Choosing a platform for your e-Learning portal can be overwhelming, more so thanks to the abundance of options available.
Platforms range from WordPress extensions to full fledged e-learning solutions. But being the user-friendly platform it is, WordPress definitely seems the best option right?
Now, again with WordPress there are two main routes to take.
- Choosing an e-Learning plugin.
- Choosing an e-Learning theme.
While each has its own pros and cons, here, I will try to explain the situations where you should go with an e-Learning theme, specifically – WPLMS.
Picking WPLMS over any e-Learning WordPress plugin has some advantages, as you will learn in this article.
Compatible with Plenty of Plugins
WPLMS offers support for plenty of popular extensions. These integrations add tons of useful features to your e-Learning portal.
It offers support for many popular WordPress plugins like : LearnDash, BuddyPress, bbPress, and WooCommerce.
Being compatible with all these plugins means there is no need to install any other mediatory plugins (such as BuddyPress integration).
This in-turn reduces your need for constant updates and maintenance.
Plugins are just another chunk of code ready to be executed on call. This means every line of code that gets executed is putting a toll on your server and its performance.
Another important factor is from security point of view. Integration plugins may have several vulnerabilities which when not addressed properly can leave your entire WordPress installation vulnerable to attacks
Less plugins = less load on your website + lower security risk + less maintenance = Happy e-Learning.
It’s a Win-Win situation!
Comes Bundled with Premium Plugins
As you’ve seen, WPLMS is compatible with a variety of plugins.
Want more? The theme comes bundled with variety of premium plugins like:
- Visual Composer – A page builder plugin with drag and drop interface.
- LayerSlider – A responsive slider plugin for WordPress.
- Revolution Slider – Another responsive slider plugin for WordPress.
- EventOn – An Event Calendar plugin for WordPress.
All of these plugins are together worth over $129.
Choose from Ample Styles
Choosing a theme for your website is always a daunting task, hours of searching, comparing and testing only to find that the theme you like is not within your budget.
But with WPLMS, there is no need to look for another child theme. This theme comes with a myriad of design layouts to choose from.
To test out these layouts, you can even import the sample data that comes with it.
Since WPLMS has integrations for all major plugins, all these plugins will have a uniform styling. This means the entire theme wouldn’t need customization to suit different plugins.
When to Choose an e-Learning WordPress Plugin?
Although there are several advantages of using an e-learning theme, many people still prefer using an e-Learning plugin over the theme.
Here are a few reasons to opt for an e-Learning plugin:
- When you don’t need the advanced functionalities of an e-Learning theme.
- When you don’t want to be tied down to the style that a theme offers.
- When you want a light-weight solution for your e-Learning needs.
- When you want a low cost solution.
Now that you are clear about the differences between an e-Learning theme and a plugin, go ahead and choose the right option for your website.
Let us know what you chose and how it’s working out for you.
So you run an e-Learning website!
Most of your content must be accessible to anyone who register, right?
But what if you decide to offer premium content? The type you would want people to pay for before they can access it. I bet you don’t want that to be publicly available.
Hence you need to create some type of “gate”. Something that would restrict access to content based on different parameters.
This can be easily done through Membership plugins on WordPress. Yes, the same type of plugin that we are going to discuss today!! Coincidence? Woah!
So What Does a Membership Plugin do?
Simply put, it provides you full control over what part of content is accessible to your users. But that is just the gist of it, A membership plugin is a suite with plethora of options.
How Does it Help My e-Learning Portal?
As an e-Learning portal, your website has the ability to provide courses for your audience.
Now, you may already be selling courses on your website with the help of WooCommerce. You can even sell subscription courses.
But that doesn’t offer you the level of granularity into content management and user role assignment as much as a Membership plugin would do. You can create different membership levels, groups for users. Registered members can be updated about new courses that are published & more.
So in this article, we will discuss a few membership plugins that will help you setup your e-learning membership portal in no time.
Let’s being with the mammoths in Membership arena.
MemberPress is one of the most popular plugins in the membership category on WordPress. It’s fame is mostly attributed to its robust features and ease of use.
It offers unlimited membership levels and unlimited members. The Access Rules can be set such that only certain member roles can access the content. Armed with these rules, you can restrict access to almost every aspect of your site such as Posts, Pages, Tags, Categories etc.
Content dipping is a fairly regular feature in most membership sites, it allows you to slowly publish new content on the site and provide access to members.
The plugin gels well with several email marketing providers such as Aweber, Mailchimp etc.
Coming to the most important aspect of Membership sites – Payments. MemberPress offers support for most commonly used payment gateways like Paypal and Stripe. These two make up for most of the transactions on web, but unfortunately the only other payment gateway supported is Authorize.net.
MemberPress’ pricing options are a bit heavy on the wallet. Their Business edition rounds out to about $119 per year which is a single site license.
The multi-site license a.k.a Developer Edition comes down to around $239 per year. That being said, the price is worth what the plugin delivers.
Find out more : MemberPress
Members is a WordPress membership plugin developed by Justin Tadlock.
This is a basic plugin that was developed with the core principle of membership sites in mind. The plugin provides the two basic concepts i.e Content Locking & User Role Definition.
The Role Manager part of this plugin lets you create, edit, delete roles and capabilities of various users on your site. What is interesting is a user can be assigned several roles, These roles will allow or deny them access to certain parts of the site. User roles can be cloned easily too in order to build new roles.
