Podcast Episode

338 – How to Build an eLearning Website


Is there a plugin for that?

With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.

For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.

Giveaway Boost allows your audience to enter to win physical or digital products. Get started in less than 5 minutes.

How to Build an eLearning Website

Today we talk about the ins and outs of setting up an online course. There’s no discussion about which eLearning plugin to use. The different options were broken down in detail in Episode #310

As a recap, here are the options:


  • Start with why
  • Know your audience
  • Identify your marketing plan (Facebook ads, JV, single launch)
  • Figure out the right content for your audience
  • Set learning objectives
  • Define your instructional plan
  • Create outline of your course and website
  • Choose your technology
  • Prototype a module / lesson
  • Create the course
  • Fine tune / ask for early adopters
  • Make sure payments and access work properly
  • Promote Promote Promote

Thank You!

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Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

On today's episode we are going to talk about how to build an eLearning website right here on Your Website Engineer podcast episode No. 338.

Hello, everybody welcome back to another episode of Your Website Engineer podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler, and today we're continuing the series on how to build specific types of websites. And today we're going to look at those eLearning platforms. How can we build an online course on our current WordPress website?

But first let's just dive into some announcements. So there is some announcements that came out of the WordPress space this week. The first news is – and a big one is WordPress is now on Hacker One. HackerOne is a platform for security researchers to securely and responsibly report vulnerabilities to our team, it is a tool that provides improved quality and consistency of communication with reporters and reduce the time spent on responding to commonly reported issues, and this will free – the WordPress team into spending more time working and improving security of WordPress.

Along with this there is also bug bounties now, so if you find a, a bug, a security vulnerability in the, in the software you can report it now to the WordPress team and they've got a infrastructure now that will allow these types of bugs to be paid for. So it's kind of a, a neat thing. So if you do find some sort of security bug I definitely want to recommend checking out this article. It's over on WordPress.org in the news section. And there's a link to it in the show notes for this episode. But we – basically it's, it's an allowing people to be able to, to help access and help to find any of those holes in any of the, the WordPress code, so that's WordPress BuddyPress bbPress, GlotPress and WP-CLI including WordPress.org sites, bbPress.org, WordCamp.org, BuddyPress.org, and GlotPress.org. So that's something – it's new in the news this week.

Another thing that's new in the news is WordPress 4.7.5 security maintenance release was released last week. It fixed six security issues, and so if you haven't already updated, or if your site hasn't automatically updated to this point release definitely want to do that this week and make sure that you're running the latest and greatest version of WordPress. Again, there – WordPress is in the Beta round, it's doing WordPress Beta 1, and so there's no real news there to talk about.

I also want to highlight a few new TV ads. So WordPress has been getting in the space of, of, of trying to match the competition of the Squarespace, the Weebly, the Wix, all of those big name companies, even GoDaddy, and some that you're starting to see on mainstream TV. The – well. WordPress is starting to put some, some commercials together. There was a link that Matt Mullenweg gave on his personal blog over at ma.tt and there's a link in the show notes for this, but it's got a few new short little ads, which is – they're, they're kind of cool.

They actually took place when I went up to Detroit a couple of months ago for Hack Detroit. It was – or Detroit Hackathon, I think is what it was called. And we created nine businesses – or nine small business websites over the course of a weekend, and these are some really neat short videos that will allow you to kind of see inside the – inside the grasp of, of what small business means and it means to have a website, and especially using WordPress. And so I've got a link to that. There is a little longer of a form – or a little longer of a video that's embedded over at design.blog that you can see the side of my face in at the one minute and 23 mark, so if you're interested in that you can see that over there as well.

And then lastly a security, a security vulnerability is in the evita WordPress theme, and so if you are – if you have evita and you're using that, and you're using a version prior to 5.1.5 that was released on April 4th you definitely need to update to the latest version possible. There's recommendations of backing up your site, and I've got a link in the show notes for the – the, the instructions by the evita theme. And the evita theme is one of those themes that is offered over on themeforest.net and so that's – the parent company is Envato and they're giving you instructions on how to make sure that you're running the latest version. And you can fix that security vulnerability on that – in that older version of the site. So that is that.

And moving into the – is there a plugin for that section, there are tons and tons and tons of plugins out there on the WordPress repository, and there's over 52, or 50,000 plugins now. And the one that I want to highlight today is one called Giveaway Boost. And this will allow your audience to enter to win physical products or digital products, or just anything. You can create and set up in less than five minutes and start running your first giveaway today. Once a visitor enters your giveaway they can receive a special referral link that they can use to receive more entries for their giveaway.

