E-learning has long surpassed the fledgling stage and has acquired a firm foothold across the world today. There is an impressive number of online educators dotting the internet worldwide. From open universities to paid courses, students are taking lessons on myriad subjects, based on their interests, from the comfort of their homes.
The overall convenience offered by the at-home method of learning has led to the emergence of the K-12 system of e-learning, which provides online classes as per the school curriculum for students from Kindergarten through Class 12.
Although their niche areas are different, both open online courses and K-12 education systems are built on the same principle – a learning management system. Various LMS platforms like Moodle, LearnDash, Sensei, Edmodo, Canvas, Blackboard, Google Classroom, Schoology, and more, have helped universities, institutions, organizations, and schools across the world build their own course websites.
Of these, LearnDash is one such LMS which has efficiently managed to provide course creation and management options for e-educators on WordPress. And after this successful foray, LearnDash is now prepped to provide solutions for K-12 systems too!
LearnDash: An Overview
Built as a plugin for WordPress.org, LearnDash is a robust LMS that works to create and sell dynamic courses from within the WordPress dashboard. The software is feature-rich and comes equipped with efficient tools for easy creation of educational content. In addition to its core features, LearnDash has several integrations and add-ons that extend the functionalities of the learning program even further.
One of the best traits of LearnDash is that it is user-friendly. Even availing of all the multiple course creation, enhancement, management, and selling options, setting up the course takes mere minutes, especially if you have all you content on hand.
Here are some of the major advantages of using LearnDash:
Ease of Course Creation
LearnDash segregates course content into Lessons, Topics, Assignments, and Quizzes. Each of these can be developed similar to creating posts on WordPress, which ensures a user-friendly, quick, and easy process. The course maintains a hierarchical structure, with each lesson necessitating the completion of the previous one. This ensures that students cannot simply skip through the chapters, marking them as complete.
LearnDash supports multiple kinds of media that can be included as a part of the curriculum. This extends to PDF’s, Word/Excel, audio/video files, YouTube links, images, Adobe Captive files, AutoCAD files, zipped material and more; all of these can be inserted at the click of a button, thereby making course creation quick and straightforward.
LearnDash has drip-content enabled, i.e. you can schedule your chapters according to your timeline. For instance, if in a course, you need to limit the material to two chapters for a given week, you can do so. The next lessons will still be visible to the students, but they will not be able to access them until the date and time of activation.
This is especially useful if the lesson needs to be an interactive one, and you do not want your students to access the course material beforehand. This content can be scheduled to go live at different times across different time-zones, which is beneficial if you have students studying from over the globe.
Multiple Question Types
Quizzes are an important part of the school curriculum. To efficiently judge the students’ grasp of the concepts being taught, you can incorporate quizzes in various formats in your course. LearnDash has eight question types, including single/multiple choice, text/numerical answer type, matching pairs, and essay questions, that present you with a wide range of tools to gauge your students’ understanding.
An innovative feature that LearnDash includes is questions based on audio or video files, which students need to mandatorily watch before they can answer the given questions. You can also limit the number of times a student can attempt a quiz, thereby encouraging the students to pay attention during lectures.
From the teachers’ point of view, questions can be compiled into question banks, to be inserted later into quizzes, and categorized by their difficulty level so that the teacher can create a well-rounded quiz.
LearnDash incorporates comprehensive gamification options to make e-learning fun. This includes achievement badges after lesson and course completion, awarding of certificates, course credits, and bonus points, based on the student’s activities, and leaderboard and level displays that highlight the names of the students with the highest grades, to encourage a healthy competition in the class.
Social Network Integration
A major part of regular school education is the interaction with one’s peers and classmates, which leads to overall personality development. It also stimulates discussions among like-minded people, leading to the creation of well-informed citizens with sensible opinions.
To facilitate this free flow of thought online, LearnDash integrates with social networking solutions like BuddyPress and bbPress that allow you to create chat rooms and discussion forums for your students, where they can interact with their teachers and course-mates and share ideas. These can be generated for co-curricular as well as extra-curricular activities.
Flexible Course Requirements
The pace of learning differs from student to student, which is why, there is no one-for-all solution in the K-12 system of online education. Depending on the capabilities of your students, you need to use different approaches with respect to their education. Often, there are two separate programs, one Regular and the other Advanced Placement.
LearnDash helps you create these two different streams by enabling flexible course requirements. For example, in an Advanced Placement Program, some lessons can be made optional, which would be otherwise mandatory for your Regular students.
As the student progresses through the course, LearnDash automatically keeps track of the lesson and topic the student is working on. As the author, you can necessitate certain requirements that need to be fulfilled by the student before he can move on to the next topic. For instance, you can make it mandatory to watch a video for a certain amount of time, or compulsorily download and read a reference PDF, or even fix the amount of time to be spent on that particular lesson, until which course progression will be blocked.
