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A Preliminary Evaluation of WP Courseware, Sensei, CoursePress and LearnDash

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In this session we give a preliminary evaluation of WP Courseware, Sensei, CoursePress and LearnDash and discuss the different online reviews for these. We have used these courseware plugins for a variety of courses.

Once Rick is done building the Bootcamp Class, he’ll have a set of recommendations and will do a full blown seminar on this with detailed information of their strengths and weaknesses.

Video Transcript

Member: How is Courseware working out for your program?

Rick: Courseware is working fine. Yes, actually, at this very moment Courseware is my favorite of 4 mainly because I can add custom taxonomies to it and I’ve been able to essentially build a reference for this class where people can click on an index and then go to the course unit that addresses that issue so I’m now happiest with this one but I am trying another one – LearnDash.

Member: Yes, I just saw that. There’s a couple reviews that compare them or at least one of them.

Rick: Yeah but I don’t think those… and none of the reviews I read I don’t think really know much about… it doesn’t seem to me like the reviews that I’ve read about them so far suggest that the people who are reviewing them actually you know, work with them actively or try to make their living doing this or something like that because I don’t really find their reviews particularly helpful but I did decide to buy LearnDash. The only thing I don’t like about it today is that it loads all of its Admin CSS on every page and so that screws up the CSS of the forum because they have CSS that conflicts. So here’s what the CSS for the forum looks like now instead of what it really ought to look like and it does that because LearnDash is loading their CSS files on this administrative page but otherwise…

I guess the thing I don’t like about Courseware is it feels to me like the quizzes are cumbersome and there is no multi-select option where you can say you know pick all that apply so you can’t ask a question like the function get_terms will return x, will return, will return y and z you know, choose those that apply. It won’t do that which is something I really want right off the bat and then the second is just assembling a quiz – it seems to me to be very cumbersome. I did create a quiz well, I’m playing with creating a quiz and the quiz creation let’s see you know I mean you…

Member: Have you written them? That request and you…

Rick: No, I haven’t. It’s just a really long process of you know, you can’t expand and contract this well, you can actually you can do this compact questions but you know, they move around but when you click on them they don’t expand so then you got to go back and expand them. I don’t know, those little workability things I don’t particularly care for but…

Member: What advantages do you think the other program has over Courseware?

Rick: I think that well, what this does is it has courses, lessons, topics and assignments as a different post types and so if you’re looking at lessons, you can look at lessons that are only in a specific course. You don’t have to look at all of them, right? If you’re in Courseware and you’re looking at course units you’re looking at all of the units in all of the courses and they are ordered by the way in which you entered them so the last one you created is at the top and there’s just no way to well, unless filtering by date is useful to you. There’s not a particularly easy way to do that and here you can arrange lessons by course and then you can look at in this case, topics is essentially analogous to course units and you can look at them by you know by the lesson so you only have to look at the course units for the lesson.

Now the downside, it doesn’t have a drag and drop ordering system for these course units so if you need to order it you are using menu order to order it and so if you want to move on to the top then you got to go change all the menu orders although drag and drop system for that would be really nice but for me here when you create a new topic automatically you choose the course and you choose the lesson from the Edit screen which I think is very nice and is one of the worst things about course units where you don’t choose this lesson or its course until you get over to this Training Courses dialogue where you order it here and what really happens then is all of your courses and all of their modules would show up here.

Member: Yeah.

Rick: And all of the course units, all of the modules and all of the quizzes that are not assigned show up here and if you had 10 courses this would just be hellacious I think. As it is you know, I have one course with 12 modules and many many units and I don’t know, it feels like a pain in the butt to me but anyway…

Member: I submitted your comments because I agree with them. I submitted them to Courseware making a suggestion that they add those.

Rick: Yeah so we’ll see. You know, I am currently using… I was going to try the WPMU DEV one again because that’s undergone a lot of change in the last 6 months or so since I first started this process and while it has undergone a lot of change it still has all the flaky things that it had the first time. I just don’t think it’s ready for primetime yet you know. Both times I’ve asked them for help, they’ve said “Oh gosh, it doesn’t happen to us” you know.

Member: I hated that.

Rick: I do too. So I mean if it happens to me then it doesn’t work, right? In this situation I built an entire lesson with all of its little modules and everything and saved it. One over and look it over and the browser came back to the admin it was all gone.

Member: Geez.

Rick: I went back to look at it again and it was gone.

Member: In the database?

Rick: No, I didn’t check the database I asked them. I just put a support question into them and gave them access to the site and they said, “Well gosh, it doesn’t happen to me” and then I recorded a video of it and sent it to them and then I said to myself you know, it just doesn’t make any sense. I mean if it doesn’t work it doesn’t work so I’ll try something else and then I came across the LearnDash through looking at reviews like you mentioned.

Member: Yeah. There’s that one guy he’s from Berkeley and this was his specialty…

Rick: I know but he’s review didn’t seem like it was very good. What’s that guy’s name?

Member: I can’t remember.

Rick: Yeah, let’s see “LearnDash Review”. Chris Lema.

Member: Yeah.

Rick: And he has a litlle thing here comparing Sensei, Premise and Courseware.

Member: He has one that compares LearnDash with…

Rick: He does I know, where is that?

Member: Yeah.

Rick: Oh no, this is his final recommendations right here you know. I just felt like that perspective wasn’t useful.

