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WordPress is not just a platform to publish blogs, or small business websites. It is powerful enough to be used by newspaper websites, magazine sites, universities and colleges. WordPress can also be used as a Learning Management System to sell online courses and offer online classes.

Advantages of Using WordPress as a Learning Management System

  • It is way easier to use than full fledged Learning Management Systems, which are fairly complex and often contain a lot of features that you would probably never use.
  • It is easier to integrate ecommerce plugins into a WordPress powered website than any other Learning Management System. This will make it easier for you to sell courses, online classes, and offer digital content with subscription.
  • The community behind WordPress is bigger than any LMS or CMS in the world. This means there are more solutions available to you, more support, and even support in your native language. Whether you are looking for a developer to hire, or free tutorials for beginners, you will find it easily for WordPress.

What could be some disadvantages of using WordPress as an LMS?

  • Using WordPress you might come across a point where you will desire something more focused on teaching.
  • Moving from WordPress to another LMS could be difficult. Exporting content from WordPress is easy, but importing it into another LMS may not be as easier.
  • I will leave this point for the readers, because honestly, I can’t find any more disadvantages of using WordPress in any case scenario, what can I say, I am a WordPress fan-boy.

Creating a Website Structure

To create an online learning website, your website would probably need two sections. One that is publicly visible where visitors can learn about the website, courses offered, fees, and other useful information without registering. The other section of your website is where you publish your course material, this is the portion you want to restrict to only registered users.

In this example we are creating a dummy website. We have created a website structure which is publicly visible by creating the following pages:

|- Main Page
|- Courses
|- Beginners Course
|- Level II Course
| – Level III Course
| – Contact
|- Course Material

WordPress allows you to set a static page as your website’s main page. To do that go to Settings > Reading > Front page displays: A static page Select “Main Page” from the dropdown menu, and for Posts Page: Select Course Material and save changes.

Now when a visitor arrives at your website they land on the “Main Page” instead of your posts. The posts you create will appear on the Course Material page. Using access control plugins you can choose to display this in your menu but when a user visits the page they are asked to sign in or sign up. You can also choose to hide this from non-subscribers.

Now that we have created a structure for our website’s publicly visible section, it is time to learn how to create and manage access to your course material. Firstly you need to enable user registration on your website. Go to Settings > General > Check the box next to “Anyone Can Register” and save changes. Now anyone can register on your website and when they do that they are assigned a role by WordPress user management system, the default role is Subscriber.

There are many WordPress plugins which you can use to restrict access to different parts of your website. We have covered some of them in an earlier blog post “Create a Membership site with WordPress” We will review a few of them, each plugin has a slightly different feature set, you need to pick one that fits the best for your scenario.

WordPress Access Control

WordPress Access Control is a simple plugin that allows you to control who sees what on your WordPress powered website. However, this plugin does not come with payment systems integrated into it. This plugin is great if you just want your site visitors to register for your training, course or classes without paying. This plugin is also not helpful if you want different access levels to different users on your website.

  • Restrict access to content on a post-by-post basis, or set a default access level for all your posts.
  • You can also make your pages publicly accessible.
  • Create a Menu for Signed in Members.
  • Show a different menu to non-members on your website. You can add a custom link to wp-login.php from Menu Editor.

WordPress Access Control »

Restrict Content Pro

Restrict content pro is a premium plugin which is not only capable of restricting access to content for subscribers only, it can also handle paypal payments, and control access on a user level. This means users subscribed for Course 1 will only have access to Course 1. Some features of Restrict Content Pro are:

  • Restrict Content Pro provides you a user management system with custom user levels.
  • Subscription Package Managemet System allows you to create different subscription packages for your courses or any web content. For example you can have an SEO for Beginners course and another course SEO Level II. You can specify the price of the subscription package and track the users subscribed to that package.
  • Restrict Content Pro also has paypal integrated, so you can easily track payments.
  • You can offer Discounts, Track users, Export Data and integrate Mailchimp Addon.
  • You can use it even if you are distributing your courses for free, and just want registeration and restriction features.

Restrict Content Pro »

Managing your WordPress Powered Learning Management System

We have so far looked at how you can create your website’s structure. Now that you have built the platform, the next step is to run it. We will have a look at how you can add courses, add downloads, handle digital media on your website.

