How to Create an Online Course With WordPress

So you want to create an online course but don’t know where to start? It may be complicated to get something professional set up when you just want to teach people online; maybe as an add-on to real world training you offer, or as an extension of your wildly successful website.

Fortunately, WordPress makes it easy to set up an online course to share your knowledge and expertise with the world. There are a variety of themes and plugins available, designed to provide users with the ability to create and provide courses on their WordPress website.

This article will walk you through what you need to do to create an online course with WordPress, then look at some of the plugin and theme options available.

Examples of Online Courses

Online courses are widely available and many are built using WordPress. Many courses are hidden behind sales pages, but we found a couple that you can preview to get a feel for how they are set up.

The Vitruvian Studio offers online art courses such as Drawing Basics, using WordPress to offer students easy-to-use access to course content and student discussions for life:

Vitruvian Studio

WP101 stays true to their mission by using WordPress to offer their training courses geared at WordPress beginners:

WP101

Their introductory course on all the WordPress basics is free, so check it out!

Setting Up Your Website

Now, let’s start with an abbreviated version of how to set up your website with WordPress. Firstly, you need to get an instance of WordPress running, ‘locally’ (i.e. on your PC) or online. If you’re ready to get WordPress hosting, we recommend managed hosting that will deal with installs, backups, and updates for you. A couple of great options are:

  1. WP EngineStarts at $29 per month.
  2. Flywheel: Starts at $15 per month.
WP Engine

WP Engine is an industry leader in managed WordPress hosting.

Bluehost’s regular hosting is a cheaper option from $3.49 per month. Even though the promo price is for their shared plan Bluehost has a quick install option for WordPress that helps you get WordPress ready in minutes.

If you’d like to start with a local installation instead, you can set up WordPress on your computer running OS X, Windows, or Ubuntu quite easily. Once you’re happy with your site, you can move it online to your web host. With WordPress set up, what’s next? Let’s look at planning your course.

Planning Your Course

Now that your website is ready, the excitement will be building, but you need to slow down and think carefully about your next step. Before you choose a plugin or theme to help you set up your online course, you need to know what kind of course you want to create.

A lot goes into planning an online course, but here are some of the basic considerations to determine the best approach:

  • Outline of the course. This is perhaps the single most important step of planning your course. If you don’t know how you want to structure the material for your course (sections and lessons, subtopics etc.), it will be difficult to get the course set up properly to meet your needs, and you may choose the wrong solution.
  • Type of content. An text-only course can be treated very differently to a multimedia course. You need to think through the types of content you want your course to include (e.g. text, video, or quizzes).
  • Course restrictions. A free course may be considerably easier to set up than one requiring complicated membership rules. You need to determine how you want your course to be set up, and which content will be available to which audiences.
  • Method of distribution. Having all your course content available when a student signs up may be more convenient, but you may prefer to make materials available on a schedule (i.e. ‘dripped content’).

Now that you know what you’re creating, let’s take a look at some solutions to help.

Online Course Plugins

We’ve selected a few of the available plugins for your consideration below – some of the best plugins for online course management.

1. Sensei (From $129)

Sensei plugin
Coming to us from WooThemes (the team behind WooCommerce) is Sensei (starting at $129 for a single site). Perfect integration with WooCommerce and all the themes from WooThemes, plus a wide range of extensions available to customize your course offering, make this a solid choice.

2. WP Courseware (From $99)

WP Courseware plugin
Drag-and-drop your way through building a course with WP Courseware (starts at $99 for a two site license). This full-featured online course solution integrates with all major e-commerce plugins.

3. LearnPress (Free)

LearnPress plugin
A comprehensive WordPress Learning Management System (LMS) plugin, LearnPress is a free option for your online courses. Several free add-ons are available to extend the functionality, as well as some premium ones (starting at $19.99) to go even further.

4. Zippy Courses ($199)

Zippy Courses plugin

Zippy Courses is an easy-to-use all-in-one course platform.

The brain child of Derek Halpern, founder of Social Triggers, Zippy Courses is a premium all-in-one online course platform (available for $199) which includes built-in integration with email marketing, payment gateways, and detailed analytics.

5. LearnDash (From $129)

LearnDash plugin
LearnDash is a feature packed, premium LMS (starting at $129 for a single site), which actually has industry standard LMS integrations, such as the Tin Can API. If you need true LMS integration, this is an obvious choice.

6. LifterLMS (Free)

LifterLMS plugin
LifterLMS is a new addition to the online course space. It’s a free plugin, but the premium version ($99 per year) offers additional support, added graphics, and premium themes. Premium extensions further extend the functionality.

Online Course Themes

There are many themes designed for providing online courses, so this is just a selection of some of our picks, to show what is possible. You can check out some others in our article, 30 Education, Learning, and Course Management WordPress Themes.

