Over 125,000 WordPress websites have established an LMS (Learning Management System) using LearnDash.
While there are many other tools you can use to set up an LMS, the reason why LearnDash is so popular is because of how versatile and easy to use it is.
It is packed with functionality and has a few extensions which you can use to add even more features.
If you want to create your e-learning website or portal, you can create unlimited courses using LearnDash just like major universities and also give a chance of free trials to your students.
LearnDash free app is not a standalone LMS, like Moodle. Rather, it is a WordPress extension, and while it has the capabilities of an LMS, a LearnDash plugin cannot give teachers and students an e-learning site on its own.
But while this may seem like a daunting task if you’re a course creator, instructor, or tutor with minimal technical experience, don’t panic this distraction-free learning app is for you!
In this guide, we’ll explain the steps of creating an LMS using LearnDash to get your e-learning website up and running and know that is LearnDash LMS free to use.
Plus, LearnDash is very user-friendly and its set-up is designed to be relatively straightforward, even if it is your first time building this kind of website.
With all that being said, let’s get started!
Step 1: Set Up Your WordPress Website
If you haven’t set up your WordPress website, this will be your first port of call. WordPress needs to be installed for LearnDash to work.
Start by logging into the cPanel on your web host, and find ‘MySQL Database Wizard’ under ‘Databases.’ This wizard lets you create your MySQL database.
The steps are fairly simple, and it’s worth making a note of the database name, password, and username, as you will need these details when installing WordPress.
If you have bought a WordPress hosting service, you will find a WordPress installation wizard in the cPanel that will take you through the installation process.
If this wizard is nowhere to be seen, you will have to install WordPress manually.
Download the newest version of WordPress and take out the contents of the zip file.
Then, upload these files to your web host. You need to set up an FTP account to upload these files. These files can again be found in the cPanel, and you should be able to find ‘FTP Accounts’ under ‘Files.’
Using your preferred FTP client, upload your WordPress files. Using your FTP account, connect to your web host, and under ‘public_html’ copy every file in the ‘WordPress’ folder.
Remember, not to upload the whole folder, just select the contents individually for uploading.
Once you’ve completed these above steps, go to your website and a WordPress installation wizard will greet you!
Follow the wizard, choose the language you need to install WordPress in, the database details, set the table prefix to a preferred short value, enter the details of your site, and create a user.
Step 2: Install A LearnDash Theme
Now your website is all setup, you can start installing a LearnDash theme.
What is a theme? Well, a theme is kind of like a ‘skin’ for your website. It gives your website the aesthetic you want, and this doesn’t just apply to the colors of your website, but the page layouts too.
Now, LearnDash should be compatible with your chosen theme.
To be on the safe side, you might be better off choosing a LearnDash theme, and there are a couple of LearnDash themes available.
When you pick your preferred theme, installing it is pretty easy. You just need to follow these steps:
- Log into your WordPress admin panel.
- Click Appearance > Themes > Add New.
- To upload a zipped copy of your WordPress theme, click Upload.
- Click Activate.
For extra setup details, check the installation guide for your theme.
Step 3: Set Up LearnDash LMS
To set up LearnDash, go through the following steps:
- Install LearnDash like you would any other WordPress plugin. If you’re logged out, log into your WordPress admin panel first.
- Click Plugins > Add New.
- Upload the zipped copy of the LearnDash plugin before activating it.
- Once LearnDash is activated, the onboard wizard will begin setting up a ready-to-go LearnDash website that includes automatically downloaded free plugins such as Certificate Builder, Course Grid, and WooCommerce.
- Once LearnDash is up and running, you will now have access to the LearnDash dashboard. You should see that a LearnDash LMS menu has been created. You can create courses, topics, lessons, and quizzes from this menu.
- Once the installation is complete, LearnDash will apply some default settings to your LMS. According to your needs, we recommend making changes if necessary.
Configure The Settings
Enter your LearnDash license. You can do this from LearnDash LMS > Settings > LMS License.
- Go to General Settings to change the default settings for course content and design.
- You can set Custom Labels according to what you would like to name your course material. You can change ‘Quizzes’ to ‘Tests,’ and ‘Topics’ to ‘Modules.’
- If you want to handle your payments via Paypal, in PayPal Settings you can enter your PayPal ID.
Establish Courses On LearnDash LMS
If this is the first time you’re setting up LearnDash, let’s quickly take a look at the default course settings. On ‘Settings,’ you should see the default settings for the below tools.
Global Course Management & Display
The settings can be modified to suit your needs, and the changes will then be applied to every course on your site.
However, we advise leaving the ‘Course Builder’ option turned on, as it gives you a simple interface for creating courses.
The ‘Course Table Pagination’ option lets you decide how many topics or courses you would like to be shown on every page.