Adding Courses

In our example scenario, we are adding course material to our dummy website in posts format. To restrict access, we assign each post the category it belongs. For example, “Beginner’s Course Lesson 1” is categorized as Beginners. This helps users navigate easily and also helps you manage access control.

By default WordPress handles images and YouTube videos beautifully. So if you are going to embed images and youtube videos then it would work out of the box. But what if you want to add a PowerPoint Slideshow? Or an Excel Spreadsheet? There are plugins which will help you adding different course material on your website:

Google Document Embedder

I have reviewed this plugin earlier in my “WordPress Productivity Plugins for Business Websites” post. I think most plugins mentioned in that post are also very useful for an online learning website. Google Document Embedder allows you to embed MS-Office, PDF, Open Office and many other filetypes right into your blog post. This makes it very easy for you to embed content right into your courses.

Google Document Embedder »

WP-Filebase

WP-Filebase is a file management plugin which allows you to attach files for download along with your posts. You can also create a separate download section for your website where users can browse files and download them directly. This plugin can be used to distribute additional course materials to your subscribers/ students.

  • Provides an interface to create a download library of your own.
  • Categorize your downloadable content.
  • Add title, description, and tags to your downloads.
  • Built-in download counter to display how many times a file is downloaded.
  • User role restriction, prevents hotlinking, traffic limit and bandwidth throttling add extra security layer to your downloads.

WP Filebase »

Making your Online Courses Interactive

A great part of learning is the interaction between the learners and the teacher. Initially when the concept of distance learning was evolving this was the major concern for educators. Online learning has solved this problem too and students and the teachers can interact with each other. In fact online learning goes one step ahead and allows students to interact with teacher, other students, and even the course material itself. This has helped many educators create highly innovative and very interactive courses. Using WordPress gives you the freedom to create innovative and interactive courses by adding quizzes, tests, surveys and forms to your courses.

Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms is a premium WordPress plugin to create forms. This plugin is definitely the easiest way to create highly interactive forms for your online classroom. You can just drag and drop and create your forms without knowing any HTML or PHP.

  • Easy to use and simple form builder.
  • Create contact form for the contact page on your website.
  • Create quizzes, tests and forms to accompany your online courses.
  • Create multi-page forms for your tests.
  • Conditional Logic allows you to decide which question to ask next based on the answer of the previous question.
  • Add forms anywhere sidebar, pages, inside posts.

Gravity Forms

WP Survey And Quiz Tool

WP Survey and Quiz tool is a WordPress plugin to create Quizzes, Surveys and Polls. This plugin is feature rich but it is not easy to use. There are too many options to choose from. Creating quizzes in itself is a complicated task for an educator. However, once you have created a few quizzes successfully you will be able to enjoy this plugin more frequently and easily.

  • Supports Quiz, Surveys and Polls.
  • Easy to use with detailed options to choose every aspect of your quizzes.
  • Option to choose between Multiple Choice Questions or Text Input for your quizzes, this way you can create quizzes where users can actually write down their answers, useful to create tests and exams.
  • This plugin is feature rich and the complete deal. However, it is not easy to use.

WP Survey and Quiz Tool »

mTouch Quiz

Quizzes are a fun way to enhance learning experience. mTouch Quiz is a nice plugin that allows you to create interactive quizzes for your website. I have chosen this plugin specifically because it is feature rich and adds quizzes with nifty ajax and jquery magic.

  • One main feature of this plugin is that it is mobile and touch device friendly.
  • It is designed to help teachers so there are features such as hints and explanation which enhance the learning process.
  • Quizzes can be embedded into any post or page.
  • The user does not leave the page to answer quiz.
  • Offers premium addons to add additional features such as Gravity Forms add on, Time Restrict quizzes, and Contact Form 7 addon.

mTouch Quiz »

Adding More Interactivity to Online Courses

BuddyPress is a social networking platform built on WordPress. You can add it to your WordPress powered website as a plugin and allow your students to interact with eachother, form communities, manage groups and do other activities.

You can add a Newsletter or Mailing List to your Online Courses. This newsletter or mailing list feature can be used to stay in touch, offer new courses, make announcements.

Conclusion

WordPress with its plugins and themes is a great choice to be used as a learning management system. You can teach and math, science and even music on WordPress. In fact a lot of educators around the world are already doing that.