Content permissions give you control over which content can be access by which role. Which means if a content is specific to only users in the role “New Subscribers” then only users with that role can access the content.
As usual, shortcodes and widgets are shipped along with it to make your user experience easier.
Even though the plugin offer all these features, it doesn’t come pre-built with Payment integration. But this can be easily fixed by installing payment gateway plugins (Members is compatible with these).
Coming to the price of this plugin. The plugin costs nothing. Yes! NOTHING! It is available for FREE on WordPress repository, no wonder it is being used by over 100,000+ users worldwide.
Check it out: Members by Justin Tadlock
WooCommerce Memberships plugin is developed by the renowned WooCommerce team, so you can trust the quality and compatibility it offers.
Rather than being just a plugin to restrict your site’s content, WooCommerce Memberships plugin is a site-wide solution for memberships. Being WooCommerce compatible means not just content, but products can also be part of your membership sites.
Here are a few striking features of Memberships plugin:
- Memberships can be sold as a product on your store.
- Memberships can be tied to products being sold, such that these memberships open up when a product is purchased.
- Send invites to people in order for them to purchase a plan.
- Drip feed content to members.
- Provide discounts on memberships and products.
- Import/Export members.
- Add notes to memberships.
The pricing structure of this plugin is a bit different as in, it doesn’t offer unlimited site licenses. The single site license costs $149. 5 site license costs $199 and 25 site license costs $249.
Find out more : WooCommerce Memberships
Paid Membership Pro
Paid Membership Pro is another plugin which offers the Free, Pro and ProPlus Model.
The free version more or less gives you an idea of how the plugin works. Not being a WooCommerce Addon, it lacks in features such as Variable Pricing etc. But fret not, since PMP comes with support for Addons.
These addons can extend the functionality of PMP to add advanced features such as Link Tracking, Affiliate program. Apart from addons, it supports various integrations with third party tools like email marketing (Aweber, Mailchimp) and CRM softwares.
Compared to other plugins, this offers a bit more freedom by supporting many payment gateways like Paypal, Stripe, Braintree, 2Checkout, Cyber Source, Authorize.net etc.
Discount codes can be generated for users. This can be set to start on a particular date & configured to expire on a day. The coupon codes can even be limited to number of times it is used. The amount of granularity it offers is immense.
As I said before, the plugin has a basic free option. But the Pro Core plan costs $97 & Pro Plus plan for $197 (Unlimited sites licenses).
Checkout the plugin over at Paid Membership Pro
Digital Access Pass
DAP is one of the oldest membership plugins around.
This is the only plugin that I saw, which offers a hefty amount of Payment Gateway support. It offers support for around 20+ Payment Gateways.
It is a feature heavy plugin, but with hefty features comes steep learning curve. It might actually take some time to setup the plugin and get it working on your portal. To understand the level of customizability, let me just put this out there – there are over 70 settings to tinker with.
With DAP, you can easily link more membership levels and courses to a single user. Want more? You don’t have to manually remove each and every linked product when someone cancels their subscription.
It comes with a One-Time payment plan (but has a monthly plan too). Single site costs $167, Unlimited site around $297.
Find out more: Digital Access Pass
Over To You
That was all about Membership plugins and how they can benefit your e-Learning website. The plugins we discussed here are all popular ones being used by thousands of websites.
Which of these caught your eye? Let us know what more you are looking for in a membership plugin.
#1 Super-fast Course CreationLifterLMS is designed with a clear, easy-to-understand interface, which you can get used to really quickly, and build a course in a very short time. The logical flow and step-by-step setup is useful to start the course in a jiffy, so long as your content is ready.
#2 Integrated Shopping Cart and Payment OptionsThe LifterLMS plugin has an in-built shopping cart option and a native payment gateway extension that lets you start selling courses without the need for an e-commerce plugin (though it is always good to have one!)
#3 Easy Course Customization for User EngagementLifterLMS has plenty of gamification options which can be utilised to add achievement certificates, bonus points and badges to your course. Not only do these make the course more colourful and interactive, they have been proven to increase student engagement exponentially.
#4 Discounts and Coupons SupportApart from user engagement, the plugin also supports course marketing and promotion by offering the discounts and coupons functionality. You can add these to product bundles for your recurring students, thereby creating a sense of belonging and increasing customer loyalty!
#5 Multiple Content Type SupportLifterLMS supports all types of content, to be added to your courses. Text, PDF’s, audios, videos, you name it. You can add various permutations and combinations of these while designing the lesson.
#6 Drip Content EnabledDripping content to your students implies adding the lessons one after the other, as opposed to adding them all in one go. This feature ensures that your students keep visiting your course regularly instead of petering out in the first couple of weeks.
#7 Native WooCommerce IntegrationLifterLMS has a native integration with WooCommerce, which enables you to avail of all of its functionalities by simply installing the WooCommerce add-on. This opens up a host of new possibilities for course marketing, what with WooCommerce being one of the most popular ecommerce platforms.
#8 Social Network IntegrationSimilar to the WooCommerce integration, LifterLMS also has add-ons for integrating social networking functionalities through BuddyPress and bbPress. BuddyPress is used to create Student profiles (like the profiles on Facebook) which can be imported into the e-learning system, while bbPress is used to build student-teacher groups and communities for discussions and forums.With these and more, LifterLMS makes for a formidable e-learning plugin, that’s one to watch out for. And the best part?! Well, it’s completely FREE!Are you looking to use the plugin? Or are a current user? Let us know your thoughts about it! Let the discussions begin!
