Is there a WordPress plugin to create online courses?

Until recently I would have said that you need to create a membership site in order to have a WordPress based online course. Yesterday WooThemes changed all that when they released their new Sensei plugin also termed as a learning  management plugin. Of course I had to buy it and test it out, and I’ve spent all day playing with it. It’s true love :), cue hearts and violins :)

Sensei is different from the WordPress Membership plugins I’ve recently posted about. Sensei allows you to create an online course quickly, it’s installed via the plugin section of the WordPress dashboard and then you populate the lessons area with your content. As well as lessons you can also add quizzes to test the understanding of your students. All good so far :)

Can you sell your online courses using Sensei?

If your online course is a paid course, you’ll need to add the free WooCommerce plugin to manage the sales aspect. WooCommerce is a lovely plugin and is very easy to use, you should go and grab a copy and see what you can do with it – you can easily sell digital products using it and you don’t have to use the WooThemes framework to use the plugin, which makes it pretty awesome.

Back to Sensei…

After uploading your plugin via the dashboard you add your license key to the Woo plugin updater. This appears at the top of your dashboard:

Sensei WordPress Plugin Login banner

 

You just add your details to the next screen and click login.

WordPress Online Course plugin activations

 

When you purchase your copy of Sensei, you will be given the choice of a single site license, a 5 site license or a developers license.  When you activate your license key you will be able to activate the support facilities that come with the plugin. If you are not great at configuring things you should make sure that you do this so you can get any help you need.

The next set is to look along the left hand side bar of your dashboard and find the tab that says lessons.

online course wordpress plugin

 

Click Add New Lesson

WordPress Online Course Plugin

 

And a page appears for you to add your lesson content to.

WordPress Learning Management plugin adding lessonsYou can use the Woo Shortcodes within your content as well.

Under the content area is another tab that you can complete to let your students know how long each lesson will take and the lesson’s complexity. As the content I’ll be using is suited for beginners to intermediate the facility to keep the student informed is useful.

WordPress Learning Management plugin

What I love about Sensei is the simplicity. It enables you to create an online course quickly and effectively. I’ve found in the past after you’ve created your course outline, created the content etc the most time consuming aspect is the actual creating of the Learning Environment. As I mentioned above, I’ve had to use the membership site option which can take time to configure.

When you’ve added your lesson the next option is to the lesson to a course. You’ll find this section to the right of the post in the sidebar area. I love this aspect, in theory I can add certain lessons to separate courses without having to duplicate pages.

WordPress Learning Management Plugin Course

You can also create prerequisites, in my case if I want someone to take a foundation course before the main training course I have the option of adding this.

 Quizzes.

Aside from ease of use, the next engaging aspect of the Sensei plugin is the ability to quiz your students. This can be found underneath the lesson information area.

Sensei online course plugin quiz

 

In my excitement about the plugin I’ve not yet created a quiz… :(

 

WordPress Menus.

You can use the WordPress menus aspect of WordPress to create your own menu. The default menu has several options (I also have WooCommerce installed)

Sensei WordPress Plugin menu

 

I like the facility for the student to see what courses they are undertaking, the ability to add multiple courses and sell them from one site and using WooCommerce I can suggest additional products – upsells.

What I’d like to see for Sensei in the future…

  • The ability to drip feed content
  • To have one time offers for students
  • To be able to send email reminders when students have not logged in for a week
  • To have some sort of forum integration, I’m not sure what that would look like though
  • Built in video player

How does Sensei compare to Premise, Wishlist Member and eMember?

Premise, Wishlist and eMember have been created with a different aim in mind – membership sites. Sensei is geared towards learning and tuition rather than just delivering the content. The fact that I’m using it like a membership plugin is down to it’s ease of use. Sensei doesn’t have the ability to drip content (yet) or email students/members.

If you are teaching courses you’ll find Sensei more to your liking than a membership site plugin, which is geared towards marketers rather than teachers.

Sensei WordPress Online Course plugin lessons complete

Given that most marketers are quick to snap up simple, effective products, I can see more marketing features added as an upgrade in the future.

As I mentioned earlier, I love the plugin and I recommend it highly at just $99 (usual price currently discounted to $79)  it’s a great investment. You can grab a copy here.

I can see how I can use this to create upsells to my Kindle social media guides, fast and efficiently. I can see lots of uses for this plugin and it’s one that’s going to get a lot of use from me.

