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March 24th, 2020 LearnDash

Need to give certain users special privileges without making them full admins? Here’s how assigning user roles can help.

Online courses of all sizes frequently run into issues where they need to give different users special privileges and permissions to run their course more effectively. Doing so effectively means knowing how to set up User Groups and designate Group Leaders in ways that will accomplish the goals you want for your course.

To make use of these tools, there are two things that are helpful to bear in mind. The first is that User Groups can be used to either cluster or segment learners as needed. The second is that while LearnDash offers some broad-level group organization tools, you may need to turn to the User Role Editor plugin to fine-tune some of your user settings.

While it can require some careful planning to achieve he right results, setting up groups and leaders can have huge benefits for your course.

Use cases include:

  • Small group tutors. You may be running a course with a hundred students, but you want to break it into smaller groups that can be led by a TA or post-grad student.
  • Regional managers. Your organization is conducting training across multiple locations, but you want local managers to be able to review their team’s progress.
  • Drip-feed classes by cohort. Your course includes live webinars and assignments. To stagger your workload, you want to split the class into groups that meet on different days of the week.
  • Group moderators. You want to create a larger cohort of learners taking the same set of courses together, but you also want to set up moderators to better manage and support the group.

The specifics of each step are covered in our documentation, which we’ll link to throughout the post where relevant. In this post, we’re going to focus not on the technical mechanics of getting User Groups to work, but on ways you can organize your course so that you’re using them effectively.

1. Create a group and assign courses to the group.

The first step is to create and name your User Group, and assign which courses learners in this group will take together. This can be just one course per group, or if you have several courses you want your learners to take at once, you can have all those courses be part of the group.

You might consider creating a course group if you wanted to sell a bundle of courses together, or if you had two or three courses that needed to be taken at the same time as co-requisites, but which you wanted to grade separately.

The important thing to remember here is that any learners added to this group will be enrolled in all the courses. So if you want to sell these courses individually, you have to keep the groups separate.

2. Create Group Leaders and assign them to the group.

Next, you’ll have to create Group Leaders for your course. This means going to the user profiles of those whom you want to make leaders and assigning them a new user role. The Group Leader user role allows some limited backend admin privileges, such as viewing the course progress of other learners in the group, seeing their assessments, and sending group emails.

It’s important to note that even though this user role gives access to some backend functions, that access is limited to what you allow. Letting someone becoming a Group Leader doesn’t mean they can change settings or create content beyond what is allowed for their user role. This means you can safely assign these user roles to trusted members without worrying about that they’ll accidentally break your site or have more access to information than is necessary.

Once you’ve assigned the Group Leader user role to your designated users, you can then assign them to specific groups. You can have more than one Group Leader per course, and the Group Leaders will only have those user controls in their assigned groups. This means they can be a Group Leader in one group, but a regular enrollee in another.

3. Add learners to your group to automatically enroll them in all group courses.

Once you’ve created groups and assigned leaders, it’s time to add learners to the groups. As we said earlier, all learners you add to a User Group will be automatically enrolled in all the group’s courses.

Similarly, all Group Leaders you add to a group will have admin privileges over all members of the group. There isn’t a way to assign Group Leaders to certain learners within a User Group.

This is where the point I made earlier about clustering and segmenting is important. If you’re trying to create a learning environment where each Group Leader has access to only a dozen learners, then you’ll want to create separate User Groups. These groups can all exist within the same course, so that all enrollees still have access to the same forums and discussions, but their progress and assessments will be monitored separately.

On the other hand, if you want learners to be in a larger pool with several Group Leaders serving in more of a moderator capacity, then you can combine them. It’s just important to know how you want your groups to be combined or segregated before you begin.

4. Manage custom user roles using the User Role Editor plugin.

Need to fine-tune your user roles? Some courses require Group Leaders to have more or less admin privileges than what are allowed by LearnDash’s default settings. Maybe you want to allow leaders the ability to review progress and assessment data, but you don’t want them to be able to email learners. Or maybe you want them to be able to do all that—and more.

The best way to fine-tune your user roles is using the User Role Editor plugin. This can let you block or certain admin functions, block or display front-end items, or allow access to various content creation and diagnostic tools, according to what your needs are.

And of course, you can use all these tools in combination with custom development to achieve even more specific end goals for your program, depending on your use-case scenario.

Assigning User Groups and Group Leaders gives you more control over course organization and administration.

At the end of the day, a large part of running a successful online course comes down to administration. And the larger your organization, the truer this is. Understanding how User Groups and Group Leaders function can help you organize your courses more effectively, so both you and your learners get the support you need.

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8 responses

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Thanks you for your clarifications. I have several courses each with a group leader. Two group leaders are gl for more than 1 course. I would like each gl to be able to always view their course, but not change it. I don’t see how I can do that. I looked at the plugin you recommend and those functions seem to be more WooC than anything. Right now I have the gl enrolled in the course (access expires in 30 days) and as group leaders. I don’t see how they can view their courses for more than 30 days. Do you have a suggestion? Should I not have them enrolled in the course?

Avatar Janet

Hi Janet! Same problem here, did you find any solution or workaround? Thanks a lot!

Avatar David

It’s frustrating that I cannot easily give access to manage LearnDash courses/lessons/topics/etc to a WordPress user without giving them the role of Administrator. I create online course websites for my clients, and as a rule of thumb, I make them use a WordPress user account without full administrator capabilities (such as an Author/Editor role). There should be at least specific new WordPress user roles automatically generated with LearnDash capabilities.

You could say that I can use the User Role Editor for that purpose, but well, I just don’t want to install unessential plugins. Actually, I doubt that I’m the only developer who cares about not bloating their installed plugins list.

Avatar Gerard

Group Leaders will have this ability very soon. Otherwise, yes you have to modify the default WP user roles.


Any update on this? Echoing everyone else’s feedback. We want to allow Group Leaders to view their group members’ progress in the front-end, not in the group admin panel. The functionality to view progress by signing into WP Admin is horrible. That’s worse than not granting access in some cases.

Also, will you introduce an affiliate functionality where our students can earn commissions by referring other students?

Avatar Mark

Hi Mark, Group Leaders can create courses now. No affiliate splits though, that’ll need something like the Instructor Role addon.

Dear Laura,

Is it possible to give a group access to a specific lesson or topic in my course?

All the best,

Avatar Nadine Roos

I need a specific user role that is able to access all course content ignoring content drip-in dates. I have a course that has every Lesson are scheduled to open on a specific day. But our course mentors need to see all the topics in all Lessons, regardless of the opening day. What solution fits me?

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