Interview with Justin Ferriman – Co-Founder, LearnDash

    Tarun Rai
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Justin Ferriman, Co-Founder and CEO, LearnDash

If you are interested in building an online learning website talk to Justin Ferriman. If you have any reservations about eLearning and its practical implementation talk to Justin Ferriman. If you need consultation on your online learning management system then connect with Justin Ferriman.

Ok ok, your quizzical look makes me think I should slow down a bit! Let’s start with who is Justin Ferriman?

If you know anything about Online Learning Management Systems you are sure to have heard of him. Everything about the guy SCREAMS eLearning. Right from his five years of experience at Accenture, to the extensive development and marketing of LearnDash, to his blog every aspect is synonymous with online learning.

So, let’s cut the chase and see what the management graduate, successful young entrepreneur, passionate writer and LearnDash co-founder has to tell us today!

What was the trigger for you to start developing LearnDash?

In early 2012 I was working on a consulting project and we were tasked with implementing a learning management system. I was curious to try something different from the standard LMSs that I had implemented in the past and so I began researching other alternatives. WordPress was very much a hobby of mine at the time so I started to research potential WordPress LMS options – there were none.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense for WordPress to be used as an LMS. It is extendable, flexible, and well supported. I started a blog (at the time ‘‘) and began writing about the concept. It was the first time the words “WordPress LMS” had been used together, so I began with educating and discussing more about the concept, what it could look like, and also writing about other e-learning related items.

As time went on, people became interested in the concept. We spent 10 months doing proper market research and developing a basic feature set based on my e-learning consulting experience. The following year (2013), we launched the first version and haven’t looked back since!

Which user according to you is the LearnDash Plugin a best fit for?

This is a hard question to answer as we have seen LearnDash used in contexts that we have never thought of before! For example, we’ve seen LearnDash used in higher education, franchise training programs, continuing education programs, life and business coaching sites, voice acting training, and even equestrian tai chi. 🙂 That said, LearnDash is the ideal solution for someone who values a product that comes from the field (that is, e-learning field) and is interested in having the leading e-learning methodology. This ranges from bloggers, academic institutions, and education providers. Our extensive background in the e-learning field gives LearnDash users a unique advantage.

What is the USP of LearnDash over other Learning Management Systems?

I have seen first-hand the reality of numerous traditional learning management systems. Many are clunky and lack the visual appeal that WordPress allows for so easily. With WordPress and LearnDash as your LMS, you have the option to grow it (via plugins or custom coding) as your e-learning program evolves. Traditional LMSs are often feature-bloated. With WordPress and LearnDash, you get to choose the features that you need, which helps to ‘trim the fat’.

For example, LearnDash doesn’t have a built-in forum, but if you need one you can simply install (the leading WordPress forum) and our integration allows you to associate them with your courses. This way your site isn’t using any unnecessary resources.

Since LearnDash and WordPress are self-hosted, you don’t have to worry about any ‘per-user’ pricing as well, which is a nice bonus. 🙂

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

You don’t need all the answers from Day 1. Start with a single course and expand your course offering as necessary. If you’re starting from scratch, it can be easy to become distracted by other things like your website name, layout, colors, and so on. While this stuff is certainly important, it’s not the highest priority. You need a course first, and this will often dictate how you frame your offering to prospective customers.

Interestingly enough, LearnDash does not have an “Instructor” user role. Is there any particular reason behind this?

At this point in time, we have not included it. At the time of writing this, we do have something in the works. In the interim, the free plugin User Role Editor can be used to extend the Group Leader role that we include in LearnDash to offer additional capabilities to traditional ‘instructor’ roles.

From a developer’s perspective, the number of hooks and filters for the quiz module are few? Do you have any plans to expand the plugin in that area?

We have big plans in this area. There are some items that we want to address in the code so as to enhance the developer user experience. This process is scheduled to begin late second quarter of 2015.

What should users expect from the LearnDash developers in the coming months?

As always we plan to continue creating more value through relevant core development. In addition, this year we have opened the doors for third party developers to contribute their own functionality to LearnDash users in the form of add-ons (both free and paid options). This was something that we held off on for the first couple of years as we really wanted to mature the LearnDash product first, but now the timing is perfect and we cannot wait to let the community know about the fantastic new functionality that is available to them.

From a long-term perspective, we are starting the process of entering into new markets, and continuing to grow the LearnDash brand as the “go-to” for WordPress LMS.

That, dear friends was Justin Ferriman, the co-founder of LearnDash, one of the most successful LMS plugins in WordPress.

Thanks a lot Justin for your time and invaluable inputs! It was certainly insightful information. We’re keeping a close watch on the latest LearnDash releases and hoping to see some great features in the coming months.

Tarun Rai

Tarun Rai

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