A Corporate LMS Should..
#1 Be Accessible, Always!Heard of the cloud? An LMS needs to be cloud hosted if you want to engage multiple personnel and have them work together. A cloud hosted LMS is definitely the way to go for better employee integration and on demand access to course material.Shifting your LMS to cloud also takes out the issue of server management; you put that responsibility on the web-host that handles your server, which means more time to work on your core goals.It’s also easier to move your LMS solution to another host if you want to at a latter stage once its cloud hosted.
#2 Let Members CommunicateFeedback is an experience, and people love talking about theirs. These experiences are considered very valuable in a corporate world. An LMS which can take feedback from employees would help the management a lot.These inputs from employees are very useful in improving the overall training methodologies used, or for the courses introduced.Feedback is usually collected in the form of Polls, Surveys or Questionnaire. A suitable LMS should be able to process this feedback and create actionable data for management.
#3 Integrate Well with Other SystemsA Corporate LMS needs to be interoperable with other corporate systems. Data in hosted LMS is always flowing through other company systems.For example the track records of an employee training may be routed to the Accounting Department to clock the number of hours an employee has worked on a module.A good LMS would make this task easier and have Data Import/Export modules to get data in and out of these systems in a uniform format. It should also be able to accept data in any format.
#4 Be Fun!Multimedia is a go to solution for any training course, it has the ability to grab a person’s attention and get them to stay focused throughout the session.A multimedia integrated training platform must have the ability to process and showcase user created content to trainees.Multimedia content can be in variety of forms such as Images, Powerpoint Presentations, Videos and more.
#5 Show ProgressTrainees are evaluated on their performance in the training period. But what is the use of any session if there’s no tracking?Every trainee needs to have a performance report, and generating these automatically is a feature every corporate LMS must have.Tracking reports not only show trainee performance data, but they also give you an insight as to how your training strategy is faring. This will allow you to tweak your methods and create more impact in your sessions.
#6 Let Admins SellIt might so happen that the training course you created for your employees turned out to be great content. So much so that they are worth sharing with rest of the community.You might sell these courses outside your industry (with proper permission of course) so that it benefits a lot more people aspiring to be trained in that very subject, and also hook in potential hires.With an e-commerce feature built right into your LMS solution, you can do just that with minimal effort.You can set your own price, market them and process the incoming orders all from within your LMS Dashboard.
#7 Be ConvenientAnd lastly, saving time is a top priority in any corporate industry. Your corporate network and training platform should reside on different networks for security and performance reasons.But this again introduces the problem of remembering too many credentials, and increases the load on your IT team.With a Single Sign On, your trainees can sign into both the corporate & training network with a single credential.This saves time for your IT department who may need to assist you with certain tasks.
What’s on your mind?The above mentioned features were what we think should be a part of any corporate LMS. Of course most of these are already available in many existing LMS solutions, but it’s always good to have more features isn’t it?!So tell us what features you think should be part of a LMS and we might just include them in this list. Hit the comments right away!
Course-related e-learning trends in 2017
Mobile LearningIn recent times, there has been a paradigm shift regarding mobile learning in education. With the rapid advancement in cell-phone technology, it has quickly become a more viable option that laptops or desktops, on account of its easy portability. This has necessitated the creation of responsive courses, accessible across multiple display platforms.The statistics are that over 80% of internet users use smartphones, and over 70% of e-learners access courses through mobiles; this number is only expected to grow in the future. Considering this fact, course creators cannot afford to ignore the Mlearning arena, and responsive courses have become the need of the hour.
Content CondensationPsychological studies suggest that the attention span of humans is dwindling day by day; the current duration for which people can focus without being distracted is 20 minutes. This has led to the adoption of microlearning, or content condensation, to provide the maximum amount of information in the least complicated way possible.It is observed that structured content, provided in a clear and concise manner, with intermittent rewards and achievements encourages better understanding and retention among students. The microlearning approach is hence expected to dominate the content part of course creation in the future, making long texts and subjective formats near-obsolete.
Personalized CoachingMany of the e-learning industry biggies have embarked upon a more personalized approach in their courses. This implies a variable pace, as per the student’s capability to gauge the course material, and occasional remedial measures should they be necessary, as opposed to a juggernaut pace of learning.This personalization of content is expected to be of especial benefit in e-learning based school systems, where the students can be placed in regular or advanced placement courses, depending on their analytical capability. They can also be encouraged to use reference material based on their performance in the class tests conducted.
Video IntegrationVideos have been a great resource in e-learning since its very inception. Today however, they have surpassed all expectation as they offer a unique opportunity of helping the student visualize concepts that cannot be understood through mere text. YouTube, with its plethora of videos is one of the most used resources by students, when they need to understand some idea they have come across while perusing their study material.This predicts a more video-based approach towards course creation in the future that will not simply be a supplementary resource.
