The online course creation industry is a large one with players of all sizes. For many the decision is between using a hosted platform or one on WordPress.
The program you use to create (and sell) online courses is a matter of personal taste. When discussing LearnDash with potential customers I always make a point to explain the pros and cons of using WordPress as a learning management system. As much as I would love to say we are perfect for every situation, it’s just not the reality (yet). 😉
I recently watched an interview where the founder of a well-respected hosted membership/teaching platform discussed online course creation in today’s world. Naturally, when the topic of WordPress was brought-up I was curious to hear what he had to say.
Unfortunately (though not all that surprising), he glazed over the topic with the usual generic talking-points about why WordPress is “bad”.
Now, I’m under no illusions here.
Of course he wouldn’t say anything positive about WordPress. WordPress and WordPress LMS plugins represent a competitive segment to their business. But let’s just clear the air on two of the primary reasons hosted learning management systems use in an attempt to scare people away from using WordPress.
#1: WordPress is NOT Secretly More Expensive
Popular hosted platforms run about $99/mo, which works out to $1,188 per year. WordPress LMS solutions will be about one-third of that pricing in a year assuming you want at least the exact same functionality as the hosted platform.
As much as the hosted solutions try to convince you otherwise, there are no hidden costs that drive the price above what these hosted platforms charge per year.
I often hear hosted platforms say that it will cost you a lot more money when something “breaks”. Setting aside the fact that this is incredibly rare, hiring someone to fix something that suddenly isn’t working on your site is incredibly affordable in the WordPress space.
You may be thinking: “But WordPress has been known to break, right?”
Let’s clarify this point. If you configure your WordPress learning platform and everything is working, and then you don’t change anything except run updates, then you don’t have anything really to worry about.
Here are the two scenarios where WordPress does “break”:
- You add plugins for new features that you didn’t test when you originally launched (sidebar: feature flexibility is something lacking in hosted platforms).
- You run updates on a live site without running them on a development environment first.
All this is easily avoided by having a simple development environment (which is a clone of your live site). Many hosting providers have this feature automatically in place.
Oh, and in the case of LiquidWeb, if something “breaks” upon updating they just roll it back automatically for you – no need to do anything.
#2: WordPress is NOT Less Secure
Hosted platforms like to claim that using WordPress is less secure. The truth is that using WordPress makes it possible that you do something to make your site less secure (such as installing a vulnerable plugin).
WordPress specific hosting companies like WPEngine or LiquidWeb go through great lengths to ensure that not only their platform has the latest security features, but also that the plugins they allow are also safe to use.
If you use some random $2.00/mo hosting provider, then yes your site isn’t probably as secure as it could be. Just choose an industry recognized host (there are a number of them) and you’re all set.
The truth is that hosted platforms in any industry fall victim of security breaches. I’m sure you’ve heard of this happening to the likes of Facebook, credit card companies, and even banks. Unfortunately the reality is that we live in a world where a small segment of people like to steal and mess things up in general.
As I mentioned previously, I don’t really blame these hosted solutions for attempting to knock WordPress as they simply cannot match the flexibility nor cost savings that WordPress offers. That said, WordPress learning management systems aren’t for everyone, which is where the hosted platforms help fill a need.