With this option, a Teacher can work in tandem with the Learning Coach to make sure that the student does not skip through important chapters.
Student Progress Tracking and Analytics
Tracking and analyzing the students’ progress through the respective subject’s courses, including assignment submission, quiz attempts, etc. is necessary to ensure that the student is working diligently. LearnDash has a solid Dashboard for tracking all the requisites, where you can get updated at a glance. At the front-end, the student himself can see his progress through the course as well, keeping track of the lesson/topic he is on, so as to avoid confusion or repetition.
With respect to Quiz tracking, you can let the students review their answers, in comparison to a model answer sheet, so that they know exactly where they made a mistake. Additionally, LearnDash lets you add reference material right after the review, which the student can use to read and rectify their shortcomings. You can set up automatic e-mails to send all of these results to the student’s Learning Coach, which ensures that the Coaches are aware of their progeny’s achievements.
LearnDash has inbuilt e-commerce options, and supports WooCommerce as well as Easy Digital Downloads, both of which are excellent ecommerce platforms from wherein you can sell your courses.
These features bode well for regular course building, as well as for the K-12 education system. However, the K-12 system of online education has requirements above and beyond those of a regular course creation and management platform. To see how LearnDash satisfies these requirements, read on!
Setting Up LearnDash as an LMS for K-12
LearnDash has several add-ons and integrations that leverage the functionalities of the respective plugins within the LearnDash site. Here, let us consider the most important requirements of a K-12 system, that cannot be satisfied by a regular course creation software.
Live Interaction Sessions
An important part of school life is being able to interact live with your teachers, whether to ask a doubt, answer a question, or to simply understand the concept being explained, in a better way. A physical explanation goes a long way in introducing complex concepts to students, as opposed to just reading them from books.
To incorporate this you’ll need a video conferencing addon such as Zoom, Google Meet or WizIQ.
Multiple Instructor Support
The K-12 system covers all the subject for classes from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Creating courses for all the classes is next to impossible for a single person. For example, take the curriculum for a Fifth Grader. There have to be separate courses for the mandatory subjects like English, History, Mathematics, Science, and Geography, each of which has 10 chapters at the very least. Apart from these, other activities like P.E., Drama/Poetry, field trips and the like, also need to be accounted for.
As the administrator, you cannot get bogged down by creating all of these courses yourself. However, neither can you make all of your teachers ‘Administrators’; it would completely break down the hierarchy of the website. LearnDash sidesteps the imminent chaos by incorporating the WISDM Instructor Role add-on which lets you add your teachers as ‘Instructors’ instead of ‘Administrators’. The way this works, they are free to design and conduct their courses, according to their respective subjects, without interfering in the administrative section of your website.
Furthermore, you can even set up profile pages for your teachers, where you can highlight their qualifications, achievements, bio, photo, contact details, and so on, so that the students and parents can get to know them better.
Multiple Student Registration
It often occurs that several students from the same neighborhood opt for K-12 education, or even intend to study in small groups. Now, instead of creating and tracking individual accounts for each of these, you can encourage them to register as a Group, with a Group Leader amongst them, for your course.
Nothing is different from the student’s point of view; each of them still gets the same course material individually, is able to attempt all the tests and submit all assignments. For the Teacher, however, there is just one central point of contact, to keep an eye on this group, as opposed to having to check the accounts of each of the students separately.
LearnDash incorporates this functionality with the help of the Group Registration add-on, which lets students register in Groups for your course.
Being cooped in the house for long hours can become boring after a while. It is important to take education outdoors, where students can observe and learn from their surroundings. Think field trips? Or maybe, even a picnic, once in a while! However, organizing these events can be a bit of a problem logistically, as your students are spread out over a wide area. This is where the LearnDash-Event Espresso integration comes in handy.
Event Espresso is one of the best event creation and management platforms for WordPress. This extension allows you to plan events from within your LearnDash Dashboard.
This can also be used alternatively to create in-course events that can be attended by your students when they register for the course.
Maintaining gradebooks for your class becomes easier with the LearnDash Gradebook extension. This add-on provides a centralized location from where you can access all your students’ grades. The grade scale can be regular or weighted, as per your choice. Additionally, you can also manually add grade for written assignments and projects.
Determining how a student interacts with your course is important as it helps you improve the course for your next classes. The GrassBlade Tin-Can API integration for LearnDash lets you track the experience your students have while taking the course. You can also check which pages have the maximum and minimum page views, so that you can focus on developing the right ones.
This student feedback can be invaluable in terms of future course development, since you come to know what exactly do your students like and do not like, about your course.
These are some significant advantages of using LearnDash as an LMS system for K-12 education. A successful blend of features and extensions, LearnDash provides you with all the tools necessary to build, conduct, and manage classes in your online school!