There is a pre – or a pro version that can unlock more features and this is – you can do some really cool things with, with just setting this up. You can set the number of winners for a giveaway. You can set the price value. You can customize the number of entries based on what they do. There's an optional capture that will reduce spasm entries. You can completely customize the way it looks. You can pick one of the pre-colored, color themes or customize the colors to your likings. Just lots of things you can do. And then you can even export the names and all the emails via CSV in this free version.

If you want to upgrade to the pro version it is – it adds a little bit more customization, or you – now you can add people, once they sign up, they can be automatically added to AWeber or MailChimp or Convert Kit. You can have two different members – or two different methods of selecting winners, either a waited random choice or most entries wins. There's tracking codes for Facebook convert pixel, there's lots of things that – or lots of extra things that you can do.

The Giveaway Boost Pro has a ton of features. It is $97 per site, and if you want to have multiple sites it goes up from there, you can do a business package for 250 or unlimited for a developer package at 497, so that is the plugin that I wanted to talk about. But the free version can be found on the WordPress repository under Giveaway Boost, and of course as always there's a link in the show notes for episode No. 338.

Okay, today we are going to talk about eLearning websites and we talked about this. We talked about the different platforms, so we're not really going to dive into that today. You can head on over to yourwebsiteengineer.com/310, that's the number 310 for episode No. 310, that was just a few episodes ago, about half a year actually. And we talked about the different platforms that are out there. The Sensei, and the LifterLMS, LearnDash, WPCourseware, so kind of a breakdown of what each of those platforms do are over there on that episode, so I'm not going to belabor all of that, talk about that on this episode.

But today we're going to talk about what kind of steps and mental kind of plan you have to set forth before you create an eLearning website. Maybe you have this strong desire to teach and you have a, a – you know, something that you want to teach people online. It's a – eLearning websites online are a great way to do this. It's a great way for reoccurring revenue as part of your business model. There's just a lot of great things for eLearning. You can create a membership – not a membership, but like a small community that's all interested in about, you know, underwater basket weaving, or whatever, you know, whatever eLearning course that you may, may set up.

So let's go ahead and dive in. Some of the – let's, let's talk about some of the points to think about when setting up, and kind of planning for an eLearning, or an online course website. So the first thing you want to do is start with a why. And you just kind of have to figure out why you want to do this. It's not because everybody else is doing this, or it's because I can make a lot of money doing this. Like, it's not – that's not the reason for it. We want to figure out why your audience needs this training. What do you want to achieve – or achieve? How will you know if you've reached our goal? You just kind of think about and, and conduct a needs analysis.

And this can range from just interviewing like people in your community. You can look at past trainings. You can see what kind of results. We can see where there's a need or a gap in the products that you're offering. There's just a little bit of thinking and processing of why you want to do this. And the – to create more money is not the best option, you know, like obviously you want to create more money for your business, or you want to start making money online, but that shouldn't be our ultimate motivator – money.

You know you want to be able to say, oh, well, I want to create this, this online learning platform so people can learn how to use HDML and then they can formulate their posts within WordPress easy – more easily because they have knowledge of HDML, and CSS. Like that would be an absolutely great idea of why you want to create an online course.

You know, so just kind of think about that. That's the, that's the first piece. Start with a why. Why do you want to create this? What, what need needs to be filled inside the current market, or the current services, or platform that you're offering, so that's the first thing. Why.

Then you want to talk about – the next step is, know your audience. So writing a course entirely in Spanish to a group of people beginning to learn Spanish, that's not an effective way to teach, and it might seem like an extreme example of eLearning, not knowing the audience, but that's no different than trying to teach beginning JavaScript course, but including advance terms with no explanation of them. You have to kind of know where you're going to offer this. Like, in my example, okay, we're going to talk about how to create an HDML CSS course. Like you just don't want to go in and start talking about, you know, different div tags or you know, spans or classes without really defining them. You have to know where your audience is. If it is an advanced CSS class, then you can skip those definitions because if it's an advanced class then people already know what that content is.

So don't try to think of this as a one size fit all eLearning platform. You want to go and you want to know exactly what your audience technical capabilities are. What their existing knowledge is. And how they'll use that knowledge, and – that you're giving them, and their basic demographics, like you just kind of want to know some information about your audience. And this is a perfect way to you know, find out people who are interested and then ask them, like a short survey. Ask them what they're trying to learn. What their outcomes are. See what kind of words they're using when they talk about what they're trying to build. That's the next step, know your audience.