Performance-related trends in 2017
Incorporation of Wearable TechnologyThe 3D learning experience has taken e-learning to a whole new level. Some of the most popular 3D learning gadgets used include Google Glass and Apple Watches, which are used to provide a real-world interaction with the student.With the demand for realistic experiences on the rise, there is a huge scope for the integration of wearable technology in e-learning in the future. The many advantages of 3D learning, such as workplace simulations, two-way interaction, immediate access to resource material, and real-time updates can be used for generating a complete interactive experience with the user.
Experience API IntegrationExperience API or xAPI or more commonly known as Tin Can API is fast-replacing SCORM as the complete feedback mechanism for e-learners. Tin Can API uses big data collection techniques to generate qualitative analyses of how students respond to the various levels of the course.This live relay facilitates comprehensive tracking of student engagement, which in turn is useful in modifying the course for the better. Though many platforms still rely on the conventional methods of feedback generation, Tin Can API is expected to supersede all its contemporaries on account of its all-pervasive nature.
Increased InteractionThe rise in live lectures, virtual events, discussion groups, and two-way interactions between students and teachers is anticipated to lead to a level of never-seen-before communication. Course instructors are engaging in live sessions with their students to improve their retention capabilities and build the quintessential classroom ambience.Outside of the classroom, social eLearning is also expected to increase, encouraging students to learn from their peers and course mates, for overall personality development. The upcoming years are expected to witness a considerable progression in this type of lectures, and although courses won’t always go completely live, they are expected to constitute a significant portion of the curriculum.
Cloud-Based LearningOne of the biggest advantages of e-learning is the fact that it is not limited by physical, geographical boundaries.Cloud-based learning has been in vogue for quite some time now, however, the applications are expected to continue to increase substantially in the future. Advancements in security and encryption, quick uploading and updating of data, and the significant reduction in training expenses make cloud-based e-learning a highly sought-after option for corporate e-learning in 2017.
The Last Worde-Learning in the educational and corporate sectors has come a long way from the desktop-text-user module, gaining a foothold in practically every segment of the two fields. With rapid advancement in e-learning systems, generation of newer and better resources for content development, LMS platforms facilitating quick course creation, the e-learning industry is seeing a huge rise in the diversity of authors and courses created.2017 is anticipated to witness some remarkable changes in the way we approach e-learning, with the core centred on performance and experience-based learning, as opposed to boring, textual techniques. The utilisation of modern gadgetry leaves is a wide scope open for the creation of meaningful, thought-provoking content, which will encourage students to discover, explore, and learn with interest.What are your thoughts about the upcoming trends in e-learning? Drop a comment below to let us know!
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.
Are you new to e-learning or looking to set up your own elearning website?Are you struggling to grasp and make sense of the contents that seem to be out of your reach?
This article will cover all the terms that you need to know before starting out on your own.
Get a good grip on them and you’ll be good to go.
Short for Learning Management Systems, an LMS is a software application that allows for managing, planning and delivering of online training courses. Apart from creating and publishing elearning content, you can also use it to sell courses online, track and assess a learner’s performance and what not! There are plenty of LMSs in the market today. A fine example is Moodle, possibly the world’s most popular learning management system.
You might also want to know about “Five eLearning myths that may break your LMS”
The terms LMS and LCMS often confuse the uninitiated. A Learning Content Management System is analogous to an LMS, with the sole difference that it’s mainly focused on creation, management, tracking and delivery of the e-learning content to the users. LCMS allows the instructional designers and developers to modify and reuse the contents for a new course.
A well-known example of LCMS is WordPress.
SCORM stands for “Sharable Content Object Reference Model”. Once the most popular e-learning standard, SCORM defined how course content and LMSs in particular communicate and work with each other. SCORM makes an LMS more interactive and enables easy portability of content from one system to another, thereby enabling interoperability between different e-learning softwares.
#4 TinCan API
TinCan API, also known as xAPI is the brand new specification for elearning today. It’s evolution has it’s roots in SCORM but unlike SCORM, is not just limited to creating portable content. Any content created using TinCan is also interactive in it’s nature, which means that TinCan API can track a wide variety of learner interactions or activity in an LMS, be it online or offline. It provides a rich and consistent data of a person or group’s learning experiences from multiple technologies.
LRS is short for Learning Record Store, which is nothing but a repository for the learning records generated and sent by the TinCan API. The information stored in it can be shared or accessed by an LMS , other LRS or any other application tool. LRS can either live inside an LMS or exist on it’s own.
#6 Instructional design
Instructional design is the process that outlines the core elements of online training. It includes designing the course content, complete with specifying the course authoring tools to strategizing delivery and performance feedback. Instructional design tools often let course trainer create rich media content and also assist in upping learner engagement.
#7 Collaborative tools
Collaborative tools are software that enable multiple learners to communicate and work with each other in a secure online environment. They are mostly deployed in tandem with LMSs. Activities like document sharing & management, application sharing, project tracking, whiteboarding, video conferencing, instant messaging are all instances of collaborative learning where multiple individuals collaborate towards attaining a common goal: learning.
Storyboards are blueprints of an online training course. They outline every single piece of your course by specifying its visual, text, audio and interactive elements. Storyboarding is employed in the process of instructional design to develop efficient and effective course contents.
#9 Authoring tools
Any software that let’s you collate text and multimedia elements like images, videos, and flash for creating engaging and interactive content for online training programs. Adobe Captivate is one such authoring tool which uses HTML5 to help you author courses in the form of TinCan xAPI compliant interactive course content.
