Creating and monetizing your online courses are so easy now. With WordPress and LearnDash, you can create an eLearning website and monetize your courses. Although using LearnDash is quite simple but is a comprehensive plugin and might be a bit overwhelming to use at first.
LearnDash is an LMS plugin and it is used by many famous names like Keap, University of Michigan, Yoast, SkillJet, etc. LearnDash was launched in 2013 which makes it the first LMS plugin for WordPress. Through the instructions of industry experts and years of development, LearnDash is one of the best LMS plugins today.
Although LearnDash has very detailed documentation and video tutorials, setting everything up can be tough sometimes.
To help you in your quest to create the perfect eLearning website, we have created this detailed tutorial. We are going to see how to get the best domain & hosting service, install WordPress, create and publish courses with LearnDash.
So without any more delay, let’s start our tutorial from the very beginning and build a powerful eLearning website.
Select a good domain and hosting service
Before we do anything, the first thing that we have to do is to get a good domain and hosting service. It’s natural because you need a domain name for your website’s identity and you need to place your website on the internet so that people can access it.
So, to put your online course website on the internet you have to do the following things:
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- Purchase a domain name
- Purchase a hosting service
- Install WordPress
If you select a good hosting service, then they will provide all these 3 things in one place. We recommend HostGator for your Domain and Hosting provider.
HostGator has been providing domain and hosting services for almost 20 years now. With 2+ million hosted websites, HostGator is just what you need for your eLearning platform. It has WordPress specific plans which are perfect for a WordPress website.
Some of the features of HostGator are:
- Free Domain for 1 year: This is a fantastic offer from HostGator. If you register your domain from HostGator, you can have that domain for free for 1 whole year!
- Free site transfer: If you have a site already, you can simple communicate with HostGator and they will transfer your site for free
- Unmetered bandwidth: You don’t have to worry about visitor limits. With unmetered bandwidth, you can have as many visitors to your website without the site breaking.
- 99.9% uptime guarantee: If your website isn’t available when your users log in, it puts a bad reputation on your business. For this reason, HostGator ensures a 99.9% uptime.
- One-click installs: You can install apps like WordPress with one-click install feature.
- Free SSL certificate: Today SSL certificate has become an absolute necessity. HostGator gives you the SSL certificate for free!
Among other benefits, HostGator gives you a free domain and free SSL certificate which is a huge plus. Being one of the oldest domain and hosting providers, HostGator is 100% reliable. So you can select HostGator as your domain and hosting provider without any worries.
The WordPress packages give you some cool features for your WordPress website.
- WordPress Pre-installed: When you purchase any of these packages, your WordPress will already be installed. You don’t have to go through the trouble of installing WordPress.
- Advanced Security: You will have extra security features such as malware protection, site backup, etc.
- Control panel: You will also have access to a special control panel which you can manage your website from.
- Free domain: HostGator gives you a free domain for your WordPress website.
- Free site migration: If you already have a WordPress site, the HostGator team can migrate your site for free.
There are so many more features, these are just some mentionable ones.
To purchase a plan simply click on the “Buy Now” button and it will take you to another screen. From there, you find and register a free domain, then fill out the form with relevant information and check out. Wait for a few minutes and HostGator will send you an email. From that email, you can access your HostGator dashboard. The email will also contain the cPanel username and password. Using that you can log into your cPanel account also.
Since you picked a WordPress plan, your WordPress will be pre-installed on your hosting, you just need to enter your domain name on the URL bar of your browser to connect to your website. But if you want to manually re-install your WordPress installation, there are a few ways to do it.
One of the most convenient ways of installing WordPress is through the Softaculous apps installer available on your cPanel. To log into your cPanel, simply select cPanel from your HostGator dashboard.
After you log in to your cPanel, find Softaculous Apps Installer, and from there click on WordPress, which will take you to another screen. From here just fill out the forms and make sure you set a strong password for your WordPress website. After the installation is complete, wait for a few minutes and try to visit your online course website.
If you see an error message saying that the URL does not exist, don’t worry, it takes time for the domain to be connected to your hosting. Just wait for a few minutes and try again and you’ll see your online course website.
To access your WordPress admin dashboard simply add the line /wp-admin at the end of your domain name for example https://yourdomainname.com/wp-admin.
Then finally put in your WordPress admin username and password to enter your WordPress dashboard.
Getting the LearnDash plugin
After you log in to your WordPress dashboard, you can explore some of the settings and get familiar with them. Once you are done with studying, the next thing we need to do is get the LearnDash plugin. If you haven’t purchased LearnDash already, head over to LearnDash official website, and then purchase the main plugin.