Step No. 3 identify your marketing plan. Are you going to use Facebook ads? Is this going to be a big launch, you're going to launch it once and then you're going to close it, and then you're going to open it again? Is it going to be – you're going to launch a special price and then you're going to continue to keep this course open all the time? Are you going to use joint ventures? You're going to try to use like different people to affiliate – as affiliates and try to drive more traffic? You just have to kind of think about what the steps are, and this just part of the process of how are you going to launch this thing?

And this can be said, you know, you can think of these same things kind of last week's episode building the eCommerce website, you know, are you going to launch this eCommerce website and is it going to always be open? Is it always going to be closed? You just have to think about these things. I think when you, when you think about this – like if it's going to open once and then it's going to close for six months and then it's going to open again, like then you're going to have to think about the pricing. The pricing might be higher or lower depending on, like the urgency that you want people to get in, or maybe the first round is less, or just kind of think through those things.

I've heard great success plans on using Facebook to start to market in the class even. If you're going to use Facebook ads try to drive people to a landing page to see if it's actually applicable idea after you know your audience, like and know what you're going to – you're trying to figure out like what that course is going to be. Maybe come up with the idea, create a landing page and then have Facebook ads drive people to that and see if people sign up and they're interested in the course before you actually create it.

Step No. 4 is creating – or get the right content for the right audience. Once you know why the training is needed and who your audience is trying to audit – now you have to look at your, your content. It wasn't – it won't matter how good your course is designed if the content doesn't have value for your audience. So you want to try to figure out what is that you know, very specific type course. What are you trying to do? And this, step three and step four could have been switched a little bit, I guess, but you basically want to try to figure out what type of information are you going to start to sell or provide to these people that are taking your eLearning course.

You want to set your learning objective as step No., is step No. 5. Starting out your eLearning journey without defining the information or skills you want learners to obtain is like setting a road trip without a destination. So going back to my example of creating HDML course, like you want to make sure that people know the difference between a div tag and a span tag and need to know the difference between ID and a class, and you need them – you know, you want them to be able to take a, a Word document that has highlights or that's, that's formatted with bullets and, and different things, and be able to create that all in HDML, like that's something that you can create. You know that's what your learning objectives are. Like the people by the end of the course should be able to duplicate this entire page by just using HDML. Like that is something pretty simple that you could set up.

You want to make sure that the goals are – within the course are specific, measureable, actionable, relevant, and time sensitive, those are the considered smart goals. And so what are they going to accomplish? Can you measure – have they, have they exceeded, or have they learned everything that they need to? Is, is the coursework achievable? Is it – you know, is the something that a beginner can do? Is something that somebody more advanced can do? Is it relevant? You know, is all the content relevant to this specific goal? And it is time sensitive? Can learners achieve this by the end of the course? If not, it's not reasonable or worth considering.

Step No. 6 is define your instructional plan, like how are you going to provide content? Is it going to be in podcast form? Is it going to be video form? Is it just going to be slides? Is it just going to be like text on a page that you can scroll through and read? What is that content is going to be? And that really depends on also your personality, like would you rather get in front of a microphone and, and talk? Is it, is the content easier for people to learn as they're driving to and from work? You know, it's going to depend on a lot of things, but that's the next piece of the puzzle, define that instructional plan.

Next you want to storyboard your content, or kind of lay it out, or create an outline of your course. You want to just kind of figure out, okay, what's the lay of the land? Look at some of the other online courses that are out there. You know, how do they have – move from one section, or module to the next? Like just kind of think about that. Do you want to have – do – are you going to have like some intro part of the video, you know, that's two or three seconds, that says, you know, lesson one, or lesson two, or – and put your logo on the front, or something like that, just think about those things as well. That's going to be kind of the – kind of the starting process of creating this content.

Next you want to choose your, your technology, and that's what I was going back to earlier from episode No. 310, you know, are you going to pick LearnDash or LifterLMS, or Sensei, or WPCourseware, which one is going to be the right solution for you? So you want to look into that technology, or you know, heaven forbid you don't want to use WordPress, you can go out there and there's like – you with put an entire course on Udemy or some of those other platforms that are out there. The new Kajabi. There are a lot of them that are out there. But this is a WordPress podcast, so I'm going to assume that you're going to stay with WordPress and you're going to build this into your current WordPress site. So choose your technology. We're going to assume that it's WordPress and then you just have to pick one of them plugins that, that's going to – that has the same vision as what you've kind of laid out in your storyboard in the previous step.