In mLearning or Mobile learning ,the contents are made available to the learners on their mobile devices like smartphones, tablet etc in a concise manner, given their short attention span. A rise in the use of mobile devices has made it necessary to make contents not only desktop suited but also mobile compatible. mLearning lets the learners access the contents anytime, anywhere.
Courseware is any software which contains a collection of course materials intended to be used by the students or the trainers on a computer or a mobile device.
#12 Learner Engagement
Learner Engagement is the process by which one attempts to increase a learner’s interest in online learning by putting in place engaging exercises like system reminders, achievements and rewards. This helps in better retention of knowledge and provides an effective learning experience.
#13 Social Learning
Social learning is more like a community learning where people participate to gather information, gain new ideas through interacting with each other across the globe on social media platforms or on any forums. Some examples of social learning can be twitter chats, group discussions etc.
#14 Blended Learning
Blended learning refers to a learning method that combines both the synchronous as well as asynchronous learning. In blended learning, a student learns a course in the traditional classroom setting as well as learn it independently online.
#15 Flipped Learning
Flipped learning is just the exact opposite of traditional classroom learning. It is a type of blended learning where the lessons are taken by the student at home or anywhere else, while the classroom sessions are reserved for discussions, projects and exercises. This makes for a collaborative and cooperative teaching process paving the way for a more meaningful learning experience.
#16 Rapid e-learning
Rapid e-learning refers to the methodology or process of building and distributing courses quickly and effectively. The contents are packaged and delivered in small modules making it easy for the learners to absorb information quickly.
Gamification is an innovative and an effective technique in e-learning to engage the learners by implementing a game-like methodology to the process of elearning. Gamification helps to motivate the learners and improve their commitment by rewarding them with points, badges and certificates for activities like lesson completion, course completion, etc.
Want to know how you can use gamification in an elearning site on WordPress? Read this!
#18 Personalized learning
Personalized learning is tailoring or customizing the course according to a learners preference and interest. This is done by first assessing a learner’s performance, understanding his progress, strengths, weaknesses and learning style and creating courses for the learner accordingly which the learner can learn at his own pace.
MOOC is the acronym for “ Massive Open Online Course”. Anyone around the world who wants to take a course can access these as well as interact with other learners and materials. MOOC allows anyone to create their own course and sell it online. Coursera and EdX are some popular examples of MOOC.
#20 Asynchronous Learning
In Asynchronous learning, a student learns a course online or offline on their own and at their own pace. The interactions happen in different locations at different times.
#21 Synchronous Learning
Synchronous learning in the e-learning world is used to describe forms of education, instruction and learning that takes place at the same time. This includes educational video conferences, chat based online discussions and lectures that are delivered at the same time.
Micro-learning is focused on providing short-term learning activities. In micro-learning, the courses are broken down into smaller and concise units and is then presented to the learners. Micro learning has been known to aid in high learner retention.
#23 Content dripping
Content Dripping means releasing pre-scheduled content at regular intervals and providing access to the whole thing. Content dripping is important because content dripping protects your contents from leeches, and lets you provide contents to your active members in a progressive manner.
#24 LMS analytics
Analytics in e-learning is a real-time process used to collect,analyze and report information about a learner’s activities,his performance etc. The information gathered is then used to predict learners’ success levels and accordingly improve and make amendments to the course materials .
#25 Elearning localization
While setting up an e-learning or any website, deploying it to people from other regions or countries is essential for expanding your market. Localization means to translate the learning contents as well as ensuring that the translated contents,images and other things are culturally appropriate.
#26 Membership and subscription
Having a membership and a subscription feature in your e-learning website will help you to deliver contents to the users accordingly. You can break a course into smaller sections and make them available to the users based on their memberships and subscriptions.
#27 508 Compliant
508 Compliant standards, published in the federal register states that all the electronic and information technologies should be made accessible to people with disabilities.Did I miss out on any term? Let me know in the comment section below!
A client of ours- let’s call him John- an educator, was looking to monetize his e-learning website. We had helped him setup his LMS on WordPress and LearnDash, and he had all his course content ready.
The next logical step for John was to add an e-commerce module. But John was unsure of adopting a per course pricing strategy or a paid membership approach.
Several e-teachers, like John, face the same dilemma.
They create their course content, update the content on their e-learning website, and then look forward to making some money from their venture. What many do not realize however, is that setting up course content is closely linked to the approach they choose to charge interested students.
In e-learning, there are primarily two approaches which can be chosen – you can choose to sell courses or sell memberships.
Approach #1: Selling Courses
With a per course or lesson pricing strategy courses or lessons are paid. So essentially course access is managed at a user level. Now, to employ this approach course content has to be divided into purchasable blocks.
For example, say you teach three languages- Spanish, French and German. If you want to sell each language as a course, you will have to create and price three courses (for the three languages).
If you want to sell lessons, lesson content should be created accordingly. For example, the course Spanish could have three lessons – Spanish Level I, Spanish Level II and Spanish Level III.
Mind you, several popular LMS plugins on WordPress do not allow creation of paid lessons. So, you will need to create paid content as courses only. In continuation with our above example, instead of creating lessons, you’d have to create courses for the three levels in Spanish.
This approach works well when you have a few courses. Since each course needs a price to be set.
- Courses are paid.
- You can create and sell course bundles for a discounted price.
