You decide that you have a great idea for a course, you know your community is going to love it, because you’ve done your research and you’ve decided that you want to self-host it. After all, its your content, you want to be in control of it. Plus, you want your community to be able to access it as easily as possible, rather than having to hunt around for a separate platform.

You do a bit of research and come across Learndash. Its a plugin that you use with WordPress to develop a learning management system (LMS). It promotes itself as being the number one choice of a number of fortune 500 companies. It says that you can easily create & sell courses, deliver quizzes, award certificates, manage users, download reports, and much more. It sounds great. You have a WordPress site and you like the thought of being able to incorporate your online course with your website. Feels so much easier!

So you go to learndash.com, download the plugin and install it onto your WordPress site. Thats when you realise that its not so easy to use as, for instance, creating an account on something like thinkific.

The first issue, is that the plugin is only for the actual LMS. You then need to download a number of other plugins to allow your users to access your course. You will want them to register for your course, even if its a free version, because you will want to add them to your email list in order to send them useful information regarding new products and/or paid courses in the future.

You can’t do this, without your users being able to access the back end of your website.. and this is a big NO NO. You really don’t want anyone being able to change things in your website, plus the back end is functional, but it doesn’t really provide an attractive user interface. So you have to download a plugin, that lets your users register on your site, but only to gain access to the course.

The next step is to allow them to view their profile, to see what courses they have signed up for, to change their email address etc. Well, you can’t do this on Learndash, you need another plugin

Then you want them to be able to pay for your courses, so you need integrations with your payment gateways, so you need to install these as well.

And what about gamification? To encourage your users to complete your course, you want to create some badges or trophies that they can earn as they progress through your course. Again, Learndash itself doesn’t offer this, so you need yet another plugin.

On the plus side, Learndash knows its limitations and therefore offers a number of integrations, so that it can be used in conjunction with the other plugins you need for a great customer experience without generating conflicts.

And once you have installed all of the plugins you need to make sure the user experience is a smooth one, and you’ve set up your payment channels, then the process gets so much easier.

The process of setting up your course in Learndash is really easy. You can then use the builder to create lessons, and topics. It offers quiz functionality so your users can test how well they are learning the materials.

There are a number of shortcodes, so that you can create sales pages or use some of the functionality that your WP theme has to offer . You can create sample lessons, and you can have different content for students and visitors to your website.

And the gamification helps encourage your students and keep them interested in the course. You can also add a ‘forum’ plugin so that your students can chat amongst themselves and perhaps create a little health competition.

So actually, to set up a simple course is relatively straightforward, as long as you are quite technical, or at least not afraid of the technology. It offers everything that a hosted platform such as thinkific or teachable has to offer.

And because it is hosted on your own website you can better adapt the site to your own branding, by using custom CSS and you can

Another plus, is that once you have paid for all the plugins, then apart from maintenance of your site, you don’t really have any other running costs, whereas with a hosted site, you have the ongoing monthly charges to enable access to your online course

So, if you are someone who has an idea for an online course, but you’re not sure whether a hosted platform or a self-hosted course is for you, then have a think.

Are you someone who gets scared trying out new technology?

Do you have someone who could help you with the technical side of designing your course?

How important is it to have your own branding and keeping your content self-contained?

Would you prefer a one-off cost, or are you happy to pay ongoing charges for someone else to manage the technical side?

What happens if something goes wrong? Are you happy to work on the resolution?

Look at the pros and cons of both sides and then decide which one fits you best

And if you need any help, then please feel free to contact me HERE