LearnDash has ample functionality packed into the core, and several extensions to add more features (we’ve built quite a few too!)
Anyone who’s serious about setting up an LMS with WordPress, wouldn’t go wrong with LearnDash.
Before we jump to the LearnDash setup process, there’s one thing you need to be clear about.
A plugin does not an LMS make.
Unlike Moodle, LearnDash is not a standalone LMS. It’s an extension of WordPress. Sure, it has all learning management system capabilities, but the plugin itself can’t provide students and teachers an e-learning interface.
You would need WordPress to set up your e-learning website.
Now, I understand that as an Instructor, Course Creator, Tutor, this might seem like an uphill task. But you need not fret.
I’ve designed this guide to handhold you through the entire LMS setup process, so you can do this yourself.
Step #0 Set Up WordPress
If you don’t have your WordPress site set up, you’ll need to install WordPress. WordPress installation is pretty simple.
You’ll need to login to your web host’s cPanel.
Under ‘Databases‘ you should notice the ‘MySQL Database Wizard‘. Use this wizard to create a MySQL database and a database user. These steps are pretty straightforward. Remember to note down the database name, username, and password. You’ll need these details when you install WordPress.
If you have purchased a WordPress hosting service, you’ll notice a WordPress installation wizard present in the cPanel. This wizard will guide you through the WordPress installation.
If not, you’ll need to install WordPress manually.
- You need to start by downloading the latest version of WordPress and extracting the contents of the zip file.
- Now, all these files have to be uploaded to your web host. To upload these files, you have to create an FTP account. Once again, in your cPanel, under ‘Files‘ you should notice ‘FTP Accounts‘. Use this option to create an FTP account.
- Using an FTP client of your choice (I use Filezilla), upload your WordPress files.
- Connect to your web host using the FTP account you have created and under ‘public_html‘ copy all the files under the ‘WordPress‘ folder. (Do not upload the folder entirely, select and upload all the contents)
Once you’ve done all of the above, visit your website and you should be greeted with the WordPress installation wizard. 😀
Follow the wizard, set the language WordPress needs to be installed in, the database name, username, and password, set the table prefix to a short value of your choice, enter site details, and create a user.
Step#1 Install a Theme
Once you’ve got your website up and running, you can proceed with installing a theme. A theme is the ‘skin’ of your website. It dictates the look and feel of your website- not just the colors, but also the layout of your pages.
Now, LearnDash should “behave” well with the theme you choose.
A safer option would be to choose a LearnDash theme. There are quite a few LearnDash centric themes available.
Once you decide on a theme you like, installation is quite easy, just follow the below steps:
- Log in to your WordPress admin panel.
- Go to Appearance > Themes, and click on Add New.
- Use the Upload option to upload a zipped copy of the theme.
- Activate it!
Do refer to the theme’s installation guide for additional setup details.
Now, installing the theme won’t suffice. You’ll need to create the menu, the homepage, contact page and so on.
But that’s step 4. 😀
We first need to setup LearnDash.
Step#2 Setup LearnDash
In order to setup LearnDash, follow the steps below:
1. Start with Installing LearnDash
LearnDash can be installed like any other plugin that you would install on WordPress.
- Once again, if you’re not logged in, log in to your WordPress admin panel.
- Go to Plugins > Add New
- Upload the zipped copy of the LearnDash plugin, and activate it.-
You’ll notice a LearnDash LMS menu created.
Using the options under this menu, you’ll be able to create your courses, lessons, topics, and quizzes.
2. Configure the LearnDash Settings
- Under LearnDash LMS > Settings > LMS License, be sure to enter your LearnDash support license.
Once your installation is complete, LearnDash applies a set of default settings to your LMS. However, we recommend you make necessary changes depending on your requirements.
- You can click on General Settings to edit the default settings for design and content, the Admin User.
- Custom Labels can be set based on how you want to refer to your learning material. For example, unlike LearnDash, you can refer to ‘Topics’ as ‘Modules’ or refer to ‘Quizzes’ as ‘Tests’. You get the picture.
- Under PayPal Settings set your PayPal Id in case you want to handle payments through your LearnDash setup.
3. Set Up Courses on LearnDash
Since you’re setting up LearnDash for the very first time, I’ll quickly run you through the default course settings.
Once you click on ‘Settings’ you’ll see the default setting for the following.