- Allow students to create their own bundles.
Course purchase could provide students unlimited access to the course or could be time-bound.
There could be course purchase conditions as well. For example, courses which have no prerequisites could be available for purchase. While courses which have prerequisites, would need the prerequisite courses to be purchased prior to gaining access for the needed course.
Leading LMS plugins on WordPress either provide an e-commerce module that allows courses to be made purchasable or provide integrations with e-commerce plugins such as WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads.
Based on your requirements, you could pick either of these methods to add paid courses.
Approach #2: Selling Memberships
As opposed to selling courses, selling memberships involves creating multiple paid membership levels. Based on the membership level a student chooses, he/she gains access to linked courses. Hence, with this approach, member access has to be managed across the LMS.
There could be
- membership levels based on course category: For example, all courses categorized under Science, could belong to a specific membership level; all courses belonging to History could belong to another membership level.
- membership levels based on course complexity levels: For example, beginner level courses could be linked to a particular membership level, while intermediate level courses could be linked to another level.
- membership levels based on number of courses which can be accessed: For example, a basic level would allow a student to access 10 courses, while advanced level would allow a student to access 20 courses.
- membership for the entire e-learning website: Here, the student has to pay a registration fee, (or a timely membership fee) to access all courses on your LMS.
As you can imagine, when you have a lot of courses on your LMS, setting and maintaining a price for each course is rather difficult. Instead, you could employ a paid membership approach.
- Membership levels are paid.
- Memberships could be subscription based and have auto-renewals
- You could offer discounts on upgrades
With the membership approach you can drip feed courses to students.
To add paid memberships to your e-learning website, the popular approach is to integrate it with a membership plugin. Paid Membership Pro or WooCommerce Subscriptions can be used to implement this approach.
When considering monetizing your e-learning website, two approaches are heavily discussed and debated- the paid courses approach, and the paid membership approach.
Both have their own advantages and disadvantages, for example the paid courses approach could be considered when you have fewer courses to manage, while with the membership approach you have to manage membership levels to control member access.
Neither is preferred over the other, but now that you have a clear understanding of how the two approaches work, I’m certain you’ll be in a better position to decide which approach works for you! 😀
A question most frequently asked while setting up an eLearning website is:“What kind of hosting does my website need?”
In all fairness, it’s not a very easy question to answer; you wouldn’t have articles like this floating in cyberspace if it really was. There’s no clear-cut answer, it would all depend on the kind of requirements your website presents.
Hosting can be one the following 4 types:
Free Hosting: Provided by web companies for free of cost and is usually very limited in terms of features. Low bandwidth and low data transfer rate makes this type of hosting vulnerable to greater downtime. Your website may or may not be used by the parent company for advertising, and will probably not have it’s own unique domain name.
In terms of hosting an LMS with this type of service, it is a strict no. You can’t have your students stumbling across 404 Errors in the middle of a session.
Shared Hosting: This is where you pay a web hosting company to host your website on it’s servers, which is shared by a number of websites, usually around 100.
Dedicated Hosting: While leaning more towards the expensive side, dedicated hosting gives you complete control over all the elements of web hosting. This is where you own the server and the resources involved in hosting a website. It’s perfect for sites that are heavy on content and require frequent monitoring.
Which gives rise to the following questiosn:
- Should you go for shared hosting services or get your own dedicated server for hosting?
- If you want to go with Shared hosting services, then who should be your vendor? Which of these vendors are feature rich and what are their uptime records?
- What possible options are available for hosting your own server and which is the best among them? What costs are you looking at in order to use their services?
- If you want to go with your own server, then how to set it up? What all components are needed?
A) Should you go for shared hosting services or get your own dedicated server for hosting?
To answer this question, consider the following points:
- Do you need to install software on the server?
- Do you want control over php, mysql, apache and caching configuration?
- If yes, then do you have the requisite expertise to control these technicalities?
- Are you looking at more than 20,000+ visits in the first 3 months?
- Do you need SSH access to the server?
- Are you planning to launch a Software as a Service (SaaS) or an API?
If the answer to all of the above questions is NO, shared hosting should be a viable option for you, provided the pricing is right.
If the answer to any of the above questions is YES, go with Virtual Private Server (VPS) or Managed hosting. If you have the requisite expertise, a VPS is definitely a good option. The rules would be your own, so you could customize things as and when you like.
If you don’t have access to technical assistance, a managed hosting service is your best shot at a sustainable LMW website.
B) If you want to go with Shared hosting services, then who should be your vendor? Which of these vendors are feature rich and what are their uptime records?
This question would be best answered by comparing different hosting providers and their offerings. Web hosting search tool whoishostingthis.com has a great list.
Personally, I prefer Siteground and WP-engine. These two web hosts make for the most suitable environment for WordPress hosting, and they take care of all the harsh stuff for you. In fact, WP-engine also provides you with a staging site so that before you publish any changes, you can first test them on the staging site and make them live later.
For businesses that are carried out primarily online, it is important to have the website up and running at all times. But the bitter truth with any web hosting service is, your site is bound to go down sooner or later. Which makes uptime statistics a vital criteria to find a good host. You can find the uptime record comparison of most popular web hosting providers right here.
C) What possible options are available for hosting your own server and which is the best among them? What costs are you looking at in order to use their services?
