDash, Tutor LMS, or LifterLMS. The BuddyBoss Platform rewrites many of the templates that these plugins use, and merges its community features with the LMS.

However, using the BuddyBoss Platform with any other theme except for the BuddyBoss theme will leave you with an unstyled site. The premium BuddyBoss theme adds all the necessary styling to make the BuddyBoss Platform features look good. Without it, you’d need to write a ton of custom CSS to make the Platform features worth using.

Tutor LMS + BuddyBoss integration announcement
Example of the BuddyBoss integration with Tutor LMS

BuddyBoss is arguably the most beautiful WordPress LMS theme available today, however, it should only be used by those creating a social platform or deeply rooted community-based learning site.

While the Platform plugin is free to use, the BuddyBoss theme costs $299/yr., and they really should be a packaged deal.

Using LearnDash?
Read our complete LearnDash + BuddyBoss review →

Themes to Use with Specific LMS Plugins

What is the best theme for LearnDash?


LearnDash logo

The best theme to use with LearnDash is Kadence. Kadence & LearnDash are owned by the same company (StellarWP/Liquid Web) so they integrate nicely. I expect more integration between LearnDash & Kadence in the foreseeable future.

I also recommend using GeneratePress with LearnDash. While it doesn’t have the same integrations that Kadence provides, I find it to be a better overall theme.

To learn more about LearnDash-specific themes like eLumine & LearnMate, read our article on the best themes for LearnDash.

What is the best theme for Tutor LMS?


Tutor LMS

While GeneratePress is still a great option, Tutor LMS has three of its own themes that I would recommend you look into first.

My first recommendation would be to look at the free Tutor Starter theme. Themeum, the team behind Tutor LMS, promotes this as the #1 theme to use with Tutor LMS.

They also make Edumax and Skillate, two premium LMS themes that also integrate with the Tutor LMS plugin. Both of these are premium themes that cost $79/yr.

What is the best theme for LifterLMS?


LifterLMS

LifterLMS offers its own theme to use with its plugin called Sky Pilot. Sky Pilot integrates with LifterLMS better than any other WordPress LMS theme, thus making it the top choice.

Sky Pilot is available as a separate $150/yr. purchase, or you can get it included with LifterLMS’ Universe Bundle for $500/yr., along with additional LifterLMS add-ons. This is discounted to $250 for the first year.

What is the best theme for LearnPress?


LearnPress logo

If you’re using LearnPress, I recommend using the Eduma theme by ThimPress, the same company who makes LearnPress. Eduma is the most tightly integrated theme available for LearnPress.

What is the best theme for MasterStudy?


MasterStudy logo

MasterStudy is similar to BuddyBoss in that it is both a theme AND a plugin. They offer a free and premium version of their plugin, along with their own MasterStudy starter theme.

If you plan to use the MasterStudy LMS plugin, I recommend the corresponding MasterStudy theme.

Standalone WordPress LMS Themes

As previously mentioned, I recommend you use an LMS plugin for your online learning platform, and supplement it with a theme that integrates with that plugin, or works for a majority of LMS plugins.

Therefore, I do not recommend using the following WordPress LMS themes that have prepackaged their functionality into the theme. This is not how WordPress recommends developing products for its ecosystem.

  • Any of the LMS themes on ThemeForest that claim integration with LearnDash or other LMS plugins, unless mentioned above
  • Social Learner: You’ll see this theme listed on other articles, but it no longer exists. It has been replaced with the BuddyBoss Theme + Platform Plugin.

Many of these themes are poorly built and include tons of additional features that you don’t need and will never use. You’ll find them difficult to use, and they’ll often slow down your site. Some don’t even offer the integrations they claim to support.


A Note About WordPress Block Themes

WordPress block themes are a new form on WordPress theme that includes a new way to manage the overall look & feel of your entire site. Block themes are designed to be used exclusively with the block editor, and they make use of a new “site editor” as opposed to classic WordPress themes that make use of the “Customizer.”

I won’t get into all the specifics of how block themes differ from classic WordPress themes. The main point here is that block themes are not at a point where they can or should be used with LMS plugins. Most LMS plugins have not made the necessary code changes to be fully compatible with block themes.

Therefore, at this time, I don’t recommend using block themes with any LMS plugin. See below for one exception.

Popular block themes include: Spectra One, Blocksy, Greenshift, Ollie, Frost

What is the best LMS theme for Sensei?


Sensei LMS logo

If you’re using the Sensei LMS plugin, I recommend using the block theme from Sensei called Course.

Sensei should work well with all of our recommended LMS themes above (GeneratePress, Astra, Kadence), but if you want to dive into the world of block themes, give Course a try. You will find some nice integrations between the theme & Sensei since they are built by the same team.

Block themes work in a much different way than classic/traditional WordPress themes, so if you aren’t ready to learn a new way of designing & managing your site, stick to GeneratePress or possibly give Edubin a look.


If I left any WordPress LMS themes off this list, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear about your experience building an LMS with WordPress, which plugin you chose, which theme you decided on, and if there’s anything else you’d like to share.

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