Member: I guess we can buy both.

Rick: Well, I’d already bought this one you know, a year and a half ago so I mean $100 doesn’t mean anything to me in terms of testing and checking to see whether or not it’s going to work right. Just seemed like…

Member: Well, one advantage of LearnDash is that it does the professional coding I mean the professional testing that you did in your industry and stuff…

Rick: Yeah. I saw that and its quizzes have a much higher level of functionality than either Sensei or Courseware. Quite a bit more functionality and one of the things I really like about it is the ability to suggest based on performance and a test to suggest things to do to review or you know… Here’s the stuff you need to learn more about because of your performance in this situation.

Member: Isn’t it the ability I don’t know if you’re familiar with it. I think there’s a testing system where you ask a piece of core questions and then when they get one of them on a specific topic you ask a few more questions.

Rick: Is that a WordPress plugin or…

Member: No, no. This is the way some of these tests are designed and it’s a higher level of…

Rick: Yeah.

Member: You know, for like if they’re doing employees or testing for certificates and stuff that’s the way..

Rick: Right.

Member: sometimes these things are designed is that if you screw up a question it asks you a few more questions and if you don’t answer those, get a good percentage you can set that up. I don’t know what system that is but I’ve seen it, I’ve used it and…

Rick: I’m going to test a couple of just straight quiz plugins on Courseware because I want to have quizzes that people can take that test themselves in that class and so I am going to play around with a couple of quiz plugins.

Member: What about LearnDash, does it have a forum because Courseware does it and the girl that they have Rachel who answers the questions. I don’t feel that she’s actually reading the question and she answers something totally different and…

Rick: Yeah, LearnDash has a forum.

Member: See that helps me a lot you know, you can ask…

Rick: Let’s see, okay where’s my login? I guess it’s support.

Member: I think it’s a big failing of Courseware not to have a forum.

Rick: And so let’s see…

Member: A support forum there you go.

Rick: Yup and before I did this I read about… Now, one of the things that LearnDash does not do is it doesn’t do any content protection so it prevents somebody from taking the class if they’re not registered but it doesn’t prevent from taking the class materials.

Member: What about S2 Maestro? Would that protect it?

Rick: You mean S2Member?

Member: No, no Maestro the people who do… the Fly Plugins. If you’ve got a Fly Plugins you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Rick: I thought that was S3 Maestro.

Member: Okay, it’s S3 (15:52)

Rick: Yeah, no but that’s for delivering media content this is for… What I’m saying is you know, if somebody is not permitted to see the class, if somebody hasn’t registered to the class I don’t them to see any of the class materials. I don’t care if they see the class outline but I don’t want them to see any of the class materials at all and in this case, it doesn’t matter who you are. If you come to the site you can see the materials so you need to add some kind of a membership control on top of LearnDash.

Now for me it doesn’t matter because I can… He’s got a whole bunch of integrations for it right. He’s got integrations for all different kinds of membership plugins and so if you want to use a full blown membership plugin then he’s got integrations for them but my members…

Member: Do you happen to see S2Member on there?

Rick: Well, let’s look and see. Okay, so in terms of…

Member: They don’t look like that…

Rick: No, I don’t see that anywhere. This Course Access Manager is their own little membership plugin. I’m just using Members off of for it because I use members and I use a Gravity Forms registration page and then when somebody buys a class, send them the link to the registration page that they register and then they have access so I’m not really worried about it but I was a little bit surprised because I assumed that it behaved like most of these others where if you’re not registered for the course then you can’t see the course material.

Member: Well that’s a really good point. The the only reason I really didn’t buy it is because I didn’t see S2Member up there and I have that and it seems to look okay.

Rick: Well actually, here it says if you’re currently using…

Member: Oh, there it is.

Rick: Well he’s just saying you wouldn’t want to use his plugin if you’re already using S2Member but all you have to do is I mean S2Member, I’m sure will add access controls to those pages and then all you have to do is say don’t display, right? I mean I just loaded, this is the Members plugin and it automatically adds content or access permissions to every post so in order to control access to this all you have to do is come down and say you know, Administrator and Student and save it and then it has the kinds of access control you expect so it’s not that big a deal.

Member: Alright.

Rick: So Jim is asking me which one I recommend. I don’t actually have a recommendation today. As soon as I’m done building out the Bootcamp class I will have a set of recommendations and I’m probably going to do a full blown seminar reviewing the 3 perhaps reviewing 4. I mean review WPMUDEV is one in there too and you know, give a detailed evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses like I did with the eCommerce plugin so I probably will do that. Well, I plan on doing that, it’s probably going to be a month or more but before I’m finished setting up this class (20:18) but once I’ve got a full range of experience with all 3 then I’ll do a seminar and make a recommendation. The chances are, the recommendation is going to be different depending upon your condition.

Member: Yeah.

Rick: And you have to decide. I mean right now, what I’m doing is I’m putting each one of these on a separate site but sort of my ideal situation would be to have all of my courses on the same site rather than having each course on its own site and in that case, I have to decide which one of these things is going to be useful as a delivery system for multiple courses.

Member: Well at this point, if it’s from industry you know like Rockwell or whoever, they want support and we have to use the LearnDash at this point. The other ones really are not equipped to do that.

Rick: Yeah, well. So anyway, that’s my saga, that’s my story with it.

Member: Well thank you very much.

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