Global Course Management & Display
Now, the screenshot below is pretty self-explanatory. You can modify the settings to your liking, and the changes will apply to all of your courses.
Next, the ‘Course Table Pagination’ option helps you decide the number of courses or topics that are to be displayed on a single page.
Course Taxonomies (Categories & Tags)
Categories and Tags help you better organize the courses on your LearnDash setup. Since the purpose of both these taxonomies is the same, it’s easy to mistake one for the other.
‘Categories’ are used for broad topics. For instance, if your website has courses for musicians, ‘String Instruments’, ‘Percussion’ and ‘Woodwind Instruments’ can be termed as the categories of your lessons.
‘Tags’ on the other hand, are used for more specific topics. For example, the genres ‘Rock’, or ‘Country’ or ‘Blues’ could be your tags.
The option to manage these taxonomies is ‘enabled’ by default.
In order to set (add, edit, or delete) the categories and tags:
- Navigate to LearnDash LMS > Courses
- Select the Actions dropdown menu
- Select your desired menu option
Course Custom Post Type Options
The only change we suggest you make here is to turn on the ‘Course Search’ option. This will ensure your courses are included in the search results when your learners are using the default WordPress search option.
Creating a Course
To create a course, head over to LearnDash LMS > Courses > Add New. Here’s what your screen will look like:
Once you’re through with filling in all of the data (course title, description, URL, categories, etc), the next step is to optimize the ‘course-specific’ settings. Thes settings, as you can see in the above image are within your new course. Let’s go through all of your options:
Course Access Settings
Set the course to
- Open: if you want all your students to automatically be enrolled for the course.
- Free: if the course is free, but only those students who opt for it, will be enrolled in it.
- Buy Now: to set a price for the course, which can be purchased. This purchase can be made by the default payment option in LearnDash (PayPal).
- Recurring: for courses that can be purchased on a subscription basis.
- Closed: if the course is closed (and cannot be accessed). Selecting this option will reveal a Custom Button URL option, which has to be used to enter a purchase link for course access.
Surely, this does not apply to the first course you create. But for subsequent courses, you can choose the option of setting another course as a prerequisite for the course you’re creating. Setting this option prevents a student from taking up a course without completing the prerequisite course.
Once you enable this option, a drop-down menu will be displayed where you can select the course/s you want to assign as prerequisites. If you select multiple courses, you have the option of either allowing all of the courses to be complete or any one course out of the lot.
- Course Points – Requiring your learners to earn a certain number of course points is a great way to incentive them.
- Course Access Expiration – As the title suggests, this option expires a student’s access to a course after a set duration.
- Alter Course Access List – Although this option is available here, the recommended way to add or remove a user from a course is from the user’s profile page in the WordPress admin area.
Course Navigation Settings
Your two options are:
- Linear (default) – Requires the user to progress through course steps in the order in which you’ve laid them out. They cannot jump around and skip lessons, topics or quizzes.
- Free form – Allows the user to move freely through the course without following the course steps in any particular order.
Once you add the needed details, you can proceed to create Lessons and Topics.
But first, let’s see what the ‘Course Builder’ is all about.
4. Set Up Lessons on LearnDash
As far as the settings go, here’s how you get started:
- Navigate to LearnDash LMS > Lessons
- Click the Settings tab
The global settings (ones that apply to all your courses are):
Lesson Display Settings
- Choose a Sort By option
- Date (default)
- Menu Order
- Choose a Sort Direction
- Descending (default)
- Choose how many Posts Per Page to display
Next, you have the Lesson Taxonomies (Categories & Tags) and the Custom Post Type Options, that can be set up just like your Courses.
For Lesson-Specific Settings (that apply only to the current lesson), you can start with:
Lesson Access Settings
- Navigate to LearnDash LMS > Lessons
- Click on the lesson you want to edit
- Click on the Settings tab at the top of the page
- Locate the section titled “Lesson Access Settings”
- Associated Course – Set the course of which the lesson is a part.
- Sample Lesson – If this option is checked, then this lesson will be available to students even if the course is paid.
- Lesson Schedule – You can make the lesson available at a specific time. The default option is set to make the lesson available to the user immediately after you post it.
Similarly, you can explore the ‘Display and Content Options’ to make necessary changes.
Now, I know all of this looks pretty overwhelming. Thing is, the default settings that come with your LearnDash installation are pretty self-sufficient if you’re just starting out. You can directly jump to creating your courses or lessons, and deal with the settings later on. Or, you can always reach out to our team of LearnDash Experts for help.
