A student mentor at a desk discussing a paper with a learner.
December 19th, 2019 E-Learning

One-on-one private sessions, tandem learning, and mentorship are all important ways to support learners.

Every online educator knows how challenging it can be to help a learner cross the finish line on their course. Learner drop-out is a consistent problem across the field, and the causes behind it are well-known. In some cases, life intervenes: a learner becomes suddenly busy, they underestimate the work it would take to complete a course, or they fall ill or have to cope with personal difficulties. (Or, thinking positively, maybe everything starts going their way and they no longer feel the burning need for your self-improvement course.)

More frequently, however, learners drop out of a course for preventable reasons. They become disengaged, they’ve hit a road block and can’t work around it, the online environment makes them feel lonely and alienated, or they simply lose motivation as the subject matter becomes more difficult.

In each of these cases, a personal connection with someone in the course can be enough to pull them through their rough patch. This connection can come in various forms: through a private lesson, a learning buddy, or a mentor.

Fortunately, LearnDash supports several plugins that can facilitate tutoring sessions, tandem learning, mentorship, and community support. Here are a few of the most popular to get you started.

LearnDash Private Sessions

Every learner is different. They will have their own strengths and weaknesses, motivations, interests, and stumbling blocks. Because of this, online courses are rarely the hands-free source of passive income some instructors expect them to be when they start.

Fortunately, private tutoring sessions are hugely valuable to learners—and a benefit many are more than willing to pay for. They offer learners the opportunity to ask questions directly and get the expert feedback they need. And the more popular your course becomes, the more you can charge for them. After a while, they may be your biggest source of income.

LearnDash Private Sessons is a plugin designed for instructors who want to offer that personal support to learners. Top features include file sharing, mobile-friendliness, notifications, and user control customizations.

This plugin is incredibly flexible. Use it to schedule a one-on-one power session, or use it as a coaching tool by creating regular check-in times with learners. You can even customize user permissions to allow qualified members of your community to become mentors themselves.

LearnDash Buddy Up

Sometimes, what your learners need most from your course isn’t more of you, but more of their peers. Specifically, they’re looking to build relationship with classmates that each can use as a mutual support to get through the course together. In a tandem learning arrangement such as this, learners can share goals, practice mutual accountability, and learn from each other as they work through difficult material.

LearnDash Buddy Up offers a flexible way for members to find each other and create buddy groups of one or more learners. The plugin allows for live chat, multiple group support, and membership controls.

Buddy Up works best when run alongside your regular course forum—it’s not a replacement. Your course forum should be a place for learners to connect with large groups of fellow learners, participate in long-running discussions, and find the peers they may want to partner with on Buddy Up.


If you’re running a course with an open community, you may want to create a way for some members to identify others as trusted guides along their learning journey. This is a less structured and more organic way of creating a mentorship program, but in a healthy community, it can be just as effective.

GamiPress allows you to create special badges for users who have fulfilled certain criteria on your site. You can even create more complex “quests” that involve multi-level, interactive steps.

What does this have to do with mentorship and community support? Well, what if you created a quest for learners who wanted to earn a Community Mentor badge? Learners who were especially motivated to achieve this badge would have to complete a certain level of courses, plus be active participants in the community forum, and have a good standing amongst their fellow learners.

Once they earned their mentor badge, they could earn special privileges similar to a moderator, such as a waiver on course fees. The presence of mentors in your community would give other learners a designated person to contact with questions, and the vetting process would ensure that only the learners who were most dedicated would achieve the badge.

Use automation to identify learners most at risk of dropping out.

Offering learners an opportunity to connect may prevent them from dropping out of your course, but sometimes learners need a nudge to even do that. LearnDash metrics help you spot learners who are falling behind—such as those who go several days without logging in, or who have failed a quiz several times in a row.

You can set up triggers within the course to send an automated email when this happens suggesting a possible way to help. If a learner seems to be struggling with the material, they may be a good candidate for a private lesson. But if a learner hasn’t been logging in, or isn’t spending a lot of time on the site when they do, they may benefit more from a learning partner or a mentor.

The more you can tailor your intervention to the learner’s needs, the more success you will have in keeping them engaged with your course.


4 responses

Leave a Comment

Hi Laura,
Enjoyed this article. I’m a newly licensed user of LearnDash 3.0. I was wondering if you had considered using the bbPress plugin and integration to provide private coaching. The nice thing about that is that it would be a free option to me (I think). What I’m thinking about doing is creating a private course called something like “Private Coaching with Zy.” The course would serve only to link to a bbPress forum that was accessible only to the one student taking the course. Then I could communicate just like using the “LearnDash Private Sessions” plugin, only via the private forum set up for just that purpose. What do you think of this possibility? Do you have any suggestions concerning it? Are there drawbacks I may not be aware of?


Avatar Zy Danielson

How do you implement the last suggestion? How do you create those automations within LD?

Avatar Alberto

Hi Alberto,

You can automate emails using our Notifications add-on (free with an active license). From there you would write your email content and choose from the list of triggers when it should send. Here’s a link to instructions:


Avatar Laura Lynch

I will be adding some of the tools from Snaporbital to make my learners experiences better. ie. Favourites and Private Conversations, or Notes.

Comments are closed.

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