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How to Build Online Courses With WordPress

The popularity of online learning has skyrocketed in recent years, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic and cemented by the widespread adoption of new technologies. 

Today, online learning and training modules are used across a growing list of industries, and individual course creators have sparked an industry of their own. From traditional education to the most niche of how-tos, the global eLearning market is expected to surpass $457B by 2026. 

If you’re interested in creating your own online courses, you may already be familiar with the long list of eLearning products and platforms that have saturated the market. 

In addition to that expanding category of “all-in-one solutions” and expensive vendor-based platforms, there are also key tools and best practices you can apply with WordPress to help you build online courses and membership sites and make them profitable. 

In this ebook, we’ll walk through some of the most common ways course creators use WordPress to build and sell their online curriculum, from plugins and themes to the deeper technical considerations that set online courses up for success. 

Download the ebook now to read the full report!

The Rise of Online Learning

Online platforms for remote learning go back to the early days of the web, but before 2020, many of these online learning solutions were viewed as nice-to-haves, not necessities. 

The pandemic changed all that, creating a widespread need for tools and software that could assist with different aspects of remote learning. At the same time, it also spurred on increased innovation and adoption of eLearning solutions, and it’s expanded well beyond the world of traditional education. 

While many public schools and private universities have evolved in how they present online courses, so too have individual content creators, who are tapping into eLearning solutions and other technologies to reach new audiences more effectively.

eLearning and online courses have become increasingly popular for consumers and content creators alike 

The rise of online learning has also been accompanied by an influx of standalone platforms for online courses—some are geared towards traditional educators while others are aimed at entrepreneurs. 

Against this backdrop of mostly closed, proprietary software, WordPress is gaining momentum as a powerful, open source Content Management System (CMS) that allows course creators to build an entire web experience around their online curriculum. 

With widespread integrations (plugins) for video streaming, membership content, or a  multi-functional Learning Management System (LMS), WordPress is an attractive, cost-effective choice for course creators who are just getting started, as well as those with a growing following they’re looking to scale.

WP Engine keeps WordPress scalable, secure, and seamlessly up-to-date so you can focus on creating great courses.

What is a Learning Management System?

Some of the most popular solutions for online course creation fall under the Learning Management System (LMS) category. So what is an LMS? 

In technical terms, an LMS is a specific type of software application that facilitates the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, automation, and delivery of an educational or training course.

If you’re the expert on a topic and want to teach others about it, an LMS acts as your virtual teacher’s assistant.

A good LMS can organize your files and video, keep track of where course participants are in a lesson and provide them with the training materials they need in real-time (even when you’re occupied elsewhere). Versatility is key, and many LMSs can be customized with specific features and toolsets based on the needs of the content distributor.

At its core, an LMS consists of two parts: the admin interface and the user interface. Content creators use the admin side to upload course content, add new course participants, send notifications, and set all the basic functions necessary for the course to run as expected (including eCommerce integrations for billing and subscriptions). 

The user interface is where your course will unfold for your students. It allows course participants to access lessons and other course materials and downloadables at a pace set by the admin.

When it comes to bringing LMS functionality to WordPress sites, using an LMS plugin can provide a ton of benefits. Installing the right plugin will allow you to bring all the necessary LMS functionality you need into your WordPress site, often without additional coding or dev time.

WordPress for Online Course Creators

With high upside and a low barrier to entry, WordPress is increasingly used by course creators because it lets them build rich digital experiences for their course curriculum at their own pace. 

But before we get into the details of course creation, what is WordPress? 

For starters, WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world, and for good reason. It’s user-friendly for content creators and developers of all technical backgrounds, and WordPress is open source, which means there are no upfront or recurring licensing fees tied to the system itself. 

WordPress is also supported by an active community of developers and other users committed to maintaining it as an open source framework for all. That means bug fixes, security patches, and other important updates are regularly made available for WordPress for free! 

For course creators specifically, the benefits of open source vs. proprietary software also play a major role given the expansive amount of content they entrust to their underlying CMS or other course management platform. 

While building on WordPress gives you complete and total ownership over your content and your data should you choose to migrate to a different platform or host, those details get murky when it comes to proprietary software—who owns what, and how easily transferable is it?

Ease of use, lower cost, and content ownership are all major advantages of using WordPress, but perhaps the most tangible benefit for course creators is that WordPress integrates well with a wide range of features and functionality through its massive repository of plugins and themes. 

While there are plugins and themes for just about anything, including many features used by online course creators, there are also specific plugins and themes that bundle features together for LMS-specific functionality. 

Download the ebook to see the top LMS WordPress plugins and themes for online course creators!

WordPress for Online Courses FAQ

Can WordPress be used as an LMS?

WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world, and in addition to eCommerce stores, digital publishing hubs, and a long list of stunning websites for some of the world’s leading brands, WordPress is also widely used as a platform for online courses and LMS sites.

Because it’s open source and free from the licensing fees found with proprietary software, WordPress provides a flexible, cost-effective canvas for LMS sites to grow and thrive. WordPress users have a growing catalog of highly-functional LMS plugins and themes at their disposal and can use them to their advantage as they grow their audience and course curriculum.

Are WordPress LMS plugins and themes free?

WordPress has a massive repository of free plugins and themes, including solutions designed specifically for online course creators and LMS sites. Many of the most popular LMS plugins and themes offer free versions of their software, which lowers the barrier to entry for course creators and allows them to build their LMS sites at their own pace.

Once an LMS site has gained the audience and/or the course curriculum to justify advanced functionality and features, most free plugins and themes offer premium or “pro” versions as part of an annual subscription or one-time license. This allows WordPress course creators to get their sites up and running using the free software before committing additional resources with a paid version.

What are the benefits of using WordPress vs. a standalone LMS solution?

WordPress provides course creators with a wide set of options for creating LMS sites—one of the biggest pros of using WordPress is the freedom and flexibility it provides its users. Course creators can build an engaging destination for their content that’s not limited to pre-formatted templates from a single vendor. WordPress also offers course creators a cost-effective way to build LMS sites at their own pace, using the plugins, themes, and other open source functionality they prefer to use at each stage of their course creation journey.

Standalone LMS solutions, on the other hand, can offer many course creation and management capabilities, but they’re ultimately limited to the feature set provided by each platform’s vendor. Questions around customizations and data ownership (should you choose to migrate your LMS site) vary by platform, as do the various pricing structures associated with each one.

Want to find out more? Download the ebook to learn how to use WordPress for your LMS sites!

Start Building Your Best Online Course Today! 

WP Engine empowers course creators to share their expertise. Educators, instructors, and individual creators are already monetizing their knowledge and hosting their online courses on WP Engine’s industry-leading WordPress platform. With high availability infrastructure and 24/7 support, WP Engine takes care of WordPress so you can focus on building your best online courses yet.

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