LearnDash has also launched the LearnDash cloud. You can either purchase the base WordPress plugin which starts at $199 per year for 1 site, or you can purchase the LearnDash cloud for $29 per month.
The LearnDash cloud is basically the hosted version of the base plugin. This plan includes a full LearnDash website ready to go. You just need to pick a template and create your courses. The rest is handled by the LearnDash team. You will also have access to premium templates and addons with the LearnDash cloud. You can pick this plan if you don’t have enough time to perform daily maintenance tasks.
Install important WordPress plugins
When you install LearnDash it will install a bunch of other plugins that you need to create an eLearning website. For example, WooCommerce is installed on your WordPress for monetizing your courses. Let’s take a look at a few of these plugins that are automatically installed on your WordPress website:
- LearnDash LMS (core plugin)
- Presto Player
- Starter Templates
- WPForms Lite
These are all the plugins that you might see on your plugins list after you install LearnDash. However, this list of plugins might change in the future. Because LearnDash is updated frequently to give you the best eLearning experience.
Also, there are many other plugins for LearnDash that you can install if you need it. Some of these plugins are:
BuddyPress: BuddyPress is a great plugin to create a social learning community. It adds private messaging, activity streams, and custom profiles.
Course Grid: This plugin allows you to display your courses with more details and style. Using Course Grid you can show your courses in a grid format. The latest version of Course Grid is focused more on the interface more user-friendly.
LearnDash notification: This is another addon that sends you notifications based on what students do (or don’t do) in a course.
Paid Membership Pro: Paid Membership Pro is one of the most popular plugins for membership websites. With this integration, you can create various membership levels for your users when they enroll in courses.
LearnDash Gradebook: Although a premium addon for LearnDash, this is a very useful tool. Using LearnDash Gradebook, you can administer grades to your students.
Private Messaging For LearnDash: As the name suggests, this allows your students to have a 1-1 chat with the course instructor.
There are numerous addons that you can use to make your eLearning website. While some of these addons come preinstalled with LearnDash, you need to install other addons manually if required. For example, if you want to display your courses in a grid style, you can install the Course Grid addon. To access the LearnDash addons, simply go to LearnDash > Addons and see which addons you need.
For this tutorial, we’re going to only use the Certificate Builder addon. So you can install it right now, or install it later on when we will create the certificate.
LearnDash setup wizard
As soon as you install LearnDash you are greeted with the setup wizard. The setup wizard helps you set up your online course easily with step-by-step instructions. You can skip the setup wizard and setup your eLearning website manually, but I recommend that you go through with this setup.
If you want to change any settings, you can do it later as all these options are available in the back end as well. The setup wizard will ask you a series of questions to confirm what kind of eLearning website you want. You can select the following options for your courses:
Simple: This option is for simple courses. It will have videos or text-based lessons with no certificates and quizzes. This is perfect for creating free courses and allows your students to get an idea of what a paid course might look like.
Certificate: The certificate option lets you create a course with video or text-based lessons. It will have quizzes and at the end, students will receive a certificate of completion. This option is perfect when you are looking to create a paid course.
Timed: This is as same as the Certificate option. You can add video or text based lessons and create quizzes and add a certificate of completion. But the difference is it will be timed and students will have to complete it within the given time to get certified.
Group courses: This option is for courses that have multiple instructors or teachers. It is perfect for cohorts, corporate training, or classrooms.
If you’re not sure which option you want to pick here, you can select all four options here. You can change the options later on so don’t worry about it.
Later on, you have to setup your payment method. Since you are building an online course website, you need methods to accept payment or have a pay distribution system for other instructors. The setup wizard will give you 2 options, Stripe and WooCommerce. You can select either one for your eCommerce needs.
You can also use other eCommerce plugins such as EDD (Easy Digital Downloads), 2Checkout, TriveCart, etc. on your LearnDash website. But you have to download those later on. For now select either Stripe or WooCommerce and move on.
By default, LearnDash uses simply way to connect your PayPal account to process customer payments. You can also choose WooCommerce and create a one-page simple checkout process. If you do choose WooCommerce, make sure to go through the setup process to set everything up.
Finally, the setup wizard will view a summary of all the options you just choose. It will also install the necessary add-ons based on your requirements.
After you click on ‘Save & Continue’ button, the setup wizard will customize your LearnDash website based on your decisions. After a few seconds, everything will be installed and you will be brought back to your WordPress dashboard.
