Editor’s note: The following article was written by Jessica Starks, a Staff Writer at MemberPress, which is a WP Engine Partner that specializes in helping customers build successful, engaging membership-based businesses online.

The lives of millions of people around the world have been drastically changed, and many are scrambling to figure out how to supplement or replace an existing income. Thanks to the internet, there are a number of possibilities you can dive into right now.

One way you can earn extra income is by starting an online business. And one of the most in-demand online businesses these days are virtual learning sites.

Online learning has taken off in the past decade, from people teaching anything from academic courses to crafting, or even the history of stuffed animals (yes, it’s a thing)! Not to mention that starting an online business, such as a virtual academy, doesn’t have to be expensive, and it can be done anytime, from anywhere, giving you ultimate flexibility and peace of mind.

Everyone has a teachable skill that someone else is eager to learn. Why not try your hand at virtual education?  We can show you how to get your digital learning site started with WordPress, WP Engine, and MemberPress.

What Is MemberPress?

MemberPress is an easy-to-use WordPress Membership plugin that helps you create, manage, and track membership subscriptions and sell digital download products. MemberPress integrates fully with your already-existing WordPress site on WP Engine, so you can get your online business up and running in no time.

If you don’t currently have a WordPress site with WP Engine, now is a great time to accelerate your digital business with world-class themes, WP Engine’s fast WordPress hosting, industry-leading performance, and powerful plugins like MemberPress that will help you quickly realize your digital vision. 

Start Your Virtual Learning Site in 7 Easy Steps

Step 1: Install and Set Up MemberPress

Before you can begin to work on your virtual learning site, be sure to get MemberPress, install it, activate your plugin license, and set up your preferred payment method. This is essential before you move forward.

Step 2: Create Your Courses

Are you wondering how you create your Course Content using MemberPress? Well, this is the beauty of MemberPress-—it can protect ANY content on your WordPress-based website! So in this example, we’ll just create our Courses using standard WordPress Pages. For this example, we’ll create a page that represents a Course and then we’ll set up child pages for this Course where you’ll put the individual Lessons. Later on, we’ll protect them to ensure only paying customers will be able to access them.

To create a page, simply go to “Pages” on your WordPress dashboard, and click “Add New.” Here you will simply type in the name of your course. If you have lessons or modules in each section, you may also create subpages, by clicking “Add New” again, typing in the name of your lesson or module, look to the right of your page for “Page Attributes,” and clicking the dropdown to select the main page that you want that page connected to.

Step 3: Create Your Membership(s)

On your dashboard, scroll down to “MemberPress” and then click “Memberships.” Once you’re on that page, you will click “Add New.” This is where you will begin creating your course Memberships. 

Here, you will be able to set the name of your course, the price of your course, and whether you want customers to have lifetime access or access for a certain amount of time. This is where you can also set up recurring subscription membership plans. As we will show later, one membership can be used to protect any number of pages, posts, and more … including your Courses!

When you scroll down to “Membership Options” and click “Price Box,” you’ll be able to create a display that will show to your customers. You can add benefits of the membership, pricing, custom button text, and more here.

Once you are finished there, scroll back up, click “Publish,” and pat yourself on the back—you’ve created your first course membership! You can follow these steps again for as many course types as you need.

Step 4: Create Groups

Now that your memberships are created, scroll down to “Groups.” Creating Membership Groups allows your subscribers to only subscribe to one membership at a time, but will allow them the option to upgrade or downgrade their membership. 

Once you have clicked groups, click “Add New” to create your group. 

Once you have finished configuring your group, click “Publish.”

Step 5: Create Rules to Protect your Courses

Now that your Courses and Memberships are in place, scroll down to “Rules” and click “Add New.” This is the place where you’ll determine which memberships have protected content.

Here you will type in your rule title, as you can see above, and then link your memberships’ pages. Under “Access Conditions,” you will determine which memberships can be seen. Once you are done here, click “Publish” and repeat this step for your other membership levels.

Step 6: Link Your Pages to Your Memberships

Now that you have your pages and your memberships set up, you can now link the membership with your course overview page (or a page that links to multiple course overviews on it if your membership includes multiple courses) so your customers can immediately access what they’ve paid for when they sign up.

You will go to “Pages” and right-click on the page of your course. Click “Copy link address.” Now, head back over to “Memberpress -> Memberships” and click on the corresponding membership. Once you click on that page, scroll down to the “Advanced” tab and paste the link you just copied into the “Membership Access URL” box and the “Default Login Redirect URL” box. This allows members to automatically access their courses and be redirected to that URL when they join.

Step 7: Configure Your Menu & Test

Now all you need to do is set up your menu to make sure that your members can easily join your site and test it out to make sure there are no kinks in the process.

In your WordPress dashboard, go to “Appearance,” then “Menus.” Once you are there look at the top of the page and click “Screen Options.” Here, be sure to check “Groups” and “Memberships.” After that, you can add in your menu items so your customers can sign up for and access your courses.

Once you have clicked “Save” on your menu items, you can view your site to ensure that your membership options are visible and your courses are easy to access. You are now ready to release your virtual learning site to the world.

You have now set the foundation for your virtual learning site! Of course, there may be other WordPress-related things you’ll want to do–like customizing the look with an amazing StudioPress theme. Or perhaps, you’ll want to set additional options for your membership—MemberPress also has you covered as it supports a huge array of features, and offers a huge library of fantastic documentation with great customer support. Basically, with MemberPress you’ll be able to do almost anything you want with your virtual learning membership site.

Final Thoughts

We know that starting any business—let alone an online business—can be a challenge. However, starting something like a virtual learning site is an excellent way to continue earning an income while still being able to share your expertise with others, on your own time and from the comfort of your own home without spending a fortune.