WordPress, which started out as blogging platform in 2003, is now estimated to run 27+% of the top 10 million web sites and is reputedly the most popular content management system (CMS) for blogging or managing web sites.
Three of WordPress’s biggest attractions are that the core system is free, open source and comes with free hosting so that anyone can create a simple web site in a few minutes without paying anything.
WordPress is being used more by businesses because it enables low-cost access to the web and is relatively easy to use for straightforward web sites. Some businesses install WordPress on web hosting they purchase to have greater control over the system. They can also add free or commercial plugins to add more functionality to their web site and these now include learning management system plugins.
For organisations already using WordPress for web sites, adding a plugin appears an inexpensive way to add LMS features. Why purchase a totally new system when you can just add more features to an existing one?
Businesses who have the expertise to program PHP and MySQL, on which WordPress is based, will be more able to run a WordPress LMS than those who don’t. They will need to ensure they retain this expertise, because there is no specific support for WordPress so the LMS, and to some extent the business, could be at risk if no one knows how to maintain it.
While the low cost of entry for simple uses is extremely attractive, there are more costs and risks in using WordPress for complex applications such as an LMS. For a start, WordPress seems vulnerable to regular attacks and, while the main software is often updated fast to resolve exploits, the thousands of themes, plugins and other extensions created by independent developers often remain susceptible to hacks, malware and brute force attacks. You’ll have to wait for a developer to update a plugin or product you use or, if development has been abandoned, you’ll have to find a new product and migrate all your data. Compare this with a proprietary LMS where the vendor has a responsibility to keep your system up to date and secure.
Because WordPress is primarily a blogging platform, it is not designed for more complicated applications such as an LMS. It will be difficult to replicate all the features of a proprietary LMS in a WordPress-based system as there are fewer opportunities for customisation.
The ongoing cost of maintaining a WordPress LMS, the security risk and the lack of features won’t necessarily provide a good return on the investment of time and resources you put into it. While the upfront cost of a proprietary LMS is higher, you can spend more timing getting value from using it rather than having to administer constant updates to keep it going.