Install a theme
Now that your LearnDash is all set up, it’s now time to install a theme. There are various LearnDash themes available on ThemeForest that you can check out. If you want a free LMS theme, there’s plenty to choose from.
If you look at the official website of LearnDash, then you’ll find several LearnDash recommended themes. In general, LearnDash recommends LMS themes by Astra and Kadence. You can use other themes as well, but try to pick an LMS-based theme because it will make your work a lot easier.
It is a good idea to spend some time looking for a good theme. You can customize a theme and turn it into an online course website that you envisioned. But if you can find a theme that already matches your requirements, it reduces a lot of work. For example, if you want to teach baking online, then the Learn Baking theme by Astra is a good match for you. So, take your time and look for the right LMS theme for you.
Certificates for your courses
Since you’ll be creating one or more courses, you do need certificates. So at the end of the course, students can get certified. Fortunately, LearnDash has a certificate builder addon that you can use to create your certificate. You’ll have the default classic WordPress interface to design your certificates, but if you install the Certificate Builder addon, you’ll have a whole new interface to design your certificate.
Let’s see how you can create a certificate with the Certificate Builder for LearnDash.
Step 1: Install the LearnDash Certificate Builder Addon
If you already have the certificate builder addon, then skip this step and move to the next one. If not, keep reading.
So, to install the Certificate Builder go to LearnDash > Addons and find the LearnDash Certificate Builder addon. Click on the install button to install the certificate.
After the installation is completed, click on the ‘Activate’ button to activate the addon. Now the LearnDash certificate builder is installed and activated.
Step 2: Open the certificate Builder
First let’s open the certificate builder. Go to LearnDash > Certificates and click on ‘Add New’ or if you don’t have any certificate there’ll be a button labeled “Add your first Certificate”. Click on either button to open the WordPress classic editor. Now give your certificate a name such as “WordPress masterclass certificate”
Step 3: Design and upload a certificate background
Now the interface that you’re seeing is Gutenberg block editor. Here you can design your certificate. But before you start, you need to design and upload a certificate background. To design a certificate background, you can use the following:
Canva: This allows you to design your own graphical elements. You can choose a template and then download it from there.
Envato Elements: Envato Elements is a premium graphics library with numerous pre-designed certificate templates.
Creative Market: Creative market is another popular premium graphics library where you can find various certificate templates or other graphical elements.
Before you complete your design, make sure your design meets the following requirements:
- The image must be in .jpg format
- If you’re using an 11″ x 8.5″ US Letter size in landscape orientation, your image should match these dimensions. If you want your certificates to look great when printed, please also use 300 dpi.
- Image size should be less than 1MB. It’s not a requirement but it will load faster if your image is less than 1MB.
After your design is complete, click on the ‘Upload’ button and choose your image.
If the alignment of the certificate border isn’t right, select the background block, then from the settings option you can change the field viewport and other viewing options.
Step 4: Put contents in the certificate
It’s now time to put in the contents of the certificate using the Gutenberg blocks. Preliminary the following contents need to be included:
- Title of the certificate (For example: Certificate of Completion)
- Student’s Name
- Course Title
- Date of Completion
To include these contents, you can use the paragraph block. But to include the student’s name you need the LearnDash User meta block. Since the name of the student will vary, you need this block. It will dynamically fetch the student’s name from the student ID. Similarly, for the course name and date of completion, you need the LearnDash Course Info block. Just use that block and add the course ID and it will fetch the data dynamically.
So that is how you can create your certificate. You can click on the ‘Preview’ button and select “Preview in a new tab”. Now you can download the certificate in PDF and have a look at your designed certificate.
Create some courses
You have your LearnDash settings all done, and you also have a theme installed. Now all that is left is to create some courses. It’s easy to create a course with LearnDash but before you start making a course, create a plan for your course. For example, if you are creating a course on WordPress, write down what chapters are you going to include in it.
Also, every chapter can have multiple lessons and after every lesson, you can add a quiz. You can also add a quiz after the end of a chapter. So make sure to create a proper course plan.
When you are ready, from your WordPress dashboard, go to LearnDash > Courses > Add New. This will take you to the course creation page where you can use the course builder to create your course.
The course creation process is very simple. The page is divided into 3 sections:
This is the part where you can give a title to your course and also add a description. The description generally gives the students an idea of what they will be learning in that course and why should they take a course. It is also a good idea to explain for whom this course is meant and how will they be benefited from this course.
You can also set a featured image for your course from this section. Therefore it’s important to provide a good and updated description of the course you are creating.
The Builder is that part where you actually build your entire course. If you’ve already built your course lessons, topics, quiz, etc. you can add all of those and create your course. But you can take another approach and create all the lessons, and add all the topics to the lessons. The reason why this approach is helpful is that you can view your entire course layout which will help you create your topics easily.
As you can see from the above image, all the lessons have already been created and topics added. You can also drag and drop these lessons if you want. By clicking on the arrow on the left side, you can expand a lesson and reveal all the topics. From there, simply click on the ‘Edit’ button to start creating your lesson or topics.
Note: Alternatively what you can do is create your Lessons, Topics, and Quizzes first and then add all those elements in the Course Builder. You can take any sequence you like.
The last thing that is left to do is tweak some settings option for your course. There are a bunch of options over here that you can look at. The entire settings section has been divided into 4 groups, course access settings, display and content options, course navigation, and course users. Let’s go through a few of these options one by one:
Course access settings
Access Mode: The first section is the course access settings. This option defines how students can access your course. From here you can decide if your course will be free, paid, one-time payment, recurring payment, etc. There are 5 options here let’s take a look at these:
- Open: Students can enroll and take the course for free and they don’t even have to log in to your website
- Free: If you select this option, then your course will be free for students to take but they have to register and login to the website first.
- But now: This is a common option that lets you add a one-time price to your course. Students must pay once and they will have access to your course if you select this option. Of course, your students must be registered and signed in if they want to make a purchase.
- Recurring: This option makes your course available to students with a recurring payment. This means that students must keep paying in order to continue the course.
- Closed: If you choose this option your course will be closed and students can’t enroll in this course. Only the admin can manually enroll the students into your course.
Course Prerequisites: If you enable the course prerequisites option, then students must complete a course or a list of courses before they can take your current course. You can mark which course the students must complete. After they complete the course/courses, this current course becomes available to them.
Course Points: Enable this option to award your students some points after completing this course. You can also create the required amount of points in order to access this course. It’s up to you if you want to have a point system on your online course website.
Course Access Expiration: This option lets you select a period of time the students will have access to this course after they enroll.
Now the access options completely depend on how you want to sell your courses. But if you for a general recommendation, I would say you can choose the “Buy Now” option and leave the rest of the options disabled. Next, set a price for your course and set an enrollment URL (the link where students will be taken after they enroll)
Display and content options
The display and content option is very important. From here you can enable the Course Materials and describe what materials will be included in your course. To make things quick, from this section do the following:
- Select a course certificate (Must create certificate first)
- Select a challenge exam (Must create a Challenge exam first)
You can leave the options as default but if required, you may also change them.
Course navigation settings
The course navigation settings control how your students will be able to interact with the content and how will they be able to navigate through the course. So there are 2 options here:
- Linear: This is the default navigation system. In linear navigation settings, students must progress through the course lessons in the designated steps. They cannot skip any topics or lessons.
- Free Form: In this format, students can freely move through the course lessons and topics.
Generally, the Linear navigation setting is the best option here.
That’s all that you’re going to do in the settings option. After you are satisfied, click on the publish button to publish your course. Similarly, use the same process to publish multiple courses for your eLearning website.
Create a course from a video playlist
An amazing feature of LearnDash is the ability to create an entire course from a video playlist. Today most of the courses that you see on Udemy or Coursera are videos. There’s a list of video lessons that students watch one after another. If you have a YouTube, Vimeo, or Wistia playlist, you can copy and paste the URL in a section of LearnDash and it will create the playlist for you!
From LearnDash > Courses click on the “Create from Video Playlist” button. This will open up another page and will give you an input field. Simply copy your YouTube, Vimeo, or Wistia playlist URL and paste it over here and it will create a playlist for you.
If you are an industry expert, you can teach others and earn money in that process. LearnDash is an excellent plugin that gives you all the tools to create and sell online courses. Even if you’re not an industry expert. you can create a marketplace for online courses with multiple instructors. The best thing about this is, that you don’t even need to code anything. That’s the best thing about working with WordPress.
In this post, I’ve shown you how to create a simple eLearning website. There might be many things that I didn’t discuss, such as the quiz creation, eCommerce setup, challenge exam, theme customization, etc. LearnDash simplifies the whole LMS process. You can easily create quizzes and add those to your course lessons and topics. With Astra and Kadence theme, you can quickly customize your online course website and much more. If you are using WooCommerce, simply run the setup and you’ll be on your way to earning money.
Even if you run into any troubles, you can check out the LearnDash support page. The documentation of LearnDash is neatly categorized so that you won’t have any trouble finding what you’re looking for.
So, what kind of eLearning website have you built with LearnDash? Let us know in the comment section.
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