Creating a Lesson
To get started with creating a lesson on LearnDash:
- Navigate to LesrnDash LMS > Lessons
- Click on the lesson you’d like to edit -or- click the Add New button
- You will automatically land on the Lesson page tab
5. Create a Topic (within the Lessons)
As I mentioned earlier, in LearnDash, lessons contain topics. By now, you know how to dabble around with the Global Settings (Topic Taxonomies and Custom Post Type Options).
The new part here is handling the ‘Topic Display and Content Settings’ on your LearnDash Installation:
- Navigate to LearnDash LMS > Topics
- Click on the topic you want to edit
- Click on the Settings tab at the top of the page
- Locate the section titled “Display & Content Options”
Within each topic, there’s a lot happening.
There are multiple Topic Materials you’ll be using (such as PDFs, images, or videos), Assignment Uploads to be managed (by specifying which file types may be uploaded by your users) and Topic Timers to be set up (to help identify if your learners have completed a particular topic).
Once you’ve set up all of these things, Video Progression comes next. This detailed guide will walk you through the entire process of handling Video Progression on LearnDash.
6. Author Quizes
Ahh! Quizzing in LearnDash.
I’ve always been of the opinion that LearnDash needs to improve its quiz module. But I must admit, they’ve come a long way with additions like the ‘Quiz Builder’.
Now, I hope you found creating courses, lessons, and topics fairly simple… because creating quizzes is not as straightforward! The primary problem is the overwhelming amount of options.
But if things were that easy, you wouldn’t need this guide, to begin with! :-p
Since the quiz section is quite extensive, I won’t be able to cover the entire process in this article, but I’ll definitely give you enough information to get you started in the right direction.
First, in order to manage the ‘Global Settings’ for your LearnDash Quizzes’ you need to:
- Navigate to LearnDash LMS > Quizzes
- Click the Settings tab
Now, LearnDash offers the following quiz question types: Single choice, Multiple choice, Free choice, Sorting choice, Matrix sorting choice, Fill in the blank, Assessment (survey), and Essay (open answer).
To start creating your LearDash quiz:
- Navigate to LesrnDash LMS > Quizzes
- Click the “Add New” button at the top of the page
- Click the “Builder” tab in the top navigation bar
To add a brand new question to a quiz:
- At the bottom of the quiz builder, click the + New Question link
- Type the name of your question (internal use only)
- Hit ENTER, or click the “Add Question” button
7. Create Certificates
Creating a Certificate
If you want to award students certificates on successful completion of courses, you can do so by creating a certificate in LearnDash and associating it with a course or quiz.
- Navigate to LearnDash LMS > Certificates
- Click the Add New button
Once you’ve filled in all of the content (including the Title and Background/ Featured Image), you need to select the appropriate certificate option, i.e. specify the size and orientation of your certificate PDF.
Associating a Certificate with a Quiz
In LearnDash, certificates can be associated only with a quiz. To associate a certificate with a quiz,
- Head over to LearnDash LMS > Quizzes > Settings
- Scroll down to the ‘Progression and Restriction Settings’.
- Enter a suitable ‘Passing Score’ you’d like to award the certificate.
- Select the certificate you created in the above step using the drop-down.
Step#3 Set up Paid Course Access
If you’re looking to monetize your e-learning website right away, you’ll need to either take the e-commerce plugin route or the membership plugin route. There are certain differences between selling courses and selling memberships. The option you choose will mostly depend on the number of courses you have.
Using an E-commerce Plugin
Now, a default LearnDash setup does provide an option to sell courses using PayPal, but for additional e-commerce capabilities such as sale pricing, the option to bundle courses, discount coupons, you’ll be better off with an e-commerce plugin.
LearnDash provides integrations with popular e-commerce plugins on WordPress – WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads. Now the advantage both plugins bring to the table is different. Easy Digital Downloads can be used to sell purely digital products, while WooCommerce can be used to sell physical goods along with virtual products.
However, the path to integrating either of the plugins with your basic LearnDash setup is pretty similar.
- You need to start by installing either of the plugins and setting them up (WooCommerce provides a setup wizard, so this could be an advantage for the not-so-tech-savvy audience)
- Based on the plugin you choose, you need to install the integration plugin with LearnDash- this would be either the WooCommerce Integration plugin or the EDD Integration plugin.