Post Tags

Noumaan is a blogger and social media expert. He loves Quora, Facebook, Wordpress, OpenSource Software and The Sims.

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62 Comments

  1. Really interesting post,
    i built already a lms,
    but i did not use this methode :)
    thanks again

  2. Really interesting post,
    i built already a lms,
    but i did not use this methode :)
    thanks again

    • Anonymous

      Would you like to share with us how you doing it? I should have mentioned this in the post that surely there are many ways to use WordPress as an LMS. With so many plugins, themes and customized solutions, there seems to be no limit to how extendable WordPress could be. Thanks from visiting us @a7cbec0e6fbb8d3164265ed1c784c7e1:disqus .

  3. Joao

    What about video conference ? is it possible to create a virtual classroom ?

    Thanks

  4. Dev

    Great stuff. Great idea of using WordPress as LMS. WordPress has grown so much, that it can be used for almost any type of site. 

    Keep up the good work, Noumaan. 

    -Dev

  5. I am planning to use wordpress to make a site that will teach audio productions and I am glad that there is a thing called LMS so that it will be easier for me to build the site.  I am new in making websites and your post will be my foundation so I will have a guide. Thanks Noumaan for the help.

  6. WordPress users may install and switch between themes. Themes allow users to change the look and functionality of a WordPress website or installation without altering the informational content. Themes may be installed by using the WordPress “Dashboard” administration tool, or by uploading theme folders via http://FTP.9 The PHP and HTML code in themes can also be edited for more advanced customizations.

  7. What about if I want to let students add their own materials, courses, quizzes etc. on the frontend?

    • keki

      Thanks Noumaan, very informative. When we use the said plugins on a Self hosted WordPress site are their any know compatibility issues or for that matter any particular hosting restrictions that we need to adhere or keep in mind for the application to function as expected. Any views on Restrict Content Pro and Buddy Press will be helpful and appreciated.

    • keki

      sorry codeforest, posted it in the wrong place but nevertheless

  8. Deryk Wenaus

    Thanks for the post. 

    There is a great buddypress plugin that has good courseware functionality with assignments, lectures, tests, all segmented into buddypress groups: BuddyPress ScholarPress Courseware )http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/buddypress-courseware/) the git repo has the most recent version: https://github.com/scholarpress/buddypress-courseware 

  9. Anonymous

    Awesome post. This thinking really helps me to expand my mode of thinking for course delivery. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Hi guys, I want to say thanks for this useful information, I shared it on my wall to be honnest cause I LIKE it(:

  11. Thanks for share these useful tips for wordpress! I will defiantly follow them!

  12. No words. simply brilliant. Thanks for the great write up and time spent on this. I been looking for such LMS service to build one quality LMS Portal.

    Robin

  13. Jay

    What if you publish e-Learning?  Will the file plugin launch the elearning?  Or will it make it downloadable?  If the latter, that person could then send the file to anyone, defeating the point of a paid LMS, wouldn’t it?

  14. Putra

    it’s best post! how if i would use this web structure for learning but with “Mastery Learning” concept ?

  15. Definitely agree with what you stated. Your explanation was
    certainly the easiest to understand. I tell you, I usually get irked when folks
    discuss issues that they plainly do not know about. You managed to hit the nail
    right on the head and explained out everything without complication. Maybe,
    people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more.
     

  16. Tammy Rutherford

    Great post! For those that are interested in adding SCORM content to their WordPress LMS, SCORM Cloud has a plug in that works with WordPress- you can find out more here- http://scorm.com/wordpress/

  17. Jeremy Johnson

    Will the Quiz plug in allow for auto certification once the user passes an exam

  18. I especially like that it provides the ability to link one item to
    another; I find this very useful for linking papers that were
    referenced in another article. I am a huge fan of zotero and highly
    recommend it for authors to help create citations and reference lists
    that must comply with a particular style guide.

  19. I am typically to blogging and i actually appreciate your content. The article has actually peaks my interest. I’m going to bookmark your web site and hold checking for new information.

  20. There are so many people who are creating their website using WordPress. They are using this tool because it is very convenient for them to use it and much easier for them to manage their page. 

