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3 WordPress plugins to help you start an online course

Lisa Tanner's Layout avatar

The world of eLearning is booming. If you have knowledge you can teach others, it might be time to create your own online course. It’s an excellent way to diversify your business and add another income stream, because once you get your course up and running, you can enjoy a fairly passive way to earn money.

But simply having fabulous content is not enough; if no one can access your material, you will never sell anything. You have to decide on a way to deliver your content to your target audience while accomplishing a goal, whether that’s collecting email addresses or boosting your revenue.

There are several delivery methods to choose from. You can use an email drip system, allow your students to download the material as a PDF, or host your lessons on another platform, such as YouTube, Teachable, or Udemy.

Another option is to install a Learning Management System (LMS) plugin on your WordPress site. This will allow your students to log into the course area of your site to access the material. It’ll give you control over the content, help you avoid email delivery problems, and prevent you from giving a cut of your profits to a separate platform.

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Having your own LMS in place is a great option for many course creators. However, there are so many options out there that it can be hard to find the right one for your site. In order to help you weed through all the possibilities, here’s a look at three LMS plugins that each feature a free core. While you may eventually decide to pay to access more features, these are all solid options to get your course up and running while bootstrapping your business.

1. Namaste! LMS

With an average review of 4.5/5, Namaste! LMS is a powerful free plugin. It supports multiple courses, so you won’t be limited to only one. Inside of each course, you create lessons. If you have assignments for your students, you can use Namaste! LMS to make those available as well.

While you’re getting your material loaded into Namaste! LMS, you can use their shortcodes to keep it simple when designing lessons for your course. Once enabled, these will allow your students to check their progress through the course, move more easily between lessons, and quickly search the content for something they’re looking for. These options certainly help create a wonderful user experience.

Once your course is ready for market, you can integrate PayPal and Stripe to accept payment from your students. You can also use custom HTML code to enable additional payment methods.

The developers of Namaste! LMS are continuously updating this plugin to ensure it stays compatible with the most recent versions of WordPress. Their documentation is easy to read and will walk you through the process of getting your first course up and running.

2. LearnPress

LearnPress makes it easy to set up your online course. You can start by entering your course outline, which will help you keep track of the big picture of your course and what you want to teach in each lesson. Once you’ve gotten your outline entered, you’ll be able to create all the details for every lesson and quiz.

For each course, you have the option of adjusting many settings. You can set a duration for the course, meaning students will lose access after their course has expired. You can also decide on a maximum number of enrolled students, to help keep your site from being bogged down.

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While you can charge for your courses, the free version is limited to only a PayPal integration. There are premium upgrades available that’ll allow you to add more payment options.

Once you start selling courses, the statistics will help you keep an eye on student enrollment and completion. To get the most out of your statistics, you’ll also need to install the LearnPress Add-ons Bundle, which is a free add-on.

The developers of LearnPress are dedicated to keeping the core version free, and ensuring that it remains compatible with WordPress updates. You can get started using this plugin and not worry that I’ll disappear on you while you have paid students enrolled.

3. LifterLMS

A free, open-source plugin with a 5-star rating, LifterLMS is an all-in-one learning management system for your WordPress site. There are plenty of options and features to help you get your course on the market.

This plugin comes with premade pages to help ensure your courses are set up correctly. You can create membership levels to keep unauthorized users out and keep your course running smoothly for enrolled users.

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When you first open this plugin, you’ll see a step-by-step guide to getting started. This walks you through getting the student dashboard created, assigning a proper currency, and making your checkout page. The free version of LifterLMS integrates with PayPal.

There are also built in welcome email templates that you can customize. These will go to your students directly after purchase, and ensure they have the login credentials they need to access your material.

To create your course, you can add modules and lessons to present your material. You can also create quizzes, which feature automatic grading.

LifterLMS developers ensure that this plugin stays up to date and complete for users, plus they have a support team ready to help if you need some assistance.

Now that’s you’re ready to start your e-course, you’ll need some great marketing and form integrations. Learn more about Hubspot’s WordPress plugin and streamline your processes!

Do you have a course in the works?

If you’re planning on creating a course, how are you planning on delivering the content to your audience? Will you be giving one of these three plugins a try, or using something different? Chime in with your thoughts in the comment section below.

Comments ( 2 )

  1. Jason Spencer

    July 27, 2016

    I love this list, though my favorite (and one that I utilize on a Flywheel hosted domain) is Zippy Courses. They are not free, but they do have a one-time pricing and options for a full theme or just plugin that allows you to work within your own theme. Plus their support staff has been wonderful while I built out my first and second courses using my own theme.

    • Lisa

      July 27, 2016

      Thanks so much for adding your favorite to the list Jason. I'll definitely check out Zippy Courses!

  2. Coleen Stanley

    November 23, 2016

    Great list! Just wanted to update - since LifterLMS updated to 3.0 they no longer offer free integration with PayPal :( You can offer free courses for free, but if you need to accept payment online, you will need to purchase the PayPal or Stripe add-on.

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