- You may want to set up an additional payment gateway specific to your location or currency. Now’s the time to do so. You’ll need to hunt for the payment gateway plugin (or contact a payment gateway developer if the payment gateway is a can’t-do-without and a ready plugin is not available)
Linking a Course to a Product
- The process of creating a paid course begins with creating a paid product. You have to then link a LearnDash course to the product.
- For example in WooCommerce, you need to create a ‘Course‘ product and then link one or more LearnDash courses to this product.
- As for the course, you need to set the ‘Price Type‘ as ‘Closed‘ and enter the product URL as the ‘Custom Button URL’
Using a Membership Plugin
As opposed to selling courses, if you were looking to sell memberships and control student access, you’ll need a membership plugin. And out of the many membership plugins available, the one I’d recommend is Paid Membership Pro.
The steps to integrate your LearnDash set up with a membership plugin are the same as integrating it with an e-commerce plugin.
- You have to install the membership plugin- Paid Membership Pro,
- and then the integration plugin with LearnDash.
Linking Courses to Membership Levels
Within Paid Membership Pro, you can associate one or more courses with a membership level. For courses associated with a membership level, set the ‘Price Type’ as ‘Closed’, and enter the membership registration page URL as the ‘Custom Button URL’. Now, to access a course, the student would have to register as a member.
One more step to go…
Step #4 Create Pages
So far, we hadn’t really focused on the front-end of your e-learning website. There’s a lot that can be done to make your site presentable. However, a few things are a bare minimum, such as important pages and the menu.
Now, the theme you pick might provide demo content. And installing the demo content might create the needed pages. For example, since eLumine is a LearnDash theme, it creates generic pages, such as the homepage, contact page and pages specific to an e-learning website such as the course archive page and shop page.
But if you’re like me, and are looking to take the manual setup route, here’s how you can go about it.
Creating the Homepage
The homepage is where most of your site visitors will land.
It should display a clear, concise message of what your site is about, and ideally display the courses available or a student registration and login form.
Technically, creating a homepage is as simple as creating any other page in WordPress.
- You head over to Pages > Add New
- Set the title… (usually it’s set to ‘Home’), add the needed elements, and ‘Publish‘ the page.
- Now, under Settings > Reading > Front Page Displays, select ‘A static page‘ and set the ‘Front Page‘ to the page you’ve just created.
- Remember to ‘Save Changes‘ made.
Similarly, you can create another page- Blog– and set it as the ‘Posts Page‘.
Setting Up Registration & Login
By default, WordPress redirects users to the admin area once they log in.
You wouldn’t want users to be messing around in your admin area, especially when everything that’s relevant to them is on the frontend.
For this very purpose, it’s best not to redirect them to the backend, and the plugin that handles this task is Theme My Login.
- The plugin adds a customizable widget for login anywhere on your site
- You can redirect users to log in and log out based on their user role
- The best part is, the widgets and pages blend seamlessly with the rest of your website!
Adding a Contact Page
A contact page is the most crucial page on any website. You can very easily create a contact page by adding a new page on your site and adding a contact form.
Both these plugins provide shortcodes to add the contact forms on a page.
Creating a Menu
Now, users will land on your website and register as students. But then, what’s next?
The courses of course! :-p
To make it easy for students to sift through courses available, you’ll need to provide a link to the course archive page (the page which essentially lists all the courses).
So, you need to create a navigation menu.
- In your admin panel, go to Appearance > Menus
- Create a new menu, let’s call it the ‘main menu’
- Add pages you’ve created, for example, home, contact, blog, from the pages list
- And for the course archive page, add a ‘Custom Link‘ to ‘/courses/‘
- Set this menu as the ‘Primary Navigation Menu‘ and save it
And with this step, your shell LMS setup should be ready! 😀
With LearnDash, a theme and needed plugins setup, your LMS should be ready for business!
But this is a fairly basic LMS setup. There’s a lot more you can add, for example
- the ProPanel for additional reporting,
- BuddyPress for a social network with bbPress for discussion forums,
- a gamification module with BadgeOS
- a teacher/instructor role with Instructor Role extension,
- LRS integration… and so on.
But whether you need these or not, would depend on your specific requirements.
In case you have your doubts or need further assistance, you can always rely on our LMS setup assistance. We handle LearnDash set up for you and guide you through the LearnDash settings, making it simple for you to add course content and make changes if needed.
That’s all from my end for now…
Happy teaching! 😀