How to Enable LearnDash Sidebar

Do you want to add a custom sidebar to your LearnDash website? Then this article will be really helpful to you. We are going to check out the various sidebar options of LearnDash and learn how to enable LearnDash sidebar. We will also use a plugin to add unique sidebars to your LearnDash courses.

One of the biggest advantages of using WordPress is that it allows great customization options. Being one of the best LMS plugins, LearnDash also provides you with so many customization options. You can also add a sidebar (widget) section to your WordPress themes.

In this post, we are going to learn how you can enable the sidebar in LearnDash. We will also look at the default sidebar options and create sidebars that are unique for each LearnDash course. So let’s get started.

What is LearnDash?

LearnDash is one of the most popular WordPress LMS plugins today. LearnDash is trusted by big companies like Yoast, University of Florida, University of Michigan, Digital Marketer, etc. It provides you with all the necessary tools to create the perfect eLearning platform.

LearnDash has been created with the guidance of leading eLearning experts. With LearnDash you receive the total package of what you’ll be needing in order to create and sell courses online. LearnDash was the 1st LMS plugin that was launched back in 2012. The LMS plugin has great integration with other WordPress plugins such as WooCommerce, PayPal, Stripe, MailChimp, BuddyPress, bbPress, 2checkout, and much more.

Although LearnDash is an excellent choice if you want to build an LMS website, it doesn’t have a free version. But if you want to try it out, there is a LearnDash demo section that you can check out.

LearnDash gives you access to various add-ons and tools that you can use to customize your online courses. You can also third-party plugins and customize your LMS website the way you want. To learn more about LearnDash, check out our post on LearnDash review 2022.

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Types of sidebars

Let’s first understand what a sidebar in a website is. A sidebar is a section on your website that consists of various widgets and contents. LearnDash has a default layout that includes a sidebar with widgets of your choice. Other elements such as a progress bar, course navigation, etc. can also be placed in the sidebar. This is a configuration that has been proven to be very effective for online courses.

But if you have a website with multiple courses, then you might want a unique sidebar for each of those courses. Depending on which course is viewed, the sidebar might have widgets that is more relevant to that course. Using a plugin called “Content Aware Sidebars” you can add unique sidebars to your LearnDash courses.

We will take a look at both of these sidebar settings. First, let’s take a look at the LearnDash default sidebar options and how to enable them.

How to enable LearnDash default sidebar

As you know LearnDash has a default sidebar option for you. There are amazing LearnDash themes and if you are using one of those, you might already see the sidebar, included with the design. You can also enable the sidebar option manually and choose which widget to display on the sidebar.

Step 1: Choosing widgets for the sidebar

Before enabling the sidebar, let’s choose the widgets that will be displayed on the sidebar. From your WordPress dashboard go to Appearance > Widget. It is also important to mention that we are using one of Astra’s themes which are recommended by LearnDash.

widgets option

Step 2: Building the sidebar

Now we are in the widgets section. Here you can decide what widgets to display on your sidebar. Suppose we want to display our sidebar on our courses page. To do that, click on “Main sidebar” and it will show you the current layout of widgets. You can add new widgets or remove widgets from here if you want. 

managing widgets of main sidebar

To add a new widget, click on the ‘+’ icon and it will bring up the Gutenberg blocks. Select the widget you want and it will be displayed on the main sidebar. We are selecting the progress bar and we will keep the recent posts and recent comments section, we will remove other blocks. Now click on Update to save your changes.

Step 3: Enabling widgets for the courses page

To display your sidebars on your courses page, simply go to Appearance > Customize. You can also visit your website and go to your courses page and then click on customize button from the WordPress tab on top. It will bring up the customization menu. From here click on Sidebars.

customizing sidebar in LearnDash

You can see various options that decide where to display the sidebar. So we want to display the sidebar on the right side of the screen. Scroll down and click on the drop-down menu labeled ‘LearnDash’ and select ‘Right Sidebar’. You can also set the sidebar on the left side of the screen.

There you have it, you just enabled the sidebar on a LearnDash course page with widgets of your choice. You can also display the sidebar on other pages. The process is the same, go to the customization screen and instead of the LearnDash dropdown, select the pages, archive, single product, or the place where you want to display your sidebar.

Also if you are using a good LMS theme, it might come with sidebar enabled. Therefore, when building your LMS website, make sure to choose a good theme.

