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The #1 WordPress LMS Myth BUSTED

bustedSo you think WordPress can’t be a viable learning management system?

Well, you may (or may not) be happy to know that since launching the LearnDash WordPress LMS, we have successfully debunked the most common criticism we have come across since starting this project last year. Sure, there will always be doubters — and that’s fine. In fact, using WordPress as an LMS isn’t the right choice for every situation. But still, it feels good to put this one to bed.

Since the LearnDash adventure began last March (at the time called “WPLMS”), we received plenty of encouragement from the community. The buzz proved that there were people starving for a solution of this nature. Developers were contacting us weekly to inquire about how they could help and suggesting possible features. Small businesses and non-profits were sending us emails inquiring the same. It was all very exciting, and we couldn’t wait for everything to take shape. However, for some reason, many e-learning professionals were extremely skeptical, some downright negative.

I was actually quite disappointed about this as I have made a career in this industry and could clearly see the positives of interjecting WordPress into e-learning. Personally, it seems almost more difficult to make an argument against it. Nonetheless, there were (and still are) naysayers. Without fail the biggest backlash against using WordPress for learning management purposes was because it lacked the “traditional SCORM support” offered by mainstream open-source LMS packages such as Moodle.

To tell you the truth, we actually looked very seriously at this one. I spoke to development about SCORM, its purpose, why we use it in the learning industry and made a general case for why we should push forward with including it. As time went on though, we began to see why SCORM is often missing from a lot of software packages today… it’s clunky, not mobile compatible, and flat-out dated.

TinCan to the Rescue

All seemed about lost until TinCan API emerged. To tell the truth, I had heard about this new learning protocol, but never really did extensive research as it wasn’t even part of the most common rapid e-learning tools. Programs like Articulate and Captivate were chugging along with new features and versions, all of which remaining true to SCORM 2004. After jumping onto the phone with some industry experts, reading high-level descriptions and detailed specification documents, the answer became clear:

We don’t need SCORM in our LMS.

TinCan API makes it possible for e-learning (or any learning for that matter) to “live” anywhere, and as a result, it can be hosted and launched on WordPress! Now that rapid e-learning giants like Articulate and iSpring are jumping on board with TinCan, the days of SCORM are numbered. It will take time for SCORM packages to be a thing of the past – in fact, it still has some use. As with any industry though, the emerging trends will eventually become the expectations. TinCan will be expected (even demanded) because of the flexibility it allows instructional designers, LMS administrators, and organizations as a whole.

The biggest complaint about using WordPress as a learning management system was that it didn’t properly conform to the industry standard protocol (SCORM at the time) for e-learning development. That is no longer true. Using TinCan in conjunction with WordPress, such as the way LearnDash does, allows for rapid e-learning courses to find their home on a WordPress site. Admins can then supplement their LMS functionality by leveraging the thousands of free plugins available, the enormous support community, and tens of thousands of themes. The learning curve is cut in half, and the smooth “cool” factor that comes with WordPress is now available in the e-learning world – oh how we live in exciting times!

Rest in peace old #1 myth – you won’t be missed ;)

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About the Author:

Justin Ferriman is the Founder of LearnDash, a WordPress based LMS and Learning Strategy provider. He also works as a Learning & Collaboration Consultant where he implements large-scale training programs for Fortune 500 companies.

10 Comments
    • Hi Richard-
      Thank you for your comment. True, we are not doing SCORM, but the bigger point I believe is that for years it has been a requirement that SCORM be present in an LMS in order for it to be considered “legitimate” – so LMS offerings stammered to get it into their system… such is no longer the case. Legacy SCORM versions will slowly become less relevant, opening the doors not just for WordPress, but other programs as well. So yes, in a sense, the myth that SCORM must be present has been busted… not by LearnDash, but by the industry itself.

  1. Ahead of the game. I am just starting to build my curriculum on LearnDash and am very excited and impressed with both the customer service, and the product. You’re ahead of the game Justin! Also, because wordpress is so accessible, and open source: I think other elearning professionals might fear that what once seemed difficult and complicated, will now seem accessible and easy, therefore opening up the elearning market and increasing the supply of opportunities to deliver and receive elearning. People are always scared of changes like that because they are worried about preserving the big slice of the pie they are enjoying. I’m glad you created LearnDash and thanks for all your work!

  2. Thanks Justin, I appreciate all your articles! As a freelance multi media developer (video/audio/animation) who has worked on a large variety of projects, I am now only focusing on the opportunities in the Elearning industry. Everyday on LinkIn I read about professionals and the frustrations they encounter with choosing and using a LMS. I appreciate how WP is evolving and hope the system it offers is successful. I will certainly be looking at it!

  3. This is an interesting idea.

    Your product is a a plug-in for wordpress or a customized version of wordpress software itself? I see that your demo indicates that the users have to mark the completion themselves. Can your system support automatic progress tracking like a typical LMS?

    • Hi Karthick- Thank you for the comment. LearnDash is a plugin, and currently users mark lessons complete. Most LMSs require some kind of “mark complete” functionality. In most cases, programs like Articulate Storyline are launched and once completed (i.e. a quiz is passed) the course is marked complete. Same is true with LearnDash. Once the final quiz is passed, the entire course is marked complete.

      • Razak

        Regarding this answer.

        I am curious to know if we can limit a person’s ability to “mark complete” based on the time they took on the page.

        FOr example:
        I have a lesson with a 15min video, and some content. Someone comes onto this lesson, spends 3 mins on the page and marks complete.

        What do you believe is the solution to this. Because I see it has 2 problems:
        1. Person is not learning all the material
        2. Person could be just trying to download all the content..

  4. Razak

    Hey Justin,

    You said in your article that sometimes wordpress would not be a good option for an LMS. When would this be the case?

    Feel free to email me :)

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