The first thing you ought to take care of when you decide to go with hosting your own server is whether the respective service provider has datacenter in the area of your target audience.This parameter is extremely important when you considers latency.
There are service providers like DigitalOcean, Amazon web Services, Linode, Google Cloud Engine etc. You can find comparison between them here.
Take a look at the the differences between the pricing of Digital Ocean droplets and similar AWS instances.
|Memory||Space||Bandwidth||AWS Pricing / month||DiO Pricing / month||AWS Pricing for 500GB Bandwidth|
|48GB||480GB||8TB||48GB not Available on AWS||$480|
D) If you want to go with your own server, then how to set it up? What all components are needed?
If you plan to host a PHP application like WordPress on the server, you would need to install and configure web server like Apache and caching software such as Memcache, Opcache etc.
A good alternative for Apache would be Nginx, which is steadily gaining popularity. Digital marketing firm The Organic Agency has a great article that compares the two in terms of performance.
So if you choose not to use Apache, you can replace it with Nginx + php-fpm. You ought to have an in-depth understanding of the configurations present while setting up the server, because even a minor error might lead to a crash. For example, if during SSL setup, the redirections are not proper, the site may head into a redirection loop. Or if ssl_ciphers and ssl_protocols are not appropriate, your website maybe be rendered inaccessible to the masses.
In case of self hosted solutions, a lot of time is spent in debugging rather than the actual hosting. Setting up a website is relatively easy, it’s the debugging that takes up a majority of time and other resources. Resolving an issue may take days without an access to comprehensive information about the server and hosting on the whole. If you are planning to host your own LMS, make sure that you have considerable information about:
- SFTP for users to manage files.
- MySQL tuning and optimization.
- Nginx installation and configurations.
- PHP-FPM or fastcgi setup and configurations.
- Configuring in a service which alerts you when other services are non responsive.
- Configure in a mailing service to send mails from your VPS.
- Analyzing CPU load and memory consumption.
- Debugging of I/O related problems.
- Parse logs available in order to understand the cause of issues.
- Configuration of SSL certificates.
Because if you are going to handle these issues, you will soon realize that rather than focussing on business, you are surrounded by these unwanted server issues.
Should any of the above sound greek to you, managed hosting is the best bet, as it eliminates all the tension and frustration comes with managing your own LMS..
Like what you read? Let us know in the comment section below. Happy to help!
LifterLMS is an all-in-one Learning Management System plugin for WordPress. Introducing a host of new features, a flexible and easy to use interface and a complete support system, it can support all your personal and professional requirements for e-learning.
Unlike existing LMS plugins, LifterLMS offers a complete package for online course creation and selling. It is integrated with several e-commerce and membership plugins like InfusionSoft, PayPal, WooCommerce and BuddyPress that ensures you need never install another plugin again.
Despite being the new kid on the LMS block, LifterLMS works seamlessly with almost every well-coded theme in WordPress. In addition, it has tons of features that allow you to create and customize any course imaginable. Take a look:
- Courses: You can create an infinite number of hierarchical, completable courses that can be categorized and organized easily from the Dashboard itself.
- Sections: LifterLMS follows a two-step hierarchy for classification. Courses are sub-divided into sections that can be assigned difficulty levels and individual quizzes.
- Lessons: Lessons can incorporate everything from a regular text-based approach to audio-video sessions, external reference material or any combination.
- Quizzes: Due to the built-in automatic weightage system, quizzing and grading becomes very easy, though there is an option for manual grading too. Certificates can be issued automatically when the course is completed. One drawback is that only the MCQ type of answer format is available, so it does not support subjective or any other kind or answer formats.
- Student Analytics: The plugin has robust analytics that allow you to keep precise track of how your students are doing. You can customize student profile pages to see their course lists in the sidebar itself.
- Live Learning Experience: LifterLMS has an integrated Hangout platform where students can interact live with their tutors. It is also possible to build support forums, chat rooms and discussion threads for free flow of information.
- Drip Content: Content can be dripped out according to lesson completion or after specific time intervals.
- Prerequisites: It is possible to restrict access to courses and lessons and set necessary prerequisites for the same.
Considering the extensive market for e-learning, LifterLMS gives you loads of options to make your course more engaging for users. You can award badges, certificates, discount coupons and a lot more. A completely independent plugin, it has customizable e-commerce and membership functionalities too.
Let’s take a more comprehensive look at these:
LifterLMS has extensive gamification options like badges and downloadable certificates on successful completion of lessons, sections and courses which adds a fun element to the course and keeps the students engaged.
Besides, you can even award Achievement badges for special events like logging in the first time or for the first course completion. Conversely, if a user hasn’t logged in for several days, an automatic e-mail reminder can be sent. This ensures continued engagement.
Fully integrated with payment gateways like PayPal and Stripe and e-commerce platforms like WooCommerce, LifterLMS lets you sell your courses in an easy and hassle-free way.
There are options for enabling single or recurring purchase price or even adding discounts for definite time periods to boost sales. Tracking of sales and income is easy due to robust e-commerce analytics. The best part is that it comes with a built-in State Tax Deduction functionality, so that’s one worry down!
Unlike most LMS plugins that require additional plugins to implement membership, LifterLMS is built with integrated membership functionalities. You can create unlimited membership levels like Students, Tutors, Teaching assistants, etc. with restricted access for each, so that all your content is safe.
