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LearnDash Expert Advice for First Time Course Builders – Part 1

LearnDash is a solid online course building tool and it's designed to service both simple and complex online course building needs. I’ve published this LearnDash expert advice article, which is part 1 of a larger free LearnDash course I offer, with the goal of helping course building newbies:

  • avoid wasting time with a trial and error approach,
  • tap into LearnDash expert best practices to make the best use of the tools,
  • sidestep the grief and frustration they will face because it's their first time doing it, and
  • get the results they need.

We became LearnDash expert course builders by getting the necessary training, working with mentors that taught and coached us, reading what others have published on the subject and by working on countless customer projects for all types of small business owners.

Before we get very far, I'm making the assumption you have explored other options that are NOT Wordpress based. There are a lot of hosted course building platform like Thinkific, Kajabi, Teachable and others. Those may be a good option for you if you aren't particularly technical, if you aren't comfortable using Wordpress and if you have a close match with the features offered by the tool. You are also sure you won't outgrow what they offer in the future. Our biggest concern when using solutions like these, even though they tend to be easy to use, is that later when you run into a requirement they don't support, you have to move off of it and start all over again..

So let me define for you three levels of LearnDash platform complexity.  I'll start with the simplest which I'll name the small version and then grown from there naming them medium and large. They'll advance from simple to more complex in the following ways:

  1. the sheer size of each course and the number of courses you offer,
  2. the number of types of courses (i.e., do all your courses follow the same pattern or template or are they different.) and
  3. the way you sell want to package your courses.

These will determine which category you fall into.

LearnDash Platform Complexity - Small

My assumption for small is that you are offering 1, 2 or 3 courses. Each course is made up of 4 to 10 lessons a piece. The course content consists of video content with copy and some files containing worksheets or other support content students can download.

You can host your video content on YouTube for free. The downside of using YouTube is the YouTube logo and other notes will appear on your videos. At the end of the video, you may get other videos displayed to your members. If you set your videos to "unlisted," only people with the link to the video will see them. There is no way to prevent someone with the link from sharing the video with others.

A really good video hosting solution is Vimeo. There entry-level paid offering is reasonably priced. It enables you to configure your videos so they look nice and clean with only the play controls showing. You can protect your videos so only members with login credential can view your videos so the protection is pretty solid. Of course, if people share their login credentials with others, your course content gets out to others, but that's an issue every platform faces.

In this small complexity configuration, you are selling your courses individually for a set price. The student gains access to the course material indefinitely or for a set period of time (i.e., 6 months, a years). They pay up front and not a recurring subscription.

In scenarios like this, LearnDash with YouTube or Vimeo provides you with all you need. You can use LearnDash's e-commerce add-ons to accept payments using either Stripe or PayPal. As long as you keep things simple, you don't need additional e-commerce plugins. We'll talk more about that in the medium version.

With LearnDash's free add-ons, you can very elegantly display your courses on a dashboard. You can display courses which your members have purchased along with those they have not purchased on the dashboard enabling members to view the course introductory information you provide to help sell people from one course to another.

There are a few free Wordpress plugins we recommend that we find helpful when building simple LearnDash sites. Here is a list of them for you to consider. They give for a more complete solution by smoothing out some features not provided by LearnDash:

  • Login Widget with Shortcode - This makes it easy to add a login form so your members have easy access to that.
  • Smart WP Login - This enables you to automatically login members after they have registered.
  • LearnDash LMS - Course Grid - The enables you to display courses on a dashboard. The course grid enables you to display them very nicely especially if you have nice images associated with each of your courses.

This article continues in Part 2 where I cover medium complexity configurations.