Course Taxonomies (Categories & Tags)
Categories and tags allow you to sort and manage courses on the LearnDash setup better. These taxonomies have the same purpose, and so it’s natural to get them confused, so let’s try to clarify them.
Categories refer to wider topics. For example, if your website caters to musicians, you can have categories for ‘Percussion,’ ‘String Instruments, and ‘Woodwind Instruments.’
Meanwhile, tags can be used for particular topics. In the example of a music e-learning site again, you can use tags to differentiate between genres.
Managing courses and these taxonomies is a default tool. To add, delete, or edit the categories and tags follow the below steps:
- Go to LearnDash LMS > Courses.
- Click the Actions dropdown menu.
- Choose the menu option you want.
Course Custom Post Type Options
Turning on the ‘Course Search’ option is the only alteration we advise making here.
This will make sure your courses can be found in search results when students are using the default search option on WordPress.
Create A Course
Go to LearnDash LMS > Courses > Add New to create your course.
When you’ve completed all the data needed for the course (such as the title, course description, categories, and URL), you now need to optimize the settings that are specific to the course, and that are contained in your course.
Let’s take a look at all the available options.
Course Access Settings
You can set your LearnDash courses to the following:
Buy Now: This setting allows you to set LearnDash pricing for students to purchase your course. Your students can buy the course using the default payment option for LearnDash, which is PayPal.
Closed: If your course is closed (unable to be accessed by just anyone). Choosing this option creates a Custom Button URL option, and can only be used and accessed by a purchase link.
Free: A free course is available to students who opt for a free course.
Open: This course is great if you want students to be enrolled automatically in your course.
Recurring: This option is for courses that can be bought on a subscription basis.
This will probably not apply to the first course you make, but for future unlimited courses, this is an option as you can set another course as a prerequisite for a new one, i.e. to take a certain course, students will have to complete another first.
When this option is enabled, a drop-down menu will appear where you can choose the course you want to select as a prerequisite. If you choose a variety to sell online courses, you can either select all courses as a prerequisite or just one.
Course points: Making it so your students need to achieve a specific number of course points is a brilliant incentive.
Course Access Expiration: As the name suggests, this option makes it so a learner’s access to a course expires after a certain amount of time. If you choose the ‘data deletion’ option, the student’s course and quiz data will be permanently removed unless you back that data up.
Alter Course Access List: While this option is available, the best way to add or remove a student from a course is from their profile page in the admin area of WordPress.
Course Navigation Settings
There are two options within these settings. Let’s take a look at them.
Linear: This is the default navigation setting. It requires the learner to complete the course in the order they have been laid out. In other words, it prevents them from skipping lessons, quizzes, or topics.
Free Form: This option lets the learner move through the course freely without having to follow the course steps in a certain order.
When the necessary details are added, you can then move on to create the lessons and topics.
Create Lessons On LearnDash
You start creating lessons by going to LearnDash LMS > Lessons. Then go to the Settings tab and click global settings.
Lesson Display Settings
Select a ‘Sort By’ option (for example, date, menu order, and title), and a ‘Sort’ direction (ascending or descending), and finally, a Posts Per Page to display.
Now you have the Lesson Taxonomies and the Custom Post Type Options to figure out, but these can be set up similarly to the Courses.
For Lesson-Specific Settings that only apply to the current lesson, you can begin with:
Lesson Access Settings
- Go to LearnDash LMS > Lessons.
- Click the Settings tab found at the top of the page.
- Find the section called ‘Lesson Access Settings.’
Associated Course: Choose the course that you want the lesson to be included in.
Sample Lesson: If you’ve checked the option, then this lesson will be available to learners even when the course is a paid one.
Lesson Schedule: You can choose when you wish the lesson to be available. The default option is to make the lesson available to learners as soon as it’s posted. Or, you can peruse the Display and Content options to make changes if needed.
While this may seem daunting, the default settings of your LearnDash installation are quite self-explanatory, especially if you’ve never set up a website before.
You can start creating your lessons or courses straight away, and worry about the settings at a later date.
Create A Topic
As we’ve previously mentioned, LearnDash lessons have topics, and now that you’ve had some experience playing with the Global Settings you can now sink your teeth into the ‘Topic Display and Content Settings.’
- Go to LearnDash LMS > Topics.
- Select the topic you wish to edit.
- Click on the Settings tab found at the top of the page.
- Find the ‘Display & Content Options’ section.
There are many topic materials you’ll likely use (like images, PDFs, or videos), Assignment Uploads for you to manage (you will need to specify what kind of file types your learners can upload), and Topic Timers to be established (so you can be alerted when your students have completed a certain topic), but LearnDash can help you easily manage these materials.
LearnDash is a WordPress LMS plugin that can get your LMS up and running in just a couple of hours. You just need a WordPress site to get your LearnDash LMS off the ground!
We hope our guide has shown you how easy it is to establish a sleek, professional e-learning website.