January 7, 2020

How to Create and Sell an Online Course on WordPress – A Step-by-Step Guide

Are you serious about creating and selling your own online courses through your WordPress website?

If yes, then you’re in the right place.

The beauty of selling courses online is less investment and great profits when executed properly.

All you need is WordPress and the right LMS plugin.

There are a wide range of options available when it comes to choosing an LMS plugin for your WordPress online course.

In this guide, we have used LearnDash – industry’s leading and the most popular LMS plugin to set up an eLearning website.

Setting up an online course – Step-by-step guide:

1. Install WordPress

Before starting with LearnDash, you will need to install WordPress to create a basic website.

While there are other SaaS-based website builders available but we recommend using WordPress as it provides a greater degree of control and flexibility over your website.

Plus, it has a huge library of plugins and themes that can be used to add extra functionalities to your LMS website. 

Now, installing WordPress is super easy. However, if you face any difficulties, you can refer to their installation guide for more clarity.

And once you’ve set up WordPress successfully, the next step would be to…

2. Install LMS plugin – LearnDash

LearnDash is the most popular LMS plugin that comes with an incredible list of powerful features that’ll help you create your online course with ease.

The process of installing LearnDash is pretty quick and simple. However, unlike some plugins, you have to purchase this LMS plugin directly from their website.

And after you’ve made the purchase, log in to your WordPress back end and follow the below steps to install LearnDash.

  • Go to Plugins > Add New
  • Then upload the zipped file of the LearnDash plugin.
Install LMS plugin - LearnDash

As soon as you install the plugin, a LearnDash menu tab is created. But, before you begin creating your courses, you have to activate the license using the license key you received upon purchasing the plugin.

To do this, follow:
LearnDash LMS > Settings > LMS license

LearnDash LMS Settings: LMS license

I) Configuring LearnDash settings

Since the plugin is successfully installed, we’d like to highlight that LearnDash comes with its own default settings for your LMS. We recommend you change the settings as per your needs before you proceed further.

To change default settings, go to LearnDash LMS > Settings

LearnDash LMS Settings

Let’s take a look at the settings you may want to change:

a. Payment settings: LearnDash comes with a default PayPal payment method which allows you to enter your own PayPal credentials to sell and receive payments for your courses.
You can also opt to use other payment gateways like Stripe or 2Checkout which are available as add-ons.

b. Custom labels: You can change the default names for the learning terms as per your wish. For e.g:Lessons’ can be changed to ‘Lectures’ and so on.

c. General settings: Alter the look and feel of your LMS. You’ll also find an option to activate the ‘LearnDash 3.0’ template which gives you access to utilize the new front-end design options and settings.

3. Installing a theme

The final task before you actually begin to create your first course is installing a theme. It’s essential to make sure that your website has the right look and radiates confidence to the visitors.

Navigating through the website should seem like a breeze and quick loading of pages should be of prime importance, hence a right theme is critical.

And while selecting a theme, keep in mind to choose a theme that supports LearnDash.

Recommended for you: 10 powerful LearnDash themes to upgrade your LMS in 2019

Once you’ve selected a theme, follow the below steps to install:

  • Go to WordPress backend > Appearance
  • Themes > Add new
  • Upload the zipped theme and activate.
Install Theme in WordPress

Your website looks awesome! Now it’s time to add courses to your website and monetize them.

4. Creating a Course

We know creating your own course is exciting and we will dive into it in just a moment. First, let’s quickly take a look at the default LearnDash course settings.

I) Default course setting

LearnDash LMS course setting

There are 3 default settings for you to explore:

a. Global course management and display settings: This option allows you to control settings for course creation and visual organization.
Here, by default, the course builder option is enabled and lets you manage topics, lessons, and quiz associations within the course builder. It’s better to keep it enabled.

b. Course taxonomies: This option has ‘Categories’ and ‘Tags’ to help you organize your LearnDash course in a better fashion by adding/editing/deleting them.

c. Course custom post type options: Options like ‘Course Search’ can be found here that allows your learners to find a particular course easily when they search for it.

II) Setting up a course

To add a new online course, hop on to LearnDash LMS > Courses > Add New from your WordPress back end.

LearnDash Setting up a course

Your page will look something like the above image. This is where you will create your course, give a title and a detailed description of the course.

There are post editor blocks on the right that can be used to create a beautiful page. You can add tags, featured image, categories, and permalinks to enhance your course content.

Having done this, you can now move to the Settings tab on the Course editor menu. Here, you will find different options for your course. Let’s take a look.

LearnDash Course Settings

a. Display and content options
This is where you can control the look and feel of the course and other content settings.

