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March 17th, 2020 LearnDash

Ready to monetize your new online course? Make sure you have a smooth payment process.

After putting in all the hard work of building your online course, you’re probably feeling eager to start making money off it. Far and away the most popular way to monetize online courses with LearnDash is through the WooCommerce plugin, which streamlines payment processing for educators and learners alike.

There’s a reason why WooCommerce the most popular payment option for WordPress websites. It’s free, flexible, and comes with dozens of extensions that make it incredibly customizable. However, using WooCommerce with LearnDash has some added features that make it a no-brainer for most of our users.

A few of the major benefits of using WooCommerce with LearnDash include:

  • Coupons. Want to run a sale on your course to encourage new learners to sign up? How about a referral code to get new learners to invite their friends? WooCommerce makes it easy to offer coupons and run promotions for your course.
  • Course bundles. Speaking of promotions, course bundles can be hugely attractive to many learners. Course bundles are especially great if you have a few micro courses that aren’t that useful on their own, but are excellent supplements to your main course.
  • Automatic enrollment. Most learners, when they sign up, want to immediately begin taking lessons. WooCommerce lets you automatically enroll new learners in your course.
  • Automatic refunds. Another thing most learners don’t want to wait for? A refund. Save yourself and your learners some hassle by offering automatic refunds if they drop your course within a certain timeframe.
  • Automatic course removal. On the other hand, if you offer a course subscription, you probably don’t want to have to manually remove learners when they cancel. Not only is it an added step on your part, but it means that leaner continues to have access that they’re no longer paying for.
  • Post-purchase redirects. When someone completes a purchase, you don’t want to leave them waiting on the “thank you” page. Not only is this an easy way for them to exit from your website, it can also mean they don’t take the next step to actually start the course they just purchased. Make things easier for them by automatically redirecting them to your course.

We recently ran a webinar on how to set up WooCommerce on LearnDash, which you can watch below. If you need help linking the two together, we recommend starting here.

Of course, installing WooCommerce is only the first step. Once you have it installed, you still have to consider the different options available to you as you determine your payment plan for the course. Here are some of the most popular options.

1. Sell the course.

The most straightforward pricing option is to sell the your course as a one-off purchase. Learners sign up and they get one complete course, which they can access whenever they want. Most learners understand this pricing model and don’t have any qualms about making a purchase like this.

However, there are some downsides. While a selling a course for, say, $250 looks good at first, it doesn’t take into account any ongoing needs or support a learner might have. It can also put learners in a “once-and-done” mindset, where they feel that, having finished their course, they no longer need to keep returning to your site.

That may be fine, depending on the lesson you’re selling, but it can be a problem if you want to create a more stable, long-lasting community.

2. Offer a subscription.

The idea behind a subscription is that you divide what you might otherwise charge for a course by how long you think the average learner will take to complete that course, and then charge that number on a weekly or monthly basis.

Subscriptions have some real pros and cons. One pro is they tend to have a lower barrier-to-entry, because they don’t have such a high up-front cost. They also look like very good value, especially if you’re offering access to more than one course. For instance, Masterclass charges $90 per course, or a $15/mo. subscription that is billed annually (which is $180). If you think you will take more than two courses in a year and don’t feel like you need permanent access to those materials later, then that’s a pretty great deal.

However, many students do want ongoing access, and are reluctant to sign up to a subscription that they may forget about and not use enough. So, while this model is becoming increasingly popular, there are still some learners who would prefer to buy the course outright.

3. Sell a downloadable digital resource.

Many online educators don’t want to deal with the more complex parts of running an online course—they just want to sell an ebook. They may have an online course that they offer for free as a “loss lead” for selling a bundle of PDF resources that learners can use on their own.

For instance, if you’re a life coach, you may find that your most valuable resource is the ebook you wrote that includes several worksheets that learners can use to assess their life and make positive changes. But, knowing how skeptical some people can be of the latest “life-changing” crazes, you want to win learners over through some free online lessons first. At the end of the course, they then have the option to purchase your book. It’s a simple but effective way to monetize your business.

4. Set up private tutoring sessions.

Private tutoring sessions is another business model we often see for online courses. Some learners need more coaching to get through their coursework than what they can manage on their own. Private tutoring is a great way to give them the boost they need, while also building a more personal connection with your learners.

5. Sell certification.

In some cases, the most effective way to sell a course is to offer it for free, but then charge for certification once they learner achieves a passing grade. This has huge benefits in industries where the certification in question is high-value, such that a learner who knows the material won’t be considered qualified for a role until they can prove their certification.

By waiting to the end of the course to charge for certification, you lower the barrier-to-entry to zero. Learners have no reason to start taking your course, and they can keep working on the material until they have achieved their goal. They don’t have to pay if they can’t keep up with the workload, and you don’t have to worry about dissatisfied learners asking for a refund.

WooCommerce and LearnDash allow you to mix and match all the above.

Of course, most online educators choose to use a combination of the above monetization methods to earn money off their course. They want to offer a subscription to their courses, but also charge for downloadable resources and private tutoring. Or they want to be able to bundle some of these options together, such that one-time purchase of a course comes with the download and a private session, but the subscription only offers access to the course material with no add-ons.

Using WooCommerce with LearnDash, there’s no reason you can’t chose whatever combination of these methods you think will offer the greatest value to your learners. Our only caution is that you avoid adopting any kind of payment plan that isn’t immediately understandable to learners. The more complex your purchase options, the more learners will feel like they are being nickeled and dimed. You’re often better off selling several of these services in a bundle than piecemeal.


3 responses

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I currently have a website that I have build with learndash, and I’m confused about the process I need to follow to make one of the courses free and then sell the course certificate at the end.

They would need to pass the final exam and they would need to be registered in the system before doing so in order for the exam results to be applied to their account, which would then enable them to have access to the certificate. So they would need to purchase the certificate before they take the final exam? But how do I do that in LearnDash???

Any help would be appreciated…


Any help on this will be nice

Hello there,

Thank you this was useful. I have a question:
How can I restrict repurchased for enrolled courses?

I did try it and there is know restriction even if I am logged in as a returning user.

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