Step No. 9 is, is work – is creating a working prototype, and what do I mean by this? This is like creating a – creating that first module or first course or first lesson, or however you going to break this up into you know, different smaller consumable steps. And this – this is the – like the look and the feel of the entire course. It's used to test out text, text, ah, technical functionality. It is to make sure that you know, you can move from one place to – one section to another. You may create like two or three lessons, fake lessons, or dummy lessons, and make sure people can finish one lesson and they move on to the next one. And the – if you're working for somebody or a client then getting approval from this prototype phase is going to be a great thing, so you don't want to build out the whole course and they're like, well, I don't really like this and I don't really like this. So that is step No. 9.

Step No. 10 is to actually create the course once the prototype is done. Now we can go and start creating all of the content. And it depends on how you want to create this, depending on, on how you're launching.

I had a course a few years ago, before I started it automatic that was like an advanced developer WordPress course, and it taught things like how to build a theme and a child theme, and how to build a plugin, and how to properly enqueue JavaScript and all kinds of things. It was like a four week long course. And had I was building it, I was like, okay, I'm going to build the whole thing, and then it's going to be like I'll release each week at a time, and then there was like a little live thing at the end, and so people worked through the course each week, and then by the end of the week then we all a little conference call or you know, a video chat, whatnot, and then from there I released week two, and then week three, and I was like I'll have this whole thing done before the course starts.

Well, it ended up like I only got the first week done by the time it launched, and then I worked on week two stuff while they were going through week one, and I was always just one week ahead, And then when I launched it a second and a third and a fourth time like then all the content was there and I could just release and give them all access to all of the content right away. So that is how I built an eLearning course a few years ago.

If this is something that you'd like to see just a really basic bare bone structure of how I set this up then definitely send me an email or send me a tweet or use the contact form on yourwebsiteengineer.com and let me know, and I can give you access to, to this for free, you can watch the videos. They're a bit outdated, but you can see kind of how I had this set up and how I moved people from you know, week one modules, I think it was, it was set up week one, and then it had like seven or eight modules or different lessons and then they moved to week two and then week three. If that's something that you're interested in definitely let me know.

The next step is to fine tune and ask for early adopters. What this means is maybe you have a course all done, or you're almost done, or maybe you're missing a few pieces of content and you want some feedback, you want to see what people will think and I've seen a lot of content creators or course creators go and ask people in their audience like hey, for half price or a third of the price, for lifetime you know, I'm going to let these first hundred people in, so we can go through, and work through the bugs, the kinks, what works, what doesn't work, and then that's a discount that somebody can get, and it's an easy way to validate in – and make sure that the course is ready for primetime success when it's time to lunch. So you can do that after the course has been created.

Also you want to make sure that payments and access works properly. This is something that may get overlooked. You know, you're created this whole course. You've got it all figured out. And I know when I did this, you know, a few years ago, like I said, I was using – I was using OfficeAutopilot to accept payments and then once the payments were taken then it automatically created a user name and password, so people could log in and they could start using it right away. And it was just like a little bit of a headache in making sure that it all worked right and all the pieces of the puzzle just you know, fell into, into place correctly, and so that was you know – it took a while to actually work through all those details, so you want to make sure that that is done before you start the last step, which is promoting, promoting, promoting.

You know, are you going to use Facebook ads? Are you going to talk about it on your podcasts? Or you know send it out in an email blast? Like how are you going to get people to get excited about this? You know, it's a brand new course. Are you going to offer incentive? This podcast isn't going to specifically talk about the promotion strategy, but that's the thing, once you've got it all done, now you've got to, you know, use those Facebook ads, or reach out to your joint ventures, or your JV partners or you know, communicate or be on webinars or be interviewed on different podcasts. Like there's tons of different ways to get exposure and to let people know that you've just launched this cool new thing. And then you can start making money. You can start building that community. Setting that up. I guess setting –

I forgot to talk about that when we went back into the, the – let's see the fine tune; ask for early adopter stage, that's when you want to make sure does the online community make sense? Are people able to talk to each other? Is there some method for everybody to be able to communicate? And so that's in that step as well.

So that's kind of the, the outline, or the game plan that I would take if you were building an eLearning course online. And that, that's what I want to share with you this week. It's, it's one of those things that gets overlooked a lot because eLearning is like, oh that's not a big deal. And then you start putting the pieces together. You're trying to build this out for either you or somebody else, and it just takes forever. There's a lot of moving pieces. Not to mention like you have to build like the functioning website to do all this, but you also have to all the content, whether that be videos or whatever, like you have to do all of that as well, so that's something to think about.

And I'm exciting to continue sharing these different how-to-build segments. Next week we got one more to wrap up the month of May, and until then, we'll talk again soon. Take care. Bye-bye.

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