Chris Badgett is a passionate man. He leads a number of lives while he chases his multifarious passions. Chris could have been three different persons altogether and you wouldn’t be able to tell them as one – a successful internet entrepreneur, an adventurer who swears by the greens and blues of the planet, and a complete family man who dotes on his two beautiful daughters.
To the WordPress community, Chris is better known as the face of LifterLMS, the not-so-old LMS plugin that’s been making waves in the elearning world due to it’s robust and systematic approach to creating and managing elearning content.
Chris obliged us at WisdmLabs with a Q&A session, where he spoke of his plans to change the WordPress elearning arena with LifterLMS, the latest trends in elearning technology and on the life he lived serving as a fireman (not kidding!). Spoilers apart, I shall let the man himself take over from here. Read on!
LifterLMS is an ambitious project; special mention to its aspirations of building an online elearning community. How did you first think of entering the WordPress elearning space and where do you plan to take things from here on?
The vision of LifterLMS is to democratize education in the digital classroom. LifterLMS makes it easy to create, sell, and protect engaging online courses. We wanted to provide a software solution that was superior to all the other options out there and attract the best and brightest minds from the elearning community. We chose to work with WordPress because of it’s strong community, approachability, and affordability.
We started out in the freelance web development business and built a lot of online course, learning management systems and membership sites for clients and for ourselves. We used many of the tools out there and saw their strengths and weaknesses first hand. It was through these multiple years of experience, and noticing what was missing, that we came up with the core feature set and approach of LifterLMS.
One of the things our customers love about LifterLMS is how quickly we evolve the product with new features based on customer feedback. From here our plans are to keep improving LifterLMS and its ecosystem of add ons. Coming up very soon will be the release of LifterLMS which includes:
- A streamlined one-screen checkout and account creation process
- The ability to automatically remove access to a course after a certain time period or if payment fails
- The ability to create more advanced pricing and access plans
And much much more.
In the future beyond the 3.0 ecommerce and membership improvements, we will continue to evolve the LMS side of the software in terms of the instructor role, quiz options, analytics, and assignments.
Despite starting off relatively late, LifterLMS has managed to gain a substantial user base that swears by it as the most complete elearning solution on WordPress. What would you attribute its success to?
We are honored and driven by the respect and kind words of our raving fans. We try very hard to be a complete solution, even for our user base that starts out with the free version of the LifterLMS plugin. With the free LifterLMS plugin, anyone can create, sell, and protect their online courses while also benefitting from our popular engagement features. For those that don’t know, LifterLMS engagements include:
- Achievement badges
- Automated personalized emails that are triggered off of events that you defin.
We saw working with other software tools that you often needed additional software for components like ecommerce, membership protection, email engagement, and more. At the very beginning of the LifterLMS project back in 2014, we intended to make a complete solution by design.
What do you think of WordPress as an emerging platform for eLearning and how it stacks up against standalone solutions like Moodle or Canvas?
At the beginning of the LifterLMS project, we debated about building on top of WordPress. We’re so glad we stayed with WordPress as a platform for development because of the community, extendability, and the self hosted content philosophy.
The WordPress community is incredible. It’s full of smart elearning, membership site, and LMS experts like Chris Lema. There are also so many great freelancers and agencies like Wisdom Labs out there to help support and extend the functionality of tools like LifterLMS.
WordPress has always been big on giving people control over their content. Having control over learning content is a natural extension of this and is why our vision of democratizing education aligns perfectly with the vision of WordPress. Mistakenly WordPress is often seen as just a platform for blogging, but it’s also a tool for development like we’ve done in building a WordPress learning management system solution.
The big difference with a WordPress LMS solution compared to a Moodle or Canvas is that WordPress is bigger than just a tool for learning. WordPress is more flexible out of the box. In many cases a business needs more than just elearning, and in this case WordPress can cover all the other needs as well. Also LifterLMS as a WordPress solution can cover the needs of the broader learning community. Canvas and Moodle are meant for the LMS market, whereas LifterLMS can meet the needs of the LMS market, membership site owner market, and simple online course market (which is a booming industry right now).
What trends and technologies do you see taking over elearning in the near future?
One of the trends we are most excited about with elearning is the growing use of live streaming to facilitate live interaction in the digital world. We’ve built custom live streaming solutions for some private clients and can see the potential.
Another big trend on the horizon in elearning is the explosion of demand by people in all kinds of interesting niches looking to teach online. This means there is an exponentially growing demand for LMS software tools and freelancers and companies who can set up the technology for clients. In the same way that we’ve seen an explosion of book titles with the rise of self publishing, we can expect to see an increasing number of new online courses, membership sites, blended training sites, traditional schools, and non traditional schools coming online.
How would you rank the following in order of importance and why? Users, Revenue, Popularity, Quality.
Quality – Without quality, no other factor can grow
Users – We need a large user base to crowd source the best ideas for the future
Revenue – While LifterLMS is free, we need growth through our paid products to fund development and keep the company going at a sustainable clip.
Popularity – We don’t chase being popular. Popularity is a side effect of the previous 3
Chris Badgett has been known to wear a lot many hats; apart from being the face of LifterLMS you are also an acclaimed web designer, an online edupreneur, a blogger and a doting father. How do you juggle between these roles on a daily basis?
I do wear a lot of hats. I’m able to juggle so much because of 3 main things
- My Team – LifterMS has a team of approximately 17 amazing people
- Project Overlap – When I’m working on one of my online courses, it helps me build a better product at LifterLMS.
- My Passions – I am deeply passionate about education and learning. This motivates me as a father, entrepreneur, and as someone who creates content around this topic.?
Your resume is noteworthy and rather impressive, it’s not often that you see an internet entrepreneur who has also had stints as a firefighter, a real estate agent and an operations manager for a touring business in Alaska. How would you best sum up your career thus far?
My career has always been first and foremost driven by my passion and desire to explore what interests me. I’ve been lucky to have worked with great people in lots of different industries and had incredible experiences. I also get to take what I learned in one industry and bring it into another.
I learned how to manage people and build a strong team on a glacier in Alaska in a helicopter supported dog sled tour business. This same skill comes in handy in a distributed software development company too. Working in real estate helped me become a stronger software marketer and sales professional. Helping put out a fire on a burning building makes “crisis” in the digital world less stressful by putting it in perspective. Helping train sled dogs teaches education and leadership lessons for the human world as well.
What do you do to unwind when you’re not knee deep in managing one of your many ventures?
When I’m not online, I spend a lot of time in nature and traveling often with my family. As an example for the last 5 months, I have been running my business from the road traveling and camping with my wife and two daughters while visiting friends, extended family and many of the National Parks in the USA.
A word of advice for all the aspiring entrepreneur reading this?
Some of the best advice I can give is to simply share my experience on what has worked for me as an entrepreneur:
- Don’t quit too early. Every success I’ve had took at least 3 years and lots of hard work.
- Build a team consisting of A players only as soon as you can afford them.
- Never stop learning, have an open mind and challenge assumptions. I spend at least 1 hour a day learning new things through podcasts, YouTube, books, and other sources.
Chris Badgett is the CEO and cofounder of LifterLMS. He’s an online course creator himself, devoted family man, and lifetime entrepreneur. You can connect with him on LinkedIn right here, or follow him on twitter to read his thoughts in 140 characters or less.