So after doing some of my own research on the best way to create an online course, I decided to go with LearnDash LMS and WordPress. Was this a mistake and a complete waste of time and money? Read my complete LearnDash review below to find out.
About a month ago, I finally decided to begin working on one of my primary goals for 2020, and that's to create an online course. I've been planning on doing this for some time now, to be honest. But, I didn't find the time until a few months back.
After deciding on the couple of courses I wanted to create, I went about searching for the best solution to create my first course. As in, what software to use.
I've read plenty of reviews about the various applications available. I looked at Teachable, which impressed me at first. And then, I discovered the monthly cost and customization limitations.
But this was the least of my worry. There was the whole aspect of content copyright and audience ownership. Who owns what?
I didn't like the idea of having my course hosted on a platform that I had no control over.
I also looked at other platforms like Thinkiffic and Podia. But again, I was left pondering about content ownership. The pricing structure also didn't excite me much.
I would have likely used something like Teachable or Podia if -
A) It wasn't for the massive doubts that I had over copyright and ownership. For instance, if I wanted to sell the course later on, what options would I have if the course was hosted on a platform that wasn't mine? Probably none.
B) If that platform were to collapse someday, what would happen to my course? I like to have 100% control over everything; that's just my problem.
Setting up a hosted WordPress website using a theme of my choice, and the LearnDash plugin wasn't a huge challenge for me. Especially since I work with WordPress every day as a designer and developer.
So, I decided to bite the bullet and went for that very option—WordPress with LearnDash.
Now, I realize that this might not be a solution for everyone. For example, none-techies might want an easier option, and for them, something like Teachable or Podia might be the more fitting alternative, if that's for you.
Anyhow, after much debate and research, I began setting up my WordPress site, hosted on SiteGround, for my first online course.
I purchased the LearnDash Plus Package, which would give me a license to create unlimited courses on up to 10 websites. More than I actually needed, to be honest. But me being me, I like having the extra resources just in case.
Now, let's get on with the LearnDash review already! What I will do is set out the list of chapters that I'll cover.
I'll be as honest as I can with you. If you have followed my journey so far as a blogger, you'll know that I don't just write reviews for the sake of making money! And I don't praise, promote, endorse any products, services that I have NOT used in my business or don't fully trust.
OK then, let's get started.
LearnDash is a powerful all-in-one LMS (Learning Management System) plugin for WordPress. It was co-founded and created by Justin and Kloe Ferriman in 2012.
LearnDash has gone on to become the number one choice of LMS for many Fortune 500 Companies, and thousands of brands around the globe. They are currently used by top organizations such as ProBlogger, InfusionSoft, and WPElevation.
LearnDash is for anyone genuinely interested in creating an online course with WordPress.
LearnDash gives you complete control over every aspect of your online course from creation to selling.
There is a little bit of a learning curve to be experienced if you're not too savvy with WordPress, but generally speaking, it's quite simple to use once you've gotten the knack of it.
If you're a freelance designer or developer like myself, working with WordPress, then having the LearnDash LMS plugin in your toolkit is a must and opens doors to more opportunities.
Currently, LearnDash is being used by popular enterprises like Infusionsoft as well as universities such as the University of Florida, Michigan, and Washington.
LearnDash is unlike any other 'standalone' LMS platform. LearnDash was designed for WordPress hosted websites. What you're not getting here is a course building toolkit that's ready to plug and play, if that makes sense.
You can't just add content and be done. You have to build your course from the ground up, so that includes creating the course content, customizing the layout, and styling whatever theme you might be using.
So, for instance, you can use any theme you want and add LearnDash on top of it. I use Oxygen Builder myself, so that means I can build a custom theme and layout for the course I want to create. You can use whatever theme or theme builder you wish. More about this later on.
But what really makes LearnDash so different from any other tool out there is this - If you ever decide to sell the course someday, you'll have very few problems doing so.
Here's how and why:
Since you're building the course from the ground up on your own hosted WordPress platform with your own domain name, you'll have 100% ownership of that course. You're also responsible for all of it.
If you were to use a service like Teachable to create your course, you might struggle if you ever decided to sell the course as an end product.
LearnDash isn't your average LMS, it comes with an absolutely mind-boggling amount of features. Some you're going to find simple to use and useful, others not so much. But what can be said is that you're going to find everything you need for creating your online courses in LearnDash.
Let's take a closer look -
Focus Mode - To give your learners the best possible experience using your course without distractions. Furthermore, you can add your own branding, such as logos, icons, and colors, to make your course look and feel more personalized and professional.
Powerful course builder - Without a doubt, LearnDash is powerful. Where else can you create multi-layer courses using drag and drop editing? If you have content already published on your blog, converting that content into course material is quick and simple.
Advanced quizzes - You can add four types of quizzes to your course content to make it more engaging and rewarding for your students.
Drip feed content - You can create two kinds of learning experiences for your students; drip-fed content over time, or deliver your course all in one go.
Dynamic forums - You can build an active and engaging community with forums to encourage sharing and debate.
Course points - Award points each time a lesson is completed to unlock new ones. This is a great way to promote learning.
Certificates and badges - Make your courses worthwhile and rewarding with custom certificates and badges.
Monetize features - Monetize with various methods, including one-time purchase, subscriptions, memberships, and more. Create course licenses and bundles.
Administration features - Administration options give you control over profiles, email notifications, group management, detailed reporting, assignment management, and more.
LearnDash is expandable through a range of add-on plugins. This feature alone puts LearnDash LMS way ahead of any other solutions or competition out there. Again, based entirely on my experience, that's my opinion.
The list of addons include -
Now, let's talk about getting setup. The process of creating a course with LearnDash is actually simple enough to do. It doesn't really matter what theme you have installed; LearnDash should work just fine.
Installing and activating the plugin is pretty much textbook, like any other plugin. Once you're set, you're ready to start using LearnDash.
If you're 100% new to this LMS and generally using WordPress, the first thing I would recommend you do is head over to LearnDash LMS > Overview in your dashboard.
What you will see on this page is the LearnDash Bootcamp. You'll need to enter your email address and the license key to begin with.
What I'd recommend you do next is take some time watching the rest of the tutorial and setup videos. If you're not a techie, you'll gain a better understanding of LearnDash very quickly.
I know it's time-consuming and you just want to start building your course, but you'll be glad you watched them when the time comes to putting your course together.
Don't forget to refer back to the Tips and Trick and Documentation section on this page when you need to.
Before you start creating your course, go to LearnDash > Settings to customize your preferences. This page has quite a lot of options so take your time to go through each one.
I would pay particular attention to the General, PayPal Settings, and Stripe Settings tabs.
Under the General tab, you can customize the design and content elements. For instance, upload a logo, set pagination, change admin user settings, and access Rest API options.
Under the PayPal Settings tab, you can add your PayPal email address to send payments too when you sell your course, set currency, and customize redirection after someone has paid for the course.
Under the Stripe Settings tab, you can insert your Test or Live Publishable and Secret key to allow for credit card payments to be made for your course.
Don't forget to set your Stripe account to the testing mode when you're creating your course and when you're ready to accept payments, you can switch both Stripe and the settings in LearnDash to Live Mode.
If you don't have a Stripe account, get one here.
OK, let's move onto actually creating your course using LearnDash!
The options in the sidebar menu, Courses, Lessons, and Topics are pretty much self-explanatory. All the courses you create will be displayed on this page.
To create your first course, simply click on the Courses option, then at the top, you'll see a button that says Add New; just click on it.
On the next page, you can start by giving your course a name and adding some content. The content you add on this page will appear on the course home page.
Next, you can use the Builder tab to create lessons, topics, quizzes, and use drag-and-drop to arrange them any way you want. I would recommend you add all of your lesson and topic headings here first before you start customizing each part and adding content and videos, just to save some time.
Once you have all of your course content added and lessons and topics organized, you can begin editing each one in more detail.
If you toggle your mouse pointer over the Lesson or Topic, you'll see an Edit | Remove link appear. If you click on the edit link, you can open the editor to add your Lesson or Topic content.
For the most part, that's the basic steps needed for creating your course. I'm pretty confident that you'll figure out the rest from here.
I want to talk, very briefly, about theme customization. You have to remember that LearnDash is not a theme. You will need a WordPress site with a theme already added. That said, you always want to customize the course components and elements to match your theme without hacking any code, and that can be a bit tricky.
Since I use Oxygen Builder to build out and customize my theme from scratch, LearnDash works flawlessly with this. I am able to create a custom stylesheet and add all the customizations in that style sheet for the course, including buttons, links, backgrounds, colors, etc.
Whatever theme you're using, you can add your own customizations by going to Appearance > Customize > Additional CSS.
Of course, you don't need to have Oxygen to use LearnDash. As I said, you can use any other theme, such as the Genesis Theme Framework theme, Elementor, etc.
Video Coming Soon: In the coming weeks, I will be putting together a detailed Course Building tutorial video using LearnDash. Subscribe for updates to get notified when the video is published here.
So, cost-wise, there are three tiers available in the pricing options.
|Pro Package||Plus Package||Basic Package|
|Use on 25 sites and create unlimited courses.||Use on 10 sites and create unlimited courses.||Use on 1 site and create unlimited courses.|
Let me start with some of the pros -
And what about the cons?
Well, in all honesty, and I'm sorry if this sounds completely biassed, there aren't that many cons, for me, at least. But for the sake of it, I'll try and squeeze a few out to make it just -
So the verdict is in and here it is!
I don't have a bad thing to say about LearnDash; I only wish I'd learn how to use it much earlier. I've been creating my secret online course for the last six months with LearnDash, and I'm having a lot of fun.
I'm in no rush to get this course out, I want it to be as perfect as I can get it, and with LearnDash, I feel I have everything I need.
If you're thinking about creating your online course, you have to decide your options. Do you go with a complete solution like Teachable or Thinkific, or do you go for LearnDash and create your course yourself with WordPress?
There are pros and cons of using either option and if you need help deciding which one would be best for your needs, tune into this podcast episode. I also mention some other alternative solutions to LearnDash you might want to consider.
I personally give LearnDash a well deserved 4.6 out of 5!