Recently we looked at a few good online course solutions. In this episode we’re going to look at a case study: my own online course solution, Creator Courses. Listen to the Episode
- Creator Courses
- Beaver Builder
- Liquid Web
- WP Rocket
- Academy Pro Theme
- How I Built Creator Courses
Recently, we looked at a few good online course solutions. In this episode we’re going to look at a case study. My own online course solution for Creator Courses.
Hey, everybody and welcome to Creator Toolkit, the podcast about building stuff on the web. I’m Joe Casabona. Today we’re going to talk about how I built Creator Courses.
In the last episode we looked at multiple online course solutions, including Teachable and WordPress. I’ve opted for the latter. CreatorCourses.com is run on WordPress, and the learning management system I’m using is LearnDash. I originally tried Sensei, which is an LMS for WooCommerce, but after determining that I would need to custom code several aspects of it to get the site exactly the way I wanted it, I decided to look at other solutions and LearnDash presented itself as an excellent one.
I’m a big fan of this platform. It does everything– Or, it does pretty much everything I need it to do right out of the box. LearnDash includes ways to organize courses by lessons and topics, it includes quizzes and certificates, and a bunch of things that I’m frankly not using, like the quizzes and things. I want my courses to be very activity-focused and since they are for professional self-improvement I don’t really quiz my students on anything. But it also has a built in payment gateway, which I’m not using, and as a matter of fact I’m actually using WooCommerce as an e-commerce solution to work in conjunction with LearnDash.
LearnDash does have a WooCommerce integration, so they play nicely with each other, but part of the reason I did that was because of the other advanced e-commerce functionality that I could get out of WooCommerce. I have a shopping cart now, so people can enroll in more than one course at a time. I can introduce things like bulk discounts. I can sell other digital goods if I want to. I can even sell physical products if I want to, though I don’t really intend on doing that on my online courses site. I can also integrate with tools like AffiliateWP, which I’m using to manage my affiliate or partners program. There’s a lot of stuff that WooCommerce has opened up for me as far as running a full blown e-commerce store instead of just a learning management system where people can enroll in courses.
Another big aspect, actually two big aspects of that, are Jilt and Metorik. Jilt is an email platform, and specifically I’m using it for abandoned cart emails, so Jilt works very well with WooCommerce. If somebody goes to enroll in a course, they start to fill out the form, and then they leave before paying, I have a series of emails that get sent to them to make sure that they don’t forget that they’ve started to register for a course and that they haven’t.
Meteorik provides lots of great statistical analysis on my products and sales and things like that. I can dig really deep into the data and see how many people from the United States, how many people from my home state have purchased courses, which is helpful for tax time around here. I can see how long between purchases people generally take, or how many repeat customers I have. Meteorik is a really great tool. I can’t say enough nice things about it. But those are things that I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t using WooCommerce. That’s really the main reason that I decided to use WooCommerce. While LearnDash allows me to sell courses through their payment gateways, I wanted a full blown e-commerce platform so I can integrate certain marketing and analytics aspects to it as well.
Now for the theme or the design of this site, I’m using Academy Pro by StudioPress. They happened to come out with this theme around the time that I was setting up Creator Courses and I really loved it. I thought it looked great. It fit into my design aesthetic and my mission essentially for the website — I didn’t want this to be a full blown marketing site. At first, I wanted it to really focus on speed and ease of use for my students, so Academy Pro did that really well. I’m a big fan of Academy Pro.
Other Non-LMS Tools
Other tools I’m using on the site include bbPress, which is a forum for students to go and ask questions and interact with each other, which I think is really nice. I like that a lot.
I’m using ConvertKit for email marketing. So the site is now also a marketing site, and so I have a few forms where I’m collecting email addresses for people who want free educational material. I also use a lot of tools in conjunction with Genesis and Academy Pro.
I use Beaver Builder to build my sales pages. While WooCommerce does create a single product page for every course, it’s really limited in the way it works and I’m just not a big fan of it. I end up building my own landing or sales page for each course, and that’s where I direct the traffic. Beaver Builder gives me a lot of freedom over exactly how that site is designed. I can present the call to action and then the benefits and testimonials, and then the call to action again. You can’t do that with WooCommerce without heavily customizing the code for your theme, so I opted to use Beaver Builder instead.
The last plugin that I want to point out here is WP Rocket, and that is a performance plugin. I noticed some time ago that my site wasn’t being very performant for several reasons, most of them my own doing, and I set out to optimize the site and make it as fast as possible. I made some optimizations, I eliminated the plugins I didn’t need, I made some customizations to the code to improve the performance, and then I got WP Rocket which does all sorts of stuff for improvements.
They optimize files and images, they integrate caching, they preload things when they can, and they reduce bloat in the database and all sorts of other stuff. This plugin does a lot of really great stuff to make sure that my site is running as fast as possible, and in a couple of speed tests I took the performance of the site from an “F” to a “B,” which I was very happy with. I wanted to call that one out specifically because I was just a big fan of how it improved my site.
Doing Things Differently
There was a lot of work that went into putting this whole site together, and I don’t know that I would do it differently. Sometimes I think maybe Teachable would just be better, because teachable has the e commerce platform. Teachable even has an affiliate program built-in. But there are some places where things like Teachable fail, like memberships.
Memberships is something that I eventually intend to roll out over the coming year or so. I’m happy with the stack that I have now. Improvements are I want to improve performance even more.
I want to improve my engagement with my students. I’m not entirely engaged with my students, or there’s not a lot of engagement within the courses going on, so I want to try to improve that and I think maybe swapping out bbPress for some different engagement tool or using it in conjunction with bbPress might be good.
I’m implementing office hours, so I want to have a good place for students to log in and have office hours with me live while I’m on camera, and they can ask me questions. That’s a big improvement. Those are the main ones. I want to improve performance, I want to improve engagement with my students, and eventually I want to integrate memberships so that students can pay a monthly or a yearly fee and have access to all of my educational content instead of just having to buy the courses one-off.
That’s it for this episode. In it we took a look at how I built Creator Courses. I do have a 20 minute long video that goes through even more detail about how I did it, and I’ll be sure to link that in the show notes. For that and all of the show notes you can head over to CreatorToolkit.com/015. If you liked this episode please share it. My question for you is, What do you think of my current setup? Do you think it sounds good? Are you thinking about doing something different, and why? Let me know by emailing me Joe@Casabona.org or on Twitter, @jcasabona. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time, get out there and build something.