When creating an online course using WordPress you will find there are often several paths to the desired destination.
WordPress is the perfect tool for creating and selling online courses because it is flexible and it you own the platform. Yet there are so many plugins available that sometimes it can be a little overwhelming.
Perhaps you are currently in this situation for your own online course and you are not sure how to proceed. Assuming you are going to self-host your WordPress site, you will ultimately face the following decision for your courses:
- Use LearnDash only for your courses
- Use a membership plugin only
- Use both
The answer to this question really depends on the specifics of your project, so unfortunately I cannot give you a hard-set rule as to when to use each. However, let’s explore some common scenarios.
1. Using LearnDash Only
If you’re looking into LearnDash then you actually do not need a membership plugin for content protection. Our LMS will protect your content without the need of a membership plugin using our Access Settings.
For example, let’s say that you want to sell three different courses. The content of the courses (lessons, quizzes, etc.) cannot be viewed by people who are not yet enrolled. Only people who are registered for the course can view the content. If someone purchases one course, they don’t get access to the others. They only have access to the one.
If your course is not free then you may be wondering how to add a pay-gate to your courses. LearnDash integrates with the following popular shopping carts:
- Easy Digital Downloads
- ThriveCart (beta)
The WordPress shopping carts (1 and 2 above) integrate with hundreds of payment gateways. LearnDash comes with the following three payment gateways if you prefer to not use a shopping cart:
You can very easily use one of these methods to accept payment. LearnDash will protect your course content without the need of a membership plugin. People who choose this approach appreciate the streamlined process for creating their course offering as it cuts back on having to learn another solution.
2. Using a Membership Plugin (Only)
It is important to note that there are some situations when using an LMS plugin like LearnDash isn’t necessary.
If your project just requires that you protect a couple pages, posts, or a assets on your WordPress site, then a membership plugin is all you really need. Using a learning management plugin in this case would be overkill.
One example would be if you have a site that includes a community forum and perhaps some valuable downloads for the members. In this case, you don’t need an a plugin like LearnDash because there isn’t a need for course enrollments, quizzing, certificates, badges, points, and learner reporting.
3. Using Both LearnDash and a Membership Plugin
While a membership plugin isn’t necessary, there can be advantages to using LearnDash with a membership plugin depending on your requirements.
For instance, if you want to have additional metrics on your members then using a membership plugin is a nice value-add. Many membership platforms come with their own reporting capabilities. Used in conjunction with LearnDash this gives you more insight into your users.
Another common scenario for using both is if you have a membership site already and just want to add some course capabilities in a more formal, organized fashion. Inserting LearnDash makes it easy to add value to your membership site by creating courses for your members to take. You don’t have to change the way you manage your members either since in this case you continue using your membership plugin.
LearnDash has a direct integration with the following membership solutions:
- Restrict Content Pro
As a word of caution: avoid vendor lock-in!
Learning programs can vary in requirements and sometimes those requirements change. With LearnDash you can start your program with any of the options above and freely switch as needed.
One thing I know after over a decade in the e-learning industry is that learning programs and online courses are not one-size-fits all. Learning evolves and so do requirements.
Whether you use LearnDash or not I strongly encourage you to avoid any solution that advocates using a single e-commerce platform or method for content protection. In the same vein, be cautious of any solution that is billed as “all-in-one”. Rarely is this even true, but assuming it is then that means you’re locked-in as well. You don’t want to take on this kind of risk. I have seen this cause people major headaches over the years.
If you are not sure the best approach for your project then write us with some more details and we will happily help! 🙂