  • Course Material: This allows you to list and display support materials for the course.
    If you enable it, it will be visible to all users including non-enrollees.
  • Course Certificate: You can select a certificate you’ve created (we’ll talk about it later in the article) to reward the learners on course completion.
  • Course Content: You have the option to display the course content table to all users or only to the enrolled ones.

Display and content options

b. Course access settings
When you scroll down a bit, there are various other options you can set to control how your users will access the course.

  • Open
    You can set the course to ‘open’ mode which allows any user to access its content without logging in or enrolling. The course is not protected.
  • Free
    The course is protected. Users can access the content by registering and enrolling.
  • Buy now
    The user will have to purchase the course (one-time fee) in order to gain access. The user can pay via the default PayPal system.
  • Recurring
    The users can access the course by purchasing on a subscription basis.
  • Closed
    In this option, only admin enrollment (manual), group enrollment or integration enrollment (membership or shopping cart) can be used to grant users access to the course. An enrollment button will appear only if a URL is set.

III) Course prerequisites

Learndash LMS Course prerequisites

This option essentially allows you to set a requirement for your learners.
For e.g: A learner must complete any one of the selected courses to unlock the next course or a learner must complete all of the selected courses to unlock the next course.

Either way, this protects your course content and allows the learner to focus on one course at a time.

There are also two other options that can be used as a prerequisite:

  • Points: You can also set a point system which pushes your learners to work harder towards achieving those points in order to gain access to the courses.
  • Course access expiration: This means, a learner will lose access to the course after the set duration.

IV) Course navigation settings

This setting means exactly as its name suggests. There are two options available:

  • Linear: Requires users to navigate through the course in a designated sequence.
  • Free flow: Enables users to freely navigate through the course.

That’s it. You’ve created your very first course! Congratulations.

ATTENTION: don’t forget to save all your course setting changes. You can also preview it and check if it turned out the way you planned it and then hit Publish 🙂

Now that you know how to create a course, let’s move ahead and find out how to add lessons.

5. Adding Lessons

This is a step where you add a layer to your each course or rather break your courses into pieces called ‘Lessons’

This is a good way for your learners to consume content or information in tiny bits instead of sizable chunks of information.

With LearnDash, you can create and add lessons to your courses in two ways:

  • Course builder
  • LearnDash menu

So let’s check out the first option.

I) Course builder

The LearnDash drag and drop course builder can be accessed through the Builder tab on the navigation menu. It allows you to quickly add lessons, topics, and quizzes.

To add lessons for an existing course, go to:

  • LearnDash LMS > Courses
  • Click on the ‘Builder’ link on any of the existing courses.

To add lessons to a new course, go to :

  • LearnDash LMS > Courses
  • Add New > Builder tab

After this, you’ll land on a page similar to the image below allowing you to instantly add lessons, topic or quizzes.

LearnDash LMS Courses: Builder Tab
Image courtesy: LearnDash

II)  LearnDash menu

In this method, you can add lessons by going to the Lessons > Add New.

LearnDash Lessons Menu

Once you opt to add a new lesson, you will land on the lesson editor page. It will be somewhat similar to the image below.

By the way, do you remember adding a Course Title and Description sometime back?

Well, this is a similar step where you need to add a Lesson title and description for your lesson content.

post editor block

Similar to course creation, you can configure all the features in the right tab – post editor block. You can add tags, categories, images, videos and more to design your lesson the way you intend to.

Setting up a lesson

Once you’re done with this, you can move on to the Settings Tab on the navigation menu.

Here, you can customize settings relating to lesson content like access to lesson materials, video progression, options to upload assignments in different formats and more. Choose and make customizations as per your needs.

a. Lesson access settings
When you scroll down further, you will find options to control the timing and way lessons can be accessed by your users.

  • Course association: Option to select the course associated with the lesson.
  • Sample lesson: You can make the lesson available to all visitors regardless of course enrollment.
  • Set lesson schedule: You can make the lessons available immediately or after a certain period of time. And, you can also choose to drip-feed lessons at specific time intervals.
LearnDash LMS Lesson access settings

Once again, do not forget to save your settings. You can preview all the changes you’ve created and see if it panned out as per your requirements. And then hit Publish.

Congratulations friends! You’ve successfully added a Lesson to your course.

6. Creating topics

We added Lessons to courses to make the content more organized and consumable.

Here, you can take the extra step and add ‘topics’ within the Lessons for organizational purposes and to make content consumption easier for your learners.

To add a topic, go to:

  • LearnDash LMS > Topics > Add New

Creating a Topic is same as creating a lesson. You will find similar settings. The only difference – associate it with a lesson instead of a course.