Have you tried Sensei yet? What do you think of it so far?

Sarah Arrow

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Sarah Arrow

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45 Comments

  1. Thanks for this excellent and indepth review of Sensei Sarah. It looks like it’s a very useful plugin that will compliment my traffic course I’m currently creating. Can’t wait to get started:)

    Reply
    • It will be perfect for your traffic course :0)

      Reply
      • While Sensei looks *very* clean, I’ve heard lots of complaints about them… I’m kind of tempted by an alternative I found. Pricing is not normally an issue for me, but the fact that Sensei doesn’t always work with other random themes properly (I’m going to go with Genesis) leaves me kind of worried about issues down the road :(

        Reply
  2. Wow!
    Impressed by the plugin and impressed by you finding it and putting it to the test so quickly.

    Are you using it on a live site yet Sarah – if you are please post a link.

    Also notice that you are using the Fancier Authorbox plugin – is that the paid version?
    Do you recommend?

    Always learn something when I come over and you are still by #1 female blogger.

    Reply
    • No live site yet Keith, I ripped out Premise and installed this instead. I’ve spent 7 hours working my way around it and creating lessons and courses… it’s a joy to use.

      Reply
      • Never been too sure about Premise – probably still use it to put a few landing pages together.

        Reply
    • And yes, its the paid version of FAB, another plugin that I love :)

      Reply
      • “And yes, its the paid version of FAB”

        Have you got an affiliate link – I might take a look at that one.
        I like all the social links right above the author.

        Reply
        • I don’t have an aff link, sorry. It’s a code canyon product and I can’t work out my affiliate code *sigh*

          Reply
  3. Sarah…Thanks so much for this, this is so helpful :)
    Julie

    Reply
    • You’re welcome Julie, and nice to see you here :)

      Reply
  4. Hey Sarah, thanks for the fast review. I saw the release of this in my inbox this AM and jumped right on it. Going to purchase it tomorrow as its perfect timing for some new coursework I am putting together. Although I’m always a big fan of anything from Woo, great to hear such a favorable review from someone I know and trust :)

    Reply
    • Thanks Bob, I think you are going to love it :)

      Reply
    • This is absolutely lovely as I JUST bought the Sensei plugin and are getting my feet wet. Love everything about WOO (well almost), ….. not sure though how to understand the “registration” part for people wanting to take the course. Where are those Users stored and is it safe for my overall WP installation?

      Maybe you can say a few things about that here too. I have been thinking about S2Member to build my Membership site, …. maybe somewhere down the line. Any thoughts!

      Oooh yeah, I am using Sensei in combination with Canvas, should be OK right?
      Thanks for this great site I just found.

      Ciao
      Rob

      Reply
  5. As a teacher, who also teaches online, I was intrigued by the title and had to check it out. But it’s not for me. All my lessons are different, depending on the student or students.

    So, until I start writing my own material one day I won’t be investing in it … I’m out! (I always wanted to be able to say that in public ;-))

    Reply
    • Hi Angelika, I’m laughing so much at “I’m out”, I never saw you as a Dragon :).
      That’s a great point that you make there, that for the type of lessons you do that are tailored with individual learning plans, this is not suitable. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us :)

      Reply
      • There’s a lot you don’t know about me :-)

        Reply
  6. Hey Sarah,

    Wow, looks like a cool plugin. I go plugin happy (at times) and have used WooThemes for a number of years. I like the fact that it uses shortcodes because I know some html and css, but would rather not dig around with code. Have toyed with doing a membership or course style site in the past. Got so much going on I have to sit down and see which stuff I want to pursue.

    Reply
    • Hi Garen, thanks for stopping by. I’m very excited by the potential uses of this plugin. Like you all I need now is the time :)

      Reply
  7. Oh wow Sarah!

    I am really quite excited by this – would be perfect for my future plans, YAY.

    Thanks so much for bringing it to our attention :)

    Reply
    • I think it would be perfect for delivering aspects of your bible study training Anita, as well as your future plans.

      Reply
      • That’s what I would like to use it for :)

        Reply
  8. Hi Sarah – This looks extremely interesting for creating my AdWords courses and getting them online, especially as you can upload youtube videos to it. Will take a look – thanks!

    Reply
    • Claire, you’ll love it :) simple and effective.

      Reply
  9. Thank you Sarah you always provide helpful information. I will save this because having a memebership site is on my 2013 list.

