Courses can be a meaningful addition to your membership site. Your audience may readily welcome (hint: pay for) content that helps them improve their skills and deepen their knowledge. This guide covers some of the most popular eLearning software options that can be used with your membership business.
Develop Your Course Content First
We highly recommend developing your course content, even just in a rough outline, before you begin evaluating platforms to deliver it. Most platforms include a common list of features: a basic course content page, progress metrics, quizzes, and even awards and certificates. But how do you know what features your course will need before you even write it?
Identify what will be included in your course in the early course planning stages. Then identify what will not be included in your course. If you build a strong outline up front you will know what to focus on and won’t get sidetracked as you develop the content.
If you would like expert guidance as you develop your course, check out this course for creating courses by Joe Casabona.
It can be tempting to build a course that fills up all the exciting features of your chosen platform. Your course should actually be designed around your content. If you take a content-first approach to course development, you’re more likely to create a program that makes sense to your members.
Remember: A functional course is far more useful than a flashy one.
Wait, do you really need an eLearning plugin?
In its most basic form, a course is a well organized series of content. Your course content can include text, images, downloads and videos. Here are some thoughts to consider before you make the leap to use a courseware plugin:
- WordPress includes the ability to create pages in a hierarchal format by default.
- There are simple plugins out there that create a “table of contents” for this hierarchical content, such as our own Subpagelist, the Pages Submenu that is included in Memberlite as well as Memberlite’s Subpage List shortcode.
- Paid Memberships Pro includes page content restriction (for free).
- You could basically sell courses à la carte using our Addon Packages Plugin and this recipe to restrict all child pages of a purchased Addon (course).
- You can always convert these pages of course content to a courseware plugin later.
Just courses or a membership site that includes courses?
There are many ways to sell the courses you create. Some popular models include:
- One-time fee to purchase a course.
- Subscriptions that unlock access to multiple courses.
- Membership that includes courses alongside other community features.
Most elearning plugins include e-commerce features to sell the courses you create. Ask yourself: am I building an online store that sells courses or am I building a membership?
While this may seem like a subtle distinction,my experience supporting membership site creators has shown me that the difference is very important. How you answer this question will help you decide on the right platform to power your online business.
Don’t overcomplicate how you sell things too early. If you’re starting with one course, just sell that one course for a one-time payment. This will get your content in front of customers faster, allowing you to refine and respond to their feedback before you spend time on course #2 or any accompanying content and features.
If you’re planning to offer a membership, use Paid Memberships Pro.
Courseware Platforms for Paid Memberships Pro
Paid Memberships Pro (PMPro) is a complete membership solution for your WordPress site.
These courseware plugins integrate with PMPro so that users who purchase a membership get enrolled in certain courses. This route provides you with the flexibility to set your recurring membership pricing and offer supplemental course content like blog posts and downloads as well as course-enriching features like member chat and forums.
You can set up a single membership level includes one or more courses, or you can set up distinct membership levels that offer specific courses per interest group.
LearnDash is premium LMS for WordPress. They offer an integration plugin allowing you to protect and automatically enroll members in one or more courses after checkout. Read more about LearnDash and their integration here.
WP Courseware is another comprehensive premium WordPress LMS. Like LearnDash, they have written a bridge plugin for PMPro that protects course access based on membership level. While WP Courseware is not available for free, the bridge plugin can be downloaded via the WordPress.org plugins repository. In addition to this plugin, we have a tutorial that shows you how to sell single courses using WP Courseware and Paid Memberships Pro. This method leverages our Addon Packages plugin.
Tutor LMS offers the full suite of features you would expect from a course plugin, and they offer a “Basic” option that is free to use. Their “Pro” version includes Paid Memberships Pro integration right out of the box. You can read a guide on using the PMPro integration for Tutor LMS Pro on their website.
If you are doing your own research, you may have found a few other popular LMS plugins for WordPress. There are loads of them. The list above is aimed at highlighting the plugins that offer some form of PMPro integration.
Using another courseware plugin that doesn’t integrate with PMPro? Reach out to us on the contact form. There are some courseware plugins that we can help you restrict using our Custom Post Type Membership Access Add On.
Additional Resources for Course Creators
Ready to start building a course? This guide has covered many high-level topics to get you started. Here are a few supplemental articles that will help you as you begin the next stages of course development: