3 Ways to Create Course Prerequisites in LearnDash

If you are using LearnDash and have more than one course offering then you may be interested in building a structured curriculum.

Predetermined learning paths are a proven way to engage learners and to teach them about a particular subject. It is how most educational institutions are structured, especially higher education.

Depending on the needs of your program you have a few options for how you can create your own course curriculum in LearnDash. There are three common configurations that we see most often to accomplish this setup.

Option 1: Linear Path

This method is perfect if you have a couple courses (such as “Part 1” and “Part 2”) that are closely related and it makes sense for learners to complete one before the other.

For example, if one course is an introduction to high-level concepts and the second course then takes those concepts and goes into them further.

What is nice about this approach is that you can effectively “baseline” your learners so that they have the same knowledge foundation before jumping into the advanced content. Universities all over the world do this when they require students to take 100-level courses prior to 200-level courses.

To do this in LearnDash all you need to do is select the prerequisite course from the list and ensure that the “ALL” option is selected.

Option 2: Open Path

While Option 1 is focused on creating small linear paths, Option 2 allows the learner have a little more freedom with the courses that they take as prerequisites.

For example, you can offer a bonus course to your learners but only if they complete at least one course from a predefined group of courses.

If we stick with the higher education example, this would be equivalent to offering an elective course but only after at least one of the 100 level courses has been complete. It doesn’t matter which one.

To do this in LearnDash you just have to select the group of courses and then choose the “ANY” option.

Option 3: Earned Path

This is similar to Option 2 but is different in that it allows for your learners to accumulate points in order to “unlock” access to courses or materials.

You could use this if you have a special bonus course that you want to make available to only those learners who have achieved certain status through passing your courses. You can even use this to create a bonus curriculum (multiple courses), which acts as an additional motivator for learners.

Order doesn’t matter with this approach, but you can make it a factor depending on how you allocate the number of earned points for your courses. In many ways this method can resemble both Option 1 and Option 2.

To use this option you just have to assign a point value to all the courses you have available. As you create your bonus course you then specify the minimum points a learner must have earned in order to take it.

Combining All Three

Having a mix of guided learning along with providing learners the freedom to choose their learning path is a great way to establish buy-in from your students. If they have a degree of control in what they learn then they are more likely to have a vested interest in completing it compared to simply being told what to do.

You can use each one of these options on their own or a combination of all three depending on the size of your curriculum and the subject of your courses.


Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Let's Talk! | Twitter

24 Responses

      1. Is there any chance for these settings to be added to the lesson level? Working on setting up a language LMS for a client and would love to build it with lesson prerequisites to release the next content. Thanks!

          1. Hi justin,

            I would just like to second the opinion that it would be great to have these options at the lesson and quiz level also.

            We are trying to implement a placement test to see what level the student is at before placing them in the correct course. A linear system does not work in this instance as student knowledge does not accrue in a strictly linear fashion.

            say the student passes the quiz for unit one, then fails the quiz for unit 2 but then passes the quiz for unit 3, 4, 5 and 6 before failing the following units. we would place the student in course 7 to start their learning.

            With the current prerequisite system we can either have the student sit the test for the whole course which is very time consuming as there are 24 course. or the have prerequisites turned on in a linear fashion in which case this student would have been incorrectly placed in course 2

            a points or “any” prerequisite option would solve this problem so would definitely have my vote as a possible future feature

      2. Justin,
        I’m waiting for the 3.0 version to be available to get started, so in the meantime I’m reading all of your posts and tutorials.
        Just like other users asked on this post, I also would love to have the prereq features added at the lesson and topic level, please.

  1. Hi Justin,

    Awesome article!

    May I know why Amazon S3 videos do not show up when put on the video text field when creating a course?

  2. Hi Justin,
    How can I force the learners to always start with Lesson 1 before progressing to Lesson 2?
    In other words how can I make lesson 2 to have a prerequisite Lesson 1?

    1. This is a default setting in LearnDash – no need to change anything. Just don’t select the ‘disable lesson progression’ option.

  3. Hey Justin, is there a way that students can complete any lesson in any order without having to have completed the previous one first?


  4. How do I change the text that is shown when the user tries to access a course before they have completed the pre-requisites?

  5. Hey Justin. Great article. I am a Dean of an online university. We want to use LearnDash and implement Degree Programs (multiple courses) for students. It sounds like Option 1 is the solution. Is there an example of this somewhere? Can we converse with someone to set this up?

    Thanks in advance. Keep up the great work.

  6. Hello Justin, I had the same question as Mr Spenecr Holmnan. Do you have a video example of it. That would be a great tutorial as well?
    Thank you.

  7. It’s worth pointing out that these options are not visible by default and are not accessed from the Course menu list, at least not on my system. In the Edit options for each course you have to check the “Enable Course Prerequisites” box and then options appear that allow other courses to be set as preceding prerequisites to that course, together with ALL, ANY or Points options. But this means that the same procedure must be enabled and set up for every individual course rather than just selecting the required course and making it a global prerequisite. If that option exists, I’m afraid I can’t find it.

  8. We would also like to add to the others who would like prerequisites for Lessons. For example: In order to access Course A, Lesson 3, you need to first complete Course B.

    Is this feature coming soon? We really need it!

  9. Hi Justin, thanks for the explanation,

    I’m looking for something like the prerequisite feature, but for multiple curriculum by groups, i.e., Group 1 must to see Course A, B, and C, in that order, but Group 2 must to see Course A, C and D, in that order, and Group 3 must to see Course D, B, C and A, in that order. In another words, I need to assign a predefined curriculum to a learners group, but the course prerequisites order can change in function of the group. Is there any way to do this?

  10. Hi Justin,
    The course prerequisite requirement is a great feature, and we’ve activated it one some of our courses. Occasionally though I would like to “fast track” students, enrol them in a course and waiver the prerequisite requirements, is there a way to exclude individual users from the [preprequiste setting?

  11. Is it possible to make it such that a student has to pass a end of lesson test before they complete the lesson and the next lesson opens up to them?

    Also is there anyway to send students back to repeat a lesson at a later stage?

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