7. Adding quizzes

In your life, you might have attempted or taken several quizzes as a test or for fun. Quizzing has the power to make a class or a lesson itself very interactive and provide a good experience for learners.

With the LearnDash LMS plugin, you can add advanced quizzing to your courses and lessons to test your learners knowledge.

Time to make learning fun!

I) Creating quizzes

To add a quiz, go to LearnDash LMS > Quizzes > Add New.

Doing this will bring you to a page that looks similar to the image below. You can go ahead and add a Title and Description of the quiz.

LearnDash LMS Quizzes

As you’ve done before for courses and lessons, you can check out the right tab – post editor block to enhance your quiz content.

Once you’re satisfied with the quiz content, head over to the settings tab on the navigation menu to make the changes as per your needs.

Unlike courses and lessons, here you will find too many settings options available to choose and apply to your quiz as per your convenience.

Some of the settings you’ll find are:

  • Link your quiz with the appropriate lesson or course.
  • Enable timer for your quiz
  • Add quiz prerequisites
  • Restrict quiz retakes
  • Enable leaderboard table to display peer competition

You can take your time to explore all the quiz settings while you’re at it. 

Once you’re done, you can read on to find out more about ‘adding questions’ to your quiz.

II) Adding questions

Now, remember creating a quiz is incomplete without adding questions to the quiz.

To add questions, go to:
LearnDash LMS > Questions.

This step will land you on a question editor page where you need to add title and description of the quiz question. You are free to create as many questions and answers you want. Now, remember creating a quiz is incomplete without adding questions to the quiz.

You have the option to choose from 8 different types of questions:

  • Single choice
  • Multiple choice
  • Free choice
  • Sorting choice
  • Matrix sorting choice
  • Fill in the blanks
  • Assessment
  • Essay/open answer

For answers, you can select the message to display correct and wrong answers.

We know that there are too many options in this segment that we haven’t talked about. But don’t panic. We’ve made sure to provide you with enough information to get started 🙂

8. Creating certificates

So far, you’ve learned to create a course, lesson, topic, and quiz. Now, it’s time to reward the learners.

You can reward the learners through Certificates on successful completion of courses.

To add a certificate, follow:
LearnDash LMS > Certificates > Add New.

LearnDash LMS Certificates

First, you need to associate the certificate to a course or quiz and then fill in the Title and Description for the certificate. 

Through the post editor block on the right, you can also add a featured image for the certificate.

Once you’ve done this, you can go ahead and choose a suitable PDF certificate size and orientation.

If you want to design and create your own certificate templates, you can do so. However, you will require a tad bit of knowledge in HTML. 

Recommended for you: LearnDash certificate creation and designing

9. Sell your course

The courses, lessons, and quizzes have been created. Now, the next obvious step that makes sense is to earn money by selling those courses.

As we mentioned earlier, LearnDash comes with a default PayPal payment gateway. However, you can also add other gateways like Stripe via add-ons.

Interestingly, unlike other LMS plugins, LearnDash offers several different monetization options like Memberships, course bundles, subscriptions and many more.

But, we’d suggest clubbing LearnDash with an eCommerce plugin like WooCommerce to gain access to a whole lot of marketing activities and payment gateways to enhance and scale your sales to a greater level.

If you’re planning to offer downloadable courses, you can try the Easy Digital Downloads plugin that specializes in digital products.

Both, WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) are very popular eCommerce plugins.

Note: Once you’ve chosen and set up a particular eCommerce plugin, you will need to install the respective eCommerce (WooCommerce or EDD) integration plugin before you can start using either of the plugins.

10. Create a menu

This is it. The final step of the climb.

All your hard work will go in vain if you fail to create a menu that makes it easy for your visitors to navigate and find courses.

To create a menu, head over to:
WordPress dashboard > Appearance > Menu

WordPress dashboard Menu

Having all the basic essentials like contact us, course catalog, register now options in the menu is useful for the visitor or the user.

Once you’re done, hit save. 

Congratulations, you have now successfully created your own online course on WordPress!

Final thoughts,

We hope this article provided you with enough knowledge to create your own online course on WordPress using the LearnDash LMS plugin.

Feel free to share with us your experience of creating and selling your own online course on WordPress and the LMS plugin you used.

We’d love to hear about it 🙂

Disclosure: Some of the links in this blog post might be affiliate links. When you purchase through a link on our website, we receive a small commission, at no added cost to you, which helps us run Epitrove and keep producing great content. This does not influence our recommendations; we only recommend products we work with or love. Thank you for your support!

Love Shah
Love Shah

I can't function without tea, books, and movies. When not working, you'll find me weaving stories.

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