  21. Gastón Lasarte

    Awesome article! Thanks a lot for this guide

  22. Great post. This system is beneficial for the students who wants to join distance-learning courses. With the help of this system more and more students are being attracted by the university and the colleges. Its gives the portability and standards web based platforms.

  23. Thank you for an awesome post. It was really helpful to me.

  24. Jane

    Awesome – had been looking for the answer to this for so very long and seeing only ridiculously convoluted “solutions”. And now? Yessss (very happy) – thank you!! :)

  25. MaryZ

    This is perfect, Noumaan! It is brilliant. Many thanks!

  26. keki

    Thanks Noumaan, very informative. When we use the said plugins on a Self
    hosted WordPress site are their any know compatibility issues or for
    that matter any particular hosting restrictions that we need to adhere
    or keep in mind for the application to function as expected. Any views
    on Restrict Content Pro and Buddy Press will be helpful and appreciated.

  27. webdeveloper

    thank u noumaan.tell me one thing .r u a pakistani??

  28. The post is really awesome and interesting too because I am
    working as in a software company as a wordpress developer and I know how value
    of this.

  29. Lavertyj

    Just wondering…..will this track who has watched or completed the segments within your course? I would like to use this as a sales training course and be able to see progress from my sales team. Thanks really great article.

  30. LMS is good System because It is way easier to use than full fledged Learning Management Systems, which are fairly complex and often contain a lot of features that you would probably never use.

  31. I have discovered providing them up is actually incredibly hard. I started melanoma stays when I was really younger. It had been the dumbest incorrect shift I’ve made. Right now I’m much mature and I have respiratory disease. I purchased most of the quit smoking cigarettes guidelines but definitely nothing assisted me. My last try will be the e-cigarettes in the end.

  32. I was looking for crucial information on this subject. The information
    was important as I am about to launch my own portal. Thanks for
    providing a missing link in my business.

  33. Jeffrey De Wee

    Thanks Noumaan for this brilliant post it really helped me with how to outline and deliver my online course

  34. Justin Ferriman

    Since this article has been written there have been a few new-comers into the WP as an LMS industry. I can speak to one of them (LearnDash at http://www.learndash.com ), because I am the founder :)

    As the author has clearly pointed out, WP is a great platform to manage learning. It’s important to keep in mind that an LMS is different things to different people – there is no “once size fits all”. If you do find yourself purchasing a plugin, be it LearnDash or someone else, you will be doing yourself a favor to see what kind of support and advice is available.

    Does the provider have experience? (Not just in WP, but in the learning industry)
    Do they provide timely support?
    Are they constantly evolving the product? (this is important since the learning and education industry are constantly evolving).

    This is a great post and extremely helpful to introducing people to the possibilities of WP as a viable learning management solution.

  35. bevels

    Absolutely excellent resource. This post can cut a lot of time out of the research process in setting up a wordpress based LMS. Thanks for sharing!

  36. Thank you so much for sharing this detailed post on how to use WordPress as an LMS. I hope I can implement some of these ideas for my MS Excel training programs.
    All the best!

  37. This is great information. WordPress is king of content and content is king of SEO

  38. Lav

    First, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for, so thank you. Second, can you suggest a wordpress theme that allows all these pulgins seemlessly?

  39. i know wordpress has accept no plugins but this type of plugin i never seen great post …..
    Online Examination System

  40. I am at the planning stages for my website. Does anyone have a ballpark figure on the cost for me to build a website that will host training videos. Are the plugins free or are they very expensive? I have a limited budget, that’s why I’ll create it myself. I have a strong IT background.

    Thank you for your input and advice.

  41. Thnx 4 a nyc Post !
    But is there any plugin that can use as a quiz system and later gives an auto certification.
    Because I wanna make a LMS with both Exercises and Exam.

  42. I was wondering if you ever considered changing the structure of your site?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so
    people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text
    for only having one or 2 images. Maybe you could space it out better?

  43. Enjoyed this post! Justin Ferriman’s LearnDash LMS is very good (www.learndash.com). Highly recommended. Justin’s great, too. :)

    Anyone know of WP plugins that facilitate teaching music? I can use Google Doc Embedder to post ppt, pdf, and video files to view, but also want unique software geared for music, as well as something that would allow students to record their performance for review by the instructor. Any insights?

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