How to enable LearnDash sidebar with Content Aware Sidebars plugin

Although the default LearnDash sidebar option is really quick and easy to implement, there is one problem. You can’t set unique sidebars for each course. If you have a multi-course eLearning website, you might want to display unique sidebars for each course. To do that, we can use a plugin called Content Aware Sidebars.

Step 1: Installing Content Aware Sidebars plugin

Content Aware sidebars is a free plugin that allows you to create custom sidebars for your LearnDash course contents. One of the biggest advantages of this plugin is that you can use it to create unique sidebars for your courses.

You can install the Content Aware Sidebars from wordpress.org or you can download it directly from your WordPress dashboard (Plugins > Add New). Currently, it has 40,000+ active installations.

content aware sidebars plugin in wordpress.org

After you install and activate the plugin, you’ll see a new menu item called “Content Aware” on your WordPress dashboard.

content aware sidebars plugin

Using this plugin you can add custom sidebars to your LearnDash courses. But before we do that we have to first make sure that our course content is configured properly.

Step 2: Adding Lesson Tags to course contents

Since we will be creating custom LearnDash sidebars for our course contents, we have to find a way to assign sidebars to our course contents. We can do this by specifying the lessons where we want to assign a sidebar. To do that follow the steps given below:

  1. Go to LearnDash LMS > Lessons
  2. In the Filter bar, select the course you want to set a sidebar on
filtering lessons of a course

Now you have all the lessons of a specific course. 

  1. Select all the lessons of that course and from Bulk Action select ‘Edit
  2. Add a custom tag (For example, wpcourse)

Now we have a tag for the course lessons. Using this tag we can assign a sidebar to this particular course contents.

adding lesson tag

Step 3: Creating a custom sidebar for a specific course

We have the lesson tag for the course in which we want to set our custom sidebar. Now its time to create the custom sidebar. To do that follow the steps given below:

  1. Go to Content Aware > Add New
  2. From the Conditions Tab, select Lessons Tag from “New Condition Group” drop down box.
selecting lesson tags as condition

Note: You can also select Lessons from the “New Condition Group” drop down if you want to display your custom sidebar for certain lessons.

  1. Insert the lesson tag created earlier.
adding the lesson tag in conditions

Now our sidebar will appear on all the lessons with this tag. The last thing that we have to do is to select what we want our sidebar to do. To do this, follow the given steps:

  1. Go to Options tab, select ‘Replace’ as the action
  1. Select ‘Main Sidebar’ as the Topic sidebar
  2. Click Create and then Save

You can also go through other sidebar settings of Content Aware Sidebars as it has some great features. For example, you can schedule a sidebar to appear for a certain period of time.

schedule sidebar option in content aware sidebars plugin

Step 4: Select widgets for the sidebar

To select the widgets for your sidebar you can click on the “Manage widgets” button on top. After you click on save, another link appears that says “Manage widgets” you can click on that click as well. It will take you to the widgets screen.

Manage widget option

From here you can add the widgets as we’ve discussed in the default LearnDash sidebar option.

LearnDash Focus Mode

Another great feature of LearnDash is the Focus Mode. It hides the header and footer and adds a sidebar on your screen so that the users can focus more on the lessons. This is a special LearnDash sidebar that is available when students are taking a course. To enable this feature follow the given steps:

  1. Go to LearnDash LMS > Settings
  2. From the General settings, enable Focus Mode
Enabling Focus Mode in LearnDash

You can also select the width and position of your Focus Mode. By default, it will be set to 960px and it will be positioned on the left side of the screen.

  1. Click on Save

Now you have the Focus Mode enabled. This special LearnDash sidebar will become visible when users are taking a course. All the users can now focus more on their lessons as this feature eliminates all distractions.

Focus Mode LearnDash sidebar

So that is how you can enable the Focus Mode on your LearnDash website. It is a really cool feature and as you can see, it gives your users a new interface with no distractions so they can focus more on the lessons. Since the Focus Mode is also one kind of LearnDash sidebar, we felt that it is important to mention this feature.

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Conclusion

There is no doubt that LearnDash is one of the most powerful LMS plugins in the market today. It gives you amazing features to build the right website for your eLearning website. It also integrates perfectly with many different plugins. The Content Aware Sidebars is such a plugin. With this, you can enable custom LearnDash sidebars for your course content page. Enabling the default LearnDash sidebar is also very easy as you’ve already seen.

Now go on ahead and enable LearnDash sidebars for your LMS project. Whether you want the default sidebar options or course-specific sidebars, you have the option to do so. Let us know in the comment section how you customize your sidebars.


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