You can even maintain a membership-only policy for access, thereby effectively locking down your entire site.
Pricing & Support
Most big names in WordPress LMS will have you pay for a single site license, and incur additional costs for paid extensions and customizations.
In contrast, LifterLMS follows a unique pricing model where you get the plugin in all it’s glory and features FOR FREE, but has a Pro version where you pay 99$/Year for “front of the line” support, access to weekly live office hours with a LifterLMS developer, special graphics pack for your website and exclusive offers.
Support queries filed by Pro users are usually processed within 12 working hours and they can also avail micro assistance from a dedicated team which personally handles all your issues on your staging site.
LifterLMS is an all-round learning management system that can be used to turn your knowledge and experience into a full-fledged source of income. The extremely user-friendly interface, myriad features, gamification options and seamless integration with e-commerce applications are all factors that work in its favor and make it one of the best LMS plugins out there.
On the downside, LifterLMS has only about four or five extensions. While these extensions are good enough to take care of basic essentials like ecommerce, mailings lists and CRM, noticeably absent are the integrations with TinCan analytics, Form Builder plugins, Events registration other sub systems in WordPress that one might use on an elearning website.
However, the sheer number of functionalities and customization options that LifterLMS offers over its contemporaries makes the plugin absolutely worthwhile. The learning curve here is very small and the support forums are extremely active to put all your quibbles and queries to rest. They have an excellent response system and their podcast videos guide you all the way through building and maintaining your course website.
Great functionalities, systematic and straightforward operation and a standalone approach make LifterLMS an exceptional learning management system plugin.
Instructional design is an art. An art that inherently taps into your capabilities as an imparter of knowledge, a teacher. But more importantly, instructional designers have more to do with effective and engaging delivery of learner content. Ensuring maximum impact.
Instructional design is all about minutely gauging the requirements of your learner audience. Designers base their instructional strategies on this very analysis and tailor content to target these needs.
A great course designer is as good as his/her choice of tools to design the content. And in this age of incredible computing technology, designers have access to a wide variety of software applications that enable them to do what they do best.
Delivering the content is just as seminal, if not more. Learning Management Systems facilitate efficient ways to do so, with LMSs like Moodle, Blackboard and WordPress leading the pack with innovative approaches to elearning. If you happened to be surprised by the inclusion of WordPress in the list, a good idea would be to take a look at this post where I talk about how WordPress is exceptional as an LMS.
WordPress is all about flexibility, functionality, and experience. It is home to a massive repository of extensions, that render it capable of handling any and every form of elearning content with ease and grace.
The more the merrier. Take a look at these:
Your WordPress website as an LMS? Take a pick from LearnDash or Sensei. WP Courseware is another plugin that boasts of a drag-and-drop course builder that sets up your content in minutes! Features like quizzes, reporting and social learning further enrich the learner’s experience.
An additional boost are themes that are specially optimized for elearning content for your website. Academy, WPLMS, University and Enfold anyone?
Image & Video
WordPress has plugins like Aviary, EDIK and WP Images Pro that can let you create all but most complex of graphical content. Add ons that make for beautiful image and video galleries are a plenty. Grand Flagallery, Gallery Bank – Photo Galleries & Album, Huge IT Gallery, and WP Images to name a few.Videos are best managed by Wonder Plugin, Gmedia Gallery and Video Gallery. Perfect for video lessons and webinars.
Survey and Data Collection
Powerful form builder and document generation plugins let you handle data in anyway you like. Gravity Forms & Gravity PDF, Ninja Form and Formidable Forms are adept at just that, and can be used to create customized surveys and data forms for a host of requirements.
Video Conferencing and Virtual Classroom
RumbleTalk Group Chat, Community Chat and Live Chat are your best bet for enabling video conference on WordPress. Designers can model content that has learner present in a virtual classroom, which is known to trigger high retention capacity amongst the students.Plugins like these can be integrated to work in sync with your LMS, so that your users never miss a video session with the lecturer and their peers.
Project Management and Tracking
If your users are going to be working on projects and assignments, you would definitely feel the need to track the projects. Project Panorama and WP Project Manager are two amazing Project Management plugins, that keep complete track of your assignments. Both the plugins are loaded with useful features like time tracking, to do lists, milestones and front end management.
Social and Discussions
BuddyPress is one hell of a social plugin, as is evident by 200,000 odd downloads over the years. It adds a social medium to your WordPress Website where users can see live feeds of the various activities associated with the group. They can send friend requests, communicate via direct messages and also set up a complete profile page. Learning is never as much fun as when it’s done in groups.Discussion Forums can be taken care of by bbPress. This social plugin lets your website have a variety of discussion forums, perfect for users to collaborate on topics and benefit from mutual contributions.
I wouldn’t be able to list down all the plugins that can help you with instructional design if I had a whole day. Really, there’s just so much to choose from. Plugins like Digress.It and E-Learning Critical Thinking let you embed sidenotes, reminders, tips and questions to your lesson text, while Teach Press and Xerte Online will create advanced, researc oriented courses.
Turn up the quizzing heat with mTouch Quiz and SS Quiz, both extensions with advanced quiz creating capabilities and wide range of question types, or if you’re looking for something even more customized, hire the right professional to code it in for you.Either way, WordPress has a treasure trove full of offerings for elearning enthusiasts. And it’s only going to get better.