Interview with Dan Johnson – Sensei Product Lead

    Deepen Shah
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Dan Johnson – Sensei Product Lead, WooThemes

If we are talking about online learning management systems in WordPress we cannot forget about Sensei by WooThemes. One of the first few comprehensive plugins in the LMS space, Sensei has come a long way since its release in January 2013. Two years later, the plugin has become better than ever before and is being supported by an active ideas forum, prompt support and increasing list of add-ons.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, cause today I am in conversation today with Dan Johnson, the ‘Sensei’ of this very successful classroom. While most are aware of Dan the Sensei Product Lead at WooThemes, few know of the talented artist in him.

Without further ado let’s see what Dan had to say about eLearning, the future of Sensei and other things big and small.

How has your experience of working with WooThemes been?

I’ve worked at WooThemes for almost three years now, and it’s been a constant pleasure. The team has grown from just over 20 when I started to almost 50 now, and it’s great to see the company evolve as it grows, driven by a passion for creating awesome products.


Based on your experience in the eLearning space what are your recommendations for those just starting out with an e-Learning website?

My number one tip would be, ‘don’t get caught up in perfectionism‘. We take a ‘lean’ approach to product releases at WooThemes, and I’d encourage people to do the same with online courses, by releasing a ‘minimum viable product’, and improving it incrementally, based on customer feedback. You can read more about this approach here.


Who do you think is Sensei ideally suited for?

Sensei is the ideal platform for anyone who wants to teach anything online. It can be used by individuals or small businesses, to sell courses on anything from painting to keyhole surgery. On the other hand, it can also be used by schools and universities to provide a more academic learning platform. We also use it internally at WooThemes as part of our onboarding process for new team members. The possibilities are endless!


 How does Sensei compare to other learning management systems in WordPress?

Probably the main advantage of Sensei is its tight integration with WooCommerce, enabling you to easily sell access to your courses.

It also has some great features such as automatic quiz grading, a question bank for creating dynamic quizzes, and there’s a growing selection of extensions available, providing additional features like the ability to drip your lesson content over time, and award badges and certificates to your learners as they progress through your courses.


We see that many suggestions on the WooThemes ideas forum are ‘under review’. Have you prioritized any for 2015?

Yes! We are currently working on expanding the ‘teacher’ role, introduced in version 1.6, which will enable teachers to create and manage their own courses. This will also integrate with our Product Vendors extension for WooCommerce so that you’ll be able to create a course marketplace, with each teacher selling their own courses.

After that, we’ll continue to prioritise based on customer feedback, so keep adding your suggestions to our ideas board and vote for the ideas already on there. You can also keep an eye on our public roadmap  and subscribe to our Develop Sensei blog to stay updated with release announcements.


What factors according to you contribute towards making any plugin a success?

A successful plugin is one that solves a problem for its users. It’s important to find the right balance between adding features and keeping the plugin lightweight and simple to use. For me, the key is listening to our customers to find out what problems need solving, and then figuring out the best way to solve them.

Not many of our readers know your inclination towards art. Tell us more about Dan Johnson the Artist.

Art has been a hobby of mine since I was a child, and I find the creative aspect is a nice counterpoint to the more technical and analytical work I do at WooThemes. I was really into caricature for a while, but in the last few years I’ve been learning how to paint with oils, focusing more on landscapes. I’m still trying to figure out what direction my art is going in, but for now I’m just enjoying seeing where it takes me!

A Work of Art by Dan Johnson


So, if setting up an eLearning system is on the cards for you and your requirement is that of a plugin closely knitted with WooCommerce then Sensei is a good option. and as Dan rightly said, “don’t get caught up in perfectionism” take the plunge towards developing your eLearning system.

So, that was  Dan Johnson with WisdmLabs and all things Sensei!

Watch out this space as we have some more interesting interviews coming up. In the meanwhile, for all those with a quizzical look on their face, our comments section is open for you 😀

Deepen Shah

Deepen Shah

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