    Reply
    • Awesome, great to hear that Lydia. I enjoy your emails that come through and can see how a membership site would be the next step for you.

      Reply
  10. I heard about this plugin in an internet marketing group that I am involved in. They are using it for list building. Creating a small course out of content they already have and then turning it into lessons that they can give away for the opt-in. There are plenty of opportunities created by this thing.

    Reply
    • I think that’s what Lilach (another commenter) plans to do with it. What I love is its simplicity Clint, and that means more time can be spent on creating awesome value.

      Reply
  11. I’ve had a quick play with Sensei for a few days. Initial thoughts are that is a great start but it needs a few more versions and some sensei plugins to make it really useful for anything but simple courses.

    For example the quiz to move on a lesson option seems to be all lessons or none. Plus it is only multiple choice at present. No checklists or other options. Would love to integrate with gravity forms for great questionnaires.

    The lesson and course creation works well but feels a little basic.

    The integration with woocommerce looks very interest but I’ve not tested that yet.

    Great start and a snip at $79 plus 50% off at the minute.

    Reply
    • Hi Rob, thanks for stopping by.
      I thought initially that Woo Commerce integration was a good thing, but it’s very hard (near impossible) to create a landing page and integrate the payments that way. Maybe I’m missing a step in the process, but this now complicates things.

      Reply
  12. Hi Sarah, You did a Great job explaining this plug -in You make things look so easy! Of course I am not ready for this one yet but have book marked your page for future referrance Thanks for sharing Chery :)

    Reply
    • Hi Cheryl,
      It’s one of the easiest plugins to use, and I highly recommend it. Thanks for stopping by :)

      Reply
  13. Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed overview Sarah – I’m absolutely racking by brain to think of the name of another plugin that I saw about 18 months ago which was also for online courses … I’m beginning to think I dreamt it now!

    Reply
    • Oh now! remember what it is quick! I’m writing a book about plugins and I need to know what it is :)

      Reply
  14. That looks fantastic Sarah. I wish so much that they’d released that before I set up my course, and I might use it for my next course, anything to save time. Does it allow for multiple courses on one site and restrict students from going to the courses they haven’t paid for? I’m sure it does, but just making certain:-)

    Reply
    • HI Julianne, yes you can have multiple courses on one site and the purchaser only have access to their own purchase. It’s through Woo Commerce which makes it a step harder to build landing pages as it adds in the extra step of going to cart.

      Reply
  15. Hi Sarah,

    Thank you for such a thorough review of Sensei. I’m really intrigued, but like you I want a few more features.

    While doing some more research I came across another LMS plugin called LearnDash http://www.learndash.com/ It has a bunch of features you had on your wishlist such as being able to email your students and to also have a forum and feedback set up. You can also schedule your lessons to drop according to a schedule.

    I’d love to hear what you think of LearnDash compared to Sensei.

    -Ian

    Reply
    • Hi Ian, that looks really cool- thank you so much for sharing it with us :)
      I’m going to test it out in a few weeks and will write a new review or add it to this one (depending on the time).
      Loving the tin-can api :)

      Reply
  16. If you want your course to be a paid for course and the customer clicked on it, would they automatically get redirected to the payments system with the course in the basket ?> what would happen ?

    Reply
    • Hi Charlie you would have to connect the plugin to your payments system in order to be paid for it. Sensei connects with WooCommerce.

      Reply
  17. Can I ask a slightly different question? It’s not so much about the plugin that does the business at the back end as the theme to make it look good…

    Got any advice/suggestions about themes? I know it’s going to depend pretty much on what the courses are about (obviously!) but my main problem with using wordpress is that it *looks* like wordpress. I’m looking for something that looks different….

    S

    Reply
    • OptimizePress can be made to look very good (and not like WordPress) and Profits Theme (http://www.getprofitsfast.com/) looks mor elike a traditional website. You can also get a graphics designer in to help create images and graphics so it looks less WordPress and more like what you want.

      Reply
      • Cheers…. I’ll have a poke around there! :)

        Reply
  18. Hi Sarah,

    I was wondering if you still loved Sensei. Has there been any change? Do you think it’s worth paying the yearly cost? :)

    Reply
  19. Hi Sarah

    Thanks for the thorough review of Sensei. Glad you liked it :)

    We’re working hard to improve Sensei even more, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the plugin now it’s been around for a while.

    Feel free to drop me an email if you have any more feedback/suggestions :)

    Reply

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