1. WPLMS ($64)

WPLMS theme
WPLMS is a social learning management system built on BuddyPress, for course, instructor, and student management. Available for $64, it is an all-in-one solution for creating an online learning platform.

2. Academy ($59)

Academy theme
The Academy Learning Management theme includes built-in course and user management, and WooCommerce integration. Available for $59, it enables you to share and sell your knowledge with ease.

3. Course Cats (From $47)

Course Cats theme
Course Cats (starting at $47 per month) is an all-in-one WordPress theme designed to help you create an online course, integrate with the necessary plugins, and build your course sales website.

4. LMS ($59)

LMS theme
The LMS theme (available for $59) is a powerful learning management theme designed to work with Sensei. It adds advanced design and layout possibilities to your online course website.

5. Clever Course ($59)

Clever Course theme
Clever Course is a premium LMS WordPress theme available for $59. Designed to help you create and sell both online and onsite courses, it includes a full range of features in a self-contained package.

Conclusion

Creating an online course in WordPress isn’t hard, and can be done quickly using a theme or plugin. You will have to do the hard work of planning the course and creating the material, but with WordPress you can get the course itself online and available to your students in no time.

We’ve given you an overview of how to go about setting up an online course using WordPress, so you can get your site set up, plan your course, choose a theme or plugin, and get started today.

We have just skimmed the surface of creating an online course, so if you have any questions or suggestions, please let us know in the comments section below! We would love to hear your tips and tricks for creating online courses with WordPress.

John Hughes
Post Author: John Hughes

John is a blogging addict, WordPress fanatic, and a staff writer for WordCandy.

Disclosure: This page contains external affiliate links that may result in us receiving a comission if you choose to purchase said product. The opinions on this page are our own. We do not receive payment for positive reviews.
Got something to say? Join the discussion.
  1. More themes next time ;)
  2. This is a great guide. Online tutorials and courses and best product to create and make money online.
  3. John Hughes says:
    John Hughes
    We offered a good balance, I think! :-D
    Author
  4. Jatupon Rattanapanop says:
    Thank you very much.
  5. Justin Ferriman says:
    Hi John- Very well written post that will certainly help people get on the right path when creating their online course with WordPress. Also, thanks for including LearnDash in your overview - much appreciated! Kindly, Jusitn
  6. Hi John, I have read your blog and got good information about Create Online Course with WordPress. Awesome post, its very helpful, explained details.Thank you so much for such a nice post....
  7. Great article. I want to ask you one thing, if i want to give the certificate of completion of a course, Can i give it from my website ?
    • Kyla
      Yes! Some of the plugins we'e mentioned include certificates (like WP Courseware and LearnDash) as a part of the core plugin with others offer extensions (like the Sensei Certificates addon).
      Admin
  8. Surprised not to see a mention of CoursePress Pro here. CoursePress is a full-blown course creation and management solution for WordPress. It includes everything a blogger needs to create learning units with quizzes attached, and it’s especially powerful if you will be including audio and video elements in your course. It has options for free and paid courses, includes a diverse set of payment integration gateways, and can accept both manual payments and automated payments.If you don’t need some of the more powerful features of CoursePress Pro, you should take a look at the free version.
    • Kyla
      That is another awesome option! We'll have to remember it in our next roundup :-)
      Admin
  9. Adam Wallace says:
    Hey, thanks for the article, it's great! I was just wondering, in order to do a course via Wordpress, does that mean you need one of the business plans on Wordpress as well? Otherwise it seems if you are uploading or embedding videos you will reach the limit pretty quickly, and also the basic plans aren't monetised. Just wondering, thanks heaps!
    • Kyla
      Actually this guide is for self-hosted WordPress so there are no limits :-) One of the biggest limitations of WordPress.com is the fact that e-commerce isn't supported, so you actually can't even sell your own courses. On top of that there are many nickel & dime charges (custom url, more storage, ad removal, etc all cost extra). But I could go on and on. Checkout our post on the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org to learn more about why we prefer self hosted WordPress.
      Admin
  10. Prashant says:
    Fantastic review of the courseware. Just to inform the Editor that for all these plugins, now there are extenstion plugins that lets you import quizzes from Excel Spreadsheet... Excel to LearnDash & Excel to Sensei
  11. Jeff Astle says:
    Our local art teacher recently launched online classes using CoursePress through Wordpress.. Works great, and I've found her approach (which is both methodical and supportive) to be just what i needed.
  12. Sagar Nandwani says:
    Is there any other LMS besides Sensei that’s has their development process available on GitHub? I’ve learned better by now than to build businesses on anything developed behind closed doors. But Sensei does have its deficiencies and the development process has only recently picked up pace, so keeping an eye out for legit alternatives.

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